Christopher Guest, happily married to actress Jamie Lee Curtis for the past 22 years, is a unique fellow.
Actor, writer and director Christopher Guest.
Up until now, Guest has written, directed and starred in such “mockumentaries” as “This Is Spinal Tap,” (the only one he didn’t direct), “Waiting For Guffman,” “Best In Show” and “A Mighty Wind.”
His latest, “For Your Consideration,” is Guest’s first stab at straight up comedy, although it stars the usual acting suspects from any Christopher Guest film; Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Catherine O’Hara, Ed Begley Jr., Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, Jane Lynch, Bob Balaban, Fred Willard and Michael McKean.
“For Your Consideration,” an independent film with a big budget look, is also an exposé of the movie industry — from critics, producers, writers, actors and even those who pay to see movies.
“The film,” Guest explains, “is much tamer than anything that goes on in Hollywood on a daily basis.”
As an actor Guest has played eccentric gay characters in films like “Waiting for Guffman” and frequently included a gay character or characters in many of his films. “For Your Consideration” is no different — Ed Begley, Jr. takes on the role of a gay make-up artist.
Perhaps it is Guest’s continued dedication to his craft that keeps him so exuberant. He’s nearly 60, yet looks somewhere around 40 and clearly has the energy of someone far younger. That’s a good thing for Guest, because this is quite probably one of the biggest projects he’s taken on to date.
“I have never had a publicist before,” says Guest. “Clearly there are those in Hollywood [referring to actors] who need someone doing something for them 24 hours a day. And I don’t direct movies unless I have complete control.” And he means it.
“For Your Consideration” tells the story of a director, producer and cast who are working on a film entitled “Home For Purim.” Purim is a Jewish holiday that is so under the radar that most non-Jews have probably never heard of it. Yet the director of the movie within a movie is forced by the studio suits who have seen the film to reshoot the entire thing and change the dialogue so as to not alienate any non-Jews. The finished product? “Home For Thanksgiving.”
“For Your Consideration” is also a big blow to the Oscar committee.
“People who make comedies are not part of the Oscar process,” says Guest, wryly. “The thought of winning or being nominated for an Oscar is not what make us do these films. Even though, technically, they are movies. And if you think about it, only recently have good performances been associated with Oscar buzz. When I went to a movie as a kid
and up until a decade or so ago, you would walk out of a theater and say, ‘That was a great performance,’ without the thought of Oscar entering your mind.”
Christopher Guest (right) on the set: with Catherine O’Hara (above in character) who star in ‘For Your Consideration.’
Speaking of awards, why have Guest and his wife (a two-time Golden Globe Award winner) never worked together?
“We decided, before we married, that our personal and professional lives would remain separate, no matter what, and that we would never work with each other,” Guest explains.
After the rousing success of 1984’s “This Is Spinal Tap,” it’s surprising that Guest wanted more than a decade to create his second spoof, “Waiting for Guffman.”
“‘Spinal Tap,’” says Guest, “was based on the television show ‘Spinal Tap,’ which ran on ABC. When the show was canceled, I got around to thinking, ‘this idea can go further,’ and thus became ‘Spinal Tap’ the movie.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to wait 10 years to make ‘Waiting For Guffman,’ but I wasn’t going to make a movie if there wasn’t something there that truly captivated me and everyone who would be involved in it.”
Believe it or not, Guest’s films are adlibbed for the most part.
“The actors in my movies gather around, see an outline of the story, but their dialogue is completely adlibbed,” the filmmaker says. “Comedy is serious business but everyone who works with me is great at what they do and don’t need to have lines written for them. Actually there were lines written in ‘For Your Consideration’ but they were the lines written for the movies within the movie, ‘Home For Purim’ and ‘Home For Thanksgiving.’”
Don’t expect more than one movie from Guest every five years, or so.
“After I complete a movie, I need at least a year off,” he says. “I need time to live a regular life and think about what, if anything, I would want to gather the group together for that would resonate well with an audience.”
Check local listings for theaters and times.