Get Hard is released on DVD this coming Monday, and we have a Q&A with stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.
WILL FERRELL: This was an idea that our company developed. I can’t even take credit for this, because it came from the genius mind of Adam McKay [producer, co-story]. We had been talking about an idea like this for years now. He always had the idea of: ‘Imagine, for whatever reasons, in whatever scenario, getting that piece of information that in 30 days you were going to prison—how would you react? Every scenario would go through your mind—I’m going to flee the country… Okay, no, I can’t do that. I’m going to have to learn how to fight. I’m going to have to learn how to do this.’
So, I thought that would be a really funny premise. And the time came when we thought, ‘Should we pursue that idea? Let’s get a writer on that.’ And, ‘Okay, so, what would be the scenario?’ In other words, it was something that we kind of built from the ground up, and the final piece was getting Kevin.
When we started going through the list of who it would be fun to be paired with, we were like, ‘Kevin Hart. He’s so funny.’ We had never done anything with him. And it was one-stop shopping, fortunately, for all of us.
KEVIN HART: Yeah. When the name ‘Will Ferrell’ was thrown at me and…
WILL FERRELL: You said no at first.
KEVIN HART: [Laughs] I said, ‘You know what? I would love to. What’s the idea?’ Then Adam jumped on the phone with me—it happened that fast—so I was thrilled. I loved the idea instantly.
QUESTION: What did you think when you first heard the pitch? What would you do if you ever got that call?
KEVIN HART: I know I would kill myself. There’s no question. [Laughs] There is no life after jail for me, or in jail. So, we can just go straight to what I would do.
WILL FERRELL: We kind of illustrate every scenario in the movie that we possibly could think of.
KEVIN HART: You’re looking at two guys who could in no way, shape, or form make it in that prison life.
WILL FERRELL: Yeah, in that environment, the only way we could survive is if other people happened to spare us because they liked us, our movies and entertainment.
KEVIN HART: Yeah. I need a crew. I need to go in with all my friends. I’m going to frame my friends so they can go with me. ‘Whoa! Whoa! Did you murder that person over there?’ ‘Are those drugs in your hand?’
WILL FERRELL: They got your fingerprints all over it, buddy.
QUESTION: You two have known each other for a while, but what was it like to finally be on set working together?
WILL FERRELL: We kind of just hit the ground running. I think we share a lot of the same sensibilities. Kevin wanted to put his ideas into the script, which we were so thankful for and encouraged. And we both approached it from a grounded kind of reality, and playing the characters real. At the same time, there’s not a lot of ego between us—as long as the scene works, and trusting that at the end of the movie you will have laughed as many times as maybe you’ve laughed at what I’ve said and done, and the same with Kevin. And it’s all going to balance out. So we share that.
KEVIN HART: It was a great thing.
WILL FERRELL: There were so many times when Kevin would say, ‘You know what you should say? This would be really funny,’ and offer me something, and vice versa. So that just makes it easy. There wasn’t any period of adjustment, really.
KEVIN HART: I was going to say the thing that you said. The reason why I feel like the movie came out as good as it did is because there weren’t any egos involved. That’s one thing I feel that we can’t say enough. It was showing up and having mutual respect, and me coming in knowing, Will Ferrell’s the star of this movie. He deserves to be that. He’s put in the time and effort in his career. ‘Hey, Will, what’s up, man? I’m excited to do this.’ ‘Kevin, whoa! I’m excited to be working with you, man. It’s going to be great. Congratulations on everything going on.’ ‘Oh, thanks, man.’ ‘Hey, you, too. Congratulations.’
You saw right off the bat that these two people had a common respect and appreciation for each other’s work. And when we set foot on set it was about: ‘How do we make this the best movie possible? How do I get you to win? How do you get me to win? How does this scene work? How do we make this fit better into the film so that this works?’ And I think that’s what was the best—the conversation and communication between not only Will and myself, but between [director] Etan Cohen, [Producer] Chris Henchy, literally everybody.
Everybody that was on set served a purpose, and I think everybody was treated as if they served a purpose. It was good. And, you know, I think when you have a happy environment, you get a happy product. The product is a testament of the environment. It was good going to work every day.
WILL FERRELL: Yeah, you have to feel comfortable enough to basically make mistakes and fail, because you fail a lot, but that allows you to kind of explore things and then land on the one thing that really does work. As long as you know you’re not going to get judged for taking all these swings.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the collaboration that went into the script and the film? Did it happen at the script stage, or did Etan encourage you to be spontaneous on set?
WILL FERRELL: It’s kind of a five-headed monster. I mean, it happened during our rehearsal period. We would just sit there and read the script and come up with ideas on the spot, or bring up ideas that we had thought about, like, ‘Oh, I want to talk about this. Actually, this makes more sense if we do it this way…’
Then Etan was super diligent in that any time he was doing Kevin’s coverage, he had a bunch of alternative jokes he would throw out to Kevin and vice versa. So it’s constantly evolving throughout the whole process.
QUESTION: Was there ever a moment when one of you threw out a line and you broke? You had to laugh?
WILL FERRELL: I think it happened on day one.
KEVIN HART: Day one. There’s a scene where Darnell is in a car with James, and James has basically recreated a prison riot and somehow gets stabbed in his head with a shiv.
WILL FERRELL: Darnell’s going to drive him home to his house.
KEVIN HART: To Darnell’s house—because his wife is a nurse. So, in the car, I’m saying, ‘Just stay with me, man, stay with me.’ And he’s losing it, but he’s getting delirious. [Laughs] He’s saying, ‘Sorry, Dad!’ ‘What?’ ‘Sorry, Dad!’
WILL FERRELL: Kevin just has to play along in the scene and act like he’s my dad., ‘You’re okay, son.’ [Laughs]
KEVIN HART: [Laughs] They had to take the camera off of me and just shoot a single and come back and get a steady on me, but the two-shot didn’t work. He kept looking at me like, ‘Stop it.’ I still even laugh when I think about it. I said, ‘I’m sorry, guys. There’s no way of getting a two-shot.’
WILL FERRELL: The hardest scene I had to do was when Darnell’s converted my tennis court into the prison yard. And he recreates in one scene, in one shot, what it’s like to be in the yard and all the characters you’re going to meet—from the Hispanic gang leader to this person to that person—and he’s playing all the parts. And it was just one take, so I couldn’t laugh during any of it. I didn’t know what he was going to say, and just had to react honestly and somehow keep track of all these characters—I didn’t know how he was keeping track, but he was having conversations with himself. That was amazing.
KEVIN HART: Oh, my God. So funny. His reactions … I mean, it was great chemistry, man. At the end of the day, you can’t write chemistry. You can only hope that your actors or actresses get you there and that you come off real or genuine. And we got there, but I can say that it was very fun. There are so many awkward, cool moments, and it’s great.
QUESTION: You mentioned you wanted to ground the comedy in the real world, so I’m wondering what you hope audiences will take away from the story and the characters of Get Hard.
WILL FERRELL: It’s a story of a hedge fund manager who is accused of embezzlement and finds out that in 30 days he’s going to have to go to a maximum security prison. And even though he’s been working in the same building for three years with Kevin’s character, for whatever reasons, he wrongly assumes that Darnell has been incarcerated and offers a sum of money that would change Darnell’s life and family’s life, to the point where Darnell is thinking, ‘Okay, I can fake this long enough to get this money,’ even though he’s a middle class guy who’s a small business owner and is just trying to get ahead in the world. So, it’s really a movie of misconceptions, in the sense that Darnell assumes James is one way; James assume Darnell’s one way; and we’re both totally wrong, and the journey of discovering that and developing a friendship along the way.
Darnell really does help give him the skills to, at least, fake like he can survive, but not only in prison—it’s almost more of a metaphor to help James survive in the real world, because he doesn’t live in the real world. He thinks he does, but he’s separated. He has his idea of what real life is like and it’s so far from the truth, but he learns what that is and what the real values you should have, which is family and friends and things like that.
KEVIN HART: I could say something, but I’m not going to do better than that. That was pretty damn good right there. Now, just to feed back off of what he said, ultimately, I just love the fact that it’s a movie that’s addressing the stereotypes that are in the real world. At the end of the day, you’re looking at two guys who have judged each other off of a visual perception: ‘Oh, you look like this and you’re guilty because of this.’ ‘Well, you’re black, so you’re guilty of this.’
And these two guys both fall into this space where now they’re forced to really peel back the layers and realize that, ‘Oh, my God, this person isn’t what I thought he was. There’s a lot more to him.’ And I like the road to friendship that these guys eventually take, and getting there and going through what they go through, they learn to respect a person for who he is, not for what he may appear to be. I think that’s the message, ultimately, in this film.
And the journey that we take you on through all of the craziness in this film, it’s funny, but yet, there’s a certain reality to it as well, and people are going to be able to walk away from it and go, ‘I get it. I understand it.’