Special Correspondents @ Netflix | full press conference Paris (2016)

MODERATOR: Please welcome to the stage the writer, the director, and the star of the Netflix original film Special Correspondents, Ricky Gervais. And his costar, Eric Bana MODERATOR: So Ricky, where did the idea come from for this film? RICKY : Well, it’s originally it’s a French movie from a few years ago. I just took that central idea of a couple of idiots meant to cover a war, and they throw away the tickets and passports while going through a really bad phase. And then I realized, it’s radio, so I can fake it So, we build a studio and pretend we’re in Ecuador, and we get carried away. We become heroes, we get more embroiled, and we have to dig our way out of it. I mean, it’s sort of a satire against journalism and media But the real target is fame, itself, I think The things people do today to be famous Nowadays, there’s no difference between fame and infamy. People would rather be known as an absolute idiot than not known at all. There’s people now that live their life like an open wound, and they are rewarded for it, you know? So, it’s all about that. And Vera’s character, my wife, is the personification of what’s wrong with society today. She thinks she deserves to be famous. She thinks that’ll sort everything out Just because we see these talent shows, where people say, “Oh. I want this so bad.” And we’re meant to go, “Oh, if you want it, okay, we’ll vote for you then.” It’s like, oh, who gives a f I don’t care! It’s just all singers. We’re going to run out of doctors because everyone wants to be on a talent show So it’s sort of about that, but it’s a human story as well. What you do, how tempting it is to take the shortcut, and, it is tempting. We all sometimes exaggerate. Sometimes, we don’t own up to the truth straight away because we fear it, and we worry about what people think of us It’s a human story. It’s characterdriven, like everything I do, but it’s more I suppose it’s the most ambitious thing I have done, I think. This felt like I went to big school. Shooting this You know what I mean? It’s a real movie, with plot and twists and, yes, it’s probably the most ambitious project I have ever done MODERATOR: And you said, right back at the beginning, it’s about two idiots RICKY : Yeah. I didn’t know he was an idiot in real life [referencing Eric] I cast Eric because I thought he was this brooding thespian, I’d seen him in Munich, oh yeah with his shirt and everything. And oh, Bruce Banner. Oh, I hate being the Hulk, oh, I’m all serious, right? And I thought that would be great to play against me. But then I found out he started out in comedy, and he’s an idiot. He’s a putz, just like me ERIC : Thank you RICKY : It’s a compliment! And we got on straight away. I mean, most of the time, we were I’d ruin lots of takes, because I wanted to be funny. I’ve done all of the hard work I’ve written it, I cast it, and every day is fun on one of my sets. We shoot fast, I shoot with two cameras, we miss nothing, there’s improv, and just, we have fun all of the time. And between takes, for some reason, we talked about each other’s balls a lot MODERATOR: Okay, wow RICKY : I don’t know why. I don’t know how it started ERIC : I’m not here MODERATOR: That’s an amazing question I don’t have written down here, uh, “talk about…” RICKY : We just did stupid accents. I think I found out that he was half Croatian, so I was doing, “Oh, uh hello, how’re your balls?” ERIC : That’s Russian. That’s not Croatian RICKY : Oh, like I could tell the difference I couldn’t even do an accent. I made him play American ERIC: Yeah RICKY : And Kelly MacDonald, who is Scottish, but I always play a bloke from England. I don’t want voice coaches MODERATOR: Have you even tried? An accent? RICKY : I could do it, but I’m writing it, I’m directing it, I’m producing it, I’m worrying about stuff, now I’m going to worry about how to pronounce things with an American accent? No, fuck that. I’m busy. Let me just act, like an idiot MODERATOR: That’s why you hired him [Eric] To do the accents, yeah? RICKY : He does. He can do the accent MODERATOR: Eric, that seems very unfair ERIC : It is unfair, because it’s not like there are no Australians in the world. Why can’t there be Australians in film? RICKY: No one would take you seriously ERIC : Really? RICKY : If you “Geez, cobber,” right, in an Australian accent ERIC : I guess I was playing a journalist, a radio journalist, in New York MODERATOR: Exactly ERIC : And it’s, CNN is full of Australian journalists. So, why didn’t I fight for that? RICKY : I don’t know, I think you were just thrilled to be working with me ERIC : Yeah….yeah MODERATOR: Eric, is this true, this accusation, this heinous accusation, that you are an idiot? ERIC : Oh, I am an idiot. That’s how I got my start, being an idiot, and then at

some point in my career, I got offered a lot of serious stuff, and I just kept saying yes until people as you say Ricky didn’t know that I had a comedic background, which is actually really good for me because I felt like I was under no pressure, despite the fact that we were doing a comedy I didn’t feel like, “Oh, I’ve gotta really deliver on the comedy side.” I knew that there was a job for me to do and then in the end, we kind of found a funny dynamic just because of the dynamic that Ricky creates as a director, which is to have fun. That we found it hilarious for my character to be a real mean prick to him all the time That was the one note I kept getting from Ricky, was like, no, no, no, meaner, nastier And we found that funny, you know. So in the end, I felt like I was in really safe hands, and I didn’t feel that sort of comedic pressure RICKY : It’s because I don’t make my characters tell jokes. It’s the situation that’s funny, it’s the dynamics that are funny, and I think things like anger are funnier than clowning Someone who is angry, someone who is not trying to be funny, someone who wants to be taken seriously is funny already RICKY : If you desperately want to be taken seriously, but your wig blows off, you’re finished. Whereas, if you’re an idiot, nothing can happen to me, to embarrass me, because I’m already an idiot. Whereas, you, you’re handsome, if you slip over, oh, it’s devastating, isn’t it? MODERATOR: So, in terms of crafting this relationship, this double act do you see it as a double act? RICKY : It is. It is the central relationship, certainly. I think it’s quite oldfashioned in a way, and, I think it’s a a throwback. It’s something like the Bob and Bing, or Laurel & Hardyesque, and I think it’s the sort of grownup comedy of the Forties. You know, where are the Barbara Stanwyck’s talking to Fred McMurray in in Double Indemnity? Where are those things? I think a lot of the comedies now are grossout, lowestcommondenominator, and that’s because they want everybody to go to the cinema in the first day, or it’s taken off the screen So it’s very homogenized, and very safe, and it’s okay, and people know what they are getting, and they don’t take chances anymore You know? They are they’re sort of made by committee, and they’re focusgrouped to death, so it’s the same as the film you saw last month that you liked, and I think that Netflix will be the return of the auteur, because you make the movie you wanted. They’ve got 75 million subscribers, people they’ve cut out the middle man Competing at the cinema, and having to make those compromises to make it commercial. And they just watch it like they would, let’s face it, most people watch films after they’re in the cinema. Most people MODERATOR: Yeah RICKY : Most people. So we’re just cutting out the middle man. But the important thing is that I was left alone. I’ve always had final edit, I’ve always done my thing, but usually to get that luxury I’d go to fringe channels I’ve made some smaller films, and I’ve made TV, but I go to you know, BBC2. Not BBC1. Channel Four. Not ITV1 HBO. Not NBC But Netflix coming along? Best of both worlds Left alone. And the sky’s the limit with how many people can watch it. It’s global. It’s immediate. It’s great, and the word of mouth works, because it’s always there, so it’s just perfect, you know. As an artist, you want as many people to see your film as possible, but without compromise, and that’s it. And I make it an actor’s medium. I think it’s fun. It’s fun to work like that, when you don’t have to worry about somebody saying, ” Oh, you can’t say that.” Why can’t you say that? Of course you can say that. Why, who is telling you that you can’t say that? We’re grownups, we can say what we want MODERATOR: Is that what you found, Eric, working on this project? ERIC: Yeah, I mean, it’s from an actor’s point of view, it’s a it’s a great way to work because, you know, I’d signed on to do this film because of Ricky, and because Ricky was directing, and because Ricky had written it, and so to have that complete autonomy on the set for the actors it’s great, because there’s one boss, and that’s it. And, I mean, he doesn’t even make you feel like he’s the boss, so I think from a performance point of view, it’s great as well, because you feel very, very free And there’s no one off to the side giving notes. You know what I mean? MODERATOR: Yes. And at what point did Netflix come aboard? RICKY : No. This was going to be a studio film. Well, I’d had no plans. I wrote the script, and I gave it to my agent, and they sent it out, and the reaction was fantastic, probably the best reaction I’ve ever had There was a bit of a feeding frenzy, and we chose a studio, and we signed and then Netflix went, “We’ll buy it. We’ll buy it all. We’ll buy it out. We’ll give you the budget, you know,” and, um, it was winwin for me. So,it’s an offer I couldn’t refuse

MODERATOR: Yeah. I had a colleague who was actually on set during the making of the movie, and he told me about how free your filmmaking process seems to be. You do multiple takes. You have a script, but you don’t necessarily adhere to the script. Just, how freeing, and how important is that for you as a filmmaker, and Eric, as an actor, as well? RICKY : It’s really important to me because you sweat over the lines, and you rewrite, but you don’t know who’s going to say them. And so then I bring in physicality I write lines that, you know, you go for your ideal cast. But you can’t imagine. You really can’t I try and imagine it on the screen, but when you get there, the best lines in the world, they might not sound right. They might not sound right, because, you know, the rhythm is different, and you build your character, your change your character, even the first day you change your character, and sometimes you have to go back and do a different scene, because you’ve found something MODERATOR: Yeah. Yeah RICKY : So you’ve got to be flexible. It’s mad to be rigid, you know. I shoot with two cameras, so I don’t have to worry about continuity. If someone says an ad lib, I don’t have to turn around to do the other side. Everything is captured, and everything is real, and I’m a slave to realism. For me, the more real and natural something is, the more it resonates with the audience I think, if you can suddenly see acting, or see directing, it’s like, you know, I don’t care about symmetry, or, I can watch two interesting people tell an interesting story against a white wall, you know I just think there’s too much style over content, and that will never change about the human condition. One person telling another person what happened. You can have all of the special effects in the world. But something you can relate to it’s all about empathy MODERATOR: And, Eric, as an actor, what is that experience like for you? Especially when you are working so closely with Ricky Because the film throws you together for most of the movie. You are in very, very close proximity with each other. How intimate was that relationship, during the ? ERIC : As I said before, Ricky did an amazing job. It was completely seamless. I never felt like I was having conversations with the director. I felt like I was having conversations with the costar who had permission from the director to muck around, so basically that’s how it felt, so it was completely seamless. And Ricky said earlier today, it sounds insurmountable when you think of acting, producing, starring, directing. But, to quote you Ricky, you find it easier to have that total control, rather than be messed with RICKY : I do ERIC : And at first, I thought, wow, that’s an interesting way of thinking about it But, in actual fact, it is true. Especially with comedy, right, what you want as a comic is for your idea to not lose anything from here to there RICKY : It’s exactly right, yeah ERIC : It has to be a throughline. And comedy doesn’t work when you’re going that way. Drama can. You can open up to a conversation, you can talk about it for hours You can’t do that with comedy. It’s either a really good, funny idea that needs to come out really quickly and be executed and captured, or it’s dead RICKY : Yes. It’s fragile. I mean the reason I started directing in the first place was protect the writing. And then I produced to direct to protect the directing Because I think the best an idea gets is when it’s in your head, as you say, and I mean, that’s the beauty there’s not many things like that. Maybe the novel Standup. Maybe the last sort of bastion of selfcensorship, where the thing you say is the thing they hear There is no committee. There’s no filter They can misunderstand it. Or what you said, you meant to say, and what I think is exciting about the auteured art, in any sense, as opposed to the committee art is that you don’t have to be that different for it to be original. You have to be slightly different, and we are all different We’ve got a particular blend, so if you get your own way, it’s probably going to be slightly different You know. It’s as simple as that. And, also, I’m only trying to please me, really No, well, I am, because I think if you I think it’s a disservice to the public to try and second guess them And try and please them. Because if you try and please everyone, you please no one, particularly. But if you do it if you really are ruthless with it and you really please yourself, and you are your own worst critic, which, you should be, then I think they’ll be grateful that you did it your way MODERATOR: But the improvisational style that you have as well. You have written a script. What happens if you have a line or a monologue that you really, really feel strongly about, and someone goes offscript? Ccan you be flexible in that way? RICKY : Well, it’s never happened, because I don’t know what it would have to be for them to say, “Please, don’t make me say that” because they’d have read the script and they’d got cast to say that, so if anything, they would say, “Oh. No. I don’t want to say that. It’s not in the script.” They might say, “Oh, no,

I you know” but they couldn’t object to the script, certainly MODERATOR: No, not object, but if you have a line in the script that you feel very strongly about, and they want to change it? ERIC : I think there’s a misconception sometimes, with ad lib. You don’t ever change structure of a story in ad lib. I’ll give you an example. There is a scene where Ricky and I are held captive somewhere, and halfway through our captive coming in and talking to us, I suddenly decide that I’ve found him really sexy, and I started talking to Ricky about how attractive I found him. That was completely it was not in the script. I had great fun with it. It’s not in the movie, in the end It doesn’t affect the structure of the story But that’s the kind of environment you want where we would just go and explore an idea, that was like a tangent, and a spinoff RICKY : He’s like a rock star. He’s going, “Why do you find him attractive? This is like Stockholm Syndrome.” It was all ad libbed, but we kept laughing at the idea that we found a bloke holding a gun on us sexy MODERATOR: Because you are a notorious corpser, aren’t you? RICKY : I am. I’m the worst ERIC : Oh. He was shocking RICKY : I’m the worst person I know at corpsing If something’s funny, it’s a celebration, I think. If they do it well, it’s like, I’ve heard it for the first time, and if they change it slightly, I have heard it for the first time I never forget how how lucky I am, either. It’s the best day. Creativity is the best thing for me I get so excited about having an idea, but then the fact that I could get things made? It’s playtime, honestly. It’s such a fucking privilege, to do this, and the same with standup, you know? People come out you’d better be excited. If you’re not excited about something, why should they be? That’s your job as a director. To make people as passionate about this thing as you are So you better be passionate about it. Otherwise, what’s the point? Who cares, you know? I’ve never done anything, ’cause, “Oh, I might as well,” you know I’ll walk away. I’ll walk away from really successful series, because I think they’re just right. You know, I’ll start a new one. That’s the fun for me, the playing. That is what creativity is, it’s playing. It’s finding your inner child. You know, children fucking play, they’ve got no constraints, and then it’s it’s beaten out of them. “Grow up,” you know MODERATOR: Absolutely RICKY : No, don’t grow up MODERATOR: Eric? Are you? Are you a corpser? ERIC : I am, and I was really worried going into this, because I’d been in trouble a lot of times over the years, and I thought, oh, shit, this is gonna be bad. And then on day one, he started going really badly. And then I’m like, well, the director is laughing, wasting his own time. This is not too bad and in the end, I found myself sometimes before lunch, we could struggle to get something, and Ricky was like, “No, we’ll go. We’ll go, we’ll move on” and I think, “You’re still going to need this angle, of you, you’re laughing and laughing,” it was like, we’d turn it to the other way around where I had to like, tell him off, tell him to stop laughing RICKY : I know ERIC : But it takes a braveness, too, sometimes, and even in drama, some of the best directors I’ve worked with are people who are prepared to have fun on a film set Even when it’s really, gritty, dark material, some of the best films I have worked on have been where directors have had a really light environment on the set, and I think sometimes people mistake that being serious with being able to get something of quality. And it stifles you It does suppress your imagination. It does suppress your creative thoughts RICKY : You’ve gotta be allowed to fail as well. I think some people are nervous, having a bad take. Whereas, if you’re in charge, I know I can have a bad take, because I’m not going to use it. And I think the same of standup I go up there, and I have got to be able to say anything. But nowadays it’s dangerous to say anything, because it’s on YouTube, and you’ve got to have a safe space, as a comedian. Because I think as a comedian, it’s not just to make people laugh. It’s to make them think, and I think you’ve gotta go places that people haven’t been before And I think you’ve got to be allowed to say things that everyone might find offensive, you know? I think you’ve got to be able to play, and just like you do in you know, in private, you’ve got to be brave enough to try things. And then you go, “Oh, no, that’s too much. Oh, I don’t like that That doesn’t work.” But I mean, you’ve gotta just be free, I think. You’ve got to MODERATOR: We have time now for some questions from the floor. Put your hands up if you have anything to ask Ricky and Eric AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. I’ve seen it. It’s really good. I just saw a screener RICKY : Thank you AUDIENCE MEMBER: And one thing that picks up is that you say is that you have a go at fame, and at the realities of fame, but there are sort of some jabs at the media as well. Is that a reflection of any antagonisms that you have

about the media? RICKY : No. I don’t have any problem with the media, except the obvious things, you know As famous person, it’s so funny, because when I first did this, I didn’t become famous anyway, until I was about 39, 40. So I knew the pitfalls And you know, at least I was famous for something, so I was a bit wiser, so I was wary, you know. I never signed that contract with the press. I never said “make me famous and you can go through my bins,” I never did that So, you know. But, it’s funny You don’t realize you’re famous until you find out all of the misconceptions. Like, I read about me, and I realize that about 50 percent of all of the things are wrong. Not in a terrible way, just slight information so do I realize from that that everything is about 50 percent wrong, you know? Well, probably. And I don’t even mean malice. I don’t even mean media lies. Or just slight misinformation, and I think you’ve gotta take it with a pinch of salt And it doesn’t matter with us. We’re idiots Who cares if you get our age or height wrong, you know? And I never complain when they say I’m too young. I never complain when they get it wrong. But, no, I don’t complain, unless some libels me, that’s that’s devastatingly untrue and affects my life. I don’t care. I’ve been through that. I feared it at first, and then I realized that I thought reputation was everything, but now I realize that reputation is just what strangers think of you And character is who you really are, and now I don’t care, unless people are coming to my house, bothering me. I don’t really care anymore It’s like Twitter. That’s like reading every toilet wall in the world. You mustn’t worry about it, it’ll send you mad. Who gives a fuck? When they say something really bad, then I’ll go that’s not true, but it’s fluff. You know, you’ve got a lot of papers to fill. It’s cool. You know This is faking a war. It’s slightly more serious than getting the name of my cat wrong, you know what I mean? MODERATOR: Eric, do you have a take on that as well? Whenever you became famous, did you experience something similar to Ricky? ERIC : No, I got nothing to complain about I had a I’ve had a really, really good run, actually MODERATOR: Yeah? ERIC : Similar to Ricky, I wasn’t in the public eye until I was older, and so and it was through comedy, so I think when you come from the comedy side, you just have a different take on things anyway. So, I’ve got yeah, I got nothing to complain about RICKY : Also we don’t we don’t we don’t get seen coming out of bars, coked up and drunk and found in a skip and getting into fights. What I do, though, I sit at home, in pants, drinking wine with my cat and my girlfriend every night. There’s no story Do you know what I mean? I’m boring, there’s no point in writing about me. Some people do ask for it. It’s the flip side of the coin Some people do say “make me famous, and you can go through my bins” and then they don’t like it when you go through their bins. Well, you shouldn’t have fucking asked for it, then! You know? ERIC: It’s a Faustian pact MODERATOR: Uh, yes, please, there’s a gentleman over here ? AUDIENCE MEMBER: Eric, you mentioned your previous comedy work, and I’m just wondering about The Castle how much did you draw on that for this film? ERIC: Oh, not really at all. I mean, they are very, very different kind movies Like I said, I didn’t really have to. Having a comedic background wasn’t a hundred percent essential for me in this film It was an advantage, I felt, because it’s always good to know where the comedy is. I felt like I could better help Ricky be funnier because I would understand the timing of where the comedy is meant to be Then we naturally found a realistic kind of character vibe between us that we then made funny. But, uh, I think it would have been dangerous for me to come in and go, “Righto… look out….here’s some funny shit that I can do!” RICKY: That’s right, exactly ERIC: It was just about me being aware of where that so that was an advantage RICKY: There is nothing worse than someone trying to be funny all the time There’s nothing less funny, than those things where people are trying to be funny, or they want to be taken seriously, or they’re angry? Ego. Ego is the funniest. Incredible. Stupidity, with arrogance. Stupidity with arrogance, oh! There’s comedy. You know? So, yeah. You’re right,

you’ve got to play it just right. But you’ve got to know where the comedy is, why it’s funny AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question for Ricky Is there a price you have to pay for choosing this path of freedom, of saying whatever you want, of offending whoever you want, of choosing whatever jokes you want? RICKY: Of course, I think offense is the collateral damage of freedom of speech and with that I’ll have to take the consequences I have to know that some people might likewise say it’s not, you know…but I can justify everything I say, and if they don’t like it, I can tell them why I’m justified in saying it But I don’t try and ruin people’s day. I don’t go out to be offensive for the sake of it. That’s boring, and churlish, and too easy. There’s nothing you can say that someone, somewhere won’t find offensive, but as I said before, just ’cause you’re offended, it doesn’t mean you’re right. You know, some people are offended by equality AUDIENCE MEMBER: Do people choose not to speak to you because of things you say? RICKY: I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me There’s a downside to “no compromise,” that probably I’ll have to go to more fringe channels but I’d rather do the thing. If you get your own way and it turns out like you wanted, you’re bulletproof. You don’t care what happens to it then. I don’t care, I’ve made my thing, and I’m moving on to the next thing You know. I’d rather people loved it than hated it, but the more famous you get as well, the more people love you, and the more people hate you If you are doing anything that isn’t anodyne, and watered down, you’re going to polarize. And it’s good. It’s good to polarize, because some people are smart, and some people are fucking stupid. The people that hate they can’t affect you. They don’t buy your stuff anyway, so don’t worry about that. Just do what you want, and do it as well as you can, and, it’ll all be okay AUDIENCE MEMBER: After this film is there any possibility that Frank and Ian will be back in another film, or in a series, maybe? RICKY: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know whether you could apart from a series, a sitcom, or something. I never really do it with thinking of it being a franchise or chapter two. You put everything into chapter one. So I don’t know. I don’t know where it would go. We would have to fake another war or we could do something else ERIC: The answer is no. [LAUGHS] RICKY: “We always wanted to be clowns, didn’t we…?” ERIC: That’d be amazing MODERATOR: That is it for the Special Correspondents panel RICKY: Thank you MODERATOR: Please join me in thanking Eric Bana and Ricky Gervais, thank you so much RICKY : Thank you ERIC: Thank you, thanks a lot. That was great fun