Jenny McCarthy Interview

Jenny McCarthy, former Playmate of the Year

Unhappy with the kinds of comedies she’s been offered lately, actress/model Jenny McCarthy did the only thing she could think of: she penned the kind of script she wanted to see, Dirty Love. The film itself is alternately crude, original, sexy, bizarrely off-the-wall and funny, a mix that seems to fittingly describe McCarthy herself.

by Chris Neumer

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CHRIS NEUMER: How did you go about preparing for this kind of a role, where it was in front of the different cameras; how do you go about preparing for hand-held versus crane, things like that?.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Well, the first thing you have to do is look at your budget. We had a very small budget because I’m not a box office star yet. So we were struggling on what kind of look can we get, and we decided we wanted this movie to look commercial, because most Sundance and those kinds of films have a very independent feel, where your sets look low-budget.

CHRIS NEUMER: I happened to see the Brown Bunny for the first time, Vincent Gallo’s thing where he has like three different shots of his ear while he’s driving? You know the one with the blowjob at the end?

JENNY MCCARTHY: It’s tough.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, but this one really pulled it off.

JENNY MCCARTHY: We did, considering the amount of money we had. My husband at the time was directing the film so we sat down and said, okay, now where do we need Steadicams, because that’s really expensive. So we picked the scenes very carefully for what needed what.

CHRIS NEUMER: Now where there any scenes you wanted to use a steadicam and you couldn’t or had to do something else because you didn’t have enough cash?

JENNY MCCARTHY: No, no.

CHRIS NEUMER: You made compromises?

JENNY MCCARTHY: We didn’t compromise. The only thing I wish we did have was a crane during the band’s performance.

CHRIS NEUMER: Was that on an actual set, did you build it there?

JENNY MCCARTHY: No, it was a bar.

CHRIS NEUMER: So you would’ve had to build a set.

JENNY MCCARTHY: No, the crane assembles, so they would’ve had to build it inside. But we had to use the crane for the ending shot, where the bus stops and then you see us kiss, and then it pulls back.

CHRIS NEUMER: The fireworks. Two things about the ending that I liked: You have this interesting score going on, really happy, fun and upbeat; and practical fireworks, and I’d never seen that before, and all I could write down was practical fireworks. And I thought, why haven’t I seen this before?

JENNY MCCARTHY: I wanted the Hollywood ending. I wanted the typical Hollywood ending with real fireworks. We just pulled back; we had one shot, which was all we could afford. Those firecrackers were $10,000.

CHRIS NEUMER: Really?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah, to go off that many. So we had to sacrifice some food for those firecrackers, but it was definitely worth it. So what we did was we kind of cut and scraped a little bit to get the look we wanted. We also had to cut scenes because we lost financing in the middle of the making of the movie. During the filming of Guillermo’s scene inside the restaurant, that entire day I had four hours to find the money for the movie, while I was acting. It was grueling. So in four hours I called my manager and he assembled about 15 hockey players to put in $50,000 each, and we finished the movie.

CHRIS NEUMER: Wow, and these are all NHL players, I take it, big names?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah, but I don’t want to say who. Look at the end of the movie.

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh, ok.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Special thanks to, there are about 15 names.

CHRIS NEUMER: Who knew?

JENNY MCCARTHY: No one knows, until now. You really have to give and take, and I had to choose the scenes that wouldn’t cause holes in the movie. And the scenes that were cut, that never filmed, were with Eddie Kay Thomas in his character John. He was trying to also get his revenge on Richard to kind of help me out.

CHRIS NEUMER: More than peeing on his couch?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Exactly. He had some reasons where he really did some crazy, nasty things that flew back in his face. So, I said we don’t really need that, I think. Eddie was playing it so real and grounded, you really felt it, and you didn’t need to show it. So those were the scenes that were sacrificed and it still worked out, where at the end, we’re happy that we’re together.

CHRIS NEUMER: Now that’s an interesting point. I was going to bring this up later, but I figure we’re on it right now. One thing that was interesting with all the questions I kept coming up with was, every once in a while I would come across a question and think, oh man, I hope they don’t take that the wrong way. But writing the questions for you, I think every other question I was thinking: I hope she doesn’t take this the wrong way. But with the psychology of this character, with the honest to god psychology of the character of John, I found it very interesting that you two got together at the end. Now, it is a Hollywood story –

JENNY MCCARTHY: That’s exactly the only reason why.

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh. Well I was sitting here and I was thinking, when you’re writing this, now obviously I don’t know what you’re like off-screen, I only know your persona. But I’m thinking, here’s this clingy guy who dropped $3500 on camera equipment, and I’m trying to think about what would happen if I did this to just your basic girl. And I was thinking, they would say to me, ok stalker you have to stop this.

JENNY MCCARTHY: I’ll tell you about psychology and how I tried to make that work in an unrealistic way: I gave them history. The only way I can get you to buy it, even a little bit, is because he’s been there for her the whole time. And she needed to get away from her own past and all the wrong areas. And the only way I could do that – John is hardly in the movie. Definitely not enough, in my standard for why they should be together, and the only thing I could do was give them those few lines in the ice cream parlor, the “I’ve known you so long…”

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh, the “You should be with the guy sitting next to you?”

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah. I tried to give that, and then he talked about playing with his heart, and that was the only scene I was able to show that he was in love with me and I was still glass-eyed. It was a very tricky thing because you’re trying to do a funny comedy and put a love story in it? Very hard; if that wasn’t there, it would’ve been a little bit shallow, it would’ve been a story about a girl trying to get back, and maybe at the end I would’ve finally gotten back with Richard, and what kind of a movie is that.

CHRIS NEUMER: Not back together with Richard?

JENNY MCCARTHY: No, back at him, yeah. So I had to have them fall in love, even if I knew it was hard to, a little bit.

CHRIS NEUMER: To the film’s credit it works more than – every time I think about the psychology of a character I think of Without a Paddle, the one with Seth Green, Mathew Lillard, and Beck Shepherd. One of the characters is trying to get back with his wife or something and I kept yelling at the screen, she’s bipolar, don’t get back with her!

JENNY MCCARTHY: (Laughs)

CHRIS NEUMER: So I was like, ok, I’m not going to buy it, but, I’ll buy it.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Right, exactly. You don’t want that at the end and you’re saying, bullshit!

CHRIS NEUMER: No, not with the fireworks.

JENNY MCCARTHY: And then the fact that he is a white pony, he’s not a black stallion, and she was trying to find this white pony that she thought was in the glue factory by now, and here is the white pony. So I wasn’t making him out to be bigger than he was.

CHRIS NEUMER: Could’ve gone with the puma, but the white pony was a nice pitch.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Actually the gym shoes didn’t come in until a few years after I wrote the script. I was like, how the am I going to get a white pony to run by, or some kind of sign? Then all of a sudden, the shoe popped into my head.

CHRIS NEUMER: Out of nowhere?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Well, Cinderella popped into my head, with the shoe, and finding it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Now, having written this – and I had spoken to Paul Reiser a few weeks ago, he just did his thing with Peter Falk, and that’s probably making the circuits still – but he was the writer and actor, and he said he didn’t want to direct. And here you’re a writer/actor, granted, you were a little bit closer to the director at the time than most people are. But it always seems interesting to me, writer/actors, because you create this on two different fronts, in your head beforehand, and then you get on set and you’re getting into your character and creating it there. But you don’t really have the final cut, because the director says, I think we’re going to go with this, or that. And I was just curious, were there compromises that you made, things where you showed up on set and were like, what do you mean, we’re going to shoot this where? How?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Exactly. Let me tell you how it was beneficial and how it was horrible. Beneficial because I knew I could speak my mind. If it was a director I’d hired I would’ve had to bite my tongue and let this er do his vision, like you’re supposed to. Here is my work, please take it and do your vision. And when I was writing it, I wasn’t just Rebecca, I was John, I was Carrie, and I was Michelle.

CHRIS NEUMER: Wait, John the character?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah. In order to write it I had to become each one of those people. So I had such a clear vision of how I saw it, with the camera angles and everything. So because it was my husband, I was like, what are you doing? It was horrible to do, but why are you setting up the fucking camera here? The camera’s here, and the old lady crosses this way; you don’t want to shoot her this way coming because she falls out of frame. So it was good because I was able to do all those things because he was my husband, but it was also bad.

CHRIS NEUMER: You mean to yell at him, what are you doing?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah, to embarrass him in front of everyone. And the bad thing was that I was able to yell at him and he was able to yell at me.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, this isn’t going to work for your next script, if you’re working for Altman or someone like that.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Well, I’ll tell you I learned a lesson: when I write it, I’m going to direct it. So the next one I have right now, I’m going to direct it, because you see it. When you’re writing it you absolutely see it, exactly how it should be choreographed. The next one I won’t be starring in it. It’s an ensemble so I’ll only be a little portion of the movie. But when I did compromise and let him have his way in the edit way, I just made out with him, as a thank you.

CHRIS NEUMER: I’m trying to figure out if that was placed on the positive or the negative.

JENNY MCCARTHY: The positive. I was grateful because having the two creative minds helped. I realized sometimes that I had to back up and listen to him because he was right. And then he also apologized to me, and said thank god you were such a bitch that day, because I know you were right. So, in the progress side it worked out for us, too bad it didn’t help the marriage.

CHRIS NEUMER: I was debating about that, because usually personal questions, I don’t care what you’re wearing or where you’re going. But on this one I was like, hmmm.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Well, it didn’t cause the divorce, but there were communication problems from the start.

CHRIS NEUMER: Just not on set?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Also on set, but it didn’t cause it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Okay.

JENNY MCCARTHY: It was 18 days on set of that communication, and we were married for seven years, so-

CHRIS NEUMER: Okay, well we’ll leave it right there.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah.

CHRIS NEUMER: But you brought up the scene where you got your period and the old woman ended up falling in the blood, and I thought, well this is a really interesting sequence, and another interesting question because I’ve never really talked about this with anyone other than the people I interview. Came close with Paul Reiser, but steered clear. I was watching this, and my first reaction was that I may have some misinformation about women; maybe I have this all wrong. I just thought, this isn’t the way I understand it. So then it kept coming out, and then I thought, ok, this is just stupid. Then, you fell down, and started mopping up this huge puddle of blood, and I thought, ok, now it’s getting funnier again. And I thought, what is this? How does this happen?

JENNY MCCARTHY: I’ll tell you why.

CHRIS NEUMER: Because it’s over the top.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Exactly.

CHRIS NEUMER: And, continuing with the question, it sort of reminded me of some of the classic satire comedies, like Confederation of the Dunces, or even Catch-22 to a lesser degree. In terms that you have this fence between reality and over-the-top, and your entire vision is set in reality but you have these moments where you got to the other side.

JENNY MCCARTHY: You’re brilliant, because you can completely see what I was saying on set.

CHRIS NEUMER: Now, some of it didn’t work, I didn’t really like the guy with the fish.

JENNY MCCARTHY: I loved it, true story by the way.

CHRIS NEUMER: True story? Now we’re going to have to talk.

JENNY MCCARTHY: The only true story in the whole movie.

CHRIS NEUMER: On one hand I say thank god, on the other…

JENNY MCCARTHY: (Laughs)

CHRIS NEUMER: Now how do you explain that? Did you subscribe to some comedy school of laughs? Something where you wanted to try that? Because it seems like teetering that line between reality and over-the-top satire can’t be one of the easiest things in the world.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Very hard. It was called “Twelve Years of Being In this Business,” and learning all I could about comedy. When I was shooting that supermarket scene I sat with John and said, all right, this is going to be a choreographed dance, because even I have been blind, and you hit it exactly on the nose. If I played that scene real, as if it was just a small amount of blood, it wouldn’t have worked. I said, we have to build, the comedy needs to build, and I need to get to a place that’s ridiculous, so ridiculous it looks like he lost a kidney in the produce section.

CHRIS NEUMER: Only a kidney?

JENNY MCCARTHY: (Laughs). When I sat there and the guy put the blood on the floor I said, it’s not enough. He said, what do you mean, there’s like a pint of blood? I said, it’s got to be ridiculous, there’s no way I can have it just be a little.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s an interesting conversation with a crew guy.

JENNY MCCARTHY: It was. How about this, because we couldn’t afford to close the supermarket, I had to do it in a working grocery store. People were shopping for bananas. So, it was exactly as you said, throughout this movie I had to have realism with pain and heartbreak, but the comedic moments I had to push because that’s where that kind of funny was from.

CHRIS NEUMER: Well, you do hit it on that one.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah. It was a very crowded grocery store.

CHRIS NEUMER: Where was it?

JENNY MCCARTHY: It was in a really bad neighborhood.

CHRIS NEUMER: What, like downtown?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah, downtown LA. It was so crowded and so embarrassing. I was so embarrassed, I was like, you have to watch the whole movie to understand what is going on! And then I was at the cashier and there were people waiting in the other line.

CHRIS NEUMER: Think of all the free extras that you got.

JENNY MCCARTHY: God. There was this one part, where you saw this shadow of this woman crouching down, and then you see her feet just running away. People were so disturbed; they didn’t know what was going on.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, I could see that. That seems like it’s got to be one of those moments where you just stand there and maybe you’re in between takes, or setting up, and you say, this is my life, and this is what I’m getting paid to do.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Completely.

CHRIS NEUMER: It seems like you had a lot of those moments on this film.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Well yeah, I did. While I was doing a lot of those scenes, I had to close my eyes and feel the movie and the tone, and think, is this going to kill me or is it going to be groundbreaking? I had a lot of those moments of, taking a risk, doing what you’ve got to do.

CHRIS NEUMER: Are there any comedies that you would like to associate with this film? Or that you maybe watched to get the kind of atmosphere you aspired to?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Well, it’s hard because there aren’t any female characters that dare to go there yet. But growing up, the Jerk for me was this male character that did these insane things, yet you cared for him and wanted him to find his purpose. And I remember growing up watching it – I know every word by heart, every single word of that movie. And it kind of was like my Jerk, being an asshole but still being loveable.

CHRIS NEUMER: You weren’t a sharecropper, were you?

JENNY MCCARTHY: No, no, but I wish I was. I would’ve loved to play a female in that.

CHRIS NEUMER: I can see the lead of that article, “Jenny McCarthy wishes she was a poor, black sharecropper.”

JENNY MCCARTHY: On her special purpose with her shit head dog.

CHRIS NEUMER: Well, that’s the second paragraph. What was it about a character that’s just willing to do anything?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Of the Jerk, or in this movie?

CHRIS NEUMER: In the Jerk.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Basically the tone of it, the tone of being able to be ridiculous at times. Every scene had something in it, which is what I try to do with this movie. It’s very fast-paced. Every segment, I think the only slow part was the ice cream shop. The magician, the supermarket – there was always a big segment of something, something, and something. Whereas in the Jerk, there were always those moments, of him eating a corn dog in the trailer and his motorcycle girlfriend coming in, I just always like that pace.

CHRIS NEUMER: You said there were little things that everyone has seen that you did, is there anything in particular; I know you’ve seen the movie 1000 times by now. Something that cracks a smile, maybe the second time you saw it, you were like, yeah, I’m glad I wore those shoes, or anything like that?

JENNY MCCARTHY: You know, I still watch the movie and laugh, and I can’t believe that I’m still laughing.

CHRIS NEUMER: You know that’s the exact opposite of a lot of people who say that they can’t even watch themselves.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah, and the only thing I go, oh god I wish we’d put a lens cap on that, you can see every zit. But for the most part I’m glad.

CHRIS NEUMER: Which scene was it that you were just complaining about?

JENNY MCCARTHY: The ice cream shop. It wasn’t very flattering lightening. But I have to tell you, I’m glad I did the boob shot, because it was never in the script, and no one knew I was going to do it. I said to John, for this scene I have an idea. Because I was going to just run out and scream and flail, and I said, it’s so perfect for me to have a boob in it, but to do it wrong, to not be gratuitous.

CHRIS NEUMER: Gratuitous in the correct way.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Gratuitous in the correct way, I guess, in my way, in Jenny’s way of doing it.

CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t know if it would be, because it seems to me there’s a sexual component most of the time to your boobs that doesn’t seem to be present in that scene.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Right.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s just the character sort of disintegrating in a shaky manner, I guess?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Exactly. And I wanted to show boobs just never seen before in a comedy. It wasn’t just a girl running by, there I was screaming. I was so nervous that I was going to screw up; the camera man didn’t know I was going to do it, and he was about to turn the camera off until my husband grabbed his shoulder, and said, keep it going. And I ran, and I run out of that scene, and finally I close my dress and I take off. I actually ran about three blocks and hid in an alley and balled. It was so hard, in front of the extras and everything; it was really hard for me to do. But I knew watching it, it would pay off, but still I was nervous, it’s like a guy taking his balls out and shaking them, I was terrified.

NEUMER: Oh no, we love doing that.

JENNY MCCARTHY: Next movie.

CHRIS NEUMER: Next movie? I was thinking about the car ride home.

JENNY MCCARTHY: But that was one scene where I sat back and was like, oh my god.

CHRIS NEUMER: And of course, that’s the one where we get to see that it’s you in the credits, right?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah. They were like, what do you want on the credits, and I said, it’s got to be the “boob chick.”

CHRIS NEUMER: You kind of have the reputation of being the girl about town, you’re beautiful, gorgeous. Do you ever feel like that’s an anchor around your neck in any way? Are you tempted to dye your hair black and play an abusive stepmother or child in the last year, anything like that?

JENNY MCCARTHY: No, and the reason is that there’s plenty of those out there; there are plenty of dramatic actresses that want to be taken seriously.

CHRIS NEUMER: Or that can’t get a job in comedy.

JENNY MCCARTHY: I feel like I found my niche and it’s what I have fun doing. When I got into dramas before, it’s so boring. I feel so bored, like I’m so underutilized, I vowed to stay away from them and just do what I do best.

CHRIS NEUMER: When were you involved in drama? Are we talking a screen thing, or – ?

JENNY MCCARTHY: No, I did a couple of Independents and I did some TV and I just thought, this is so painful for me.

CHRIS NEUMER: Like in what way?

JENNY MCCARTHY: I love making the crew laugh, I have fun on set, and dramas bring me down. I know I can hear different people in my head, and I know that I can manipulate a script to make it funny, but in drama you can’t do that, you can’t make it a joke. So I realized that I’m sticking to what I know. Hopefully, I pray, that I don’t have to keep writing; Hollywood will catch up and start writing.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, keep your fingers crossed on that one.

JENNY MCCARTHY: I know I’m going to have to keep writing.

CHRIS NEUMER: All right, this is more for personal edification than anything else; you touched on the one true story?

JENNY MCCARTHY: Yeah, it’s the only true thing in the movie. My best friend went on a date and they took ecstasy, and he told her to come in the bedroom. She came in and he was naked and had a frozen fish up his butt, and she did not partake in the fun, or that’s what she tells me. But what happened was, she had to call a paramedic because the frozen fish started to defrost and the scales wouldn’t allow it to come out. So he had to be taken to the emergency room.

CHRIS NEUMER: So this was like the first time he tried it too, that’s weird. You think at least you’d prepare before launching that on somebody.

JENNY MCCARTHY: You’d think, but maybe before it hadn’t been frozen. I just can’t believe that, you’d have to sit and wait for it to thaw. It’s funny because people think that’s over-the-top and exaggerated, but it’s the blood scene. That part was actually true.

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