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Jay Roach - Director of Meet The Parents

Having the distinction of Directing 2 Platinum Edition DVDs (Austin Powers I & II), Jay Roach continuously raises the bar for comedic DVDs packed with extras. We sat down with Jay and talked to him about the release of Meet The Parents on DVD, what makes a great DVD and if there will be an Austin Powers III or Meet The Fockers.

What opportunities do you feel DVD has given you to enhance the theatrical film of Meet the Parents?

Well, the first obvious one is we got to stick in some scenes that I love, but wouldn't fit into the film for various reasons. I really enjoy the consolation when I'm having to cut loose stuff I love, of saying "Well, at least it will make it onto DVD." There's a couple of scenes which I liked very much, but couldn't fit them into the film that are on there. There's also a really nice gag reel. It started as kind of a traditional out-take reel. What's so enjoyable about it is watching Robert De Niro just completely lose track of himself and bust up, take after take, while Ben and Own make him laugh. There are also are two great commentary tracks including one with Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, myself, and Ben Stiller. It was an interesting process trying to get Bob to talk about the film because he's such a shy person. He generally likes to talk when he really knows he has something to say. The commentary track became a lot like the movie and there are some funny, long, awkward pauses that you can tell we're just trying to find stuff to say. None of us had gotten to really talk about the movie until that moment and they were in New York and we were in L.A.

On the other track I got to talk with Jon Poll, my editor, and we go into more detail about the decisions we made in both the production and the post-production. So I hope the combination becomes something worth collecting.

So during the production process of Meet the Parents, How aware were you of things that would go on the DVD?

I do love DVD and I've always taken them seriously. You know, on the Austin things, we really put a ton of work into them because there's so much design involved. And in this one, we thought a lot about it and what could go in. We spent a lot of time time cutting things especially for tje DVD. But I don't really think about the DVD too much when I'm shooting except, like I say, when I'm in post-production. The DVD does make it a little easier for myself to trim things that are otherwise very difficult to let loose of - knowing that they'll make it on the DVD. When I'm shooting, really the audience I'm thinking the hardest about is that first test screening audience who I want to like the film and that first opening weekend audience. I figure if it's turns out well the film will have its own momentum and will carry into the video release. So it's hard to really picture the DVD version when I'm in production.

I'm not one of these directors, so far, that wants to have a whole separate director's cut of these things. So far they've turned out to be kind of the length that they wanted to be.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was definitely one of the big, early special editions, loaded with stuff. Do you feel kind of a sense of precedent that you've set for yourself by putting out very loaded, very feature-rich, very complete DVD's?

Well, I do and you know I appreciate you noticing that. That was one of the earliest kind of "big DVD" releases. Warner Bros. and New Line came out early as a couple of studios that were pushing them first. Mike and I had grown up on the Criterion Collection. We had studied filmmakers through them and enjoyed the extras, so we really took it seriously even though it wasn't a big consumer thing at the time. I see DVD expanding and expanding. I mean, the Gladiator DVD is amazing. The Fight Club was an exceptional two DVD set. I'm looking forward to throwing more and more stuff into my DVDs. You could get in rehearsals, pre-production, anything that would actually contribute to the understanding of how a film gets made. I actually find those things increase people's interest in a movie and like that better than worrying about showing the tricks behind the curtain.

Because you were involved so early with DVD, what have been some of your influences? Are there things that you can pick out that have influenced your work on DVD?

My favorite laser disk ever was the laser disk for The Graduate, which had a commentary track that wasn't even the filmmakers, it was a professor, some film criticism guy who just happen to be this amazing commentator who went off into the whole theory of comedy. I learn so much from watching films like that with commentary and then when you get to hear another filmmaker talk about their films it's a really great experience. I've recently enjoyed the Paul Thomas Anderson commentaries and the David Fincher commentaries. I hope we're all kind of influencing each other now to keep the quality up on those things. They seem to be getting better and better and better as there's not only sort of a film geek audience, there's also a general interest in the overall film consuming population. I think we'll all keep pushing each other, which is a great thing.

Now that many of the actors you work with are very aware of the possibility of certain deleted scenes or the out-takes, or supplemental material making public view. Do you ever run into issues with any of your talent about…

Clearance.

Not only clearance, but when you're directing somebody and they're giving you a wider range than maybe will end up on the screen.

It's a very good question because there is a very important element of trust between the director and the actor. I shoot a lot more than I need and I give them license to really play and experiment on the set. If they thought that stuff was just fair game for some out-take reel or gag reel, I think they would get nervous about it. But I always reassure them that as far as my contractual rights can go, I will protect them and make sure that they have approval over every bit of it so that they know I won't show something that's embarrassing. AI never shoot for gag reel stuff. I haven't yet anyway. I do let the camera run when they break up because I very often try to get them to go back into character and do the next take while the camera is still rolling. That's why I get so much stuff where they're actually cracking up. Because I actually find the next take after they've controlled it a little bit and repressed the laughter is actually a really interesting take, because that's still going on underneath the surface. That struggle to maintain composure becomes part of the joy of the scene.

But yeah, it's a very good question. I think the main thing is just clinging to whatever approval you can get to make sure that nothing embarrassing gets out. There's, are hours of dailies that I would be very nervous about having seen if I was an actor where people are playing around. The minute somebody starts trying to market that stuff, I think it would actually really be a harmful thing for the process of film making.

The universe of comedy has changed dramatically from Austin Powers through now to Meet the Parents. How did that affect you picking this project and your approach to comedic film?

Well, it's interestin. I grew up on Monty Python and Peter Sellers, but I also grew up on Mike Nichols, and Hal Ashby, Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch. A whole wide interesting array of influences. Sometimes I would like the opportunity to do character-driven comedy and that's really what I was trying to do in Meet The Parents. I think in a way this is a more old fashioned type of comedy. I don't know if it's quite in the school of Something About Mary and Scary Movie. Even those two are different. But I was trying to have in a kind of forties-farce way, the opportunity to create realistic characters, but heighten the comedic situations and predicaments a bit so that they're still very funny and there is still some very broad humor, but you would connect to the characters and completely identify with Ben Stiller's anxiety about not only meeting Robert De Niro's character and all, but the kind of characters from his past that come with him. You see Ben pre-visualize disaster and by avoiding it, sort of perpetuate it. For me, it became completely psychologically driven. That, I hope is a kind of nice mixture of the old fashioned approach and the newer approach.

I find myself fantasizing that I would be able to make a comedy where they would actually say in the review "At last a comedy with no toilet humor and no gross out humor." I do like that kind of humor sometimes, I think comedy can be impolite and needs to be impolite sometimes, but I thought I had a sort of smug, you know, ego-driven thing to see that. But I couldn't cut that whole septic tank scene out because the audience liked it so much. So I sort of fell right back into getting a cheap laugh, but I still loved it.

I've heard talk about a sequel to this movie. Are you involved in that at all? Is that something that you see as something you want to do?

I think that it could be. It's always dependent on the script. I wouldn't really be interested in just diving into a sequel for it's own sake. The characters are good though and when we came up with a title Meet the Focker's and thought of what would happen if Robert De Niro's family goes to meet Ben Stiller's family, where intellectual, left-wing, urban, Jewish, kind of funny probably, and it was somewhat stereotypical, but in the same way the De Niro's family isn't stereotypical, I had to make it as reality-based as I could. That seemed like a promising situation. So we dared to at least start a script and see if it could earn it's way in. And if it does, it would be great because like a really good TV show, if you can reuse some of what people already know about the characters, I think it allows you sometimes to go further with just some of the story and comedy elements than you would be if you were having to reintroduce those people all over again. But I think sequels should be earned and we won't do it unless the script is better than the first one.

USo, now you've done two Austin Power movies, you did Mystery Alaska, now Meet the Parents. What's the next project for you? What's the next direction you think it will be? Do you think it will be in the comedy world? Do you think it will be in the dramatic world?

It could easily be Austin III. I mean, I'm looking forward to working with Mike again. I think he's a genius and I have so much fun making those films. As long as we, again, kind of keep earning the sequels with material and I'm confident Mike can, I'm in. You know I always want to do those. But I also want to keep going in some of the direction as Meet the Parents has. I'm close on a romantic comedy at Sony. It's kind of quirky, Hal Ashby, poetic comedy I guess. I'm developing some other things in other genres, including one dramatic piece. So, anything's possible. But I love making people laugh. It's an addiction and it's probably dysfunctional, but I am addicted to it and there's no greater pleasure for me than sitting in a theater and feeling a lot of people losing control of themselves.

Jay Roach DVDs
Meet The Parents
Austin Powers II: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Mystery, Alaska
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

- Geoffrey Kleinman

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