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David Rasche

David Rasche, Zach Woods & Armando Ianucci

Taking Cheney/Rumsfeld to Task, Two Actors and a Director Step In the Loop

by Brad Balfour
Copyright ©2009-2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: August 17, 2009.  Revised: March 4, 2010.

When actor David Rasche came into the room, I knew this was going to be a different kind of interview session just as In The Loop is a different kind of political comedy. The 65-year-old Rasche was supposed to be joined by director Armando Ianucci and fellow thesp Zach Woods to conduct an intimate roundtable with four of us Ė but because Rasche was early Ė or on time Ė for us, our conversation was transformed, much like the shambolic supposedly "secret" committee meeting organized by Rasche's character, the gung-ho American warmonger Linton Barwick (a cross between Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld) got transformed and provided a sort of pivotal moment to the film. In a similarly chaotic fashion, Rasche alone spoke with a couple of us before settling down with his fellow Loop-ers and provided some pivotal moments of his own.

Now distributed in the States, the British-produced film debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and, in New York City, at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Based on Ė or rather, taking its cue from Ianucci's smart and snarky look at the inner workings of British politics The Thick of It (kind of like The Office for politicos) Ė In The Loop follows Cabinet minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) through a series slip-ups that gets him involved in the ever-twisting gyre of intrigue that's leads to getting a war started in the Middle East. Sounds familiar...

The film starred some of the series' regulars such as Peter Capaldi (reprising his foul-mouthed communication chief Malcolm Tucker) and American additions such as former Soprano James Gandolfini as a war-reticent General Miller. Within this context, bumbling assistants and loose-tongued associates screw up and screw each other to a dry, droll, parodic effect. The film certainly doesn't view previous British and American administrations as the pinnacle of political achievement.

In light of this summer's health care debate with the right stirring the pot, the film serves as a reminder that the politics of diversion, derision and destruction as expressed by the opposition party goes on. So when a film like In The Loop offers this refreshing and engaging alternative take on the inner workings of the political universe, it becomes a must-see to add perspective. 

In light of the health care debate with the Right stirring the pot, the film serves as a reminder that the politics of diversion, derision, and destruction as expressed by the opposition party goes on. So when a film like In The Loop offers this refreshing and engaging alternative take on the inner workings of the political universe, it becomes a must-see to add perspective. Certainly, it hit some resonant note; the film garnered an Adapted Screenplay nom for writers Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche.

Though Ianucci (also the primary writer and producer) with Woods (who plays Chad, a very funny American adjunct) finally arrived, what was supposed to be more of a roundtable, turned into a unusual back-and-forth of banter.

Was that just the roll of the dice that you ended up playing the bad guy, Linton Barwick?

David Rasche: Well you know, they made it a little bit harder in this movie [from the television show]. But that's for Armando [to explain].

How did you see it?

David Rasche: I had a few rejoinders that were excised.

You did it so well. You have this way of doing it so that you donít come off as just mean.

David Rasche: That sinister thing is there [though].

Is that you or in the script? I canít believe all the things that Armando threw in there.

David Rasche: Itís terrific eh? Funny as hell. The timing was great; it's global politics. As a matter of fact, I had a friend, Mike Reiss, who was one of the producers of The Simpsons, who said that he thought there are arguably more funny lines in this movie than in any movie he can remember.

But is it too complicated for Americans to get?

David Rasche: Iíve been in tons of audiences like in Seattle [at the film festival]; there were 3,000 people, all Americans, and they just were howling with laughter.

I saw it with critics and they didnít laugh as much as I imagine an audience would. I was angry at them in a way but I thought it was astounding.

David Rasche: Really? Iím surprised because I have not seen that audience. The only audiences Iíve seen, big or small, have [been with the public].

You donít even realize some of the lines are really funny until it hits you later; it's so deadpan, and youíre so perfectly deadpan.

David Rasche: Itís really funny, I have to tell you, Iíve been involved in two international projects in the last little bit and itís absolutely remarkable what we bring to it. Like I did this Brazilian film and people are all saying ďOh, we donít like you because you did so and so and so and so,Ē and I said, ďWhat are you talking about?Ē And the same thing with this; with the British press, the Americans were almost completely ignored and all they could see is the Brits, and now here youíre asking me [about my character]; we see the Americans. Itís funny, what we bring.

Armando Ianucci, Zach Woods and David RascheWho were you a blend of?

David Rasche: I was going for was a combination of John Bolton and Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice. All those imperious, belittling, condescending, right? Remember all those press conferences? It was like, "Do you really have to act like that? Do you really have to be so belittling and condescending?"

You added the imperiousness brilliantly.

David Rasche: I mean all of them, like David Addington [Cheney's legal counsel and chief of staff]--do you remember him?--they were all so unpleasant.

Evil, evil people.

David Rasche: No, but as unpleasant as a person [can be]. In the hearings, talking over you, not listening, belittling your point of view, remember Condoleezza Rice? ďUh Senator.Ē Relax, Condi. Anyway.

I was at a Times Square New Yearís Eve with a press pass and John Bolton came to there. No one else had a problem talking to me, Regis, Chris RockÖ But Bolton had a phalanx of security; you couldnít even get 20 feet near him, and it was like, ďWhat the fuck?Ē And he did not crack a smile the whole time.

David Rasche: Theyíre so self-important. Same thing with Cheney; heís doing something that no American politician in the history of the union has ever done, that is breaking the silence [after a new administration has taken over] and starts screaming about you knowÖ And the reason is, ďOh well whatís happening is so important, and Iím so important, I just have to.Ē Well you know, Dick, I donít know if youíre that important.

Itís interesting seeing us filtered through a British cultural lens so that you see Americans in a whole different light.

David Rasche: Oh yes you do. Itís a British film, from a British point of view. Donít tell Armando I said that. But I think clearly it swung that wayÖ I donít think he knows it, maybe he does or not.

The most disappointing thing for you about it was that you didnít get to be in every scene with everybody else, because there are so many good people there.

David Rasche: They had to cut a lot. I used to be but... Youíll have to ask Armando, and I donít mean to misquote him, but I think he said that he got to the end of editing and knew stuff had to go so he cut his four favorite scenes and then all of a sudden the movie worked. Iím afraid I was in a couple of those scenes. His first cut was four hours.

Did this film feel like it had almost theatrical quality?

David Rasche: I never thought of that.

Without all the locations, it would have been interesting to see it with everything else taken away, and on a stage. Because thereís such smart, snappy dialogue, it reminds me of a lot of those British playwrights, you know [like Alan Ayckbourn] or somebody like that. It does kind of have this beautifully fluid languageÖ

David Rasche: Well the story goes, as Armando will tell you, there was a special guy. No not Tony [Roche, one of the screenwriters]. Iím pretty sure is the guy was Ian Martin who provided, oh, additional dialogue. He specialized in swearing; you know all the crazy [British] swearing? Iím serious, they call this guy up; that was his specialty. When he would say ďIím going to rake your bone and Iím going to stab you in the heartĒ and all that stuff. ďI will hound you to an assisted suicide,Ē I mean I donít know which ones. ďWhat are you in a Jane Austen novel?Ē and all that, a lot of that stuff--specifically that was what he was good at.

Do you see a difference between British and American humor? Is there something that doesnít translate well?

David Rasche: Except for people like [play/film writer-director-producer] David Mamet, who I think is the exception that covers both bases Ė Armando is funny as hell but a lot of his humor is really verbal. Itís in the words, really itís not that itís a joke but itís the combination of words. Theyíre a little more verbal than us, donít you think? Weíre more situations, sight gags, stuff like that. Well the nice thing about this too is there really arenít any jokes. There are no like, jokes. Itís behavior and situation. Although I donít want to misquote Armando, but I think he said that when he went through the film while was editing and any line, no matter how good it was, if it sounded written, he cut it, because he wanted it to sound like you really were overhearing [them talking].

You canít lay it on the director, itís all your fault. There are so many places where you are silent, so itís all in your look, gesture, the walk forward, or walk over here, or look at this.

David Rasche: Tell him about how wonderful that is.

You got it down with just enough of the restraint Ė as everybody did in this film.

David Rasche: Iíve been watching those [Bush administration] guys on television for eight years. I mean, just it's appalling, appalling, appalling behavior. And itís obvious that now that weíve had six months where weíve learned you donít have to do that. We have Joe Biden, we have Barack Obama, and I donít see it. We have all the cabinet officers, you know, like Leon Panetta [current CIA Director], theyíre not insulting.

The Republicans seem like whiny children now...

David Rasche: Absolutely. I think it was the fact that we ended up with the opposite of what they claimed. It seems to me that what weíre learning is that rather than strong men, they were very weak, and when 9/11 happened they all went [weird noise] and they started doing all this kind of extreme stuff because, unlike Roosevelt and those guys who saidÖ "Hi." They were really weak little boys and they did all kinds of bad things. It didnít help anything, right? Weíre finding out about all this eavesdropping, the effect of this was like, not much.

To what degree do you think weíre living in a democracy?

David Rasche: Itís pretty hard to say that we are anymore. Itís not that, itís when we find out the influence of the banks and corporate America; we see now that when the banks can throw $25 billion in propaganda you canít fight it. I was reading thereís a new organization thatís trying to counteract it, but itís really hard. When they have everybody on TV, the only news stations, itís like how can you fight it? It's the same thing with the government; how can government regulators, when Goldman Sachs and all these people hire hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of the finest MBAs from Harvard, Princeton, and Yale to find out how to get around the laws, we donít have the money to hire people who are smarter than them to keep them from screwing us.

Did you need to read a lot of stuff?

David Rasche: I told you already; Iíve been watching these bastards for eight years on television, shaking my head, thinking, ďOh my god. Despicable.Ē

Whenever you see politicians they always seem so dry and boring.

David Rasche: Well they all arenít. Rumsfeld wasnít; he was a performer, the ultimate performer, who really enjoyed getting up there in front of people. Which was part of his problem Ė that he got carried away and was under the mistaken impression that everything that came out of his mouth was a gold nugget and in fact, I think that was not the case.

Iíve heard of the analogy of politics to wrestling. When you watch wrestling on TV thereís so much tension and conflict but outside of thatÖ

David Rasche: Thatís why President Obama, when he frames the argument of abortion as to let us respect each otherís opinions and then go from there, then the whole thing starts from a new spot. It doesnít start from I hate you and you hate me.

You grew up in Chicago right?

David Rasche: Well I never really grew up; I "enlarged" in Chicago.

Where are you from originally?

David Rasche: It was a joke; you didnít get it. I said I never really grew up but I enlarged. I was in Belleville, Illinois which is down-state but I spent a lot of time in Chicago.

Youíve got roots on the Obama side, but thereís also classic Chicago politics.

David Rasche: Not only that but Rumsfeld is from Chicago. Oh yeah. I know this personality type. My father was a little like that. Seriously. Thereís this kind of stubborn, like that last line where he says ďWell there were some pretty scary moments at some point right?Ē and I said ďNo there werenít.Ē remember that? That could be my father, ďNo. No. No.Ē

How would you describe or define patriotism at its core?

David Rasche: The last refuge of scoundrels. Who said that? Jefferson or... I canít remember. Benjamin Franklin? [ed. note: Samuel Johnson said ďPatriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.Ē]

Speaking of scoundrels. Thereís the man who played the good scoundrel. [Woods and writer/director Ianucci enter the room.]


David Rasche: Iím afraid Iíve used your best material.


Donít worry, He blamed you for enough things that youíll now have to defend yourself sufficiently in order to survive.


Armando Ianucci: Iíll dig deep.


Question for you Armando: using a global stage here, did you find it different in your British comedy, as opposed to American comedy in regards to delivery, timing, and so forth?


Armando Ianucci: When we made the film there was no American money in it; it was all UK funded, so weíre not making it for a specific market. I just thought weíll just do what we do and go for it really. Part of the process is very collaborative and itís not like the Washington cast are just slotted in to the script. I think when we were casting you saw very early drafts of the script, I filmed the casting process so I when I went back to London I was able to show the writers and say ďThis is Linton. This is Chad.Ē Then they were able to see who it was and how they behaved. We sat an analyzed you so then they were able to write, because I always like to cast really early so when weíre writing we know exactly who this person is; what he looks like and how he sounds and whatever. So theyíre able to write around the actors. We then came out to New York for a week and did a whole rehearsal process and a workshop and improvisation process with a writer coming out as well but with a British cast coming out. So the whole writing process starts evolving, itís fairly organic really, and I also said to you ďLook, this is how weíve written it but if you think thatís not how he would say itÖĒ


David Rasche: I donít really remember that.


See heís throwing it at you; itís like itís all your fault.


Armando Ianucci: But I remember you never turned up; it would always be some excuse.


David Rasche: What he did, we all speculate the reasons why but, the way it was shot was that I mean I think we were basically expected to say the words that were written which were usually pretty damn good so it wasnít like you didnít want to, and often times the rhythms and the words that were written were the best rhythms for the presentation. But then afterwards, if we had some time, he would say ďWell letís loosen it up a little bit,Ē and that meant say or do anything you want to, so we would improvise. And whether it was usable or not, sometimes it was, I think he used some of it, but it wasnít depending on that, if we got a little extra that was good. But the other thing, and I donít know maybe if it was you Zach who said that, was that the purpose that it served was it allowed us to sort of be ourselves without the constraints, to see where we would go.


You had some stuff ZachÖ


David Rasche: He had some stuff that was funny? Like what? I donít remember that.


Armando Ianucci: But also it was to do with the fact, the loosening up process, you used some of the script again, but it just came out slightly differently. It just felt more naturally.


Was the dialogue purposefully fast paced?


Armando Ianucci: The pace is more from us having quite a tight schedule and just wanting to get through it as fast as possible. [laughs] And also I donít suppose you  had too much time to learn it, so there was a slight panic, because you know in politics they are making it up as they go along and thereís a slight dankness behind the eyes as they figure what to say next. But also the script was very thick actually, and the first assembly was about four hours fifteen minutes long, so the pace is really in the edit coming from trying to boil that down and get the essence of it.


Or trying to sell it as a miniseries.


Armando Ianucci: Oh yeah the DVD is that thick.


What I was saying was you had some specifically American kind of lines that you couldnít have come up with if you had been writing it from a BritishÖ Did you contribute those? Were those some of yours?


Zach Woods: Because the process was so inclusive of your stuff over every phase; like we would rehearse and then some of that stuff that you improvised in rehearsal might make it into the script. Itís hard for me to keep track of what was and what wasnít improvised. But I remember you would let us, when it was me and Anna Chlumsky, let us go for these longÖ


Armando Ianucci: Half an hour.


Zach Woods: Yeah of just like hostility. And at the end of which youíd just be totally tied up in knots. Itís hard for me to remember what was and what wasnít.


Armando Ianucci: Thatís a whole DVD extra in itself; the Chad and Liza hostility.


Did you learn any unique American phrases that you hadnít?


Armando Ianucci: Well no but I remember in the casting process when I came across Zach and then had also met Anna and we got you back together didnít we?


Zach Woods: Yeah.


Armando Ianucci: And I just said have a go at each other. And it was so funny because they just for half an hour you were at each otherís throats.


Zach Woods: Immediately antagonistic.


But how do you see the real difference between American humor and British humor?


Armando Ianucci: I donít know because we get so much, I love things like The Daily Show and that smart, quick, one liner thing, and Iím a big fan of Woody Allen. I donít know, Iíve never really seen it as there being a distinction, Iíve just always felt thereís a certain style of comedy that I like and I like a comedy of ideas and a comedy of sharpness or not, and talking down to the audience.


David Rasche: Well one thing, we had Minola Dargus I think said early on when she saw it at Sundance, they asked me and I said that maybe British comedy was a little more verbal, however what she said was that she thought it was the most fast paced dialogue since My Girl Friday. And if you look at those old Ď30s movies like The Front Page, itís all words, itís all rhythm, itís all the same thing.


Armando Ianucci: And this is sort of underneath the language and the reality of it, the structure of it is very consciously a screwball comedy, farce. Watch Preston Sturges, you want to stop and go back and hear it again.


In your show The Thick of It, did you take from any of your style of doing that to this film? Because Iím looking at this and Iím saying Dr. Strangelove, modern day contemporary, you know?


Armando Ianucci: Thereís an element; the shooting style from The Thick of It, we adapted it slightly but adopted that, and obviously Malcolm Tucker, the central character of The Thick of It makes the transition into the film, but I really wanted it to be of the same family of The Thick of It but not The Thick of It. I wanted new characters because it was a new topic and it had an international flavor and had a bigness about it in terms of the theme, although we never actually see the consequencesÖ


David Rasche: Theyíre dealt with in a very trivial way.


Armando Ianucci: In a very trial way. [laughs]


Speaking of The Thick of It you also cast Peter Capaldi in that show so you obviously have a humor that he has.


Armando Ianucci: Yes. And because we knew his character I just felt we could take that character and it would be wholly formed already, so we knew we had something to work from.


But one of the things I was going to say specific to the humor question was that, when you see Steve Cooganís character, I canít imagine the American equivalent to that character. Maybe itís just intrinsic to the culture. You have such eccentrics that seem to live within your culture like normal.


Armando Ianucci: Also I think itís a shock to the American audience.


David Rasche: I donít know though, I mean in a way like if you look at his characteristics, heís very defensive you can see in an American character who is equally defensive about whether he has a cell phone or not.


Armando Ianucci: Right, yes.


David Rasche: I mean there are human elements that I think could translate, but he just happens to be within a very BritishÖ We donít have backyards like that, we donít have these jobs, like the Minister of whatever, itís a whole different political system.


Armando Ianucci: Thatís right. Youíre older cabinet or whatever would not have to deal with members of the public.


David Rasche: No we donít have that.


Armando Ianucci: Whereas in the UK every minister is also a member of parliament.


Well I guess what I was thinking was thereís this sort of, Britís sometimes seem to be aware of themselves being absurd, and maybe Americans arenít. And then I was thinking well maybe thatís not so true, but it seems to me that itís your sense of the absurd; I think that British culture has a profound sense of the absurd.


Armando Ianucci: But it all started really from what we wanted to do in the story was have Simon come out to Washington, get a little bit star-struck, go home feeling a little bit disappointed and yet when he got home, be faced with something that was so mundane that he actually started wanting to go, yearning to go back out to Washington. Because you saw that when Tony Blair came out and met George Bush and so there was an air of kind of ďIím on the world stageĒ but then heíd come back and heíd have to deal with schools and health issues and he had that kind of wearyÖ


George Bush never dealt with that stuff.


David Rasche: He had another element, I am only gradually realizing. I didnít tell you this, or maybe I emailed you, but Iím only gradually realizing how much of this movie is based on fact. 


Armando Ianucci: Yes, yes, oh yeah.


David Rasche: I mean for instance, this Blair thing; now I didnít know that but there you have the exact same thing happening. And I was at this [Bercher? 25:10] film festival Ė I wrote you about that Ė in this little town in Massachusetts and I didnít really know that much about Alastair Campbell and so I googled Alastair Campbell only to realize thatís exactly what weíre doing. Heís sexed up, it really is exactly what happened. Tell them about Campbell and what he said about how he denied certain things.


Armando Ianucci: Well Campbell saw the film Ė Blairís spin doctor Ė and he said ďOh it was boring.Ē [laughter] Which made me think, ďDoes that mean heís seen it all before?Ē And he said, ďThe UK stuff, yeah thatís very believable, a lot of the American stuff, that wouldnít happen. That whole thing with the committee that got bigger, thatís just farcical.Ē And Iím thinking ďYou have now picked on the one incident that actually happened, that we based an entire plot strand on,Ē because that genuinely happened; Cheney set up a committee called up Office of Future Plans.


David Rasche: Oh my God. I didnít know that.

Armando Ianucci: To look into invading Iran and Syria. And they have a thing in Washington called ďcommittee anxietyĒ which is are the committees youíre on the really important committees? And people on the Senate heard about the Office of Future Plans and said to staffers ďGet me on that committee,Ē and it grew and grew and grew. Eventually the room was too small. Cheney shut it down and just started another committee three doors down.


David Rasche: Fantastic. I didnít know this.


Armando Ianucci: You see?


David Rasche: I tell you, this movieÖ But another thing you said that Alastair Campbell, that people who knew him said the things that he denied were true were the things that were actually true and a lot of the stuff that he made up also happened.


Armando Ianucci: Yes, thatís right.


And in fact, wasnít there a sex scandal that happened after the movie?


Armando Ianucci: As Simon Foster says, ďI donít want to stay at home spanking one to a shark documentary because if I watch a porno Iíll have to put it in a scandal ragís  interest. The week the film came out in the UK the home secretary, her husband, there was a big scandal about her expenses because her husband had put down a porn movie that he had watched at home on cable.


David Rasche: Itís remarkable, I mean really. If thereís something about these guys which is remarkable itís their ability to see information that you and I may read about in the paper and to find to say, ďWait a minute, he what?Ē


Armando Ianucci: I was going through my notes that week because I did various trips out to Washington and met up with people, and I was thinking about Chad learning squash so that he can [what? 28:07] and that was based on people were saying thatís what they do. I was looking at my notes and I forgot some of the notes said, with Condoleezza Rice, because she was into music, various staffers took up a musical instrument started learning a musical instrument, so they could engage her in conversation about music.


Well the funniest thing about this movie is the minute you think, ďWell wasnít that a clever set of dialogue? Wasnít that a brilliant scenario that you set up?Ē you realize, they do you one better in the real world. Who could have thought of the bathroom thing with that one senator? I mean slipping the thing under the door, itís like how do you stay ahead of that?


Armando Ianucci: Well you canít and in the end you find yourself just pushing it and pushing it and pushing it because you just think the real thing is so absurd that you cannot cross the boundary.


David Rasche: Well they also asked me if I thought that it would translate to American audiences and I just referred to Seattle where we had 3,000 screaming, screaming Americans watching this movie and just splitting their sides. And the only criticism Iíve ever heard from anybody of this movie is that the laughter was so loud they didnít get all of the jokes. Thatís the only criticism Iíve ever heard.


Zach Woods: And I think itís refreshing too to see a movie about this stuff that doesnít feel just discouraging. You find the absurdity in it and amplify it to the point of comedy as opposed to just sort of, so many Iraq movies are like oppressively upsetting, so thatís another thing.


What do you think are the basic elements that turn a political comedy into a classic and what are some examples of those classics? Anyone?


David Rasche: Well everybody sets out to make a classic; whether a classic occurs or not is something that is decided on Mount Parnassus. [laughter] You donít know; if anybody knew, weíd all be millionaires but I mean, you do the best you can and all of a sudden, right? I mean who knew that Animal House would strike suck a, right? They made a little movie and all of a sudden it struck this chord; who knew? And I think the same here.


Armando Ianucci: Itíd be great to be up there with Animal House [laughs]


David Rasche: People are loving this movie.


This is a 21st century analog to Animal House.


David Rasche: I think so too. The response has been overwhelming and very surprising.


So what made you decide that this was something you wanted to do? Was it in your head for a long time?


Armando Ianucci: Yeah; Iíd always wanted to make a funny film and Iíve always loved being in a cinema with an audience laughing. My brother used to take me to the latest Woody Allen, and weíd see Airplane! or the Monty Python movies, so I always wanted to do that. But I kind of wanted to wait until I got the right story, and then the more I read about Iraq and just the contortions of logic and the faction and in-fighting and the whole thing about how Blair was star struck by the whole process and just lost his dignity over it, and I just thought, ďThereís a story,Ē you know. And then we had the format as such with The Thick of It and it was just that coming together of ďThereís a story, I know how I want to make it, I know I want that character in it, letís go,Ē and it just went very quickly after that. The whole process from going to a meeting without even anything written on a piece of paper, just ďThis is what I want to do,Ē that process to handing the finished film over was 12 months.


How did you find the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them intellectually?


Armando Ianucci: Oh right, well, I think the golden rule is be funny and if a scene didnít feel as funny as other scenes Iíd cut it down or cut it out or whatever.


David Rasche: Or add bleeding teeth.


Armando Ianucci: Just noises, just sound effects; farts, you know. Clacks. Clown car.


On the other side of that though is the casting as to how it fulfills his question; getting the right cast to get that balance. I donít want to think about the process of casting this movie with 48,000 people. I mean who didnít you include?


Armando Ianucci: I had a great casting director in New York, Meredith Tucker. I was only out for about two or three days I think and I saw lots of great people Iíd love to have included.


Yeah but I mean, how did you pick theÖ You had certain people you knew you were going to use, like Coogan youíve worked with for a long time.


Armando Ianucci: Yeah, and that was partly the script had that one part in it and I just thought ďThatís a great cameo, who would be good for that?Ē


But when you thought of the core network it must have been an incredible process.


Armando Ianucci: We had scripts didnít we? I canít remember. It was very early, it was an early draft. But I sort of slightly improvised in the casting.


David Rasche: We did three things: one of them was we did the script as scripted, we acted it; then we improvised the script; and then you sometimes would question us. ďWell what do you think about the so and so?Ē


Armando Ianucci: Thatís right, in character. And Iíd say itís not about trying to think about funny things all the time but itís just to see whether you can get into the skit and are comfortable with a notion of character.


Same process with casting Anna Chlumsky and James Gandolfini?


Armando Ianucci: Well James I knew anyway and he knew The Thick of It and was fan and Iíd been talking to him about another project. Again, the character came up with General Miller and I just thought he would be great. Itís almost like casting against type in away. But with Anna it was this whole process.


Zach Woods: I remember too coming in for the first audition I hadnít gotten a script, like typically youíll get a script that you can look over and then you go in and do the audition. There hadnít been a script so I just came in and you were there and we improvised a little bit and read the script and then for the callback they sent the script, an early draft of the film, and I remember feeling pretty loose and playful in the first audition because I didnít really know what the film was, and then reading the script and being like ďOh this is so funny, I want this job so badly,Ē and then the callback just being a ball of tension because Iíd read the script. So I was glad that we didnít get it for the first one.


I almost feel like this roundtable is like how you did the movie, you know? Like you have these guys, weíre all discussing and weíre going back and forth.


Armando Ianucci: Well when we did rehearsals over in the Hilton in New York we had this table and we all sat down and discussed the characters.


David Rasche: Well for me it was very personal; I was talking to them before about my personal animus toward all of the people I embodied.


Armando Ianucci: Who you then become.

David Rasche: Because all those years I sat and watched these imperious, condescending, belittling, officious people acting like jerks and I watched it very carefully so when it was time to do it I was really eager to be able to bring what I saw into this mix.


Zach Woods: Thereís something Armando said too early in the rehearsal process too I think which is that Washington is like Hollywood for ugly people. [laughs] And so for me it was sort of like well I donít know what the equivalent, Iíve never met somebody like Chad in government, I have met so many actors who are similarly conniving and insecure that that was actually helpful.


Armando Ianucci: I said to the British cast when we were doing the Washington scenes, I said ďThink of the first time you went out to LA and how excited you were and all these meetings you were going to have and all these people who you were going to meet, and then how little you felt at the end of it.Ē [laughter] ďHow soiled and used you felt, how disappointed you were, and flying home and coming backing to a rain soaked, and then getting another call from LA and even though you hated it you would go get on the next plane and go back out.Ē


Why did you feel the need to include so much profanity?


David Rasche: Wait a minute Ė that assumes that you felt the need.


Armando Ianucci: Well because, especially in British government, there is a lot of swearing.


David Rasche: Well Alastair Campbell is known for it.


Zach Woods: Rahm Emanuel too.


Armando Ianucci: And we did a bit of swearing research for the Washington scenes and we established that thereís not much swearing at the state department. Lots of swearing at the Pentagon.


Who did you have particular animus or who did you have a particular love of taking to task? I mean I was trying to think who was Gandolfini because there are several generals he could be.


Armando Ianucci: Well you know Linton is an amalgam of John Bolton andÖ


David Rasche: And David Addington.


Because weíre not as familiar I want to know on the British side who were you really taking the piss out of?


Armando Ianucci: Well, what I wanted to avoid was it being a kind of allegory so that each character stood for a real figure. Itís more a kind of take-on on generally what that life is like. And then also once youíve cast it, those characters take on a life of their own and stop representing someone else.


All this work that you put in; what kind of budget did you use? It seems like an indie but you have IFC as your distributor, soÖ


Armando Ianucci: Well itís a big indie distributor though.


They seem kind of commercial now; theyíre no longer indie per se. 


Armando Ianucci: Well I donít mind.


David Rasche: They thought they could make a lot of money.


Armando Ianucci: I want as many people as possible to see it. What we wanted to do is we made it without having distributors signed up in advanced and we made it for a small budget, and I wanted to make it how I wanted to make it rather than feel that down the line we had to change this and do that. So we just made it and then took it to Sundance to see what happened, really, not knowing whether it would get noticed or forgotten.


How do you follow something like this? This is such a fantastic world youíve created; itís the what next question with a slightly different approach, like what burden or relief does it give you?


Armando Ianucci: I want to do something completely different; I want to do a slapstick movie next.

How about you guys?


David Rasche: I want to his slapstick movie. [laughter]


At what point did you know that comedy was meant for you?


Armando Ianucci: Oh god. Well thatís all Iíve done really.


David Rasche: His whole life is a joke.


Armando Ianucci: I did my first stand-up when I was eleven with jokes stolen off other comedians on the radio.


Well thatís always the best way.


Armando Ianucci: So my natural inclination is to find the absurd side of it and explore it that way really.


Youíre also teaching?


Armando Ianucci: Oh yeah I did some lectures on the sitcom at Oxford. They have this thing, I was Visiting Professor of MediaÖ I canít remember. Basically they choose someone from the broadcasting industry within the UK to do four talks on the subject and they wanted somebody to do comedy.


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Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: August 17, 2009.  Revised: March 4, 2010.