“I’m fascinated by stories where an outsider comes into a world that seems to be on course and shakes everybody up,” says David Hoberman, producer of Touchstone Pictures’ new comedy, “Bringing Down the House.” “In this type of film, everybody ends up growing, but not without a lot of pain, suffering and comedy in the middle.” After previously seeing such similar outrageous comedies as “Ruthless People,” “The Ref,” and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” to the screen, Hoberman saw similar promise for this film. And he had the perfect foil, the perfect buttoned-up casualty, in Steve Martin, who he’d previously worked with on the comedy hit “Father of the Bride.”
“I think Steve was eager to get back to doing a mainstream comedy, and we were thrilled to have him,” says Hoberman. “Steve is so wonderful when he plays characters who are put upon, and where he can be silly, ‘wild and crazy.’ And he’d get to do all that in this film.”
Martin agrees. “This was a broad physical comedy, and I hadn’t done a film like that in a while. And it was outrageous – the script reminded me of something from the 1980s – sort of raunchy and freewheeling. I was excited about it.”
“What I particularly connected with in our story is the idea that we are sometimes given gifts by the unlikeliest of people in the unlikeliest of forms,” says Ashok Amritraj, producer of the film. “In this case, Queen Latifah gives Steve’s character the permission to be, publicly, that person that he rarely lets the world see. The bottom line is that they are just magical together.”
Martin found his character irresistible. “Peter Sanderson is a guy who has a very conservative lifestyle, and he’s working too hard. That’s driven his wife away, but he’s still in love with her. So when Charlene enters his life, she turns it upside down, and ends up making him more attractive to his ex.”
Martin also was attracted by the possibility of performing in a riotous, over-the-top comedy after writing more cerebral comic fare, including his play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” and his novella, “Shopgirl.” “It’s just the nature of the media that when I write, it’s more cerebral, but when I act in a movie, it’s more physical,” he says.
Martin, who is not a computer addict or chat room participant by any means (“I stick to e-mail,” he says), related to Peter on a basic level. “He’s a straight guy and I’m basically a straight guy. It’s great, because the straighter the guy, the funnier the scenes can become. Pure comedy is about contradictory people meeting each other,” he relates.
Martin, who plays a dad to two kids in “Bringing Down the House,” has come to enjoy playing dads, as he’s done so brilliantly in two “Father of the Bride” films and “Parenthood.” “I like the underlying sense of warmth of a dad with his kids that goes through these movies. And it’s also a good source for humor because ‘the dad’ is always supposed to be steadfast and strong and not make mistakes. So a lot of comedy comes out of that too.”