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The Grand - Zak Penn (2008)


Steve

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A mockumentary which follows a group of people looking to score big at a poker tournament in Las Vegas.

 

Trailer R-Rated : http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/the-grand/red-band-trailer

 

 

 

 

Q & A with Zak Penn

 

Two poker-themed movies are opening at Tribeca this year: Curtis Hanson's Lucky You and your movie, The Grand. Poker was everywhere in the media for a while and has since died down a bit. Is it making a comeback?

 

I'm not sure if poker is making a comeback; I haven't been following its relative popularity. But I will tell you this: There isn't room at the Tribeca Film Festival for two movies about poker, and I've told Curtis Hanson as much. I don't know who the fuck he thinks he is, but if he doesn't change the subject matter before his screening date, my film will beat the shit out of his. I'm dead serious about this.

 

The last movie you wrote was X-Men: The Last Stand, which was large-scale, had a hefty budget and made over $400 million worldwide. What made you decide to switch gears and take on something more low-key and improvisational with The Grand?

 

When I got the check for 400 million dollars from X3 (that was my cut of the overall take) I said to myself "Hey, Zak. What's up buddy? What're you going to do with all that cheese?" And the answer was, buy very expensive clothes and furniture. Later, I decided to make a low budget improv movie, but one really had nothing to do with the other.

 

How would you describe the movie?

 

This is a tough one for me. I like to call it the first Post-911 poker-themed improv comedy. Another way I describe it is “Best in Show meets Die Hard meets 300 meets Best In Show again. Minus 175 and Die Hard. Minus one Best in Show.

 

Do you consider yourself a card shark?

 

I do, in fact. I'm probably one of the top five poker players in the world right now. This isn't widely discussed by me, or anyone else, but it's a goddamn fact. Mike Werbe (one of the top players) gave me a certificate that says as much, and words do not lie.

 

Following Incident At Loch Ness in 2004, The Grand marks your second time directing. Is this something you'd like to do more of in the future?

 

I don't believe in the future. I don't mean this in a metaphorical way, I mean that I literally think the future has already happened, and we are living through time backwards, so next year I will be working on X-Men 2, probably. If it weren't for this cosmic parallax, I would certainly direct a movie like this again. As it is, my long term plans are to return to the womb.

 

There are a handful of high-profile, comedic actors in The Grand, ranging from Ray Romano to Woody Harrelson. Were you surprised when such a mainstream cast wanted to do this experimental type of film?

 

I was surprised. It just goes to show that if you take enough photos of enough people doing enough things they don't want anyone to know, Ray Romano will do whatever you tell him to do.

 

Was it hard to keep from bursting out laughing during filming?

 

The honest truth is that I was surprised the movie played as a comedy. I was trying to make a movie like The Sorrow and the Pity and I spent a good deal of my time on set gently weeping or letting my body be wracked by great, heaving sobs. Dennis Farina made me laugh, though, and that's when I kind of woke up and said "Hey, no one's gonna give me an Oscar for this, stop crying!"

 

Why did you choose to premiere your film at Tribeca over other festivals?

 

The first set of stairs Robert De Niro threw me down were really more like a "half-landing" if you know what I mean. It hurt, but it wasn't like tumbling down a full flight. But by the time he had dangled me off the Willis Avenue Bridge, I was pretty much thinking, "Yeah, Tribeca could work." There was some disagreement among the producers, particularly when Redford cut off [producer] Gary Marcus' foot and sent it to his wife, but in the end, Tribeca won out. I'm a New York City boy, born and raised. And besides, I'm sure Gary's foot will grow back.

 

Next up for you is The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton. Any insight you can give into this project?

 

Unfortunately, I had to sign a confidentaility agreement about The Hulk, so I can't talk much about it. What I can tell you is that the director Louis Leterrier plans on employing a lot of the techniques that I use in my films: the use of cameras, the synching of sound to image, the employ of "crews" to "build sets" and the like. I know that Edward Norton, or "El Norte" as we call him, will stay in a hotel or house during shooting, much as I did for my last two films. So I think you will see a lot of the so-called Zak Penn style in this production.

 

Does the phrase "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" apply to you? Any traces of David O. Russell in you when you're on set?

 

Here's a weird fact about me: When I get angry, I take the form of David O. Russell. When David is calm, or asleep, he turns back into me. It's a very strange curse, and it’s confusing to both of our families. We both regret the day we ran out onto that field together to stop that teenager from getting exposed to the deadly bath of Gamma Rays from our prototype explosion. Other than that, though, I am nothing like David.

 

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