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'Hot Tub Time Machine' director talks about kicking the past with school pal John Cusack



Hot tub time machine
John Cusack
and Steve Pink have been friends since their junior year at Evanston Township High School in Illinois.

“Some fool put us in charge of writing the school variety show our senior year,” Pink told me this week. “That’s how we really forged our friendship, writing that crazy show together.”

Now, 26 years after graduation, the high school buddies are together again for Hot Tub Time Machine, a comedy about four guys (Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry) sent back in time to 1986 and forced to relieve a pivotal weekend in their young lives. Pink is the director. He also co-produced High Fidelity and has had a few bit roles in several Cusack films including The Sure Thing, Grosse Pointe Blanke and America's Sweethearts.

Here are some '80s-centric highlights of my interview with him.

This movie isn't just for 80s fans, is it?

"If you smile because you understand the references, that enhances the experience, because we're going back to the '80s. But what if you don't get the reference or don't care? Then we wouldn't have a movie. The actors are extremely funny guys so we had to make the comedy as contemporary as possible."

But you scattered plenty of John Cusack Easter eggs from the '80s in there too!

"There's a bunch of them! I hadn't heard the term 'Easter egg' until I started doing interviews and reading things online. Maybe I'm just lame! I didn't know if they would play up front. Oh wait, let me think of something really dumb to say. I got it. 'They wouldn't play as comedy gifts under the tree - they had to play at Easter eggs.' "

Using "I want my two dollars" from Better Off Dead isn't lame!

"We just added that for fun just in the end. Others we were more careful about constructing."

Chevy chase
So Cusack, Chevy Chase, Corddy, Crispin Glover on one set. How did that go?

"You could say challenge or you could say nightmare. I'm kidding. Those guys are all great, so you just get out of the way. You just keep moving the camera."

What was Cusack like in high school?

"It's kind of like Highlander. You remember that movie? They're warriors/friends who have to battle through the ages but in the end they know there can only be one. It's kinda like that.

When did he begin to be the star?

"He started making movies his junior year. We got to be really friends our senior year."

And then you appear with him in The Sure Thing.

I can neither confirm nor deny that.

Really? Because you're listed as "football player."

"No, I'm being facetious. Me in The Sure Thing is an Easter egg. I was out there visiting John, just because it was spring break or something. And Rob Reiner just put me in the scene."

Now you're together in New Crime Productions, which did Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity, easily one of my fave movies of the last 50 years.

Come on! Better than Casablanca?

That's more than 50 years old, my friend.

No ... Wow. I'm glad that it's even in your top 25 or top 10 even.

Is it Cusack's best movie?

I don't know. He's done a lot of good ones. I consider the movies we did together among his best movies, because I have a tremendous ego. [laughs]. But yeah High Fidelity was such a great combination of things that came together: Stephen Frear's directing, us shooting in Chicago, Jack Black coming on to do it. Basically we didn't screw up Nick Hornby's book.

Hollywood is in love with remaking '80s classics. But is that a good idea?

I'm going to wager that your opinion is that it's a bad idea.

Right. Like why remake Red Dawn?

Umm, because it was awesome. How old are you?

Same as you, early 40s.

So that's the problem. It's like yesterday to us. But it's a million years ago for everyone else. Hollywood always reaches into the future and reaches into the past and they look for great properties to make a good movie out of. Sometimes it's a good idea. Sometimes it's a bad idea.

Back to the new movie, I honestly laughed more during this than I did The Hangover. I think it's going to do really well.

Wow, that's interesting. I don't know that I laughed during The Hangover, but it was impressive to me.

Are you tired of people comparing it to The Hangover? You know, two movies about dudes on a roadtrip.

Yeah, because all of all the comparisons the hangover, I'm now officially saying that Hot Tub Time Machine is not this year's Hangover, it's this year's Avatar. [laughs] You can see that, right?

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:57pm]


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