Interview: Jason Mantzoukas speaks about working with Jeremy Renner in The House

Jason Mantzoukas speaks to me about working on his new comedy The House starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. His character Frank is a sex and gambling addict but is loveable.

What drew you to the role of Frank?

Firstly it is a really funny script and role. The idea that I could work with all these amazing people – many of whom I have worked or known for a long time. The cast was just exceptional. Those were the two real kinds of reasons what drew me to the role.

How was it working with Amy again?

I have known Amy for years. We both came out of the same comedy theatre in New York. We’ve done comedy shows with each other as well as TV shows. It was so fun to be able to do something on this scale and a big movie. It was very exciting.

And Will? Was this your first time working with him?

Yes it was my first time working with Will. I’ve known him for many years. Working with him was horrible. He is such a jerk. No I’m joking he is the best. I think he is so incredibly funny and always have. When I watched him on Saturday Night Live, I was amazed. He could not be a more generous guy. He is so generous. He will laugh at stuff. The whole movie is a group of people who have known each other for a long time and cracking each other up.

It did seem like it was a lot of fun on set?

A 100 per cent. There were no turkeys in the group. Everyone was a heavy hitter. Whether or not people were shooting everyone was just cracking jokes and trying to make everyone laugh.

There did seem to be some improv during the film, was that intended?

There was definitely improve. Andy Cohen had written a great script. We used the script and then he allowed use to improve. In putting this cast together – putting a group of people of improv background – there was this instant rapport. We all spoke the same improv language.

Your character Frank is both a gambling and sex addict but loveable. Is this what you liked about him?

Very much. He was very important to me he have the loveable and vulnerable side and not just some sort of gambling/sex addict monster. Most importantly you had to believe that the three of us want would be friends. If he didn’t have that engine predominantly that is just heartbreak and grief it would have been a much more difficult character to get on board. It’s important that he had that emotional engine that’s driving him.

The film also shows the dark side of gambling and you three turn into gangster/mobsters. How was filming that?

It was so fun. All those kind of stylistic choices to make it feel like a big Scorsese movie. It goes from rinky dink to these much bigger camera moves and it does feel like a gangster movie. To have scenes with the finger chopping off scene and the Jeremy Renner stuff really raised the stakes. It just visually gave different new levels of what this film could do.

There were a lot of weapons on set so were there any accidents on set?

Any accidents? No everything went off perfectly as planned. We had great stuntmen and fighting choreographers who were terrific. Especially getting into the finger chopping and Jeremy Renner gets lit on fire. These are incredibly dangerous pieces to film but they know what’s going on and are very attentive to the safety of us. The fire scene took a long time to shoot.

How was it working with Jeremy Renner as the villain?

I loved it. I thought it was great. I have seen Renner in Hurt Locker and that Bourne movie. He’s done a great range of movies and he came really ready to go and bounced off everyone. He came in really just for those scenes and we had already done tremendous amounts of filming. He just turned up and immediately was amazing. We were like ‘holy cow this is great. What a great charming villain he is’.

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