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It was a little awkward, I admit, when Tracy Morgan walked into a roundtable interview a few minutes late, and stopped to hug Bruce Willis-- both sitting down-- before answering questions. It seemed like a forced show of affection, a display from the movie's two stars that hey, the chemistry really does exist off-screen!
But the awkwardness of that hug turned out to be a misdirection-- these guys really do like each other, finishing one anothers' sentences and crowing repeatedly about the love on the set. The junket for Cop Out, which opens this Friday, is one of the only ones I've been to where everyone talked unprompted about how excited they would be to make a sequel.
Read below for details on how John McClane and Tracy Jordan came together to begin with, how they got away with filming on the streets of New York, and why Tracy Morgan says he plays the jealous husband character so well. There's lots more where this came from in Cop Out, trust me.
Bruce, did you see this role as a cross between your Die Hard character and 16 Blocks?
Willis: No. I know it's your job to try and find linear connections like that. I've done a lot of cop pictures, other actors have too. Kevin will come in and tell you it's 60% action, it's a throwback to Lethal Weapon, an homage to the action pictures of the 80s. But it's not that. First of all, maybe the first film, the first mixed-race buddy cop film that made the choice to ignore the whole racial issue. We never played it. Never thought about it, it was never written in the script, it was never done. We just played it like friends.
Is it kind of a bromance?
Willis: I hate that word.
Morgan: The love is there!
Willis: That's exactly what I was going to say. The love is there without having to put a label on it. We could talk all day, but you can't put a label on a relationship that two guys have that have to protect each others' lives every night.
There seemed to be a lot of improvisation in this movie.
Morgan: For us it was easy because it was already funny once it was on the paper. me and Bruce, we made it sing. It comes across as improv because before we started shooting, we gave these guys history. That brought us closer to the characters. By the time we started shooting, I was already Paul and he was already Jimmy.
Did you shoot scenes to test the chemistry?
Willis: We just rolled the dice. It was love. We improvved in almost every scene, every day. That doesn't mean that the improvs we did on camera are what the film is comprised of. We would always go back and look at the tape. A lot more thought went into it than just flying through it. Except for that scene with Seann William Scott in the back of the car. No one could write that.
Morgan: You said something yesterday. Had there not been chemistry the very first take, we would be having a different conversation.
Willis: We might not be sitting here. We clicked immediately, on a lot of levels, in a lot of ways. We found that our timing was effortless. There's a lot of overlapping dialogue in the film, a lot of overlapping dialogue between our characters. I've worked with actors who cannot do that, they just get flustered. But we, about five minutes into that first master, I just said, oh, thank God.
There's a line where you make fun of the John McClane character. Were you worried about spoofing yourself? Sometimes audiences don't like that.
Willis: Unless they're laughing so hard they can't get upset with it. Had it not been funny, I would have said maybe we should take this out. But it was funny, it got a laugh. I've been around long enough that I think I've earned the right to make fun of myself.
It's hard to fake chemistry, but you and Cybill Shepard had great chemistry, and supposedly you hated each other.
Willis: That was faked. We had a different kind of chemistry. We had a chemistry that was more man-woman at odds, power-struggle kind of chemistry. We would always find a way to turn the corner and find a joke in it.
You guys are both new Yorkers. Was it difficult to shoot here?
Willis: They welcomed us in every borough with completely open arms. It sometimes got a little carried away, but we still managed to get through and get the shooting done.
Tracy, you seem to really embrace the insecure husband role.
Morgan: I was married for 21 years, man! You know, where I grew up at, jealousy is abundant. I come from the hood, you know. Growing up the way I did, with the abandonment issues, I think that was Paul's whole thing right there.