It’s been a decade since we last saw Christopher Guest’s motley ensemble in “For Your Consideration,” a mockumentary that revolved around the Academy Awards and saw the return of a beloved cast with a cult following, thanks to previous films such as “Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind” and “Waiting for Guffman.”
Guest and his crew are back with “Mascots,” which follows a handful of contenders in an international competition for professional sporting mascots. The film begins streaming on Netflix Friday.
Star Parker Posey says that people might be surprised by how much material writer/director Guest produces.
“He shoots over a hundred hours. What you see in the movie is not a lot of what we actually bring to it,” the 47-year-old, who plays Cindi — the alter ego of Alvin the Armadillo — reveals to amNewYork.
Those hundreds of hours emerge from what starts off as a 20-30 page script of zero dialogue. When shooting a scene, Posey says she loves the thrill of “forgetting [oneself]. Being in the moment.”
The result of that is, compared with a full script, an emotional depth that the audience connects with.
“There is something that you capture, something real. And I think people see that,” she says. “[Improvisation] is terrifying and exhilarating, and I’m wiped after it.”
Fred Willard, 77, reiterates that adrenaline rush of improv, but stresses the difference between what the cast do with Guest and what you might see at a local comedy club.
“No one’s there to trump the other guy or do what you’d do at a comedy club,” says the actor, whose role in “Mascots” is the coach of Jack the Plumber (Christopher Moynihan). While at a club, it “gives us an opening line and a place and everyone’s for themselves to wait for the funny laughs. [Here] you’re trying to move the script forward and stay in character, and you hope your character is unique and kind of funny.” And Guest pretty much leaves all the dialogue up to the player.
“Maybe he’ll sometimes give you a couple lines, say make sure to mention this and make sure to mention that,” Willard explains. “He’s pretty supportive. There’s usually never more than two takes.
“You go in an you’re pretty much your own character that you create and you just jump into the stream of the movie and move things along,” he continues. “It’s a little scary because the night before you go in, you wish you had something to look at and memorize.”
What makes these films by Guest so endearing to audiences is the way in which the filmmaker “capitalizes on the subculture,” according to Jane Lynch, who plays Gabby Monkhouse, a retired mascot, now competition judge. Within any subculture — whether it be professional mascots or movie actors, or purebred dog showers, she says “there’s an entire world within this small world where there are ambitions, and drives, and everybody is single-mindedly focused on the same thing. [Guest] uses that to great success in all of his movies. I think that speaks to people.
“We get to laugh at these people because they’re doing it about silly things ostensibly,” Lynch continues. “It’s these grand ambitions of these very ordinary people. They’re very ordinary. We relate to that because I think our greatest fear is that we’re ordinary.”
Ordinary isn’t a word most people would associate with Guest or his films, and his stars certainly echo that.
“He’s so special,” Posey says. “He’s so funny. It takes a lot of time, and a lot of meditation and coming up with that material. Everyone’s different in these movies. It’s interest [and] so fun.
Posey adds that there is also a sense of caring. “In comedy today, we see things, they’re mostly glib or infantile and kind of punishing,” she says. “These movies don’t have that. Chris would never do that.”