Writer and director Dan Mazer has been responsible for making a lot of people laugh for a very long time – Childhood friend of Sacha Baron Cohen and co-writer and creator of Ali G Indahouse, Borat, and Bruno; there’s no doubt that comedy comes naturally to him. Not exactly what you’d expect from a Cambridge law graduate, nonetheless we caught up with him to discuss his latest film Dirty Grandpa, and to find out what it was like creating and developing some of the funniest characters of our generation.
Q: You must get asked this a lot, but what’s it like working with Sacha Baron-Cohen?
We’ve known each other since we were 11, we were at school together, then we went to university together, so we’ve known each other now for around 30 years. It’s like working with your mate, and professionally fucking around. It’s amazing, the equivalent of fucking around with your teacher or your headmaster, but we’d go out and we’d do that with politicians, or the head of the treasury, or ex US presidents. We shared a sense of humour, background and sensibility so it was 15 years of having an amazing laugh going out and just being idiotic – so there was no greater job on earth. It’s nice to have a break from it, but we will go back and do more stuff.
Q: Were all the prank interviews real?
All the Borat, Bruno, Ali G interviews nobody ever knew that it was a joke – apart from when we did Ali G in the studio of course. So with Ali G we’d tell them this is the channel 4 youth correspondent. I’d go in beforehand and talk to the guest and say he’s a bit weird, but Channel 4 think he will bring the young people in, so just tolerate him because he is a bit of an idiot – and credit to Sacha, Sacha never breaks character. He would arrive in the room in character – whilst they’re putting the mic on and setting up the lights. Some of the funniest stuff with Borat, Bruno and Ali G bizarrely was the stuff that didn’t even make it onto camera -when he would be sitting and trying to get to know the person before the interview started. He’d talk to them like an absolute idiot. I remember once having a conversation with someone where he pretended he didn’t know what a fish was – but he makes people believe that he could possibly be that stupid.
Q: Did it ever get dangerous?
We were interviewing the Klu Klux Klan in Georgia, and we were chased out of the building by men in robes, literally chasing after us like a Scooby Doo episode. They found out who we were somehow, and genuinely wanted to kill us. We jumped in the back of the van and sped off as they were wielding guns. My life was insane for 15 years, so frankly going on set and asking Robert De Niro to masturbate is much easier. It’s nice to have a bit of order and not be threatened to be killed on a regular basis.
Dirty Grandpa stars Hollywood legend Robert De Niro and pretty boy Zac Efron, doing things they have never done on camera before and will probably never do again.
Q: What was it like working with Robert De Niro and Zac Efron?
When I was told De Niro’s attached and Zac Efron’s attached, I was just like, “Are you Sure??!!…. Are you sure they have read this script and said yes to this script??!” On the 2nd day of shooting there is a scene in the movie where we catch Robert De Niro in an act of self-love, and I had to go in and direct him how to play with himself. It’s a very surreal moment in anybody’s life going out and telling the greatest actor of his generation how to play with himself, – it was amazing.
Lastly we talked about his passion outside of film – Football.
Q: Who do you support? (Don’t hold it against him every man has his weakness)
I am a big Liverpool fan, I now live 4 minutes’ walk from the Emirates, but instead on a Saturday I will get on a train and go two and a half hours to Liverpool and it will take up my entire day.
Q: Who’s going to win the league?
I think it’s going to be Man City, annoyingly. I just think they’ve got too many good players, and I think they’ll get rid of Pellegrini at the end of the year as well – even if they win it. Just because they won’t win the Champions League, and also they should be walking away with the league this year. Arsenal will do what they always do and fade away.
Q: What do you think of Jurgen Klopp?
He’s a man I would sleep with; as a London Jew it is very odd for me to have these feelings about a Liverpudlian based German – I think we got him at just the right time because Chelsea would have snapped him up if we hadn’t got him.
Q: Will you ever create a film based around football?
It’s that weird thing, where I think the thing you love you should just leave.
Dirty Grandpa is out in cinemas on January 25th, and is guaranteed to make you laugh.