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Hall Pass – Directors Peter & Bobby Farrelly on the evolution of the screenplay

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Hall Pass - Owen Wilson with producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Owen Wilson with writer/director/producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly on the set © 2011 New Line

Writers/Producers/Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly are recognized for their distinctive and raucously funny movies which include Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal and The Heartbreak Kid.

Their new comedy Hall Pass stars Owen Wilson as Rick and Jason Sudeikis as Fred, best buddies who are bored with the routine of married life. Their wives, Maggie and Grace, played by Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate, are tired of their husbands’ behavior, and decide to give them a hall pass for one week to relive their days as single men. But neither the husbands nor the wives could begin to imagine what would happen to them in those seven days.

What was the evolution of the screenplay?

Hall Pass - Writer/director/producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Writer/director/producers Peter and Bobby Farrelly on the set © 2011 New Line

Bobby Farrelly: The original script came across our desk, it was written by Pete Jones, and when we saw it we thought, ‘Wow, that’s a good idea for a movie. Hall Pass, a married guy gets a week off.’ Pete had written a really good script.

A lot of people joke about the seven-year itch and this is sort of an updated version of that. When you’re dealing with the sacred institution of marriage, you’re playing with fire, so we knew we had a handle it just right. But we weren’t afraid of tackling the subject and we certainly weren’t going to hold back on any of the jokes or the temptations … or anything else. If we think it’s funny, Pete and I will go for it. We love pushing the envelope.

Peter Farrelly: [The script] was hysterical, we laughed out loud ten or twelve times and we just thought, ‘This is something we’d like to get involved in.’ And then it was a long process rewriting with them, because it is a real balancing act to make this movie work.

One of the early problems with the movie was that the guys have got the hall pass and the women just bit their fingernails and waited, and that didn’t work. I remember my wife read it and said, ‘I hate these women, because if you get a hall pass I’m getting a hall pass.’ She was literally angry with me. So we were like, ‘Calm down,’ and then we rethought it.

You guys have set a bar for outrageousness in your movies. As you get each new project do you try to top yourselves to gross out people?

Peter: We don’t really do that. We’re not bashful about doing that, but that’s not our goal. At first we just try to create a character and a concept that we like so much that we can hang all our gags on. At the very end, right before we start shooting, we sit down and we say, ‘Let’s go through this one more time and see if there’s some opportunities for jokes where there’s not anything now.’

Aside from your wives, was there any other female input into the story?

Hall Pass - Jason Sudekis, JB Smoove, Larry Joe Campbell, Owen Wilson) Stephen Merchant and Daniel Murphy
Fred (Jason Sudekis), Flats (JB Smoove), Hog-Head (Larry Joe Campbell), Rick (Owen Wilson), Gary (Stephen Merchant) and Boshane (Daniel Murphy) © 2011 New Line

Bobby: Our wives play a big part in it, they’re the first people who read it and they’re very honest with us. After that, the studio is certainly always thinking about the audience, they want to make sure it’s not going to be just for the guys and not for the girls, but I would give most of the credit to our wives.

Peter: This is a guy concept, but the women win. Ultimately it’s a chick flick. They win across the board; they get to do more than the guys do on the hall pass. And the guys come back humbled and trying to please them, and they have no repercussions from it, except for the immediate ones that they suffered along the way. It has to be that way for this movie to work; women had to really go for it.

Can you talk a little about your upcoming film on The Three Stooges?

Bobby: Yeah, we’ve been working on it about 10 years, and we finally have gotten it into pre-production, so we are going to shoot it a little later this spring. Right now we’re diligently casting it, trying to figure out who the right guys are for it. It’s not an easy job because even great actors might struggle with those particular roles. So we’re looking at everyone and we’ll probably have it cast in about a month or so. But we are gong to make it and we’re very excited about it.

Were they an influence on your work?

Hall Pass - Jason Sudekis with Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly and Owen Wilson
Jason Sudekis with writer/director/producer Peter Farrelly, writer/director/producer Bobby Farrelly and Owen Wilson on the set © 2011 New Line

Bobby: No question, they had a big influence on us, we grew up watching them. We’d come home from school and we’d watch them on T.V. and we’d laugh. These are guys from the 1930s and 40s, we just felt like that type of slapstick humor that they did was very timeless and funny and we wanted to try to recreate it.

Do you think there is any merit to a real life application of the hall pass?

Peter: One problem with having a hall pass is that if you’re going to have a hall pass your wife would want a hall pass too, and then no guy would have a hall pass!