Exclusive: Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, and More Talk ‘Special Correspondents’

On April 23rd, 2016, The Knockturnal had the chance to attend the Red Carpet and an after film Q&A for the Tribeca premiere of Special Correspondents

Making it’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, Special Correspondents, starring Eric Bana, Ricky Gervais, Vera Farmiga, and more, tells the story of a radio journalist and a sound technician who botch things up and hatch a scheme to fake their kidnapping in Ecuador. The Knockturnal got the chance to attend the red carpet for the premiere and speak with Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, and Raul Castillo while also getting the chance to sit in for the Q&A that took place after the film.

Raul Castillo (Domingo)

Q: Can you talk about how you got attached to the film?

Castillo: Yes, the script kind of came my way and I’ve been a big fan of Ricky’s for a long time and he’s one of the great comic geniuses of our time. So I was excited by that and I read the script and I found out America Ferrera was also attached to it and we’ve been friends for a while but have never gotten to work in this capacity together. I was excited about that but I had a Skype meeting with Ricky. I was in San Diego, it was nine in the morning and I think he was in London, or he was in New York, doing pre-production and there’s something surreal about…I’ve been a big fan of him for so long and then finding him on my computer screen like at nine in the morning. I was still waking up and was working on a theater project out there. So I read with him and he gave me some adjustments and we read the scene again and he just cracked up and then I got the job so I think I did something like.

Q: Can you talk about working with Ricky on the film?

Castillo: It’s everything you would imagine it to be and more. He’s so funny and so fun to be around and he also makes you feel like you’re the funniest person in the room. I think he empowers his actors in that way, I think he’s a genius for that and I think that’s what makes him such a great director in addition to being such a great writer. But the material’s all there, it’s all in the writing. He really wrote such a genius script. We improvised, we had a lot of fun but really I think what’s made the final cut is the script, I mean it’s so on point.

Q: You mention the improv, how many takes were ruined just from laughing so hard?

Castillo: Oh every take! There wasn’t a take that wasn’t ruined by laughing, we had to keep the camera rolling and start over. That’s what it was constantly and he was always the first one to crack. I prided myself on not breaking. It would start with Ricky and then Eric and then America it would all just be laughing.

Q: You can tell it’s Ricky breaking when you hear the laugh, he has one of the most iconic laughs.

Castillo: Absolutely.

Q: What do you have coming up in the future? Anything that we should be looking forward to?

Castillo: Yes, I have the Looking movie coming on HBO later this year and I just shot a pilot on ABC called The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez. Which was a lot of fun, very latino, very female heavy that I got excited about both of those qualities.

Eric Bana (Frank)

Q: We don’t get to see you in very many comedies, the last one I remember is Funny People, which you were one of the best parts of the movie. Working with Ricky, was there any reason why this was the script you chose to jump back into comedy?

Bana: I’m always open to it if I think I can contribute something and Funny People was like that. This was as well. I’m a huge fan of Ricky so it was a very easy yes. I loved the premise, I thought the premise had a lot of room for great comedy and I loved the script so it was a no brainer.

Ricky Gervais (Ian)

Q: How do you think our journalists are handling the election this year?

Gervais: I just could watch Donald Trump talk 24/7. I want him given his own channel in a playpen. I want him to be in a big romper suit and given all the toys and him just saying, “I’m worth 10 billion, I’m gonna build a wall.” I just want him talking and then it’s not really being broadcast, and then he’ll be happy. In fact, why can’t we tell him he is president and just never let him out. So he thinks he’s running everything, and he watches it on tele and that’s all fake. And all his broadcasts, they’re not really going. That’ll do, wouldn’t it? That’ll make him happy. Let’s tell him he’s president!

Q: You’re known for your work with stand up, with movies, with television, which art form do you love to do most?

Gervais: Writing. I became a director to protect the writing, I became a producer to protect my directing. I love doing it all but I like writing, I love creating. An idea gives me an adrenaline rush and then it’s how little you ruin it. That’s the best it gets up there. I like doing it my way. I love the creative process. If I’ve got my own way, I don’t care what happens then. I’m bulletproof. And then I move on to the next project. But stand ups good as well, cause stand up is like the last bastion of self censorship outside the novel. What you say is exactly what they hear. There’s no one typing it wrong, there’s no one saying, ‘You’ve gotta do that.’ It’s pure. They hear what you said. They might not get it, they might not like it. You say what you mean, and that’s what they hear. And that’s exciting.

After Film Q&A: Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, America Ferrera, Kevin Pollak, Raul Castillo, moderated by Stacey Wilson Hunt

Hunt: Ricky, what inspired this particular story? It reminds me of what Wag the Dog said about politics and I’m wondering if that movie was a touchstone for you at all?

Gervais: The thing is I don’t think that this is a big slight against journalism or media, that’s just where it sits. That’s the backdrop. It’s more about a human interest story, about ordinary who do stupid things. We all lie a little bit and it gets out of hand. Kids learn to lie and they get into a lot of trouble but then they realize that actually, honesty is the best policy. I think the big time is fame.

Hunt: You explore that fame a lot.

Gervais: I’m obsessed with it. And it’s getting worse. I’m just obsessed with the fact that now…it’s worse than it was 10 years ago. People now get famous by living their life like an open wound and they could do anything. There’s no difference between fame and infamy. People will do awful things. People would rather be known for being awful than not known at all and Vera’s character is the epitome of that. Someone who thinks it’s my turn, I want to be famous. All the reality shows where they go, “I really want this.” Oh alright then! You really want it, oh okay! We need singers, forget doctors. We need more singers. It’s all those little stories, really. It’s really about a bunch of idiots trying to get on.

Hunt: For the cast, what attracted you to the project? Aside from working with Ricky.

Pollak: I was sitting at my weekly poker game, I wasn’t in the hand so I thought I’d check twitter on my phone. I noticed I had a direct message and it’s from Ricky Gervais. We’d met for about nine seconds four years before. I opened up the direct message and it said (in British accent), “I’m going to uh, direct a movie.”

Ricky: Brilliant.

Pollak: “Where do I send the script? There’s a part in it for you.” I thought, I’ve just received the greatest direct message in history. Certainly in my history. So he had me right there. I was just praying ‘please don’t be a shitty part!’ I’ll do it anyways, ya know. Just a lifelong fan and now that I’ve gotten to know him a little bit…not as much, but still.

Ferrera: I think when I read the script I didn’t know if it was really good or really bad. And knowing Ricky and his work and what a fan I am of his, this is probably gonna be really good! But even if it is really bad I get the chance to work with Ricky. And I think the characters that Raul and I got to play, that’s not a character that I’ve ever gotten the chance to play. And she’s so out there and so fun. And I think often as actors of color, you’re expected to take roles that change the world and it’s fun every now and then to take a character that potentially is doing the opposite of saving the world. I just knew that it was gonna be bold and dangerous and that there’s gonna be a lot of people who don’t get it or a lot of people who don’t like it but then a lot of people who do and that, I think, is what’s exciting about what Ricky does! It’s never safe.

Hunt: Eric, what is Ricky like as a director? How is he different from other people you’ve worked for?

Bana: I forgot Ricky was directing the movie. Most days, it wasn’t apparent he was directing the movie. It was literally like…how can I put this? I mean, I’m a bad laugher when I’m at work and I thought I’d get in trouble for that. On the first day, he started pissing himself laughing and I thought, I’m not gonna get into trouble. It was completely seamless. Ricky has said in early interviews that, correct me if I’m wrong, that you find it less stressful to do everything. To be the director, and there’s no middle man. It was like going to work with a mate.

Gervais: And we finished early, didn’t we?

Bana: Because he likes to eat early.

Gervais: So, the day before we filmed. I said we should go to dinner, ‘I said I’ll meet you at 6pm.’ ‘6pm?!’ So we went to have dinner, and we left the restaurant at around 7 and I said see you tomorrow. So the first day, Eric said, ‘I had to order room service last night at a quarter to 12 because we’d eaten too early.’ And I said, ‘What were you doing up at a quarter to 12?’ He said, ‘Who are you, my fucking father?!’

Q: For any of you, what is the biggest difference in making a movie for Netflix versus making a movie for a more conventional studio?

Gervais: It isn’t. The thing is, I’ve always demanded final cut. But to get my own way, I’ve always had to go to fringe outlets. HBO instead of NBC, BBC2 Instead of BBC1 to get my own way. Netflix comes along and it’s the best of both worlds. They don’t interfere, but the sky’s the limit. They have 70 million subscribers. And I think we’re going to see the return of the auteur, people will be drawn there knowing they can make their own film. They won’t be focus grouped to death, you don’t have to appeal to everyone. I think that’s the big difference for me. And it’s lovely to know people will be seeing your film.

Q: How do you know when to say yes to a script? Is it a specific scene or specific arc to the character?

Ferrera: I think it could be any number of things. A role that you feel born to play or someone you really wanna work with or you haven’t had a job in a really long time and something comes around. I’m not saying that’s the case in this movie. I think it’s different for me every time, it’s the sum of what’s going on at that time.

Pollak: I wait for Ricky to hit me up on twitter. That’s really all I do now. It’s always the elements, who’s the director? Who are the actors? And sometimes your agent does get in there and says you have to read this. And it occasionally makes a huge difference. The guy who wrote The Usual Suspects was 25, the guy who directed it was 25. And at the time shortly after I suddenly had a choice on what I could do. And my agent had to keep saying, “You have to read this.” Who are these guys? “You don’t know them, don’t worry.” Who’s in it? “Kevin Spacey.” What else can I read? In 1994, we’re talking about that Kevin Spacey! Who wasn’t starring in movies. He was a character actor like myself. I’m sure he was saying, “Why did you hire Kevin Pollak?!” Benicio del Toro you know…so anyway. The agent actually made a difference and then the rest of the time I just said, “Yeah go with that one.”

Castillo: For me it’s like what these guys are saying. It’s a gut level thing at the end of the day. But I do feel like part of what attracts me to something is something I’ve never done before and this project was like that. I’ve never done anything like this so it was really exciting to explore Ricky’s world.

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