“The key to survival is to not freak out!” Kevin Hart screams, projecting all 5’ 4” of his personage into Will Ferrell’s face. Kev is dressed from head-to-toe in pads from what looks like four different sports, as if he’s going to get tossed onto a dartboard at the Stratton Oakmont stock brokerage. But he is actually the one in control here. It’s day 39 of shooting for his buddy comedy with Ferrell, Get Hard and things are about to get ugly.
In the film with a title that would give Damon Dash fits, Kev plays Darnell Lewis, a working class car wash owner who gets an indecent proposal from Will’s character James King, a Harvard educated millionaire who is being sent to jail for fraud and hires Darnell to help him prep. The smell of sawdust is fresh at the New Orleans studio where it is being filmed and a rooster crows off camera waiting for its time to go “Family Guy” on Will. Kev is eye-balling a trembling Ferrell, who is in the midst of his personalize prison training program. The snip of dialogue goes as follows.
Darnell: “We are about to simulate a prison riot. This is the most dangerous situation there is. Prisoners are scared. Guards are scared. Now the key to surviving is to not freak out. It’s chaos!”
James: “Why don’t I get body armor?”
Darnell: “We didn’t plan for it. No time!”
Kev then yells for Cecelio, who is the gardner hired to help out by throwing roosters and homeless people at James. Then everything goes dark and several different types of hell break loose.
Minutes after the take, the two stars sit to answer some questions about their first onscreen collaboration. Kevin has Ludacris’s “Party Girl” stuck in his head and keeps reciting “They don’t say shit, they just get butt naked” while waiting for Will to be seated. It’s dark in this corner of the set and traversing the steps has proven perilous for the lanky Flint Michigan Tropics forward. “We have to save power,” he jokes ducking his lanky 6’ 3” frame into the doorway. “It’s the last two weeks of the movie and we’re running out of money. Gotta save power.”
It’s a trope that we’ve seen played out in movies before, like Trading Places. Privileged white guy learns to be human from hardworking black man. Rinse and repeat. However, Hart and Ferrell insist their take will elevate the formula and satisfy both of their respective fan bases. Here is what we learned about the two funny men as they prepared to…Get Hard.
Did you know each other before this film?
Will: We played in a basketball league together, always cordial but never had the opportunity to work together though, so our paths crossed at the right time.
What’s the closest either of you has been to actually being in jail?
Kevin: I’ve been! You ain’t been, you b*tch.
Will: I think it was being detained by campus police for a very frightening two hours for sneaking into a college basketball game when I was in high school. And college police are worse than regular police because there is nothing going on. So they have to try to be extra tough with you.
Kevin: I’ve been to jail three times. It was always parking tickets and I had a DUI. The DUI I don’t remember that jail. I just woke up and I was free. I as like ‘aight, I ain’t coming back here.’ The parking tickets were bad though because I didn’t even know I had warrants out for parking tickets. They got me in NY. I was scared and didn’t know anybody’s number. I was in there for a good two hours.
Will: We filmed in a jail though in Gretna (Louisiana). That reinforced with me that I never want to get close to going to jail. I did hear someone in their cell singing a very stern rendition of a Cold Play song.
Who won this wet t-shirt contest?
Kevin: Will’s body is 10X better than mine…We were in a tank. Let me tell you how stupid I am. We’re shooting a scene on the yacht and there’s a scene where we gotta jump on the side of the boat and fall in the water. So I’m asking if we’re getting in that New Orleans water?
Will: That whole day he was thinking that night we were going to have to fall into the water.
Kevin: Will’s not bitchin about it so I guess I can’t bitch, I don’t want to look like the guy who doesn’t want to get in..
Will: So I told him that we were doing the water part in the tank…
Kevin: So that picture was us in the tank having fun.
Where have you gotten good food while shooting in New Orleans?
Kevin: Brothers chicken is something special. It’s a gas station. I felt weird but I still ate it. I don’t want to see it being cooked but I’ll eat it.
The Pitch. Why should we see this movie?
WF: This is an idea our producing company came up with. That daydream thought of ‘what if I got that news that I had to go to prison?’ What would you do? Would you flee the country? Would you try to prepare yourself physically? That checklist of going into this environment, that would be a funny world to place a straight laced guy from the financial world. Even though he has all the financials smarts he’s not street smart at all, sort of like “Trading Places” with the clash of cultures.
KH: It wasn’t just your stereotypical white/black guy comedy. We wanted to push the envelope with the stereotypes that people think and not bold enough to address. This guy assumes because I’m of color that I’ve been to jail. Naturally I’m offended because I’ve never been to jail, I’m a hard working man. I’m angry about it, but I’m also in a situation where I need money. As I’m getting angry he’s [getting desperate] and throws out his last ‘I’ll give you money.’ So now I get to fire back and play into his ignorance by giving him what he wants. So I make all this shit up. I watch several seasons of ‘OZ,’ I google some jail yard stuff and throw it at him. And he’s so gullible. He wants to believe whatever I say is true because I’m all this guy has. We both play characters with levels and the journey of that friendship, to try to get him to be a free man is an interesting journey. It’s got that Trading Places feel to it but in a unique modern way, where I think our generation is going to love it.
Get Hard is in theaters March 27th