Anyone who has ever watched Adult Swim‘s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! knows that Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have a really weird sense of humor. And when I say “weird,” I mean waaay out there sketch comedy absurdity that is like a Saturday Night Live hallucination. The duo’s awkward stream-of-consciousness humor has garnered a cult following, including the likes of “Weird Al” Yankovic, John C. Reilly, Will Ferrell, Marilyn Manson, Paul Reubens, Danny Trejo and Rainn Wilson, all of whom have also appeared on the show.
With the release of Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, the duo takes its squirm-inducing sketch skills (and some of the people that have been on the show) to the big screen in a feature-length film about the duo squandering a billion dollars given to them by the Schlaaang corporation to make a feature-length film. Sound confusing? Well it is, sort of. Since Heidecker and Wareheim play themselves, and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is like a movie within a movie (within a movie, if you count the short film starring Johnny Depp (played by Ronnie Rodriguez) that starts the film), it can be a bit hard to follow. And that’s not even factoring in the part about them buying a dilapidated shopping mall filled with vagrants and oddball shops in order to make the billion back. Trying to make sense of it all is making me sleepy, so here’s an interview the guys did with Wrestling with Pop Culture to further confuse you.
Talk a little bit about the writing process for this movie in comparison to the work you’ve done in the past.
Heidecker: Well, we tried to take our time with it. We knew we didn’t want to make a sketch movie and we didn’t want to make a long episode of the Awesome Show, so we focused on trying to come up with a story that would fit our sensibility and not clog it up with too much plot. We wanted to make a movie where we could do all of our little tricks and stuff. We went back and forth working on it for quite a while and getting into a good position where we had something we could use to shoot the movie with.
Did you have an trouble adapting to a feature film?
Heidecker: There was no trouble, it was just a challenge. We didn’t really consider it to be adapting, it was just doing something different.
Wareheim: We can do anything, really.
A lot of sacrifices were obviously made to make this movie – Will Forte, a young boy and others. Looking back on all that, is there anything you would have done differently or anyone else you might have sacrificed in the process?
Heidecker: No regrets. All those people were obviously fake. No one was really killed or anything.
When you were deciding how you were going to make this movie, how did you decide how far you would go with some things and how much you would hold back with others?
Wareheim: We definitely knew it wasn’t going to be cut as fast as the Awesome Show or have that kind of look. We wanted it to look like a movie so people going into a movie theater have somewhat of a cinematic experience. So some parts, like the Johnny Depp movie, have a more heightened Hollywood look. For the rest of the movie, we wanted to have a higher production value but at the same time we have some of the commercials that have the Tim and Eric style.
Heidecker: The basic rule is, “What makes sense?” So if you’re making a shitty commercial, it makes sense for it to be a shitty commercial. But in a narrative, when you’re just telling a story, it doesn’t make sense for it to be all shitty and weird. We want you to forget about the form of watching a movie until it makes sense for the scene.
You guys have a very niche audience. Not everyone is familiar with Tim and Eric and the movie itself is kind of extreme. How do you want this movie to be taken by people who may not be familiar with the show?
Heidecker: The only thing we’re doing differently is we’re doing a lot of press. We’re talking to as mainstream press as you can get. It’s different than your normal film, I guess, but it should be treated like anything else. It’s not a remake of something, it’s not an animated CGI thing…
Wareheim: At the same time, though, our objective is not for it to do well in the mainstream. We want lots of people to see it, but our objective was to make our movie.
When you started the process of making the movie, was there ever any temptation to make it as crazy and bizarro as possible, which would make it much less accessible to a mainstream audience?
Heidecker: From a superfan’s perspective, they might be like, “Hey, you made this traditional movie!” In that sense, we kind of found a middle ground. We knew we couldn’t get the movie made if it was just going to be completely out-the-window bonkers. And that’s probably not a movie we’d really want to make anyway. We wouldn’t want to spend all that money and all that time and all that opportunity to kind of wank off.
A lot of the people in the movie have also been part of the show, but there were also people who have been part of the show who weren’t in the movie. How did you go about choosing which of your regulars would be part of this project?
Wareheim: We sort of wrote the characters, then kind of assigned people to those characters. It was just whoever fit. There was a lot of people who didn’t get in there and a lot of people who wanted to get in there.
Heidecker: There was just too many people we wanted to have in the movie, but there just weren’t enough places for them. We didn’t want it just to be a parade of cameos necessarily. So it was just striking a balance and we hope if we get to make another movie we’ll include other people. This isn’t meant to be a time capsule of all the things we care about.
If you got an opportunity to do other films, would you want to keep this continuity or would you want to collaborate on something that went in a different direction?
Wareheim: We’d love to make another Tim and Eric movie or something in the style of this.
Heidecker: It’s kind of weird because the way this movie ends, I’m not sure how you’d continue because there’s the ending of the movie within the movie and there’s this other ending. So I don’t know if it would continue from the screening room or from the mall. So we can kind of do whatever we want.
If you actually had a billion dollars to make a movie, what would you do with the money?
Heidecker: We’d give probably 99 percent of it away. The problem with having lots and lots of money for a movie is that’s somebody else’s money. So they’re going to want it back and they’re going to try to fuck with it to make it as successful to the most people as possible.
This movie is obviously still grounded in your aesthetic, but how big of an adjustment was it to be using different kinds of equipment and a different tool set from your Adult Swim process?
Heidecker: We had made these two short films, Father and Son and The Terrys, for Funny or Die. The process isn’t that different when you’re doing short stuff versus long stuff. It’s just more days. The general fundamentals of filmmaking still apply. So that was pretty much it. We had great producers, a great cinematographer… That’s what ended up mattering was having a great team. We had a couple of people who had made a movie before, so they knew some of the workings arounds of all the technical stuff. So it was just trusting your instincts, working with good people, making sure things were in focus.
Is there anyone you haven’t already had on the show or otherwise collaborated with that you think has a similar aesthetic or that you’d like to work with?
Heidecker: We’ve talked about doing stuff with Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper from England who do the Look Around You show. But everybody’s stuff is so personal that it’s hard to even consider working with other people. As far as talent, we’ve worked with everybody we wanted to work with. There are a couple of people like Christopher Guest that I think would be too intimidating and nerve racking.
Wareheim: Tosh. I’ve been tweeting with Tosh.
You just need a viral video.
Wareheim: I’ve submitted tons. Trust me.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. Written and directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Starring Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Will Forte, Robert Loggia, Zach Galifianakis and Jeff Goldblum. Rated R. www.magnetreleasing.com/timandericmovie.