Talking to David Cross About ‘It’s a Disaster,’ ‘Arrested Development,’ and the New ‘Mr. Show’ Book
It’s a big year for David Cross. In addition the the long-awaited return of Arrested Development (coming to Netflix with 15 new episodes May 26th), he has a book of unproduced scripts he wrote with Bob Odenkirk out this fall and his new movie It’s a Disaster opens in select theaters today and is available on VOD. I recently had the chance to talk to Cross about what it was like to get back into character as Tobias Fünke, the movies he and Bob Odenkirk wrote together that were never made, and how he wishes there were more movies like It’s a Disaster:
So, how’d you become involved with It’s a Disaster?
The script was sent to me from America Ferrera, who’s friends with my wife, and I loved it. Then, I met with the writer/director Todd [Berger], and I got a really good vibe from him, and there you go.
Would you like to do more projects like this in the future?
Clever, well-written ones? Yeah. [Laughs] Absolutely. This is the kind of movie that I would go to the movie theater and watch. I really don’t see that many movies nowadays. I kind of passively watch them. I get a lot of screeners, but it’s rare that I get excited about something that’s playing in the theaters and then go and see it. But this is the kind of movie that really appeals to me.
What are some other movies or shows that you really like right now?
Well, I just recently … in the last 2-3 months got into Breaking Bad. I’d never really seen it. That’s maybe one of the best shows in history. I really loved the first three seasons of Community. [I] really deeply love and appreciate it. Especially as a writer, I really like that show. I saw a couple episodes of the new season and was sad and I stopped watching. I didn’t like House of Cards at first … [It’s] a testament to exactly why the Netflix model is so important and how it works ’cause after watching the first couple episodes, I never would have tuned in if I had to wait a week. I just wouldn’t finish it, but since it was right there and it immediately streamed into the next one, I ended up watching more and more. Then, the last four episodes of that show were amazing. I’m really looking forward to the next season.
As far as movies, ‘What was the last good movie I saw that was like’… Man, I don’t know. Nothing that blew me away [recently]. I like Silver Linings Playbook, but it wasn’t like I rushed out and called my friends and said, “You have to see this movie.” I guess that and Wreck-It Ralph were probably my two favorite movies of last year. It’s been a while since I went and saw something that felt different or real. Oh, Holy Motors! I loved Holy Motors. That one was one where I got out of my apartment, got on the train, went to the theater, watched it, and loved it. It was a trip to the movies that I was happy I made.
It seems like right now, TV is better than movies. For whatever reason, there’s a lot more creative freedom.
I agree, yes. For the most part, yeah. You’re talking about Real Housewives of Atlanta?
[Laughs] Yeah, exactly. I’m talking about all the Real Housewives.
Great stuff, great stuff.
So, how’d you feel about It’s a Disaster being released on Vine in six-second chunks?
I thought it was a really funny, clever, easy, bullshitty marketing thing. And it worked ’cause dumb people actually took it seriously and were outraged by it. And you can always count on that for marketing to upset people who don’t understand that it’s a joke, you know, because that helps to spread the word around.
Were you surprised by how many people thought it was serious?
You know, yes and no. I’ve lived in America now for 49 years, so I’m never that surprised by people being so blinded by what appears to be an obvious joke. On one hand, you’re like, “I can’t believe you took that seriously.” But then on the other hand, you’re like, “Oh, of course people did.” They’re dumb. They don’t really think too much. They just hear it and don’t process the information through any … filter. They just hear it and go, “That’s ridiculous! This comedy movie, this clear comedy movie is doing this thing…” You know, [it’s] surprising and also not surprising.
Can you tell me a little bit about the book that you and Bob Odenkirk have coming out this fall?
Sure, it’s called Hollywood Said No, and it’s a collection of scripts for film and sketches that were never produced that we looked at and kind of re-read. We just found them after several years of sitting on the shelf like, “You know, these are really funny. They’re never gonna be made, so let’s put these out there.” It’ll be coming out in September. It’s annotated. There’s illustrations and notes and appendixes and stuff. It’s good. It’s funny. It reads funny. You don’t necessarily have to know us, but it helps I think to know us and Mr. Show and how that works and the dynamic and everything. Then, Bob and Brian Posehn and I are going to do a tiny mini little book signing/stand-up tour to promote it in September and early October.
Were these studio-funded scripts you wrote or things you wrote on your own?
Both. One was studio-funded and we wrote it. But then, [we] put it away and did a page one rewrite, and in the process, it became Run, Ronnie, Run. And then, the other one was a script that we just wrote on our own, hoping to make, which wasn’t funded. Much later. I think it was like 2003 with Brian. [We] pitched it around … That’s one-half of our careers is pitching tons and tons of stuff after Mr. Show was canceled. People go, “Eh, no thanks.” That’s why it’s called Hollywood Said No.
What were the two movies about?
One was way more high-concept, which was the thing we wrote and scrapped for Run, Ronnie, Run. It was a high-concept movie called Hooray for America. It’s hard to describe. It’s pretty crazy. Very funny though. The other one is really simple … it was just a series of sketches called Bob and David Make a Movie, and it’s [about] us going to Hollywood and trying to make a movie. We bring all these completely different sketches for this idea. It’s like a more realized, longer, higher-concept Mr. Show episode, but it’s really simple. It’s us trying to make a movie.
Bob said in an interview recently that you guys might make one of these scripts with claymation, right?
That wasn’t our idea. Dan Harmon and Dino Stamatopoulos had that idea to do it through Starburns Industries, which is [their] claymation place, and we thought that was brilliant. It was actually Bob’s idea. Let me take that back. He got in touch with Dan and Dino. We pitched that to a couple places. Again, the budget would be like 3 ½ million, 4 million to do it right. People were like, “Eh, no thanks.” It’s quite difficult to get a movie made unless you’re Vince Vaughn. A big, big name. Will Ferrell. You can’t just walk in and… One would hope that would be the case, that it would be about the material, but it’s not necessarily. It sucks, you know?
What was the one that was gonna be done claymation? Was it Bob and David Make a Movie?
No, it was [Hooray for America], the more high-concept one … because it involves crazy stuff. If we did it as a [live action] movie, it would cost – I’m just pulling this number out of my ass but – like 10, 12 million to do. But claymation, it’d be like 3 ½ million and we could still get all the jokes in.
Have you and Bob talked about working on something together again?
Yeah, we just did. We’re putting this book out. It’s not just the scripts. I mean, we annotated it, there’s notes. We’ll go out on this little tour, and we’ll do some stuff. And who knows? The 20th anniversary of Mr. Show will be coming up soon, and maybe we’ll do something for that if anybody gives a shit. But of course. Absolutely. We’re both fans of each other’s work.
Is it gonna be a big relief to get the new season of Arrested Development out there?
Yeah, yeah. Oh, for sure. [I’m] quite, quite happy that it’s made and [it’s] this great cool thing. I haven’t seen it. I 100% blindly trust [creator] Mitch [Hurwitz] to make this amazing, amazing, amazing thing. I know the basic structure and concept of it, and I certainly know the stuff that I shot … It’s certainly above getting people together and doing another season. It’s the next level of that kind of idea, specifically for the model of releasing it at the same time.
Do you think the likelihood of the movie being made is strong?
I have no idea. I really don’t … There were years where we didn’t think any show would be made, and it was made. It depends. I’ve stated before [that] it’s difficult to get stuff made … If you want to make something like Arrested Development, it’s gonna take millions of dollars. People didn’t want to pick up the show. It took six years or seven years for Netflix to be invented, and then they had money to do it. They tried to do that, and nobody was interested. It’s a business … Ideally, you’d go, “Yeah, we can make this for this amount of money and it will be a wise investment” and people will be running to do it, but it just doesn’t work that way.
What was it like to just be back in the swing of things with the show, playing that character again?
I hadn’t seen the show since we did commentary for it, but I certainly remember it and have vivid memories. And I watched a couple episodes with my wife and I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s what I do.”
Can you tell fans what they can expect from It’s a Disaster and why they should check it out?
I know I have to promote a lot of stuff … but I honestly think it’s a really smart, funny movie. I’ve been to two screenings where the audience didn’t know we were there and didn’t know anything really about the movie, and they loved it. It’s a nice, honest alternative to Hollywood bombastic stuff – you know, comedies that are really bright and shiny and maybe have seven laughs in an hour and a half. I mean, good honest laughs, and you don’t think about it [until] the credits roll. But this one is way funnier and more thoughtful and there’s just an honesty to it that I like.
‘It’s a Disaster’ opens in select theaters today with cast and filmmaker Q&As taking place in NYC and LA. It’s also available on VOD.