In keeping with the tradition of melding cultures, Mr. Woodcock was born. Directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), Billy Bob Thornton and Seann William Scott sink to the juiciest lows to deliver a surprisingly stylish and quirky comedy.
Mr. Woodcock tells the story of John Farley (Scott) – a former student at Forest Meadow Middle School. He and the rest of his classmates are tortured mercilessly by their evil gym teacher (Thornton). This guy doesn’t just bully; he elevates child abuse to an all-new level.
As a result of the taunting he receives, John grows up to become his own brand of societal blight: a self-help author. Ironically, his teachings are put to the test when he returns home to discover that his mother (Susan Sarandon) is involved with the teacher that he loves to hate. The physical education theme is one that hits home with co-screenwriter Josh Gilbert.
“When you’re a fat kid who doesn’t like sports, your world is filled with Mr. Woodcocks,” he says, laughing. “My parents didn’t realize they had a chubby, not very active child, so I was mistakenly sent to several basketball camps as a kid. The coaches who run those aren’t usually very sympathetic.”
That statement is one of the best things about Mr. Woodcock. The majority of the population has probably suffered at the hands of some head tripping fitness expert in their youth.
Even the stars have had their share of bad experiences with hardcore educators. Scott, who played baseball, basketball and football as a kid can relate: “I had some really brutal coaches that would just yell.”
“My dad was a high school coach,” admits Thornton. “He had some pretty Woodcockian qualities.” Thornton’s career (of late) evolved from an Academy Award crusade to a “black comedy sweat shop.” He was the shining beacon of light in 2003’s Bad Santa. This was mostly due to his ability to affect a snarky delivery of dialogue while maintaining a serial killer’s sneer.
Then there’s Scott. His career has been comprised of frat boy fare ever since he made us laugh in the blockbuster American Pie. Since that debut, the 30-year-old Minnesota native has appeared opposite the Rock in The Rundown (2003) and Johnny Knoxville in The Dukes of Hazzard (2005). And yet, he seems, for the first time, to have met his onscreen soul mate.
As fall’s new dynamic duo, these co-stars (who have sparked up a real life friendship as a result of this film) tell a funny story to a group of journalists about a prank that was played on Sarandon during the shoot. Thornton collected a multitude of photographs of the Oscar-winning actress and taped them up all over his trailer. He even went so far as to collect rare pictures from her childhood.
Next, he had his assistant extend an invitation to her to visit his quarters prior to call time. When Sarandon got there, she looked around – visibly disturbed – while remaining poised and diplomatic.
“I just wanted her to think I’m some bizarre stalker,” says Thornton.
That may be this star’s public persona, but he appears very staid and serene in person. He’ll even let bygones be bygones to appear in the upcoming film, Peace Like a River – produced by Brad Pitt (ex-wife Angelina Jolie’s beau).
Scott’s got his hand in all kinds of goodies as well like Trainwreck: My Life as an Idiot (written and directed by Tod Harrison Williams). He’ll then appear in Little Big Man. This project will pair him with fellow funny guy Paul Rudd and is brought to you by the creators of Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
With his film career excelling at rapid speed, the man formerly known as Stifler can keep a sense of humor about his acting choices regardless of what others think.
“Did you like the film or did you hate it?” he asks the press. “Honestly. ’Cause I don’t give a shit!”
Mr. Woodcock releases in theaters Sept. 14.