Seann William Scott came to my roundtable with his head shaved for his next film, Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales. I would love to tell you that I have information about this ambitious film for you, but that would be lying. I meant to ask Scott about the movie, but sometimes it just don’t work out that way.
See, here’s how a roundtable works (I love demystifying this stuff): most of the journalists there have an angle they’re pursuing for their story. For instance, look at the first question below. The guy who asked that question asked it of everyone. He was writing for some gay publication or other. You have to try to respect the fact that everyone has an angle – mine is usually two-fold: I want funny stuff and I want info on upcoming movies. I usually save the upcoming movie stuff for the end of the interview – the person is here to flog a current movie.
Some roundtables are nuts, with people talking over each other and fighting for their question. This particular interview wasn’t so bad, so I felt I could safely hold my Southland Tales question to the end. The thing is that I had no way of knowing that Scott would launch into a story that lasted almost ten minutes, obliterating the end of the interview. The good news is that it’s a pretty funny story.
Q: Were there any actual good old boy hijinks – like moonshining or cornholing?
Scott: Cornholing? Who told you?
No man, no. We were having Bible study every night. No cornholing.
Q: What about moonshining?
Scott: Knoxville got it. Of course Knoxville thinks of giving people moonshine as a wrap gift. Like a huge moron I took a gulp of it – I think I was drunk for a week.
Q: What’s it taste like?
Scott: Just – There are girls here. I was going to say ‘ass.’ It tastes awful, just like fire. I don’t know man, I think if you were out of gasoline you could use moonshine to run your car. It’s hardcore.
Q: How much driving did you do?
Scott: I did a lot. I won’t say I did it all. I won’t say I did the jumps! I got to work with a guy named Bobby Orr, he was a NASCAR driver and he works with a lot of stunt guys. He has like five world records for stunts. He also works for the Department of Defense, teaching soldiers how to maneuver their cars before they head out to Iraq. He’s amazing. He actually put the car on two wheels for our film.
We worked for about a month and then when I got to Louisiana I had to work on the General Lee, because I had been working on a small Ford. To make a long story short, I would say I did about ten or twelve really great stunts, whether it was sliding, forward 180, reverse 180, even just free driving stuff – one of the trickier things to do is to just drive the car fast on a dirt road. The gravel makes you fishtail, and if you lose control of the car you’ll just smash into a tree. I think it works pretty well, and you can see pieces of me there. That combined with the great stunt drivers and the Go Car we had.
Q: Any tips from Burt “The Bandit” Reynolds?
Scott: I’m trying to think. Did he give us any tips?
I don’t know if you know this, but Burt is the kind of guy who – at some point he had a bad injury and he blew out an eardrum. He had told us that he had to be in his house in Florida and had to have all his windows blackened, because he was so sensitive to light and to sound. So now when he tells us a story, he starts talking normally and then he’s like [whispers]. Johnny and I would hear the story and be like, ‘What’s he saying? I can’t hear what he’s saying!’ At the end Burt’s like, ‘What do you think,’ and we’re like ‘Uhhh… That’s hilarious. So good.’ And he’s like, ‘I was telling about how my grandma died.’ Then he’ll go, ‘Gotcha!’
Q: How much of the old series do you remember?
Scott: I watched it a ton as a kid. That’s the show I remember watching the most. I can’t remember anything specific. I remember Daisy Duke, even as a young boy! I was probably too young to think the thoughts I did.
But we watched the show. Johnny and I and Jay had a beer and watched the show, and thought how fun it was and how we had to update it. Of course when you cast me or Johnny in a movie you’re going to make it crazy and weird. But we didn’t do any research or anything. It wasn’t like we were going, ‘How do I bring what John Schneider brought to the role?’ Because they did their thing and we had to do ours.
Q: Speaking of you and Johnny Knoxville, we can tell from the bloopers that he showed you his balls –
Scott: A lot.
Q: And that he sexually assaulted you –
Scott: A lot.
Q: What other things would Johnny Knoxville force upon you?
Scott: Just nudity. A lot of nudity. I was working out quite a bit so I think he wasn’t too into doing something physical to me, but he always showed his testicle to me. And he’d switch it up! Sometimes he’d have the left one out, sometimes he’d have the right one out. But I’d always be driving the General Lee, thinking, ‘I’ve got this big stunt to do. If I screw this up, I’m smashing into a camera, into a person, another car, a tree.’ And then I hear, ‘Seann!’ He wanted to see if I’d look and I looked. Every day that happened.
Q: What did you do to him?
Scott: Nothing, man! That guy’s had everything happen to him. You don’t want to start that game with Johnny Knoxville. He’s been electrocuted. He’s been shot. He’s been cut. He’s been put through everything, so it’s like what can I do to him that hasn’t happened yet?
Q: Did you ever hurt yourself jumping into the car?
Scott: I did! It’s a small window. Did John Schneider ever get hurt?
It was really hard. I only jumped in the car once because I banged my knee up. First time I slid on the hood, they greased it all up and I just slid off onto my ass. I was like, that was embarrassing. So then I got that down right, but jumping in that little window? It was awful. All I could think was, I gotta do yoga after this. Johnny was good.
Q: You had said that you hoped you might get your own General Lee –
Scott: I didn’t get one. Isn’t that lame?
Q: Do you have to reach a certain box office gross before you get one?
Scott: If this does well and I don’t get a General Lee, man I’m gonna be pissed!
But you know what I thought too? Where am I going to be able to drive it? I don’t want to drive it around, I don’t know how good an idea that would be. It’s a cool car. If I had it I would put the American flag on it, but it’s such a nice car it would get ripped off. I would steal that from somebody.
Q: What was the set like with all the brouhaha about Jessica Simpson? Was there press on the set?
Scott: Not on the set. We didn’t see a whole lot. There were photographers around, but I didn’t really hang out with her that much after work. We’d always hear about it in the magazines and stuff.
Q: Did you do any ad-libbing?
Scott: Yeah, I like to do that and I thought the movie would benefit from us just adding our own little things. It wasn’t like a Christopher Guest kind of format where we come up with an idea and riff on it. It was more like the scene was good and I would come up with a specific way I wanted it to come off, so the night before I would come up with 15 different ways to play it and 20 different alternate lines. Something as simple as the way he reacted with Katie Johnson in the sorority scene – before it was written where we didn’t know he didn’t have any game with women, so it was like what if he’s super confident, gets there, faints, comes up with this lame joke and obviously the only thing he can communicate with is his car.
Q: Johnny told Genre magazine he tried to gay up the movie, like during the scene on the college campus. Did he try to do that elsewhere?
Scott: He gayed it up a lot with me in the car, showing me his testes.
Q: Do you see yourself as a comedian?
Scott: I don’t think I’m funny at all. I used to hate the funny kids in high school because they got all the girls. It bugged me because I couldn’t tell a joke to save my life.
When I came out to LA, even though the movie Chopper hadn’t come out yet, I thought that how great it was that you watch his performance and at the end of the film you see the real Chopper and you see what Eric Bana did and they’re pretty much the same guy. So I always wanted to do something like that, and when I started out in comedy I didn’t know what I would do. I think I can do drama a lot better.
Q: Your comedy is interesting because you’re often the brunt of the jokes.
Scott: Yeah. The thing is I don’t really like comedy that puts other people down – although the American Pie guy was like that. What I thought worked was a guy who was kind of insecure and made fun of himself. You know The Office, the BBC? That’s one of my favorite things I have ever seen, and that guy is the greatest actor in the world. That’s a guy who I think could come off saying really inappropriate things and made fun of himself. To me that’s endearing.
Q: There’s a scene in the film where the Duke boys are confronted by a gang. Have you ever had a similar experience?
Scott: That was an awkward scene. I didn’t know if that was going to work. I thought it might be racist. It looked like we had blackface on, and we’re going into a bad neighborhood. Then I watched it and it worked, it did exactly what it was supposed to do.
I had a situation where it was my first audition. I had been taking buses to get around town when I first got to LA because I didn’t have a car and didn’t have that much money. I got my first audition, my agent called and said, ‘I got you an audition for Baywatch!’
I was like, ‘Audition? I thought that when I got an agent you would get me movies! I want to work with Tom Cruise! Baywatch? I want to do movies, man!’
He was like, you gotta do certain things to get to do movies and I was like, whatever. But I couldn’t even swim!
So I got the bus routes, because I lived in Glendale and I had to take three buses to get to this place. I get on the bus, and I had been riding the bus for a long time, and there’s this unwritten rule that if someone is older than you, they have to get your seat. So most of the time I was standing. I ride the bus and I transfer to the next bus and I fall asleep, because now I have a seat and it’s hot. Then I hear the bus driver saying my stop, so I get off the bus all groggy and look around. But before I get off the bus the driver goes, ‘Watch yourself kid!’ and closes the door and peels off.
So I’m standing there waiting for my next bus and I’m looking around and there’s nobody in the street. Nobody. No cars driving. It was like a Western. I was expecting to see tumbleweeds roll by in the street.
I’m standing there fifteen minutes and I hear this ‘Boom-chikka-chikka-boom” and there’s this car on hydraulics and with tinted windows, and I realize I’m standing in South Central. I couldn’t have been whiter. I was so white I glowed in the dark. And I had the most ridiculous outfit on.
The car comes down and these guys get out – I didn’t know they were gangsters, I put it together later – and this guy goes, ‘Alright, what you doing here?’
And I’m like, ‘I’m trying to get to Baywatch,’ and he looks back at his buddies and goes, ‘Baywatch!’
Then he’s like, ‘How much money you got?’ and I’m like, ‘I got a dollar twenty-five.’ And I give him my money and then he goes, ‘I like that shirt.’
Now I had the angel/devil thing going on. The angel on my shoulder is like, ‘Give him the shirt man! Give him the shirt!’ and the devil’s going, ‘That shirt’s the only thing you bought since you been out here! Keep it!’
And I’m thinking that I had a gut, and I can’t go to Baywatch with a gut hanging out. But I take the shirt off, my fat’s rolling out, and then he leaves. I’m just standing there wondering what just happened.
Then another ten minutes roll by and another car came up. I’m assuming that they called their buddies and said to mess with this guy. So I’m standing there shirtless and going, ‘Hi, how are ya?’ and this guy comes out and asks, ‘What happened to your shirt?’ and I go, ‘You have no idea.’ He asks, ‘How much money you got?’ and I said, ‘You know what? Your buddies came by and cleaned me out, I got no money.’
So he looks back at his buddies and the guy in the car goes, ‘Get his shoes.’ So I take off my shoes, give him my shoes and they take off. It’s not like they drew a gun on me or anything like that. So I’m standing there, no shirt, no shoes, fat hanging out, no money to get to Baywatch. The bus finally comes and the guy goes, ‘What are you doing?’
I’m just like, ‘I’m standing here and these guys took my money and my shoes and my shirt and I’m just trying to get to Baywatch and I have no money and I don’t know where I am!’ So he turns to the bus and shouts, ‘Kid’s trying to get to Baywatch! Anybody want to pitch in any money for him?’
These guys pitch in money and I get on the back of the bus and start doing push ups, thinking ‘It’s OK, they don’t know you don’t have any money, they don’t know you don’t know how to swim, they don’t know you just got jacked for your shirt, they’ll think you’re dressed for the part.’
I didn’t even know how to act. Not that I do know, but back then I just thought that acting was memorizing your lines. So I get there and I suck in my gut and I say, ‘Hey I’m here for Baywatch!’ and they go, ‘Oh, you’re late. They just saw the last person 45 minutes ago.’ I’m like, ‘You have no idea what it took me to get here. Can you give me money to get back to Glendale?’
So I get back to Glendale, and that was my first audition. Thank God I didn’t get Baywatch, or I wouldn’t be here!