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MacGruber’s Will Forte on His SNL Mustache Battle, and What Not to Do With Celery

MacGruber, the latest Saturday Night Live sketch turned full-length film, hits theaters this weekend. The movie, a parody of MacGyver — the mulleted eighties adventurer who could seemingly fashion an explosive from a bottle-cap and a shoe — features Will Forte in his first starring role. Vulture met with Forte — possibly the world's nicest person — at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York. We discussed the ways in which MacGruber the movie is different from "MacGruber" the sketch, the intricacies of a good celery-up-your-butt joke, and why so many of his SNL characters wear a fake mustache — and how that nearly got him kicked off the show.

A little over a year ago, we jokingly asked you when a MacGruber movie was coming out. You paused for ten seconds and said, "no comment."
[Laughs.] I do remember that. I didn't know what I was allowed to say, because there was a period of time where we were trying to figure out, "Is this something we can even do?" So that was during that period. Lorne had approached us and said, "Do you think you can turn it into a movie?" and we were perplexed; we were a little skeptical like the rest of the world. We sat down and tried to think up some ideas. We thought up enough stuff that we really liked and we said, "Let's go for it."

You've been in movies before, like Beerfest. How different is it to promote a film when you're the star?
Oh, I've never been through a publicity experience like this. I never knew how much you had to do to promote a movie, and I can't imagine what it would be like if you didn't like the movie you were promoting. It's tiring, but it's easy because I love the movie and I just want to get the word out.

We like the new "MacGruber" theme song, but we were disappointed that you aren't still singing it.
We did a version where I sang it, but it just didn't sound as good as with the all-boys choir. That was something we discussed for a long time because there's such an energy to that song, but we made a decision very early on that we weren't going to stick with the stuff from the sketch — I think a lot of people are expecting this to be the sketch played out over and over, and it's nothing like that. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.

Well, any film that uses "Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money for a pivotal scene ...
We have some good songs in there. Robbie Dupree's "Steal Away." We have some Mr. Mister in there. Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street." Oh ... there's this song that's in there during a scene where I'm recruiting a team; it's an Emerson, Lake, and Powell song: "Touch and Go." Oh, I love that song so much. There was actually one year that I came into SNL for the season, maybe three years ago, and I said, "I love this song so much" and played it a couple of times. Somebody said, "If you love it so much, why don't you listen to only that song this year?" And I tried to do it. Every time I was at SNL, I could only listen to that song while I was working. And I did it from about September to about February. Somehow, I'm still not sick of the song.

We finally got the backstory on why Casey, Maya Rudolph, is no longer working with MacGruber.
Oh, yeah, we were so excited that Maya did the movie because she's like family; I've known her since the Groundlings. We weren't sure she would be able to do the movie because she was about eight months pregnant at the time, which really puts the sex scene I have with her in a different light. I just saw her daughter for the first time — her new daughter, Lucy — and I felt like I already knew her [laughs]. Which sounds gross, sorry.

Lucy will be happy to see that scene someday.
Yeah, I know, she'll be freaked out.

In the transition from SNL sketch to film, MacGruber certainly earned his R rating.
We got a degree of freedom that I've never experienced before. We kept thinking they would make us take stuff out and change stuff around. We were so exhausted during the process that we think we went a little crazy, making up these insane things. As a result, we were just able to do whatever the heck we wanted to — and I think you can feel that when you're watching the movie. At times, it's very insane. At times, it's very dirty. We were so delighted; we were able to make the movie exactly the way we envisioned it.

What's the thought process when you're writing a film and someone says, "You know what we could do really funny with a celery stick?"
John [Solomon] and Jorma [Taccone] came up with that one. I was busy writing the scene in the kitchen which leads to Kristen and I having sex. So I'm writing this thing and they say, "Oh, oh, we just came up with something. You have to put celery in your butt." And I was like, "Oh, okay, okay. Great, write it up." And I forgot that, oh, there will actually be a day when I actually have to do that. Then that day came and, sure enough, my mom was visiting the set that day.

Was she proud?
Uh ... yeah? She was super proud. No, she's used to seeing me do crazy stuff so I think she's used to it by now. She did have two friends who were a little ... shocked. They did not stay at the set for too long that day. They decided to go out to Santa Fe and look at some art and try to drum that image out of their mind.

We have some questions from Vulture readers. Kate_E admits this isn't a question, but asked that we put a question mark at the end of her request: Bring back Tim Calhoun?
I appreciate that. Tim Calhoun was, really, the first major thing I got to do at SNL. It was something I did at the Groundlings for a long time, so that's a character that's really close to my heart. I would love to and that's very nice of her to say.

Spacemanspiff keeps getting into sticky situations lately and he'd like to know if there's an item you never leave home without?
There's not one tool that you can use in any situation; it's all dependent on the situation. But you always have your brain with you and that's the one thing that's impossible to leave home without. What a boring answer. It was a real nice question, too bad I couldn't have an equally nice answer.

Viewdrix wants you to settle an argument. A friend thinks "MacGruber" didn't deserve to become a movie when compared to other sketches. Viewdrix loves the sketches and thinks the movie looks hilarious. Please explain to the friend why he is wrong. Personal insults are encouraged.
I would need to ask if this person has seen the movie — I don't think they have. Because it's a known thing at SNL, people will say, "What a bad idea for a movie, what a stupid movie." People who have actually seen it are really responding to it and liking it. To help her with the final part of her question: That guy can go screw himself. That's just because it was from her question; I would never tell that guy to screw himself. Anybody can have any opinion they want to, as long as it's an informed opinion. If that guy has seen the movie, you're allowed to not like the movie — but see it first. I think there are people that don't think SNL should make movies because sketches don't translate. Sometimes they don't, but sometimes they do.

Wayne's World did well ...
Wayne's World is one of the best movies of all time. Blues Brothers — they had never even done a sketch! They sang songs! Pirates of the Caribbean was a ride! It's not crazy to think you can make a story out of a character.

It's been a big couple of weeks for MacGruber, a movie and working with Betty White.
That was really fun; she was such a delightful person. She was a dream. It was, without a doubt, the best week I've had at the show. Not only was it her — she would have been enough to make it a magical week — but having a lot of the recent female cast return just made it such a fun week. And this was a week when I was really able to have a great time and I really pinched myself and said, "Oh my God, I have the best job in the world." There's never a dull moment at that show. I was so scared the first couple of years that I was there, I just had a pretty intense stage fright. It's really fun to be at a place where I'm comfortable being onstage, because I can really enjoy it ...

Did that coincide with Lorne letting you wear mustaches with almost every character?
The thing is, the first couple of years, Lorne doesn't want you wearing mustaches unless you absolutely need to because he wants people to get to know you. He feels like if you're wearing a mustache [the audience] won't really know who you are. There was a big fight that we had over this mustache; I was really wanting to wear this mustache and he didn't want me to wear it. This was at the very end of my third season and they were shuffling the cast around and there was a long period of time where I wasn't sure that they were going to ask me back. I think a big part of that was this stand I took on the mustache issue [laughs]. It was really dumb. I think that this mustache thing got Lorne and I to the next level of friendship. And now he lets me wear mustaches as much as I want to.

So when's the Greg Stink movie coming out?
Oh my God ...

Is that another "no comment"?
Oh, no. No, there are no plans for a Twinkle and Stink movie. I would do either Twinkle and Stink or Jon Bovi — just to wear those mustaches. Especially the Jon Bovi one; that is like a guy who rides a Harley and has big fat tires as opposed to little skinny motorcycle tires. That is the fat tire of mustaches. Yes, sign me up.

Photo: Patrick McMullan