Sean Hayes as Larry, Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Will Sasso as Curly and Kate Upton as Sister Bernice in THE THREE STOOGES, a film by the Farrelly Brothers. Photo credit: Peter Iovino. Picture and © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.
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The Three Stooges (2012)
Opened: 04/13/2012 Wide
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Trailer: Click for trailer
Rated: PG for for slapstick action violence, some rude and suggestive humor including language.
Left on the doorstep of an orphanage run by nuns, newborns Moe, Larry and Curly grow up finger-poking, nyuk-nyuk-nyuking and woo-woo-wooing their way to uncharted levels of knuckleheaded misadventure. Now, out to save their childhood home, only The Three Stooges could become embroiled in an oddball murder plot...while stumbling into starring roles in a phenomenally successful TV reality show.
What is the greatest motion picture comedy team of all time? Some would award that title to The Marx Brothers, others would favor Abbott & Costello, or maybe Laurel & Hardy. But for legions of fans -- including children, their parents, and their parents' parents --The Three Stooges are the classic comedy act. Larry, Curly and Moe's raucous physical antics --pure of heart, but dim of wit -- are the last word in timeless fun.
Even if that word is "Nyaaaaaahhhhhhh!"
The all-new motion picture, THE THREE STOOGES, in theaters April 13, is a contemporary take on a trio of time-honored boneheads. The film recreates the classic and iconic Stooge sound effects (including "boinks," finger snaps, and palm claps), haircuts and other Stooge-isms -- while interweaving them with modern-day attitudes, situations and pop culture references.
About the Film
In the film, we meet the Stooges as newborn "angels from heaven." That's how the nuns characterize the three toddlers left at their orphanage. Never mind that one infant is sporting a bowl-shaped haircut, the second has two shocks of bushy hair sprouting from a bald pate, and the third rocks a retro-crew-cut. But when one of the nuns, Sister Mary-Mengele, receives a fierce eye-poke from Moe, which catapults her into the next county, they suspect the new arrivals are anything but heavenly.
Now, years later, their Three Stooges have left the nuns bruised, battered and bewildered. Even worse, it looks like the orphanage will be forced to close its doors due to financial difficulties. But Larry, Curly and Moe, employed as the foster home's inept maintenance men, are determined to come to the rescue. Their quest: raise $830,000 in just 30 days, or risk losing the only home they've ever known.
Out of the orphanage for the first time in their lives, and making their way through the Big City streets, the bumbling buffoons encounter a hot tamale named Lydia, who offers the Stooges a chance at some easy money; all they have to do is put her poor, suffering husband out of his misery to collect a payday hefty enough to save the orphanage.
Despite their relentless cluelessness, the Stooges smell something fishy in Lydia's scheme, especially when they find out who the mark is -- their boyhood friend Teddy, a former orphan and now Lydia's unsuspecting spouse.
As they try and save the day, Larry, Curly and Moe engage in plenty of their trademark antics, including a saturating situation involving bundles of wet diapers in a hospital nursery; more hallmark hilarity at a private, black-tie party at a splashy mansion; and Moe's newfound stardom on reality television.
Starring as the troika of knuckleheads are Emmy® and Tony® Award-winner Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace" ), who portrays the balding, sour-faced, bushy-haired Larry; Will Sasso ("MADtv") as the rotund funnyman Curly, whose trademark "nyuk-nyuk-nyuk" usually invites a physical outburst from older brother Moe; and Chris Diamantopoulos ("24," "The Kennedys") as Moe, the dark-haired leader of the farcical trio known for his distinctive bowl-style haircut and intolerant ire.
THE THREE STOOGES was made because the cast and filmmakers love the original trio's work. The Stooges, says co-writer/director Peter Farrelly, "are three of the funniest guys who ever lived. We wanted to honor them by doing this movie."
"You can literally draw a parallel from The Three Stooges to everything that's going on now in comedy," adds Will Sasso. "I don't know what physical comedy would be like without them. If The Stooges just happened to come along now, I think they'd do well."
Over a twenty-five year span at Columbia Pictures (1934-1959), The Three Stooges poked and slapped their way through 190 original two-reel comedies, each of which could have provided the filmmakers with storylines for the new film. But instead of recycling material from The Stooges' short films, co-writers (with Mike Cerrone)/directors Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly were inspired to come up with a new and contemporary story. Still, their Stooges look, sound and talk like the originals.
"One of the great things about this movie is we added a new dimension to these beloved characters," notes Sean Hayes. "The Three Stooges shorts never explored any kind of emotion, or had a real story line. They were all about the laughs. Our film infuses their story with emotion, while retaining all the fun. So, nobody's seen this version of The Three Stooges before."
Indeed, while the Stooges' antics are as outlandish and cartoonish as ever, the characters are, as Jane Lynch (who portrays Mother Superior) notes, "just the sweetest guys. They're buffoons and they make huge mistakes, but it always comes from the goodness of their hearts, even as they're poking each other in the eye."
To Lynch's point, The Stooges are total innocents. The nuns raise them in a very sheltered manner. "So, they don't really have a concept of what's going on in the outside world," says Chris Diamantopoulos. "They are fish-out-of-water who have never seen the real world or been exposed to anything modern. The only thing they've known is the orphanage."
Given the Stooges' iconic stature, casting the three principals was a formidable task. A unique chemistry was required because, says co-writer/director Bobby Farrelly, "They're always beating the crap out of each other."
Moe, says Peter Farrelly, "is the leader. He comes up with the ideas. Curly is the big funny guy that makes the other two laugh. Larry is a blend between Moe and Curly. Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos synched right up with the original Stooge characters."
"If one of these three guys can't dance with the other two, you've got a big problem," adds Bobby Farrelly. "The physical aspect of the comedy, the hitting and moving, was a tricky balance. After watching Sean, Will and Chris for 52 days, you got the feeling that they had been working with each other for twenty years."
"Chris Diamantopoulos had the mannerisms, the voice, the look, every little detail, things that we had never thought of. And, Sean Hayes just totally channeled Larry Fine. Will Sasso, was born to play Curly. He looks the part, he gets the part. So, we know we have the three best guys for the roles."
Diamantopoulos, a longtime fan of The Stooges, pulled out all the stops to land the part of Moe. "I fought for this role like I've never fought for anything in my life," Diamantopoulos admits. Standing 5'10" with a middleweight boxer's build, the actor is much leaner and taller than the character he embodies in the film. For his first audition, Diamantopoulos even put together a makeshift padded suit to replicate Moe's doughy physique. "Then I borrowed an oversized suit," Diamantopoulos recalls. "And, I went to a wig store and cut a wig and drew in some eyebrows and drew in some undereye bags and drove to the audition looking like that. I was the only guy auditioning in costume."
With an additional week before his next (and final) audition, Diamantopoulos hired a makeup artist to apply prosthetic undereye bags that were more convincing than the actors' earlier hand drawn versions. At his own expense, he got a professional wig made and called in a favor from a wardrobe friend at another studio, where he rented a vintage 1940s suit, and where he found an upgrade to his fat pad that, he says, "changed everything for me."
The physical transformation was impressive, but Diamantopoulos came to understand there was much more to Moe than duplicating his physique and outfits. "So much of how Moe sounds comes from his expressions," he notes. "I was trying to get the voice without making my face like Moe's and it wasn't quite there. It got closer when I started shifting my face."
The part of Larry, whom some called "the middle Stooge" and who served as the trio's straight man, was in some ways the most difficult to cast because unlike his two cohorts, Larry lacked a distinctive voice. "It's also hard to define exactly what made Larry so funny," says Sean Hayes, who like Diamantopoulos, attended several auditions to land the coveted role. "He certainly was a great reactor."
Will Sasso, who made an impression as MADtv's resident impressionist, where he brought to life the likes of Elton John, Kenny Rogers, Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley, worked hard to capture the unique rhythm and cadence of Curly's voice. Sasso states that "The first step in playing Curly was making sure I could do his voice. And it got better and better and better as production progressed. When the movie was done shooting, my Curly voice was so good I felt we should probably go back and do the movie all over again."
The task of physically transforming the three actors into the Stooges fell to costume designer Denise Wingate, who created a vintage-looking wardrobe, providing a comedic contrast to the modern-day story attitudes; makeup artist Kim Greene; and hairstylist Kelly Muldoon.
To help turn the handsome Sean Hayes into sour-pussed Larry, veteran Hollywood wig maker Renate (who has created hairpieces for such characters as Spider-Man, the X-Men, and "Pirates of the Caribbean" anti-hero Jack Sparrow) styled a replica of the original Larry's unique hairstyle.
It was a time-consuming routine to do the Larry "'do." Each day of shooting, Hayes had his head shaved, cleaned and prepped. Then, the hair team would draw an outline on his pate, apply glue, and affix the wig to Hayes' head using spirit gum and tape.
For Moe's coif, Diamantopoulos donned an expensive wig groomed by veteran movie wigmaker Victoria Wood, working under Muldoon's supervision.
From custom wigs to custom threads, Wingate complemented the recreation of the Stooges' original look with her handmade wardrobe. "Because the original look of The Stooges is stamped in our DNA, I didn't want it to be exactly the same as the old films," Wingate offers. "My task was to both tip our hat to the era of the original Stooges, and still make it contemporary. This was the most challenging project I've undertaken, as far as getting the look and feel for the characters right."
In any era, the Stooges were not exactly fashion plates. "Curly' pants were never long enough," says Peter Farrelly. "They were always up to his ankles, and if he had a hat on, it was too small. Larry's sleeves were always too long. Moe looked like he had no neck due to the way he dressed. We've kept all that iconic clothing, but updated it."
The filmmakers surround the Stooges with an impressive ensemble, including Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Hudson, Craig Bierko -- and Larry David...as a nun...named Sister Mary-Mengele.
"Sister Mary-Mengele. That name is what really attracted me to the role," offers David. "For years I said to myself, 'if only I could play a character whose last name was Mengele. Or Goebbels. Or Goering.'"
"I'm a really authentic actor," David continues about his approach to playing outside his gender for the first time in his career. "I really researched it and I spoke with some nuns, and they told me that I couldn't really reveal what's on underneath the habit. They took me into their confidence."
Like David, veteran actress Jane Lynch endured the hot Atlanta heat-and-humidity, in a nun's clothing, for her role as the orphanage's Mother Superior, a "habit" she'd soon rather not repeat (at least not in a southern summer).
"We were in Atlanta in the summer, it was a hundred degrees in the sun, and I'm wearing a black habit," Lynch recalls incredulously. "And, I wore the wimple along with the veil. All made of polyester. We had a cooling tent where they shot this cold air at us and, between takes, I would actually pick up my skirt and put it over the vents to get the whole body cooled down!"
Emmy-nominated actress Sofia Vergara ("Modern Family") plays the film's femme fatale, Lydia, who tries to lure the Stooges into offing her innocent husband. Vergara, who relished playing the sultry villain, explains that the Stooges' appeal is universal, citing her own encounters with the phenomenon. "I think everybody at some point in their life watched The Three Stooges. In Columbia, where I grew up, we called them 'Los Tres Chiflados'. At that time, there wasn't any native Columbian TV shows, so the big hits in the United States would go all over the world."
Lydia's partner in crime is Mac, "who gets the stuffing beat out of him for about 90 minutes," says Craig Bierko. "My function in the film was to be on the business end of a fist, a twist, a poke, a lion, a steamroller, a pogo stick and, occasionally, Sofia Vergara. Which is how they lured me here. Sofia Vergara!" the actor states with a sly grin.
The starring cast also includes Oscar®-and-Grammy® winning actress-singer Jennifer Hudson as the orphanage's resident singing nun."What I remember most about The Three Stooges growing up was hearing my mom speak of this classic show," Hudson says. "That was her favorite thing back in the day. She used to always tell me about it. That was one of the things that drew me to the part."
About the Production
One additional element was critical to bringing the Stooges to life -- the familiar sound effects ("Boink!") that take the trio's hijinks to new heights of hilarity. To recapture that aural magic, the filmmakers recreated the classic sound effects from the old two-reelers. The Farrellys, along with their longtime film editor Sam Seig, worked closely with John Larsen, a veteran sound editor whose 90 film and TV credits include "Back to the Future" and "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," to recreate the classic sounds that amplify the film's slapstick moments.
Principal photography on THE THREE STOOGES began in May 2011, on location in the greater Atlanta area. The company concluded filming on July 22 at the popular marine life park, Miami Seaquarium, in Florida -- on "porpoise" -- to capture a scene in the facility's dolphin tank.
During the ten-week shoot, the production bounced all over the metro Atlanta area, with two key locations chosen for the shoot -- the Ryals-Davis Home, a 300-acre spread in the northwest suburb of Cartersville, which dates back to 1850 (it was a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Civil War) and served as the orphanage in the film's story; and a 30,000 square foot Buckhead mansion (on the market during filming for $20 million) dubbed "Big Poppa's House," which hosted cast-and-crew for two weeks for a big, action-packed party sequence.
At the end of the day, the filmmakers have brought The Three Stooges' unique brand of humor to modern-day moviegoers. "We're giving audiences something they'll have a great time with," says Chris Diamantopoulos. "The movie is old-fresh," adds Hayes about the film's comedy. "You don't have to be a fan of The Stooges to relate to our modern version." Adds Will Sasso: "The characters are based on the original Three Stooges, but, this is a movie for everybody because it has emotion and heart."
"We knew it was going to be funny," Peter Farrelly states about the project, which was very dear to his and his brother Bobby Farrelly's hearts. "And, when we shot it, and put in the sound effects with the great performances we got from our cast, it just totally came to life. We honestly feel in our hearts that Moe, Larry, and Curly will be looking down on us and be happy we did this film."
To which the latter would have added: "Soitenly!"