Home Comedy Death at a Funeral – Chris Rock on changing British to American

Death at a Funeral – Chris Rock on changing British to American

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Death at a Funeral - Tracy Morgan and Chris Rock
Norman (Tracy Morgan) and Aaron (Chris Rock) © Screen Gems

Chris Rock both produces and stars in the remake of the 2007 British farce Death at a Funeral. The actor plays Aaron, a would-be writer whose funeral for his father turns into the worst day of his life, as he attempts to deal with the eccentricities of his family who arrive to pay their respects. And then an unexpected guest named Frank (Peter Dinklage) turns up and turns the day totally upside down.

As the movie’s producer, Rock has gathered quite a cast of comedic icons and actors to share the screen with him, including Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, James Marsden and Zoe Saldana.

Why did you want to remake this movie?

Death at a Funeral - Loretta Devine and Chris Rock
Cynthia (Loretta Devine) and Aaron (Chris Rock) © Screen Gems

I saw the original in an art house with 10 people, and (I thought), ‘This is like a pop movie, why is it playing at a little art house?’ I and the other 10 people were laughing our asses off. You normally need other people around to get rid of your inhibitions to laugh, it was amazing.

It seemed like we could make a different movie and the same movie at the same time. I just thought the jokes would work in America. You watch a lot of the movies out right now, they are collaborations. Something like Date Night or The Hangover star a bunch of people. So I thought the fact that it had a lot of funny parts was perfect for me, not wanting to have to carry the whole movie.

Is remaking a movie more challenging than creating something from scratch?

Yes. It’s a bit of each. Also, when you know a movie’s ending works, your life’s so much easier. I’ve remade a few movies and they all had one thing in common — great endings. So I would say it’s a little less challenging if you have a great ending. If you haven’t got a great ending, don’t remake the movie.

Was it hard to change it from being British to American?

Death at a Funeral - Chris Rock, Regina Hall and Martin Lawrence
Aaron (Chris Rock), Michelle (Regina Hall) and Ryan (Martin Lawrence) © Screen Gems

We all speak English, but their English is a lot different than our English. The British ask a lot of questions, ‘Is the tea okay?’ We tried to take all the Briticisms away without losing the essential humor. It was a big job. You think it’s a few words at first and then you realize a lot of these phrases sound odd coming out of an American’s mouth.

But the bones of the movie are pretty much the same. I don’t look at it as a remake. It’s more like a cover song. When you heart Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower next to Jimi Hendrix’s version, they’re the same song, but they’re totally different.

Can you talk about working with Martin Lawrence who plays your younger brother in this?

Death at a Funeral - Martin Lawrence and Chris Rock
Ryan (Martin Lawrence) and Aaron (Chris Rock) © Screen Gems

I’ve know Martin probably 20 years. I started as a fan watching him at clubs and going to his gigs. He was famous before I was, and I remember seeing him at the Universal Amphitheater or Radio City. I had a gig with him a long time ago. He opened up for me and blew me off the stage. I could barely get a laugh after that. Martin Lawrence was the only man to ever blow me off the stage.

I’d been dying to work with him forever. But the scripts were never quite right or the timing was off. This one just seemed to fit. He’s one of my favorite funny people, so writing a joke for Martin Lawrence was great. It’s like writing a song for Anita Baker or Sade. Sade’s going to sing my song! That’s going to make me look even better.

Is there anything else you’d like to remake?

I’m writing a movie actually for Mike Nichols. We’re doing High and Low. We’re getting that together now. That’s a remake of a Kurosawa thing, so that may be next, I’m not sure.

Do you have any final thoughts on the movie?

I think we’ve made an American family comedy, despite the R rating. I think this is a movie you can see with your whole family. This is a movie for absolutely everybody. It’s got a big great cast, black, white; all the black people that aren’t in a Tyler Perry movie right now are in this movie. So if you like it please spread the word.