Balls of Fury
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
In Reno 911 , Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant made light of the serious work of sheriffs. In Balls of Fury , Lennon says, they do the opposite by treating the silly sport of Ping Pong with the utmost seriousness.
THOMAS LENNON: "That sums up our favorite aspects of comedy. I mean this movie could have been about checkers or Yahtzee but the level of seriousness and intensity, and the life or death, it's like a revenge kung fu movie."
CLIP FENG: "Welcome to my tournament of champions"
That's right. Balls of Fury takes viewers into the unsanctioned, underground world of extreme Ping-Pong.
CLIP FENG: "Or as the Chinese say Ping-Pong."
THOMAS LENNON: "The great thing about Ping-Pong is that it's such a silly thing but most of the world does not think it's funny."
CLIP DAYTONA: "Com'on it's just a game."
MAGGIE: "It's not just a game, it is a proud tradition in my family."
ROBERT BEN GARANT: "And everywhere else it's ballet, it's this incredibly intricate thing so it seemed kind of perfect."
That's director Robert Ben Garant.
Thomas Lennon as Karl Wolfschtagg (Rogue Pictures)
ROBERT BEN GARANT: "We saw the place where they train the Chinese royal national team and it looks more impressive than anything in The Last Emperor. It's this giant facility with a giant field where they train these kids to play Ping-Pong and it's so serious and there are armed guards everywhere and we were like 'Wow!'"
Garant says they wanted to play off of the intensity of Asian martial arts films.
CLIP Kung fu screams.
ROBERT BEN GARANT: "There's a Chow Yun-Fat movie in which somebody spills rice on the ground in his restaurant and he kills seventeen people, and it's this incredibly intense seriousness, and I don't think it exists in reality, it really only exists in these kung fu movies from the 60s up until now."
In Balls of Fury, Dan Fogler plays Randy Daytona, a one-time Ping-Pong phenom who's down on his luck until he meets an FBI agent played by George Lopez.
CLIP RODRIGUEZ: "The FBI needs you to take part in a top secret mission one that requires a man of your skills." [Daytona laughs]
But he's serious and he coerces Daytona's back into Ping-Pong in order to catch arch villain Feng, who runs an illegal tournament.
CLIP DAYTONA: "You killed him."
FENG: "Well duh. What part of sudden death didn't you understand?"
Christopher Walken as Feng (Rogue)
Nobody gives line readings such delicious rhythms and pauses as Christopher Walken. He plays the evil Feng. According to Lennon, Feng is
THOMAS LENNON: "fabulously foppish geisha man, sort of a Doctor No in high heels and a woman's dress."
Now imagine having to pitch that to Christopher Walken.
THOMAS LENNON: "We were terrified. It's a daunting task to think, 'Oh boy, we have to call that guy on the phone and pitch him the Ping-Pong movie that he says he likes."
CLIP FENG "Let the competition begin."
ROBERT BEN GARANT: "The first time he got into his full Feng costume with his geisha wig, and make up and everything, he looked at himself in the mirror and he said, 'I'm starting to look like my mother I'm okay with that.'"
Garant adds that he never thought Walken would actually take the role. When he did, the filmmakers tailored it to him. But a character like Karl Wolfschtagg, the intense German competitor, was written with Lennon in mind from the start says Robert Ben Garant.
ROBERT BEN GARANT: "Knowing that he plays very weird, very silly German people very well."
CLIP KARL: "You are the greatest player I have ever seen except for myself playing in front of a mirror in the nude."
Balls of Fury gives away its best gags in the trailer. But it's hard not to laugh at the unabashed silliness of a film that proudly promotes itself as a "huge comedy with tiny balls."
CLIP FENG: "Represent."
Companion viewing: Fists of Fury, Reno 911, Wing Chun, Big Trouble in Little China -----