It's kind of remarkable that it would be the French-born actor (and indie movie queen) Julie Delpy who would finally figure out what to do with the talents of Chris Rock in a film. Which -- in "2 Days In New York" -- she very much does. I met with the duo -- who are in New York to support their Sundance favorite, and, now, Tribeca entry -- and the conversation took some interesting turns. For example: A question about Steve Carell's infamous Chris Rock impression on "The Office" somehow led to Rock and Delpy discussing the merits of "South Park." You know what? That's fine by me.
In "2 Days in New York" -- a sequel to 2007's "2 Days in Paris" -- Rock and Delpy play Mingus and Marion, a New York-based couple bracing for the arrival of Marion's French family. Ahead, Rock and Delpy discuss, well, a lot. From the aforementioned episode of "The Office," to Delpy's love for indie sequels, to Rock's feelings toward "Saturday Night Live" and, yes, "The Avengers." Oh, and then there's the moment in which Rock declared his desires for Delpy (which is in, as promised to Delpy and Rock, full context below).
I'm fascinated by the fact that you do sequels to indie movies.
Rock: That is cool.
Delpy: [Laughs] It's kind of a weird thing. I'm kind of like the anti-James Bond.
Rock: I never did notice it, but, you're right. [Laughs] I'd love to see "Broadway Danny Rose 2."
So it's not just that you're a huge fan of "The Empire Strikes Back."
Delpy: Actually, that's exactly it: I really like "The Empire Strikes Back" and I like doing sequels. No, basically, I think it's a fun thing to follow characters in time. In real time. We did that on "Before Sunset," which was really ballsy at the time. When we wrote the screenplay, no one believed in it. And it did better than the first film, in a way. And doing this sequel is not an obvious thing to do, but I kind of wanted to explore something else in the character of Marion -- she's more grown up with grown-up problems. You see a lot of romantic comedies where the cast are all 35 and they all have problems of 22 year olds.
Also, I feel that a lot of people who make indie films just don't like sequels as a rule.
Rock: Well, because it's hard enough to raise the money the first time.
Delpy: And, truly, "2 Days in Paris" did well. The first film made money pretty much everywhere. "Made money."
Rock: Not "The Avengers."
Delpy: Right, not "The Avengers" [laughs].
Rock: I wanted Sam Jackson's part.
For what it's worth, he's really good in it.
Rock: He's Sam Jackson! You can't fight that.
What's it like to direct Chris Rock?
Delpy: Well, he listens, which is good. I think the minute that Chis decided to do the film, his goal was to do it because of want I wanted to do with it. And he trusted my choices. The question is: How do I direct people? And I'm not sure I'm always good at that. I'm a very direct person and, sometimes, when I want something, I will push it until I get it. But, it's OK. It's not as bad as some people. When I have an idea in my head, I'm pretty stubborn.
There are a couple of scenes where Chris is doing a monologue, but they are very mellow. Did you consciously hold yourself back from going into the mode we see you in at your comedy shows?
Rock: A little bit. A little bit. I mean, I wanted to do the movie because it's a real character. Finally somebody is giving me a script that's not written in stand-up timing -- all that stuff. I knew the character. I knew him well. I mean, it's kind of a cross between Nelson George and Elvis Mitchell. And I've been on Elvis' radio show a few times. So, I knew it. I knew this character well.
Then what kind of roles do you usually get offered? I feel that not a lot of people know what to do with you in a movie, whereas Julie did.
Rock: I mean, you get offered movies where they kind of want you to be kind of a standup guy. And American comedies -- the thing about the French is they like gray. Do you know what i mean? They know the gray in everything. It's not just black or white, it's not just right or wrong, you know? "This is a nympho, but she's great! She's a child psychologist." See what I mean? People have their faults, but it doesn't prevent you from loving them and going on about your day. But your question was about what I get offered?
As an example, "Bad Company" was on television the other day. It has a great cast, but I just don't know about that one.
Rock: I don't know about that one, either [laughs]. You know, people like what they've seen.
Delpy: And they want to repeat it over and over. People have no imagination.
Rock: That's the thing, they have no imagination. So they see me and they go, "We want you to do what Eddie Murphy did." It's like, I'm not really that guy. I'm more of a sensitive guy than that. And that's not really my type of movie. I'd rather see "2 Days in New York" or "Midnight in Paris" than "The Avengers." I just would. I'm always going to be at "Midnight in Paris."
So do you want to do more movies like this?
Rock: I would love to do more movies like this. This is a movie that I would go see. I want to see "The Avengers," too.
That will be my headline: "Chris Rock will see 'The Avengers,' Eventually."
Rock: I will eventually see "The Avengers," don't get me wrong.
So, obviously you did have some imagination for what Chris can do. When did you decide, "Chris Rock would be perfect for this"?
Delpy: Well, you know, we met briefly at an Oscar luncheon, which is not the most casual thing. But we did speak a little bit and I sensed in him...
Rock: That I wanted her.
Delpy: What? I didn't hear that. What did he say? Something dirty?
He did. Yes.
Delpy: Yeah. Of course.
You'll read all about it in the headlines tomorrow.
Delpy: [Laughs] Exactly. That will be the headline. [To Rock] You have to be careful, remember when you said "Ethan Hawke is not dead"?
Rock: It was everywhere.
Delpy: Then I said in an interview, "Or maybe I should quit acting." And then it's like, "Julie Delpy quits acting."
I promise this will all be presented in context.
Delpy: Please! In context! But, with Chris, I sensed something. Being in this business for a long time, I've met a lot of people. I've met standup, I've met comedians -- I know people are not what they just appear to be. And people have range, you know. And I just sensed in him that there is this persona, the standup, which is brilliant. All of that. But I sensed there was something else. There's a gray area in everyone. The first person I thought of when I started writing the screenplay is him. I kind of put the writing on hold until I had an answer from his agent saying that he would be possibly interested in doing this.
Speaking of Chris' standup: What was your opinion of Steve Carell's impression of you on "The Office" as Michael Scott?
Rock: It's so weird. I don't really have an opinion of it. Because I never really watched it -- I watched like a second of it.
So you are aware of it.
Rock: I'm aware of it, yes.
Delpy: How did I miss that? Steve Carell in the character of Michael Scott?
Rock: There's an episode of "The Office" where they are talking about my material. Right?
It was the "Diversity Day" episode. Michael wanted to prove his diversity by doing a Chris Rock routine. It's purposely awkward.
Delpy: [Laughing] That's funny.
Rock: I love Carell. And I was like, "Hey, I'm going to watch 'The Office' and see what this is about." And then it's me [laughs]. It's always weird when it's you. But, I mean, hey, I love Carell and I love all of those guys on "The Office."
Delpy: I wonder what the people think. You know that film that the "South Park" creators did? Even Ethan was in it.
"Team America: World Police"?
Delpy: Yeah. That must have been hard for the actors because when it's you, what do you do? Matt Damon, his character was mentally handicapped. It's so bad, but at least it's not mean.
Rock: "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" is the funniest movie ever made. [To Delpy] Have you ever seen the "South Park" cartoon?
Delpy: Yeah, of course. The first movie with Saddam Hussein, I love that. That's much better than "Team America."
Rock: But! You have to watch out for who you sell that to. You forget how many people they fucked over. I was talking to Kanye West. I was like, "Oh, yeah, 'South Park'..." Then I find out they did this thing about him. I remember saying the same thing to Tom Cruise -- and then seeing that fucking look on his face.
It appears that three people will be leaving "SNL" after this season. Is there a key to success immediately post-"SNL"? When there's no longer that weekly showcase or grind?
Rock: I have no idea what the key to success is once you leave that show. Me, Spade and Sandler used to sit around -- Farley, too -- and we were twenty-whatever and we were smart enough to go, "You know, if this is the highlight of our lives, we're fucked." So we knew, even then, that something bigger had to exist. So, hopefully the people leaving saved something.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike directly on Twitter.