From Foot Fist Way to Eastbound & Down, Jody Hill loves deluded dudes in everyday situations. In his new film, Observe and Report, which opens tomorrow, Seth Rogen plays a megalomaniac, manic-depressive security guard named Ronnie who tries to defend a cosmetics-counter girl (Anna Faris, whom we interviewed here) against a terrorist-flasher. Vulture spoke to the director about whether or not he ever dated a makeup-counter girl and how Ronnie relates to George W. Bush.
Anna Faris told us you based her insane makeup-counter girl on an ex of yours.
Man! She’s been telling people that. No! Nuh-uh. I never dated a makeup-counter girl. Anna’s like this nice sweet thing in real life, but then on the set she was like, super dirty, you know.
You’ve said the film was influenced by Scorsese’s The King of Comedy.
On the set, and beforehand, we were constantly talking about The King of Comedy, and, in fact, Taxi Driver, Straw Dogs, Shampoo. The end was heavily inspired by the way King of Comedy and Taxi Driver end, where it’s kind of a victory but it makes you wonder: Is it a dream? Is it really a victory? Is it just kind of weird? Like the whole thing is based in realism — and then you twist it at the end and it makes people feel weird.
Are you mocking Bush-era heroes with this one?
We wanted to tell a good story, but the themes that run through it hopefully just represent some type of bigger picture. It’s certainly not a political film by any means, but I don’t think it’s a disposable comedy, either, where there’s no greater subtext.
A film like King of Comedy was really responding to its time — the rise of celebrity.
Sure — and Taxi Driver is influenced by that postwar fallout. This is definitely influenced by its time.
Ronnie’s like one of those Reaganite kids who grew up watching Red Dawn, waiting for his chance to defend the shopping mall against the Communists.
I definitely feel like Ronnie watched those movies and took them to heart. And we play with movie clichés, like sorta pseudo–Cameron Crowe, but twisted. I hope people feel themselves caught up in a Cameron Crowe moment, but the visuals are so fucked-up that it kind of produces a really uncomfortable feeling. Like, people applaud and then they stop: “Wait, what the fuck am I applauding? He just murdered somebody.”
It’s weird when he clobbers the Middle Eastern guy on the mall for no reason …
People love that. And it’s not like he has a reason. People really like that. I don’t know if I understand it, but maybe that speaks to like, your earlier question about the time.
From Foot Fist Way to Eastbound & Down, you seem to love making people uncomfortable.
I have to get my arm twisted a little bit because there are jokes, what I consider broad-comedy jokes and physical gags. I hate slipping [on] banana peels or winking at the camera. You know, a fart sound will always get a laugh, but you can’t just make a movie full of fart sounds, you know?