*“Tower Heist” filmmakers could not have had a better time for the release of their film than during the Wall Street occupationand the worldwide wave of sympathy for the poor and abhorrence for greed.
In the Brett Ratner directed “Tower Heist,” employees working at a Trump Tower facsimile luxury Central Park West Condominium do more than just voice their opposition against Wall Street swindler Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). They set out to get retribution.
Conducting interviews recently at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York that is across the street from Trump Tower, actors and filmmakers were eager to talk about their hilarious comedy that has its hands on the public’s pulse.
Eddie Murphy not only stars in “Heist,” but he is one of the producers.
First, we asked Murphy what was it about his character, Slide, that he thought was endearing?
EDDIE MURPHY: “I haven’t really thought about it,” he offered. “Yeah, I don’t know if I thought that deep into it.”
So What made you want to produce “Tower Heist?”
EM: I wanted to get out of the house and do some stuff. I’d been sitting around the house too long. So I was like, let me get out and do something. So here we are. Yeah, and I really wanted to- I was a big fan of Ben’s (Stiller). And I’ve wanted to work with him for years. So this all came together perfect for me. I’m very happy to be here.
What do you think of the occupy Wall Street movement and how it plays right into the release of this film?
EM: That part of it wasn’t part of my core idea when I came up with the heist concept. My idea was about a bunch of disgruntled employees getting together and trying to rob the building that they worked in; and all that other stuff that came later on in development with Brian Glazer, all that stuff came later on.
Bret Ratner (director) said there was improv and you loved those scenes between you and Gabourey Sidibe There was no dialogue and Ratner felt he was wasting a moment and whispered in her ear and said, ‘Flirt with Eddie.’
EM: Then he whispered to the DP, ‘Dim the lights.’ Then I looked around and started thinking. And then all of a sudden Gabourey’s top is off. And it’s really heated. It’s really heated. It turns into a whole different type scene. I look over and Ben’s completely nude. And I look over at Brian and I go, ‘What’s happening? What’s happening?’ And Brian goes, ‘Just go with it.’ So we go with it for about forty minutes. It’s incredible. I’ve never ended a scene like that. Then you cut. You have to get the DVD actually to see the special features because we had to get our PG-13 rating. It was pretty heated.
Ratner says what makes this movie really work is that it has a good villain?
EM: And the best villain is somebody that…I mean who doesn’t love Alan Alda. Somebody so lovable.
Whatever happened to the Richard Pryor project?
EM: We had a couple of conversations about Richard Pryor but it never really got past stage one. And there’s a great script out there still that Bill Condon wrote and I was trying to get the script to get him to direct it. That’s something that’s in the air that I would love to do. The script that I read was incredible. But we never got past the first stage of conversations.
You and Brian Glazer work very well together?
EM: Yeah, Brian has a really good way of shaping my ideas into screenplays and movies. We communicate very well. I can go tell him an idea and he can take it to the next level.
Can you give us any more info on the Oscars?
EM: Just that I’m looking forward to doing it. And I promise I’ll stay there all night.
Will there be more pressure on you since last year’s Oscars had such low ratings?
EM: No. No. The Oscars is just a fun thing to do. I mean the pressure involves a bunch of artists coming in and being honored. I’ve got a pretty easy job, coming out, introducing people, stand up straight. You know, I may be in a couple of silly sketches or something. But I don’t feel any pressure. I’m kind of looking forward to it.
Finally, the Film Strip asked Alan Alda, the Bernie Madoff like character in “Heist,” what relevance he thought the movie had and if he knew anyone like the characters?
“Yes, I do,” he said unequivocally. “I had met a couple of times people who have taken money from people who they had a responsibility to protect, and actually I had some money taken from me but not by anybody I knew. It was put into a bad tax shelter once and you really feel bad when somebody takes your money. They actually took almost all that I had at the time.
“It was fraud. It was investment fraud and a lot of very well known people got caught up in that. I was on the soundstage when I got a phone call from I think the New York Times and somebody said, ‘So how do you feel about you and Walter Cronkite getting robbed like this. I was so stunned that I walked outside and walked into an iron railing. I didn’t know where I was and it’s a terrible feeling. The people in this movie get the same feeling because this person who has looked them in the eyes and told them how much he cares for them has taken their life’s savings. You know, that’s a very good basis for this movie because it’s real, genuine. Their pain is genuine when they find out that they’ve been robbed and then the fun of the heist that comes after that movie, retaliation builds on that kind of reality. But enough about me.”