Peter Farrelly Breaks Down the 15 Year Journey to ‘Ricky Stanicky’ – Starting From an Original Draft With Jim Carrey in Mind

“Ricky Stanicky” had a long journey from conception to its debut Thursday on Prime Video — 15 years, to be exact. But director and writer Peter Farrelly is glad the movie didn’t get made in its earliest form, even though it might’ve starred Jim Carrey.

Starring John Cena and Zac Efron, “Ricky Stanicky” follows a group of friends who invented a person called Ricky Stanicky to take the fall for their years of shenanigans. But when their family and friends want to actually meet Stanicky, they need to hire someone (Cena) to fill the role.

Naturally, their pile of lies was destined to fall. But, according to Farrelly, making the lies make sense was the key to unlocking the film. Well, that and some early feedback from his wife.

“I never gave a reason why people lie. And we thought about it, and it was just in the last, like, definitely in the last draft, where we recognized you can’t just have guys running around telling lies, nobody cares,” Farrelly explained to TheWrap. “I remember my wife reading the script and saying, ‘I don’t like these guys, why are they doing this?’ in earlier drafts.”

Finding underlying motivation is the secret to Farrelly’s entire approach to comedy.

“If you understand the reason, it’s more forgivable. And that’s the thing; what they do is wrong,” he continued. “But when you recognize, like, well, where’s this coming from? Especially in Zac’s case, his character, he was an abused kid who lied to not get in trouble, and didn’t know how to stop lying. And I think that happens to a lot of abused kids.”

So, Farrelly made it a point to give the movie more heart than it started with. You can read TheWrap’s full interview with Peter Farrelly below.

Where do you come up with the name Ricky Stanicky? Because it totally feels like something a kid would come up with.

Well, actually, I didn’t come up with it. A guy named Jeff Bushell, who wrote the first draft, came up with that. This goes back 15 years we’ve been working on this script. It’s hard to get movies made, you know, it really is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to wait several years to get something. That’s why you’re always working on a couple at the same time hoping that one of them, you know, rises to the top. And finally this time, it was this one.

So, what was it that finally got this one to get people to say yes? Because I was gonna ask if you wrote it for the people in it, but if you’re working on it 15 years ago, probably not!

No, all new people. You know, sometimes, like ‘Dumb and Dumber’ took five years to get made. It was the exact same script that we made. But everybody shot it down for five years. And then one day, it takes a guy like Jim Carrey to see, ‘Hey, I like this, let’s make it.’ And then, turned out, everybody was wrong for five years.

This script got better and better and better. There were flaws. Like, I look back now and I’m glad they didn’t make it 10 years ago, because it was thinner. And what we did now, we made it better. I think 10 years ago it was just a bunch of guys telling lies to their girlfriends and wives. And now it’s way more than that. There’s a reason for the lies. And also, you know, it’s Why do you lie? It’s because usually out of fear, or some insecurity and that’s what we have figured out. So I think the script did get better.

Zac Efron John Cena Ricky Stanicky
Zac Efron and John Cena in “Ricky Stanicky” (Amazon)

I am curious who you were thinking about way back when, do you remember?

Yeah, I remember Jim Carrey we wanted for a while. I love Jim. You know, we’ve made three movies with him. But yeah, the script wasn’t ready. And then you know, Jim’s retired. I’m sure he’ll be back.

Fingers crossed, man.

Yeah, I love him.

So, when a script goes through development, a lot of people get their hands on it, and there were a lot of writers on this. Was there any point where it was frustrating having so many hands in the pot?

It wasn’t that there were so many hands, because it was always in our hands. From the time that we got the script from Jeff Bushell, and we started writing with Brian Jarvis and Jim Freeman, and Pete Jones, and Mike Cerrone, there were a lot of people, but it wasn’t like we kept passing it around. It was in our hands.

Honestly, I think we were so confident in the jokes in it — the humor, because it’s a funny script, and it always was — that we took our eye off the heart of it all. The thing I love most about this movie now is the heart, is where it goes. I always ask, where does the audience think you’re going in the next 10 or 15 minutes? Well, you can’t do that. Or they’re ahead of you. But you also can’t just go a complete opposite way, like ‘to hell with it.’

It’s got to be different but better than what they expected. Not just different, better. And one thing that we recognized early on this is like, people think when this begins is it’s going to turn into ‘Cable Guy.’ People are gonna get hurt, there’s gonna be guns, weapons, you know, things could happen, and we didn’t want that. We wanted it to surprise you in other ways.

I really also want to know about writing the puns, the songs that John Cena gets to sing. Because the ‘Baby I Love Your Way’ parody took me clean out. I love that song.

That’s my favorite one of all the songs, by the way, because it’s the simplest too. It’s nothing fancy. The new lyrics are just so easy. Well actually, what had happened originally, we had written for three or four songs, and we’d done it and then we couldn’t clear them. I can’t even remember what they were, but we couldn’t clear them.

So then we had to clear songs in advance, so we had Tom Wolfe and Manish Raval, who are our music supervisors, clear songs in advance, and say ‘They’re going to change the lyrics, but can they clear? Yes.’ So then we took those songs, and we did it again.

So, when you’ve got people like Zac Efron and John Cena, and they have the comedy chops, I imagine there’s improv that happens. But that is an assumption. Was there any playing around? Or did you guys largely stick to the script?

We do both. I always ask, ‘Please do the script first. Let’s do the script. I want to have that down.’ You know, you don’t like when they go running off the page, making stuff up before they got it. But once they have it, I’m like, ‘Yeah, whatever you want. Try it.’ And a lot of time it works.

You know, throughout our career, there’s things that happened — like I remember Ben Stiller saying, you know, ‘Brett Farve-rah’ [in ‘There’s Something About Mary’]. You know, that was just him trying something. That wasn’t in the script, and we’re tickled when that stuff happens.

You’ve worked with Zac Efron before, in “The Greatest Beer Run Ever.” Are we starting a new dynasty here? You’ve worked with Jim Carrey quite a bit, you reunited with Jack Black, should we be expecting more with Zac Efron in the future?

I would love to work with Zac, Zac’s an amazing actor. I don’t think people understand how damn good he is. He is amazing. And he’s got the whole thing. But more than that, he’s the kind of actor that any director would like to work with because when you approach him, he’s like, ‘What do you got? Come on.’

A lot of times you approach actors, and they’re there in their own heads. Like, you come up and you want to give them something and they’re like (thinking noises). They’re not hearing you. They’re just thinking, ‘What am I going to do next? Get this guy away from me.’

Zac just looks at you: ‘What? This way? That way? Where do you want to go?’ I was like, ‘Mm, go a little more, you know, try this.’ ‘OK.’ And he does it. And it’s really fun to work with a guy like that.

I believe it. Now, I want to go broad with you a little bit. You’ve written and directed these incredible comedies. Clearly, you have a knack for knowing what’s going to work. What is it for you, when a project comes your way, or when you think of an idea that you want to put down on paper, what is it in your mind that makes a good comedy that will last through the years?

I honestly think it’s if you like the characters. The jokes are great, but if you like the characters, if we create characters that you really like, then we could do lots of jokes, and get away with it.

I keep telling this story, but like, in ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ when Jim was trying to convince Jeff to go to Aspen … he actually wells up. And he looks out the window, ‘I don’t have anything.’ And I remember the studio called us the next day when they saw the dailies, they said ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I was like ‘What?’ They said ‘What is that? This is a comedy, why is he getting all real?’ I said, ‘Because in two minutes, he’s about to sell a dead bird to a blind kid in a wheelchair! You better like him! And if you don’t the movie’s over.’

And that’s how I’ve always believed: If you like the characters, you can get away with murder. And if you don’t, you can’t.

Well, as we talk about “Dumb and Dumber,” I’d love to know if there’s any other previous films you’ve made that you go back to like, “I really liked how I did this” and it shows up in another project?

OK, well, you know, it’s interesting. When a movie comes out, and gets great acclaim, and does well, they got it. It’s nice, but it’s the other ones that didn’t get quite what I felt they should have that I go back to. I think the hardest movie I ever made, the highest degree of difficulty was ‘The Three Stooges.’

It was really hard because we’re using characters that already exist. And they have to look like them, sound like them, dress like them, everything about them. And we wrote all new material, but it has to seem like old material like they would do. And my fear was that two of the three actors were going to be perfect, and one would be a little off. That would be the bad thing. That didn’t happen. All three were so good.

When people come up to me with that movie, they always have a different guy, ‘I love Larry, I love Curly. I love Moe.’ There’s never anybody who comes up and says ‘Yeah, it could’ve have been better if this guy…’ Those three were so good. I’m so proud of that movie, for the degree of difficulty.

“The Three Stooges” premiere (2012) – Getty Images

And by the way, I can watch that movie over and over and over, because it’s a broad, slap-sticky comedy, and like, there’s some scenes — where the bell’s coming off the roof and hitting Larry David in the head — that I still giggle at. It would be something like that. That’s a movie I’m really proud of.

You’ve got comedy locked down, and you also did “Green Book.” At this point, is there anything you’d still really like to do that you haven’t yet?

I never thought in terms of — I always use Rob Reiner as an example. And I don’t know if he thought this way, but his first four or five movies, he did so many different things. First, it was “Spinal Tap.” Then it was, I think his second movie was “The Sure Thing,” which is a romantic comedy there, which was great. And then he did “Stand by Me,” I think, which is this kid’s thing. And then he did “A Few Good Men,” and they’re all so different and also great.

Whereas I did comedy, comedy, comedy, comedy comedy, because we just did what came next. And that’s what I always do. So, I don’t plan well. Like “Green Book” wasn’t an effort to do something different. It was just, I heard the story and I was like, ‘I love that story. Let’s do it.’ And so…all I want is to continue to work. I don’t want it to end because I’m loving it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“Ricky Stanicky” is now streaming on Prime Video.

The post Peter Farrelly Breaks Down the 15 Year Journey to ‘Ricky Stanicky’ – Starting From an Original Draft With Jim Carrey in Mind appeared first on TheWrap.