The renewed popularity of the R-rated comedy over the past several years has been marked by performances from two men who play seemingly irredeemable characters you just can’t help but root for. Bringing their complementary comic styles—withering commentary and acid tongue-lashings to meet bawdy humor mixed with countless sexual conquests—PAUL RUDD (Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT (American Pie series, Old School) have joined for their first film together: Role Models.
In the latest comedy from director DAVID WAIN (The Ten, Wet Hot American Summer, MTV’s The State), Rudd and Scott star as Danny and Wheeler, two salesmen who trash a company truck on an energy drink-fueled bender. Upon their arrest, the court gives them a choice: do hard time or spend 150 service hours with a mentorship program called Sturdy Wings. After one day with the kids, however, jail doesn’t look half bad.
Surrounded by annoying do-gooders, Danny struggles with his every neurotic impulse to guide Augie (CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE of Superbad, upcoming The Year One) through the trials of becoming a man. Unfortunately, the guy just dumped by his girlfriend, Beth (ELIZABETH BANKS of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), has only sarcasm to offer a bashful 16-year-old obsessed with medieval role play.
Meanwhile, charming Wheeler tries to trade in an addiction to partying and women to assist a fifth grader named Ronnie (newcomer BOBB’E J. THOMPSON) in redirecting his foul-mouthed ways. It would probably help if Ronnie’s new mentor wasn’t an overgrown adolescent whose idea of quality time includes keggers in Venice Beach.
Once Sturdy Wings’ ex-addict/ex-con director, Sweeny (JANE LYNCH of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), gives them an ultimatum to shape up, Danny and Wheeler are forced to tailor their brand of immature wisdom to their kids. And if they can just make it through probation without getting thrown in jail, the world’s worst role models will prove that, sometimes, it takes a village idiot to raise a child.
Directed from a screenplay by Paul Rudd & David Wain & KEN MARINO (The Ten, Diggers) and TIMOTHY DOWLING (George Lucas in Love, upcoming She’s Out of My League), the comedy is from a story by Timothy Dowling and WILLIAM BLAKE HERRON (The Bourne Identity, Ripley Under Ground).
Role Models’ creative team is led by producers MARY PARENT (Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, The Kingdom), SCOTT STUBER (The Break-Up, You, Me and Dupree) and LUKE GREENFIELD (The Girl Next Door, The Animal). Key crew includes editor ERIC KISSACK (The Ten, Birds of America), director of photography RUSS T. ALSOBROOK (Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), production designer STEPHEN LINEWEAVER (Blades of Glory, Jerry Maguire) and costume designer MOLLY MAGINNIS (The Bucket List, Norbit).
The executive producers for the comedy are DAN KOLSRUD (The Fog, 13 Going on 30), ANDREW Z. DAVIS (Red Dragon, Rush Hour 2), MATT SEIGEL (television’s House Broken), WILLIAM SHERAK (Darkness Falls, Little Black Book) and JASON SHUMAN (The Messengers, Little Black Book).
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
That’s Not a Venti:
Role Models is Developed
When producers Mary Parent and Scott Stuber were searching for the next film to add to their production company’s growing collection of comedy hits, including The Break-Up and You, Me and Dupree, they came upon a story that writers Timothy Dowling and William Blake Herron had crafted about two guys who refused to grow up until they were forced into taking care of a couple of boys who needed their unique brand of guidance. They optioned the project with producer Luke Greenfield, but it would have to wait until Paul Rudd; Rudd’s often writing partner, director David Wain; and Seann William Scott expressed interest in the film before it would take off.
The producers were long familiar with Scott and Rudd, as they had overseen the development of such Universal Pictures’ comedy hits as the American Pie series (with Scott) and The 40-Year-Old Virgin (with Rudd) during Stuber and Parent’s tenure as Universal’s heads of production. Parent notes, “The subject matter in Role Models was great and a perfect fit for these two actors. We find four disparate characters who are thrown together against their will and who would never have thought that the others could be a catalyst for the changes they go through.”
Stuber admits that what interested them in pursuing the film with Rudd and Scott was that the style of humor of both men couldn’t be more different, or more complementary. While Scott is known for playing characters with raunchy humor and outrageous antics, Rudd’s scene-stealing roles as the straight man with a very dry wit and acerbic attitude offered comic potential that meshed well with Scott’s.
The producer states, “When we were at Universal, Mary and I worked on the American Pie series with Seann and The 40-Year-Old Virgin with Paul; we were big fans of both. The script for this film presented one of those great pairings that we knew, right away, would work for the two of these guys. We felt there would be real comedic value in what they would bring to the story.”
After Rudd and Scott were committed to the film, the production team felt that they had found just the men to rework the script and adapt it to Rudd and Scott’s sensibilities and timing. Along with director Wain and his fellow The State comedy troupe performer, Ken Marino, Rudd would develop the story of two immature energy drink salesmen who are, by nature, complete opposites, and, by default, best friends. Danny is cynical and a premature curmudgeon, while Wheeler loves the ladies and partying…responsibilities be damned.
Rudd explains the steps: “I read the script, and it was a work in progress. I thought the idea was very funny and that there were some good jokes in it, but it was in the process of being written and rewritten. I thought of going different ways with the two characters, and then the producers asked if I wanted to write it. I had worked with David Wain and Ken Marino before, and I liked their humor. So, David came in to direct it, and David, Ken and I worked on the script together.”
The writing team developed the character of Danny as a man who is at a point in his life where he simply cracks, willing to openly berate a coffee shop barista on her company’s choice of names for drink sizes. “He just can’t deal with it anymore,” Rudd explains. “Just the general things you deal with every day annoy him. It’s to the point where he can’t even brush it off his back when people say ‘24/7’ or ‘ASAP’ or ‘110 percent.’ He’s pretentious and hates everybody, but really hates himself the most.”
Of her team’s choices, Parent explains, “We needed to discover these characters, and then tailor them to Seann and Paul. David Wain, Paul Rudd and Ken Marino had really fresh ideas for these characters and made them very real. They are idiosyncratic; they are eccentric. They’re specific, and, hopefully, they are memorable. We can all recognize elements of ourselves within all of the characters.”
What sold Seann William Scott on the comedy was the camaraderie that develops between Danny and Wheeler over the course of their journey into mental adulthood. “My character has a really interesting relationship with Paul’s character, Danny,” Scott says. “It’s not the typical ‘best buddies’ kind of friendship. They don’t pal around; they butt heads, but, ultimately, there is a friendship there.”
Scott looked forward to shooting with director Wain for the first time and commends, “Working with David was incredible. He makes it really comfortable to try something new. You have room to make a mistake. And, maybe, one of those mistakes isn’t actually a mistake. It’s actually a great moment.”
The producers were duly impressed to see the extent to which Scott had grown as a comic actor since his early days of American Pie. His high-energy style matched well with Rudd’s acerbic riffs. “Sean knew when Paul was going to throw a curveball at him and was ready for it,” Stuber says. “Some of the best moments, frankly, are those moments in the movie where they just kept going. They found a really good rhythm for their jokes.”
The filmmaker behind the darkly comic The Ten and the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer, director David Wain, had worked with Paul Rudd before. He explains of his interest in becoming part of the Role Models team: “When I got involved with this project as a director, Paul had done a draft of the script, and then Paul, Ken Marino and I started working on it. Having worked on other features in the past and being good friends, we really have a certain comedic shorthand. It was a lot of fun to collaborate in this way.”
Of the challenges this comedy would bring, Wain continues, “A lot of what I’ve done in the past is to take some kind of genre and tweak it or subvert it or add a layer of something absurdist to it. This is a different kind of movie, and it’s more grounded in a believable reality than, say, Wet Hot American Summer or Stella or some of the other things I’ve done.”
Wain expounds upon the casting of Scott and Rudd in the lead roles: “Paul and Seann are great together. They have different comedic images to the public, very different comedic sensibilities and are playing very different characters. When they come together, there is this slight disconnect on screen that is really amazing.”
With the leads set, the production team would begin the search for a collection of misfits that included an exasperated girlfriend, an oversexed counselor with a cocaine-laden past and two young misfits who would help our heroes grow up…painfully so.