From Russia With Phil: A Conversation With Phil Rosenthal About Exporting Raymond

04/26/2011 09:29 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2011
  • David Wild TV Writer; Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone; Co-Author, 'Everybody's Brother'

I've got some funny friends, some of them even intentionally so. But none of them are funnier than Phil Rosenthal who I first met right back in the 20th Century when Everybody Loves Raymond was just beginning its remarkable run on CBS. Even now, Everybody Loves Raymond remains a low concept, high comedy hit in syndication. Phil has recently directed his first feature film, a smart and hilarious new documentary starring some very funny guy named... Phil Rosenthal. Exporting Raymond captures the good, the bad & the ugly of Phil's experiences taking his beloved situation comedy creation to Russia with love to be remade for consumption over there. I laughed. I cried, and not just because I'm emotionally unstable You can see for yourself when Exporting Raymond opens this weekend in a theater near you -- if you're in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia or Phoenix -- and in a theater somewhat less near you if you live anywhere else. Make the trip. Phil did.

As you were first heading to Russia, what were you most afraid of? Creating a bad show? Eating bad food? Or creating an international incident?

I wasn't afraid at all; in fact I was excited... until a friend of mine said, "Oh, you're going to Russia? Just make sure you have K and R insurance" I said, "what's K and R insurance?" he said "Kidnap and Ransom". I said, "Oh that's very interesting. I'm not going." And Sony said, "You don't have to worry, that never happens." I said, "It happens enough for there to be an abbreviation." So they got me a security man/driver to make me feel safer over there, and I did feel safer with Eldar. I even told Eldar one day, "I'm glad you're with me, Eldar, I feel safer with you". And Eldar said, looking around, "Mr. Rosenthal, I have to tell you.... Sony did not go for the gun package".

So what have you learned about the movie business? Is it one big, happy, supportive family like TV?

The movie business is just like the TV business. A business. Same in Moscow, same in Hollywood. The "No" you get creatively is the same in every language. Just change the accent. And the drink you have after.

So who should see Exporting Raymond?

People with eyes, but I wouldn't advise having terrific eyesight because I'm on camera a lot. So maybe squint a little and pretend I'm like a Jewish Clooney. (Which sounds a little Jewish actually, Clooney).

What should every American know about Russia before heading there?

Well, I can only comment on Moscow, the center of which is beautiful, like Paris. The surrounding city is more like Newark. I will say the food is very good -- it's all been brilliantly designed to go with vodka.

You have a lot of time onscreen in this movie. So what did you do to get so ready for your close-up?

As people are coming into the theater, I take their glasses.

Your movie is in theaters at the same time as Morgan Spurlock's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold -- so let's start a catfight for free publicity. Is Exporting Raymond in fact the "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" and are you considering a class action lawsuit again Mr. Spurlock?

That bastard. How often is there a comic documentary out in the theater? And this putz has to open his the week before mine? I'm starting a feud with him right now in a pathetic attempt to get publicity for my own movie. I'm sure I'll win; he seems to know nothing about marketing.

Let me ask you the same question they asked you at customs when you came back from Russia: Sir, do you have anything you'd like to declare?

Go see Exporting Raymond. And Morgan Spurlock is a woman.

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