When Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures and director Jon Favreau began casting Iron Man 2, many names popped up that made a lot of sense to me. Scarlett Johansson was an obvious choice to play the seductive secret agent Black Widow, while Mickey Rourke's hiring as the tech-savvy super villian Whiplash was inspired. But I was puzzled when I heard that legendary laugh-meister Garry Shandling would be joining the production. Where were Favreau & co. going to fit him into the Marvel Universe?
As time went on I learned that Shandling would lend his skills to a character named Senator Stern and as soon as the teaser trailer for the film hit, I found that Shandling was born to portray a no-nonsense politician who has a courtroom clash with playboy protagonist Tony Stark. The comedic sparks were flying on the set that day and now, with Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray and DVD, you can relive the hilarity of that soon to be classic scene anytime you want!
We sat down for an exclusive talk with Mr. Shandling to talk about the current state of comedy and his work on Iron Man 2. Read on for the complete interview and be sure to get your hands on Iron Man 2 today!
Q: What do you think about the current state of American comedy?
Garry Shandling: You know it’s funny, coincidentally, I bumped into David Mamet at a function last night - I’ve never met him – and he came up to me and he said “Gary, David Mamet” and I said “Oh my gosh, I always had you confused with Neil Simon.” Which I think is hopefully a good opener for David Mamet. He couldn’t help but smile and I think that phrase is very specific: “He couldn’t help but smile.” And he had told me that he had done a couple of videos for Funny or Die, and I said to him “I have to check it out, because those fellas are friends of mine, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, over there at that production company that Will has, and I’m about three months behind. I check in about every three months, which I have to change, but I love the idea that certainly online we can, on that site, do quick, short things. We discussed several things that I’ll eventually get to doing on that site. We’re going to shoot a kind of retro, very dirty version of the 20,000 Dollar Pyramid. Which I can’t do for you now, but I’ve done it before with my buddy Alan (inaudible) and we want to shoot that and put that on there. Both Adam and Chris play basketball here so we talk about some of that stuff in between games occasionally, so I love that particular website.
The state of television, seems to be, that in fact what I was thinking when I was describing the Larry Sanders Show to HBO in ’92, I had a vision of the show that is basically what it is, you know it’s exactly what it is, strangely enough. I realized that I could not use any other shows that were on TV even as examples for – in segments even, I couldn’t even use pieces of other shows as an example – so, that show must have been different because I’m working backwards, you see. I remember when I described that show to them, I could not describe it other than directly, what my vision was and I know that they couldn’t quite visualize it yet. But Michael Fuchs had given me a 13 show commitment so, I was lucky because they trusted me because they know I’m tougher on myself than they would be, as a critic, I’m tougher on myself. And they knew the first series, and that thing was also different, so we were really constructing basically, my audience is Stephen Hawking. You know, a man who writes the scientific explanation of how something can come out of nothing, is exactly what The Larry Sanders Show is and how we worked, so there was something coming out of nothing because there was no precursor to it exactly other than I was influenced by The King of Comedy where Scorsese has a cut backstage to a talk show that I think Jerry Lewis played a character that hosted and it was very cinematic. And I remembered that as a way of delineating what happened in front of the curtain and what happened behind the curtain, and so I think then the naturalness of the acting and the decision not to use, of course, a laugh track and then the strong reality of it and the organic quality that’s not forced at that period of time was only appropriate for cable television. The networks, you know might have – you can look up ’92 and see what’s on, it’s quite different than Larry Sanders and quite different than what’s on now. We’ve seen the slow disappearance of the regular old school sitcom and I wasn’t interested in doing a sitcom. So, I think some of the shows, there are certain similarities and tone on the broadcast networks that didn’t exist before Larry Sanders and I think that probably it showed people what could be done and it probably had some influence. I’ve been told by others that it’s been an influence on them, Ricky Gervais being one, and then others and that’s an interesting circumstance and yet here we are, speaking in this moment.
It’s also, by the way if I may, it’s also the way Jon Favreau works and when I was shooting Iron Man 2, the same time I was making this box set – or helping out with the box set, I didn’t have as much a hand in this that I’ve had in some of the others – and he also believes in this organic kind of spontaneous acting and that’s why he called me and I think the DVD of that is coming out as well and I’m sure it’s gonna be evident from the outtakes in that and the documentary and backstage look at how that movie was done, you’ll see the willingness to create in the moment that Jon brings. And then Downey just loves to improvise, and to look and to reinvent constantly. Those are the people I love working with.
Q: In the main court room scene that you were in on Iron Man 2, he (Downey) was bringing the laughs and you were really playing the character more straight. What was it like sharing the set with him there?
GS: Well, it was fantastic, I had been in Hawaii for three weeks prior to starting that movie, in fact Jon had called me in Hawaii to offer me this role, and when I got back from Hawaii I went in and sat with Robert and Jon to see where our sensibilities lie so that we could see how it worked, and we really hit it off. And I am so challenged by Robert and sparked by Robert that, again, on the DVD, there are so many different takes. Some in which I’m which I’m funny and some in which I’m straight and there’s so much other material because we just would go on and on and around and around. I think that that Senator if not played straight, is not going to communicate effectively what that scene is about. And so, my first very strong intention was to be honest and true to the scene and the character, but you know there’s still a twist in that guy that isn’t exactly of the norm. And that’s what Jon sensed. He called me up and he said, “What are you doing there in Hawaii?” and I said, “Just hanging out,” and he said, “I don’t think this is the time to withdraw,” and he said, “Come on man, I think we can really do something no one expects in this thing and then we can look to make it a little longer because it’s just been on my mind,” and he said, “I want to be there to support you to go to some place that no one expects including us.” And that’s what got me into it, because he was talking about the work itself and the style of work.
Q: Will you be reprising the role in future movies (The Avengers, Iron Man 3)?
GS: They have not spoken to me about reprising that character, which I would do in a second. I mean I really rarely have a good time working because I need to be around the quality of people that was in and around this movie and the Marvel people were fantastic but they have not yet mentioned anything about doing more, but I think I heard conceivably I could get free parking.
You know, I feel, I could impress somebody with free parking to the next Marvel project. One of my pitches for the end – it was a joke – was, I said I’d like to say “I’m Iron Man” as he did in the first one and I said to Robert that you should say, “No I’m Iron Man,” and then they would have an argument with him about who really is Iron Man. When Jon called me and he said, “I'm doing Iron Man 2 and there’s a part for you,” I said, “What kind of suit do I get to wear?” and he goes, “A regular suit.” And I said, “I mean no, what kind of weapons will be on it?” We hadn’t gotten to the senator part yet, so I said, “What kind of weapons will be on it?” and he said, “No, it’s a suit and tie, you play a senator.” Yeah, it’s a three piece, there’s a vest, a tie, a jacket, pants and a belt.” So I said, “So I get no weapons?” I brought a gun, I had a gun in my pocket the whole time.
Q: Maybe we can get some sort of arm piece or a helmet or something.
GS: From your mouth to God’s ears.
Q: GQ called you the comedian’s comedian’s comedian, what does that mean? And how do you feel about being the comedian’s comedian’s comedian?
GS: I think what they mean by the comedian’s comedian’s comedian is I am the comedian’s comedian unless they watch too long and then they change their mind. Then I’m just a comedian. So I’m the comedian’s comedian slash comedian again. I end up as a comedian, I think that’s what they mean. They’re giving me a compliment and then taking it right away.
Q: Who are the three entertainers that you follow or most look forward to seeing new stuff from?
GS: Oh well, look. For the sake of this conversation and the fact that we have just discussed it, I have two projects coming out on DVD in two months which I find hilarious if I may say somewhat facetiously, what about a high point in my career that I have two DVDs coming out. But, here you go it feels like I’m selling DVDs today, so while we’re on that I think the Scott Pilgrim DVD comes out the first week of October, it comes out as well in this time period. And I have nothing to do with that except, I’m a big fan of Michael Cera and I would recommend also picking that one up. Probably I would go in this order: Iron Man 2, Scott Pilgrim, and then God forbid anyone has any money left, Larry Sanders: The Complete Series.
Q: If you think that any comedian could be elected to be Commander in Chief, who do you think that would be?
GS: Well, I mean Al Franken’s already got a head start. I think we need a Native American in as Chief of Staff, if Rahm Emanuel leaves, we’ve got to get a Native American into the administration and it seems natural that that should be Chief of Staff. I think it’s an insult to the Native Americans that it’s not a Native American – it’s the Chief of Staff. So there’s the discussion of Rahm Emanuel.
Q: I was always hoping for Dana Carvey so that way we can get his own opinions and more imitations of George Bush as well.
GS: Well, Dana Carvey would be great and Jimmy Fallon does some great impressions and he would be great. And I wouldn’t leave out Sarah Silverman just as a nice big change, that would be big, big change.
Surely you know about Twitter. Surely it comes up in several of your daily interactions with your coworkers, in sessions with your shrink, or maybe even when you’re talking to your mother. I bet she tweets like a maniac! Even if you don’t have a Twitter account, it’s in your life because of the great lingo that comes with it. The problem is, some of the words associated with Twitter sound like curse words that once are said, can never be taken back. Kristin Chenoweth told David Letterman about her experiences with Twitter last night, and she uttered quite the bad word. CBS may have cut the sound, but you can read her lips. (See? I got through that whole thing without cracking a joke about her helium voice? I’m such a pro sometimes.)
Nicolas Cage talked to Jimmy Fallon about an SNL skit he did back in yesteryear. Al Franken did not take kindly to him, which seems to have scarred Cage tremendously, as we can see from the color of his hair.
Jay Leno spoke to Jennifer Love Hewitt about being on the second cover (the one that actually appears inside the magazine because something happened that bumped her from the real cover) and about her history of appearing in unfortunate photos. Then they talked about their favorite foods to binge on.
Jay also talked to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice star Jay Baruchel about softball and kissing Jennifer Love Hewitt at the end of Tropic Thunder. His voice sounds kind of like Nic Cage, actually. I’ll pay you $10 if you close your eyes, listen to Baruchel and honestly disagree that he doesn’t sound like the Sorcerer to Cage's Apprentice.
It might have been early in the morning, but that didn't stop everyone from Dido to Moby to Evanescence's Amy Lee from showing up at the announcement of the 46th annual Grammy Award nominations this morning at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
OutKast, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams are tied for the lead with six nominations apiece. Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Eminem, the Neptunes' Chad Hugo, Justin Timberlake, Ricky Skaggs, Evanescence, Luther Vandross and the late Warren Zevon are close behind with five noms each.
The four big categories--album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist--reflect the dominance of rap, hip-hop and R&B artists in mainstream music as well as the renewed popularity of rock music.
Up for album of the year are Missy Elliott's Under Construction, Timberlake's Justified, Evanescence's Fallen, the White Stripes' Elephant and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
Hip-hop duo's OutKast's single "Hey Ya!" will go head-to-head for record of the year against Black Eyed Peas' "Where is the Love?," Beyoncé and Jay-Z's "Crazy in Love," Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Coldplay's "Clocks."
For song of the year, which goes to the songwriter as opposed to the recording artist, nominees are Linda Perry for Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," Eminem and Luis Resto for Eminem's "Lose Yourself," Richard Marx and Luther Vandross for Vandross' "Dance With My Father," Avril Lavigne and the Matrix for Lavigne's "I'm With You" and the late Warren Zevon and Jorge Calderon for Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart."
Sean Paul, 50 Cent, Evanescence, Fountains of Wayne and Heather Headley will compete for the best new artist award.
The Grammy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be telecast on CBS from 8-11:30 p.m. (EST/PST).
Here is a partial list of nominations (a full list of nominees is posted on Grammy.com):
Album of the Year
Under Construction, Missy Elliott
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast
Justified, Justin Timberlake
Elephant, The White Stripes
Record of the Year
"Crazy In Love," Beyoncé Featuring Jay-Z
"Where Is The Love?," Black Eyed Peas featuring Justin Timberlake
"Lose Yourself," Eminem
"Hey Ya," Outkast
Best New Artist
Fountains Of Wayne
Song of the Year
Linda Perry for "Beautiful" (performed by Christina Aguilera)
Richard Marx and Luther Vandross for "Dance With My Father"
Avril Lavigne and The Matrix (Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock) for "I'm With You"
Jorge Calderón and Warren Zevon for "Keep Me In Your Heart"
Jeff Bass, Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem) and Luis Resto for "Lose Yourself"
Best Rap Song (NEW!)
Calvin Broadus (aka Snoop Dogg), Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams for "Beautiful" (performed by Snoop Dogg Featuring Williams and Uncle Charlie Wilson)
Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z), Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams for "Excuse Me Miss" (performed by Jay-Z Featuring Williams)
Mike Elizondo, Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) and A. Young for "In Da Club" (performed by 50 Cent)
Jeff Bass, Marshall Mathers and Luis Resto for "Lose Yourself" (performed by Eminem)
Missy Elliott and Tim Mosley for "Work It" (performed by Elliott)
Best Rap Album
Missy Elliott, Under Construction
50 Cent, Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
Jay-Z, The Blueprint2 - The Gift & The Curse
Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Best R&B Album
Erykah Badu, Worldwide Underground
Blu Cantrell, Bittersweet
Aretha Franklin, So Damn Happy
Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald Isley aka Mr. Biggs, Body Kiss
Luther Vandross, Dance With My Father
Best Contemporary R&B Album
Ashanti, Chapter II
Beyoncé, Dangerously In Love
Mary J. Blige, Love and Life
Anthony Hamilton, Comin' From Where I'm From
R. Kelly, Chocolate Factory
Best Rock Album
Foo Fighters, One By One
matchbox twenty, More Than You Think You Are
Nickelback, The Long Road
Best Rock Song
Evanescence, "Bring Me To Life" (David Hodges, Amy Lee and Ben Moody)
Train, "Calling All Angels" (Charlie Colin, Pat Monahan, Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood)
Bruce Springsteen and Warren Zevon, "Disorder In The House" (Jorge Calderón and Warren Zevon)
The White Stripes, "Seven Nation Army" (Jack White)
Nickelback, "Someday" (Chad Kroeger, Mike Kroeger, Ryan Peake and Ryan Vikedal)
Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
The White Stripes
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful"
Kelly Clarkson, "Miss Independent"
Dido, "White Flag"
Avril Lavigne, "I'm With You"
Sarah McLachlan, "Fallen"
Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals
Lil' Kim and Christina Aguilera, "Can't Hold Us Down"
Tony Bennett and k.d. lang for "La Vie En Rose"
Pink and William Orbit for "Feel Good Time"
Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples for "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking"
Sting and Mary J. Blige for "Whenever I Say Your Name"
Best Pop Vocal Album
Christina Aguilera, Stripped
George Harrison, Brainwashed
Annie Lennox, Bare
Michael McDonald, Motown
Justin Timberlake, Justified
Best Pop Male Vocal Performance
George Harrison, "Any Road"
Michael McDonald, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"
Sting, "Send Your Love"
Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me A River"
Warren Zevon, "Keep Me In Your Heart"
Best Pop Instrumental Performance
Ry Cooder and Manuel Galbán for "Patricia"
Dave Koz, "Honey-Dipped"
Randy Newman, "Seabiscuit"
The Brian Setzer Orchestra, "The Nutcracker Suite"
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Bette Midler Sings, Bette Midler
Rosemary Clooney Songbook, Rosemary Clooney
The A Wonderful World, Tony Bennett and k.d. lang
As Time Goes By…The Great American Songbook: Volume II, Rod Stewart
The Movie Album, Barbra Streisand
Best Spoken Word Album For Children
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Eric Idle
Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix, Jim Dale
Prokofiev: Peter And The Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and Sophia Loren
Tell Me A Scary Story, Carl Reiner
Winnie-The-Pooh, Jim Broadbent
Best Spoken Word Album
Fear Itself, Don Cheadle
Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair And Balanced Look At The Right, Al Franken
Living History, Hillary Rodham Clinton
Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, Nikki Giovanni
When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden, Bill Maher
Best Female Country Vocal Performance
Patty Loveless, On Your Way Home
Martina McBride, This One's For The Girls
Dolly Parton, I'm Gone
Shania Twain, Forever And For Always
Best Country Collaboration With Vocals
Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want To Get Over You)
Willie Nelson and Toby Keith, Beer For My Horses
June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash, Temptation
Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere
James Taylor and Alison Krauss, How's The World Treating You
Best Country Album
Faith Hill, Cry
Lyle Lovett, My Baby Don't Tolerate
Willie Nelson and Ray Price, Run That One By Me One More Time
Willie Nelson, Live And Kickin'
Shania Twain, Up!
Compilation, Livin', Lovin', Losin' - Songs of the Louvin Brothers