If the new action comedy 30 Minutes or Less were a pizza, its premise would be meaty, its dialogue would be saucy, and the comedy would be spicy. One thing it wouldn’t be: cheesy.
This twisted homage to heist films and car chase flicks stars Jesse Eisenberg as Nick, a miserable pizza deliveryman who gains a renewed appreciation for life when he is forced to rob a bank by a couple of foul-mouthed goons.
In this twisted double-buddy comedy, Eisenberg’s character recruits his former best friend Chet, with whom he’s just had a major falling out — Chet is played by Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation) — to be his reluctant partner in crime. Meanwhile, Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down) and Nick Swardson (basically, every Adam Sandler movie) pair up as Dwayne and Travis, two bumbling ne’er-do-wells who kidnap Eisenberg and strap a bomb to his body, threatening to blow him up if he doesn’t come up with the loot.
What transpires next is quite possibly the most botched bank robbery on film since Dog Day Afternoon.
Written and directed by Ruben Fleischer, who also directed Eisenberg in Zombieland, the film is crammed with plenty of outrageous mayhem, including explosions, flamethrowers and wild chase scenes through the streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Late last month, the cast gathered at the Ritz-Carlton in New York — pizza capital of the world — to discuss the making of this potential late-summer hit. The following are excerpts from the press junket…
Q: Do you feel like you’re reinventing the buddy movie?
Ruben Fleischer: I don’t know if we’re reinventing it… I like that there are two pairs of buddies. I think that’s kind of unique to this film in that you invest in both friendships. I don’t forget their names, but Edward or Vincent, whatever the Twilight characters are, it’s kind of like this.
Aziz Ansari: It’s exactly like Twilight. That’s the big quote right there.
RF: Team Edward and Team Jacob. It seems like certain audience members are with Jessie and Aziz and other ones were with Danny and Nick. And it’s funny to see who of the two pairs people respond to.
Q. Tell us about the car chase scenes and the stunt driving in this movie.
Jesse Eisenberg: I actually had to unlearn all the rules that I was taught, ’cause we were asked to drive recklessly. We were surrounded by stunt drivers who had to react to anything we did. And the way Ruben wanted to shoot it was in the spirit of the movies that our characters liked and referenced… like The French Connection.
RF: That’s Jesse driving. He really is a phenomenal driver, and pretty much most of that car chase is him driving himself… Even in the scrap yard [scene] when he rips out and does doughnuts and he pulls over on the side of the road and screeches, that’s all Jesse. He’s just a really talented driver. I don’t know how he developed that talent, but he’s really good.
He would scare me on a daily basis, because I really thought he’d put the car through a giant piece of metal. That scrap yard is just filled with things that can kill you, and it didn’t appear like he had control when he was driving away. I just thought, at least for Aziz’s sake, [slow down].
AA: Yeah, it is Jesse in the car, but in the passenger’s seat, it’s not me. It’s actually Jamie Foxx and they CGI’d my face over him.
Q. What are your favorite heist and car chase movies?
Nick Swardson: Point Break is one of my favorite movies of all time. I was obsessed with that movie for a long time. And car chase films… I don’t know. I love all the car stuff in Ronin. Did you see that? There are some great car chases in there. Pretty badass. And Fried Green Tomatoes.
Danny McBride: Dog Day Afternoon is one of my favorite bank heist films and Bullitt probably has my favorite car chases.
JE: I also like Dog Day Afternoon and I watched some of the Lethal Weapon movies because our characters reference it and I had never seen it.
AA: The day we filmed the bank robbery, I just kept watching the one from Heat over and over again. I love that one. Also, Point Break. And one movie I watched that I hadn’t seen before was The Killing by Stanley Kubrick. That was really cool. It had one of the coolest endings. Oh, and the car chases in Steel Magnolias are amazing.
RB: My favorite car chase is from The Blues Brothers, just ’cause I think it’s the best version of a comedy car chase and the scale of the cars in it is incredible. And I love all the [heist movies] that were mentioned, but a movie I had never seen before that the producer introduced me to is this movie called Straight Time that Dustin Hoffman’s in, that has a couple of really good heists… I tried to get a line from that in the movie, but [Aziz] wouldn’t say it….
AA: I was like, “Three people are going be like ‘Oh, that’s from Straight Time!’”
Q. To Danny and Nick: What was it like getting to blow up watermelons and other props with explosives, as well as handle a giant flamethrower?
DM: The watermelon exploding — that’s what made me do the movie. I really wanted to do a movie where watermelons explode. That stuff is always fun. When you get to mix comedy with weapons and do that, that always seems cool. Nick was always in a good mood on the set every single day, but when he had to wear the flamethrower that was the quietest Nick I had ever seen.
NS: Yeah, it was one of those things where you read it in the script and you’re like, “This is so awesome,” and then you get the [flamethrower equipment] that day and you’re like, “I don’t want to do that.” It was scary man. I wasn’t that nervous about it and then I did all this fire training where there were all these guys standing by in case something went wrong. There were all these scenarios like, “Well, if this does explode on your back and you burst into flames, this is what you should do.” I was paranoid, and it didn’t help that Danny kept throwing rocks at my flamethrower backpack trying to get it to blow up.
DM: There were so [many] safety precautions, and they ran us through all these things that could happen that it was always a little disappointing when nothing happened.
NS: Yeah, I was bummed that I didn’t burn any part of myself. But it was scary. The watermelons were kind of scary too. I don’t know, I guess I’m a p***y.
Q. Danny, are you as foul-mouthed in your private life as you are in so many of your film and TV roles?
DM: I just like lowbrow, dirty, juvenile humor. So some of the projects I take on tend to have that flavor, but it’s not really a flavor that I [have in real life]. I don’t call my mom and say, “Hey, what the f**k’s happening?”
Q: How do you all manage to keep a straight face with all the hilarious improvising that went on during the shoot?
RF: Nick didn’t [keep a straight face], is the answer to that one.
NS: I was really bad. I was constantly laughing. We improvised so much. Danny and I got into this habit of trying to just say the craziest s**t to make each other laugh, so I was the worst at it for sure. I was constantly laughing. But luckily it’s a movie. It’s not all filmed live in one take, so we can stop and start over again.
Q: Danny, do you enjoy playing bad guy roles?
DM: It is fun. Some of my favorite characters when I was a kid were always the villains of movies. In the Karate Kid, I was rooting for for Cobra Kai, weirdly. We love Darth Vader. So, yeah, it is kind of fun. Even as a writer, it’s fun to write characters [when] you know they’re moral compass is slightly skewed and you’ve got to figure out a way to get an audience still to root for that person. So I think it’s kind of a challenge. It’s fun.
Q. Have you ever had a miserable job in real life that you desperately wanted to quit, like Eisenberg’s pizza deliveryman character?
DM: I’ve had a ton of them. My first job was at an amusement park. I worked at a candy store and it was about a 30-minute drive from my house and I used to pray on the way to work, I was like, “God, please help me get into a car accident, one where I don’t get hurt, but where I don’t have to go to work anymore.”
NS: I had a lot of sh*tty jobs. The last job I had before I started doing comedy and acting was as a busboy at Planet Hollywood. It was kind of bizarre. But yeah, I also prayed for a car accident.
JE: I started doing musical theater when I was 10 years old and I did a lot of musical theater. So, cumulatively, it was a terrible job, but individually, they were fine.
AA: I manage a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company right now. I didn’t film anything during my hiatus during Parks, so to keep funds flowing in, I got a job.
RF: I actually worked as a pizza delivery guy, twice: When I was in college to make money. And that’s true. But sadly, that was not my worst job. My worst job was [when] I worked at a standardized testing company and I would go through all the bubble sheets and I would fill them in if they weren’t dark enough. And if they had gone outside the lines, I had to clean up the bubbles… It was awesome.