‘The Campaign:’ The comedy of politics
When you put two of the funniest people alive in one movie, you get one really funny movie. But said funny people seem to have some serious intentions behind the scenes.
In “The Campaign,” Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis play two candidates in a heated race for a congressional seat in the South. Their district is laughably small, but there are larger, sinister forces pulling the strings — and everybody plays dirty! But beneath the jokes about taking school assignments the candidates wrote in grade school and holding them up to the microscope, there is a dark truth they’re exposing.
Galifianakis shares an anecdote about his uncle Nick, who was a Democratic congressman from 1967 to 1973.
“He ran for Senate against Jesse Helms in North Carolina,” says Galifianakis. “That race is actually studied in political science classes because it was one of the first of the really heavy modern mudslinging [races]. … Jesse Helms was losing in 1972 to my uncle, who had the same last name [as I, and was] dark skinned. And the last two weeks of the election, Jesse Helms came up with a slogan that read ‘Vote for Jesse: He’s one of us’ and that changed it. So I grew up listening to all this kind of stuff. I kind of drew on that a little bit, just having my uncle tell me stories and about the dirty politics of it all.”
“The Campaign”?director Jay Roach sat for a one-on-one with Metro to talk about art imitating life. Roach, who is probably best known for directing the Austin Powers movies, says he wasn’t surprised that talk surrounding the film was so serious.
“People like to talk about politics more than you’d think,” Roach says. “And I think it is because we do all sort of worry about it. It seems like the gap between what it could be and what it is is disconcerting to people.”
But Roach is definitely eager to talk about the jokes in his movie: “We started saying, ‘Let’s just make the funniest movie we can with two of the most hilarious actors on the planet,’” he says. “What can we cook up for them? How far can it go? Can Will Ferrell’s character get so annoyed by Zach’s character that he would take a swing at him and miss and hit a baby?”
Roach says he thought everything his stars did was so funny that he had a hard time chopping the film down to a suitable length.”I had a three-and-a-half hour cut a couple weeks into editing,” he says. “I was honestly laughing for all of it and thinking, ‘I’ve got to cut two hours of material?’”
Roach says that in the process of making the film, all parties did seem to have several moments of reflection on the political process. “We all love our country,” he says. “Once in a while we would have these conversations on the set that were like, ‘Wow, did you read about this that happened yesterday?’ or ‘Did you read about what that guy said?’ To be able to be laughing while you’re also kind of keeping up with current political situations is a great pleasure.”