“Fuck you. Keep up.”
Those were the words writer-director George Gallo (Midnight Run, Bad Boys) scrawled across the front of his breakneck script, Middle Men, and they became his mantra. The film – starring Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht, Kevin Pollak and James Caan, a fictionalized retelling of the men behind the founding of what would become one of the biggest industries in the world; Internet porn – is a freight train of a tale that doesn’t slow down for a second as it plows through Russian mobsters, the FBI, barely-legal porn stars, two idiotic genius inventors (Ribisi and Macht) and a straight-laced businessman (Wilson) who find themselves in a tsunami of money and intrigue thanks to society’s unwaning erotic desire.
Ribisi and Macht play Wayne Beering and Buck Dolby, best friends who stumble upon the idea of Internet porn from the dregs of their cruddy apartment in a drugged-out haze and become multi-millionaires within weeks. Ribisi, an actor’s actor known for tackling complicated characters, had no problem with the subject matter Middle Men embarked on.
“Just by virtue of the fact that George Gallo is written on the front [of the script], it already has an incredible pedigree,” Ribisi begins one Sunday afternoon at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.
Sitting down to discuss the film, his slight frame appears fragile and lithe, and he sports a heavy beard over an impish smile.
“Opening it up to read, you know it’s going to be [about a lot more than porn.] I think the concern was, are they going to do this for the right reasons, or is it going to be more of an exploitative nature? What project could you do that more with than this? But I think they really did go in the right direction with it. Across the board, the editing, the acting, the directing, the cinematography, it’s just phenomenal.”
Macht, however, wasn’t as immediately certain and had some concerns about what his almost 3-year-old daughter might think of his role. Tall, handsome and wholesome-looking, Middle Men is a family affair for the actor, whose wife, Jacinda Barrett (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Ladder 49), plays Wilson’s wife in the film.
When the subject of porn is broached, Macht blushes and differs to Ribisi before admitting, “I was hesitant getting into the arena. There’s a scene where we talk about names of Web sites and I had a moment where I was like, ‘Do I really want my daughter seeing daddy, 20 years from now, talking about ass-banging housewives? Mmm?’ But then I thought, ‘It’s actually funny.’”
“For me, that’s sort of the mise-en-scène of it,” Ribisi replies, using the French term meaning, literally, placing on stage or setting. “[Middle Men] is about so much more; America, the American Dream, how these guys go in, achieve [success], almost get bombarded by it and eventually get devoured. It’s a classic epic story about greed and lust, what people will do for money and the underbelly of America.”
“It’s like the Rockefellers or the Hunts or Bill Gates,” Wilson offers. “Where one minute these guys are working in their parents’ garage and the next, they’re billionaires.”
The soft-spoken Texan, looking trim and tan, says he had always envied actors who got the chance to play parts that required intense research in order to portray a real person.
“I always got these scripts, not in a bad way, where it was right on the page,” he shrugs. But in Middle Men, Wilson not only had the chance to bring a real man’s story to life but he had unfettered access to the script’s source since the movie was inspired by producer Christopher Mallick’s experiences during the Internet’s Wild West days in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“To get to meet the person [I was playing] and spend time around them, I felt so lucky to get to do that. It’s wasn’t like Johnny Depp playing Hunter S. Thompson. Chris wasn’t someone who walked funny or talked funny. He was more of a straightforward businessman, but you could ask him anything and just having him there was great.”
As for Gallo’s credo, Wilson laughs and nods his head.
“That’s how the movie rocks along,” he smiles.
Middle Men releases in theaters Aug. 6.
Middle Men: Internet porn blows up.
“Fuck you. Keep up.”