‘ y girlfriend in high school could sleep with her eyes open: she’d just sit there with a complete lack of
body language.‘ says chttbby. friendly David McKean. waiting for his Best In Show director and co-star. (‘hristopher Guest. who's in the next room. ‘l'm warming the journalist tip for yotif he shouts. Then he pleads: 'I'm dying out here.'
Guest and McKean are best known as Nigel Tul'nel and David St. Hubbins. respectively the guitar player (whose atnp goes up to eleven) and singer from 80s linglish rock hand Spinal 'lirp. When Guest finally enters the room it‘s very disconcerting: he looks. sounds and acts a lot like Frasier's brother. Niles Crane. Long lanky hair. eyeliner and spandex leggings are out: short grey hair. tweed jac c1 and a cappuccino are in.
Two more things you should know about Guest: he‘s married to actress Jamie Lee (‘urtis and though he‘s American. he's a peer of' the realm. a Lord of' the House. due to lineage on his linglish father's side. 'Yes. I still have a title. No. peers can't vote anymore.' he snips at my obvious questions. ()nto the 'dog people' film.
The List From rockers to pet lovers at a dog show, how did that happen?
Christopher Guest My wife and l have two dogs that are not. NOT in capitals. not pure bred dogs. [/ can't keep a straight face; its pure bloody Niles: look. he's ad/usti‘ng his cuffs] We took them to a dog park — in the States they have parks designed just for dogs to play — where I listened to some of the conversations. It was odd because the dog people spoke about the animals as though they were children: 'Next weekend we're taking the kid to the country.‘ So I started going to dog shows. and then I made the film.
TL You’ve taken a plumb role for yourself [hillbilly Harlan Pepper, whose a face is as droopy as his bloodhound, Hubert].
CG When people see Hubert they go [doing droopy face]. 'Hawwwww . . .' The only other time people do that is with Brad Pitt. The first time I saw
Hubert. he walked over to me. leap: up and started licking my face. Brad Pitt's never licked my face and he never i.-.'ill.'
David McKean Not for lack of trying.
TL Taking a lead from Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner, and continuing with your own film, Waiting For Guffman, you’ve developed an improvisational style to achieve the fake documentary effect.
CG Eugene Lev", [a great some actor. memorable as the exerticiafrng/i e'i*hai‘rassir‘g t'ather American Pie] and I created tire story. Each scene is delineated so know what happens. we ‘.'.’."|lO Willi actors in mind. Our friends. It's a rare talent ~~ I've compared this to playing Jazz -< you turn the camera on and people speak. lt flows from scene to scene. you would never know it's improvised. My jOl) is to shape it so that they're hitting the plot pOints. to make it appear seamless. ln editing. it's a function of what's on the story: if it's funny but it's not on the story it's out. There's £38 hours you haven't seen. a lot of jtlSl running around. but there's extra stuff for the DVD.
TL And that old chestnut: never work with animals?
DM They were great: demeanour is a big part of showing dogs.
CG They're all champion dogs. so nothing ever happened. no barking [that would please Niles]. There's 1:30 of them. different breeds. and they would walk past each other and there's not even eye contact. There's a scene with a yuppie couple screaming at each other. and it's amazing because the dog's actually looking back and forth. watching calmly.
TL What was the dog people’s response to the film?
DM 99% of the people we worked wnh were fabulous; they loved their dogs; they loved competing.
TL I get the impression you could find humour anywhere, everywhere.
CG This is a world filled with bizarre people. The people who sail the little remote control boats in the park: I'm sure there's some strange peeple in that world. There was a time I was in a model railway store in LA . . . If there is humour everywhere. it's just a matter of presenting it properly. There is a case in point in Best /n Show. which features a clumsy character with two left feet. literally. not metaphorically. If it's played real — and it has to be because of the documentary format — then it works. There's so much at stake in a lot of comedy where it's. “Here comes the joke'.
TL Now, about Spinal Tap [inevitably I turn the talk to their most famous film, and the fellas can’t stay out of character, nor norf Lunden accents], what are your favourite Tap songs?
David St. Hubbins My favourite track is ‘Rainy Day Sun' and it's on the Break Like The Wind album. I like it because it's retro in form and style — it's from 1967. the flip side to 'Listen To The Flower PeOple'. It was produced by T-Bone Burnett and one of the players on it was Nicky Hopkins. the great keyboard player for The Kinks. It's the best song I've ever written.
Nigel Tufnel I think it's ‘Stone 'enge'.
DSH 'enge' is good.
NT 'cause it's a mystery: the unanswered question
Best In Show is released on Fri 9 Mar. See review, page 28
FIDDLERS ON THE SPOOF
Seven more magnificent mock documentaries
This Is Spinal Tap The funniest thing about the funniest film ever made is that it could so easily be a straight—up documentation of a crap English rock band on tour in America; rock musicians are the living embodiment of parody.
Bob Roberts Leftie filmmaker Tim Robbins adheres rigoroust to the play» :t-straight rule With his election campaign trail inockdoc featuring the eponymous right—Wing senator. Roberts lll]’d(3l\lllg of Bob Dylan's music - The Times Are A Changin' Back is chilling. bearing in mind who's now in the White House.
Zelig Woody Allen plays the human chameleon Leonard Zehg. brilliantly inserting himself into stock footage to appear alongside Scott Tit/gerald, the Pope and Hitler among other historical figures.
Waiting For Guf‘fman ChristOpher Guest assembles what is to become his iiiiproviisational comedy troupe for his first film as director, which concerns a small Missouri town‘s efforts to mount a pageant (which turns out to be crap).
Man Bites Dog This Belgian mock verite- style doc gives new meaning to the term black comedy. In it. a film crew follows a charismatic serial killer as he murders OAPs and children. Deeply disturbing because you can't help but laugh.
Gondolas Back in the days when cinemas still screened B featurettes. audiences for Monty Python 's Life Of Brian had to Sit through a really, really dull dOCumentary about gondalas in Venice. Only after an excruciating twenty minutes for so it seemed) did the narrator (actually John Cleese) reveal his hand and ShOut: ‘And more fucking gondolas!‘
American Movie Actually a bona fide documentary about eccentric Wisconsin filmmaker Mark Borchardt trying to get his low-budget opus. Northwestern, made. It's hard, however. to believe this isn't fiction. espeCially when Borchardt gives up on his opus to complete a schlock horror short called Coven. which. as he says, “rhymes with
1—15 Mar 2001 THE LIST 21