One might be forgiven in assuming that the uproarious 2010 cult classic and Saturday Night Live spinoff MacGruber was born out of positive reaction to the original sketch on NBC's famous weekly late-night show.
But, according to director/co-writer Jorma Taccone and star/co-writer Will Forte, it wasn't until they shot a series of Pepsi commercials for the Super Bowl (which co-starred Richard Dean Anderson, whose '80s television series MacGyver was spoofed by Forte) that the idea of doing a movie was floated to SNL chief Lorne Michaels, who ultimately championed the film.
However, to transform a two-minute, one-note sketch (the doltish MacGruber faces off against a ticking time bomb, said bomb explodes in glorious fashion) into a full-length feature, Taccone, Forte and fellow writer Michael Solomon drew inspiration from campy '80s action movies rather than Anderson's iconic TV series about a resourceful secret agent who could gadget-make his way out of any life-threatening situation.
"We just loved the era of one-man armies, Stallone to Schwarzenegger, Commando to Cobra to all the Rambo movies," Taccone tells Yahoo Entertainment about MacGruber, which turns 10 today, in a recent interview by Zoom (watch above).
Like those action films, MacGruber is extremely R-rated, though Taccone has said in the past he was shocked the movie didn't earn an NC-17 rating for the film's famous sex scene, which starts as a sultry/cheesy '80s-esque body-parts montage between MacGruber (Forte) and Vicki (Kristen Wiig) before abruptly cutting to what sex often actually looks and sounds like in real-life: an unholy concoction of not-so-sensual thrusting and moaning.
The first thing that jumps out to Taccone and Forte about filming the sequence is that it happened to fall on the birthday of their SNL cohort Wiig, who bore the brunt of the discomfort, pinned under a sweat-dripping Forte (the scene was shot in the upstairs bedroom — a child's bedroom! — of a New Mexico home in August with the air conditioning turned off for sound).
"It was a sad day," Taccone admits. "I totally forgot it was Kristen's birthday when I shot that."
"At the end of every take I wished her 'Happy Birthday,'" cracks Forte, who explains that his unmistakable moans came from an appearance he'd made on the short-lived Oxygen sitcom Campus Ladies (2006-7).
As lewd as MacGruber is at points in his final version, it could've been ever lewder. Taccone and Forte loved working with Val Kilmer, who plays the villainous Dieter Von Cunth (Forte even let Kilmer crash with him for two months after filming), yet Taccone expresses some regret that the Batman Forever and The Doors actor refused to participate in one very explicit gag during the film's climax.
Throughout the film, MacGruber threatens Von Cunth that he's going to… well, castrate him and shove the dismembered bit in this villain's mouth. And that's exactly what Taccone, Forte and Solomon had in mind.
"We wanted to shove the d*** into his mouth," Taccone says. "We pitched it so many times. I tried to tell him, 'It'll be beautifully shot. The d***'s gonna come off, it's gonna go up [in the air] and the sun will be behind it, it's gonna be a silhouette, like really beautifully shot, and then it'll go into your mouth.' He's like, 'Let me stop you right there.'"
Though MacGruber barely made its budget back at the box office (stop us if you've heard this one before, especially you Lonely Island fans), it's gone on to be considered an action-comedy cult classic. Taccone and Forte have teased the possibility of a sequel for years, and in January it was announced that a television series is in the works on NBC/Universal's new streaming platform Peacock.
While preparing for the series — which Taccone and Forte promise will be just as R-rated as the movie — the pair discovered they had a very unlikely superfan.
"Before we did the table read for it, Christopher Nolan, who's a big fan of MacGruber, bizarrely, sent a very wonderfully written note about the importance of this moment, how much pressure we must feel," Taccone reveals about the Dunkirk and Inception auteur who's next film, Tenet, is being primed to help re-open movie theaters in July. "He gives us all the best hope in the world. He knows that the weight of the world must be on our shoulders, for how important this moment is. And it was the nicest thing ever."
— Video produced by Jon San
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