Q&A with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan
By Carl Kozlowski
February 26, 2010
In the new movie Cop Out, Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan team up in an attempt to bring back the fun-filled vibe of such '80s cop comedies as “48 Hrs.”, “Beverly Hills Cop” and the vastly underrated “Running Scared.” They also teamed up with director Kevin Smith of Clerks and Dogma infamy, who after writing eight funny yet unbelievably raunchy films, decided to take a crack at directing someone else's writing and see if he could score a blockbuster after 15 years of mere cult success.
The resulting film is uneven (check out our review here). Willis is great fun start to finish, but Morgan takes a while to find his rhythm and the story veers wildly between funny character-based moments and truly awful and cliched plot points you've seen a thousand times before. But Willis and Morgan paired up to speak with RELEVANT, it was clear they had a great time together on-set and hope to be back for more films in the tradition of classic Hollywood comedy teams of the past.
Bruce, you started out comedically with Moonlighting but have mostly done serious films in the past decade. Which way would you really like to go with your career?
BRUCE: If I had a choice, I would do comedy all the time. It's just the most challenging thing to make someone laugh, and the most rewarding thing in entertainment. To be funny you have to commit to the truth of the story you're telling, even if it's the craziest story you've ever heard, and act like it's true. Whereas in drama, it's just on the page, my girlfriend took the dog and now I'm lonely. That's easy to play. It's much harder to do comedy.
Tracy, this is your first big movie lead. You grew up on some of the roughest streets of Brooklyn, and now you got to return as a movie star hanging with Bruce Willis. What did that feel like?
TRACY: Bruce is a real cool dude, down to earth. Just going to work everyday and telling my friends and family that I was going to work with Bruce Willis, they just didn't believe it. But now there's the billbaords everywhere, and that's the proof and they're like “Wow! Bruce Willis!” Now I didn't get the chance to work with Bruce Lee, but Bruce Willis is right next to Bruce Lee, baby.
BRUCE: I went to work everyday knowing that I was working with a consummate professional, truly funny guy that I could throw the ball to and he'd hit it out of the park. Having that confidence in your partner makes you take risks you wouldn't normally take.TRACY: Working with Bruce Willis makes my career authentic. I may not get an Oscar, but I worked with Bruce Willis. That matters more to me.
There's a lot of physical comedy and an anything-goes energy to the film. How much of the movie was made up on the fly?
BRUCE: Those were my ideas, the goofy falls. Kevin was surprised and said you want to do that? And I said yeah. No stone was left unturned in making things funny. We stole from Abbott & Costello, Art Carney and Jackie Gleason. Just dropped the reins and threw out the rules. In one scene, we're trying to get a Russian lawyer into a car, and Tracy comes in doing the Robocop voice. I'm surprised and say, “What are you doing?!”
TRACY: And I say “I'm doing Robocop!” It looks like we planned it, but it was totally made up. Kevin's even waving 'Cut!' sometimes off camera and we just kept going, but it was so funny he kept it in the film.
BRUCE: There were scenes everyday where I was trying not to laugh, so they filmed me finally turning from looking out the window. I'd be listening to Tracy, pretending to look soulfully into space, and in reality I'm hiding the fact I'm laughing my a-- off. There were times that we broke down, or the whole crew was laughing.
Cop Out definitely follows the long tradition of buddy and cop films, yet at the same time it steers clear of dealing with the two guys being different races. That always seemed to play heavily in the old films, so why not now?
BRUCE: Cop Out is the 2010 version of the genre that's been around since the '40s: gangster films, cop films. I see things comparing our film to Beverly Hills Cop, just good cop-bad cop movies, and they always mention there were racial overtones in those movies. We never gave it one thought ever about whether this should have racial content. There was never time to even think about mentioing it seriously or mocking racial struggles. The fact that we get along so well, love each other and are such good friends made it unnecessary.
TRACY: I didn't have to drive nobody around, no Miss Daisy jokes, and I didn't have to lift heavy objects. The rest is cool with me. Me and Bruce are down like four flat tires. Times are changing. We got billboards up all over Manhattan of a black dude smiling and holding a gun. Aint that cool? Nobody said nothing!
How do you think real-life New York cops will react to your wild and crazy portrayals of cop life?
BRUCE I think cops need to laugh more than anyone. They get shot at every night for their jobs, and this is an opportunity to have a good laugh.
Is there anything you could say took things too far in Cop Out?
BRUCE: There was a scene where a little kid kicks Tracy in the [groin] and Tracy responds by giving him a good stiff right arm in the [groin], and my character just leans over saying “Oh did you feel that?” We were screaming it was so funny. Who goes that far?
TRACY: It's all a collaboaration, we're trying to make you walk out saying that was funny. We made it our business to do it the way it was written. I'd add to it, they'd make it funnier and we just kept one-upping each other. That's a gift God's given us, the ability to work together in collaborations.