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Counting to ‘Ten’ with Ken Marino

If you think The Ten–10 hysterical vignettes, each spoofing one of the Ten Commandments and starring the likes of Winona Ryder, Liev SchreiberGretchen Mol and Knocked Up’s Paul Rudd–is a hoot, wait until you talk to The Ten‘s co-creator and star Ken Marino. We got the privilege of talking to the veteran of the comedy group The State recently on the phone, who explains why he decided to make The Ten with his State pals (including Reno: 911!’s Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney and The Ten director and co-creator David Wain) as well as what the 11th and 12th Commandment could be.

Ken Marino: Who is this?
Hollywood.com: This is Kit Bowen from Hollywood.com
KM: Holy crap, Kit!

HW: How’s it going?
Are you kidding me? It’s going great now!

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HW: Sorry I’m a little late, I was running around…
KM: Listen, running is great for so many things. Your heart. Your cholesterol. Your muscle mass. Where are you now?

HW: I’m in Florida, feeling invigorated from the running, it’s so true. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. The movie was hilarious!
KM: So what did you think of the movie?

Listen, Kit—and I don’t want to put any pressure on you—but it’s up to you to get everyone in Florida to go see The Ten opening weekend. I need you to do what you need to do, whatever that is, I don’t know, that’s your thing, but…OK, I’ll take half the pressure off of you. HALF the people in Florida.

HW: I’ll try for three-quarters, how about that?
KM: That’ll work, too.

HW: What was the genesis behind The Ten? Were you brought up in a religious household?
KM: I was brought up in a religious household, but that really didn’t have anything to do with how this movie was created. David [Wain] and I wanted to write something, we didn’t know what it was. We locked ourselves in a room for seven days, and we took 12 hour shifts for seven days straight to figure it out. David thought it might be fun to do a shorter, funnier version of Krzysztof Kielowski’s Decalogue. It would be a way to do vignettes and intertwine characters and styles, but all having the same tone. Give us an excuse not to have some heartfelt thing at the end but make it chockfull of jokes. Also for me, personally, I wanted to do a movie that was in the vein of The Groove Tube or Amazon Women on the Moon or Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask. I miss those movies. I haven’t seen an omnibus movie in a long time, so I really wanted to do that. I thought, if I were in college and I was going to see a movie, what type of movie would I go see? If I wanted something fresh and new? For me, in my head, that’s what we were trying to do. Funny for funny sakes.

HW: I’m also a huge fan of The State, used to watch it all the time on MTV. Most of your State buddies were in the movie, was it great working with them again?
KM: Oh, thank you. [The State] is actually coming out on DVD in October, all four seasons. We just looked at the cover art today. You know, to me, when I was asked to be part of Wet Hot American Summer [also directed by David Wain] in 2001, I kind of had a mini epiphany, which was, “Oh right, that’s why I wanted to do this!” I wanted to be an actor, wanted to write and do comedy because it’s fun and you get to work with people who are talented and your friends. I kind of stopped doing that for awhile. I came out to L.A. and did some TV, trying to establish myself and make money. I would still love to make money as an actor and do TV shows but for me, it’s all about creating with your friends. What could be a better job than that? Writing stuff and making each other laugh and making movies. If I can, that’ll be the stuff I’ll do for the rest of my life!

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HW: And you also got Paul Rudd.
KM: Who is a producer on The Ten. He’s an honorary member of The StatePaul Rudd is the Oliver to our Brady Bunch.

HW: What’s your favorite Commandment?
You mean in the movie or just in general?

HW: Just in general
Oh, I don’t know, they are all so good. It was only later in life did I realize it was “covet” and not “cover” your neighbor’s wife. The toughest one for me is a toss up: First, there’s Thou Shall Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain because we all do that; and Thou Shall Not Kill. It’s just very hard for me not to kill. Too much Red Bull makes me want to suffocate someone with a pillow.

HW: So then, what were your thought processes in playing a doctor in The Ten who kills someone by leaving a surgical instrument imbedded in their stomach, as a “goof?”
KM: Well, every actor has a secret. Jack Nicholson’s secret—and he didn’t reveal this to much later in his career—he always thought he was going to be able to seduce Nurse Ratched [in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest]. That was the driving force behind Jack Nicholson. And so my secret as far as being Dr. Richie and putting an utensil into my patient, thus causing her death as a goof, was that I always thought I could seduce Nurse Ratched.

HW: What do you think the 11th Commandment should be?
Thou Shall Not Make a Joke About Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Because It’s Kind of Obscure and a Weird Reference to a Movie Being Produced and Publicized Now.

HW: That would take up an entire stone tablet, you realize.
That’s why they had to cut it. It’s clunky. At best.

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HW: Do you love writing as much as acting?
They are both the love of my life. I also just did a movie, Diggers, which is out on DVD now, a movie which is much more personal to me. It’s a slice-of-life dramedy period piece. I hope I can make a living doing both of them until I can retire and basically do heroin.

HW: That could be the 12th Commandment.
What? Thou Shall Wait Until You’re a Senior Citizen Before Doing Heroin? Less clunky, but at least a half of a tablet. I just took half a tablet, and I’ll be honest, I’m starting to feel a little something. Starting to roll.

HW: Ken, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, truly. And I promise to get as many Floridians to the movie theater as I can.
I’m not kidding! Listen, this is a challenge for you. OK? I’m putting that out there. If you do this for me, I will get you a Coldstone Creamery ice cream, with any topping you want.

HW: No way!
I’m f**king telling you! Now get one-third of Florida IN THERE! 

The Ten opens in theaters Aug. 3.

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