The Clapper tells the story of Eddie Krumble, a professional audience clapper in a talk show who loses his job and reevaluates his life. The film stars Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Russell Peters, Tracy Morgan, Alan Thicke (his last film), Brenda Vaccaro, PJ Byrne, and more. Dito Montiel directed the film as well as writing the screenplay, based off his novel, Eddie Krumble is the Clapper.
We got an exclusive sit down with both Montiel and Peters at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere on April 23. Read our interview below and be sure to check back for video interviews with Tracy Morgan, Brenda Vaccaro, and Russell Peters.
What was it like working with Tracy Morgan after Son of No One?
Dito: We stayed friends and the accident was of course terrifying and I was sure that he would die. Just hearing about how terrible it was. And then you hear that he survived and then you’re thinking about “What’s he going to be like?” And then I saw him on something and he’s together. And we’re getting ready to make this film and I just love how as a human and as an actor he brings such a warmth. I thought that character, Chris, we kind of get to enjoy Chris and sort of be okay with him and not laugh at him, like go on the trip with him. It’s a delicate role and it can be very exploitive trick. But he’s so great, he just shows up and he looks better than he looked before. And he seems more put together and I’m like, “I’ve never heard of an accident putting you back together in a better way.” He’s really like that but he seems great.
Russell: For me it was great. Tracy and I were friends from before as well through comedy, but PJ Byrne steals every scene he’s in, he’s great. My first day of shooting was myself, PJ and Adam Levine and I was all geeked out when I go to meet him. And he goes, “Hey big fan, great to meet you.” And he’s talking and I’m like, “I know this guy. I must have met this guy before.” Because his voice was so familiar, and then I realized, Wolf of Wall Street. I don’t know you but I thought I did because he’s so familiar. So for me it was a great geek out moment. I love the Hangover movies and Ed Helms is so great, Sara Sampaio who’s no slouch and Brenda Vaccaro. There’s so many good names in this movie and they all do such a fantastic job. So for me, I was geeked out. I’m always geeked out.
Dito, you’re known for featuring Queens in your films and this takes place primarily in LA.
Dito: We even have Queens in it because at the end that’s where Brenda lives, the mother, that’s where Eddie is from in the movie. But filmmaking is a selfish thing—I always like to put a little bit of myself wherever I can. So I feel like I have a connection to it. When I got to make the movie with Robin Williams, it was about a 60 year-old-man coming out, and I thought of my mother in a weird relationship with my father, so to me, being able to base the characters or one of the characters on a world that I know, it just helps me a little, to digest it. But there will always be a little bit of Queens in my movies.
And what about being at Tribeca?
Russell: I was already just excited about doing the movie with Dito because A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is such a great movie and I liked Fighting. And I thought to myself, ‘Hell yea, these are cool movies, I wanna work with Dito.’ And to have it end up here was even better, and this is just getting better and better. I can’t wait for the Academy Awards.”
Best supporting actor?
Russell: I’ll take it. I’ll take best supporting anything. Best supporting bra if it’s available, I’ll take whatever I can get.
Dito: It’s funny for me because I‘m a fan of all these people before I get to know them. I always have a preconceived notion. When I was going to work with Chazz Palmintieri, I thought, ‘This guy I wrote is not a mafia guy,’ and Chazz is like ‘I’m not in the mafia,’ so for me it’s a like a geek out moment. I have it quickly because before I get to meet them, I get to know a million things about them. And then you get to meet them and, to me, it’s very much about this being a twenty day film. You know it’s going to be crazy out there. Are these guys talented enough and want to do it enough to take on that? Because it’s a lot. If you have a forty day shoot, just about anybody can end up being pretty good.
How much did you shoot?
Dito: We didn’t break ten hours because then that kills you with overtime. But that goes with actors being really prepared and knowing their roles. My biggest fear with this shoot was ‘The Jayme Stillerman Show’ because the street is my thing. I don’t usually go into sets. So I was really worried about that part. Just the physicality, there’s an audience, there has to be a behind the scenes, there’s all these other things. But I was lucky I had Russell and PJ there. They were there keeping down the house. Normally all I think about is acting and then I had to think about so many other things, so it was nice that Russell was there and P.J.—I was really impressed with everybody. Feeling comfortable with the actors was a big thing for me because then I could think about other things, like ‘Let’s put the camera behind them.’ Little corny things.
Do you feel comfortable with him?
Russell: No, not at all.
Dito: I’m not comfortable with him either.
Russell: He’s very handsy.
What was your favorite scene to shoot as Jayme?
Russell: I think my favorite scene was when Brenda Vaccaro attacks me. There’s a scene where she attacks me where she comes out of the set and she goes for it. It wasn’t like I had to pretend to get away from her, I literally had to get away from her, otherwise I was getting whacked by that purse. She’s an amazing actress and a really cool lady.
Dito: I don’t know—I always like being out in the streets. For me, it’s more comfortable. Inside the studio, I’m so uncomfortable, you know. Being out by the gas station, I feel like I could breathe there. Or Hollywood Blvd—I feel like I’m in New York. Bring on the noise, bring on the people complaining, the people. I’m more comfortable out in the streets.
This has a more comedic feel to it than your other films.
DIto: This film walks a thin funny line. It didn’t matter all that much to me that it was funny. I did imagine that with the actors, there would be some things that would be funny, that it would just happen. But I don’t think anybody was pushing for that, I wasn’t. Even like Russell saying Jayme Stillerman’s lines, they’re supposed to be kind of corny. It’s like you’re saying something that’s kind of funny but the audience will laugh because—
Russell: They’re paid to.
Dito: Yeah. So it was kind of a strange thing because we’re pushing weird jokes. I love The King of Comedy and After Hours is one of my favorite movies and I find those movies pretty funny so I don’t know. After Hours isn’t particularly funny but there’s a couple of moments.
You’ve stated that this is your passion project.
Dito: Everything I do is. I wish it wasn’t; I could sleep at night. Let me do Planet of the Apes. Life would be good.
Your comedy tends to focus more on race and ethnicity issues. Do you feel that comedy is open to everyone or did you find yourself having to fight to get there?
Russell: No it’s funny because comedy kind of goes through trends as far as the style of comedy goes. And in the ‘80s, it was all the observational comedy. “Hey you guys ever notice.” And then in the ‘90s it was kind of one-liners. And then in 2000s it was very wacky and out there, Dane Cook kind of stuff, where they overacted their stuff. And now it’s this kind of underwhelming way. It’s like “Don’t sell it at all because these words are just going to be funny. So it’s just a lot of people up there with no energy. And that’s the style now and I’m sure it’ll change again but I never fell into those traps or categories so I’ll just keep being me and hope it still works.
What was it like working with Alan Thicke?
Russell: Alan and I were friends before and as a Canadian, he meant a lot to me, but as a friend, he meant even more—his family, his wife, his sons. And even though I didn’t get to work with him on the film, the fact that we’re in the same film means a lot to me because it’s his last project and I got to be part of it.
Dito: I was a fan already and what’s funny is that in Los Angeles, you’d hear his commercials on radio all the time. “Hi this is Alan Thicke.” Every time I’m thinking, “Who would be good for this role?” He’s talking to me on the radio. And I thought it was excellent since it’s not just him as an actor but he’s a comedian, so it was great to work with him.