Free tick­ets to Due Date

Due Date fol­lows two wildly mis­matched trav­el­ling com­pan­ions on a cross-coun­try road trip.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - by CHRIS LEE

SEATED in lo­cal cof­fee­house Ab­bot’s Habit in Los An­ge­les, Cal­i­for­nia, just hours be­fore the Hollywood pre­miere of his road com­edy Due Date, Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis was ex­pound­ing on var­i­ous sub­jects – New York faux­hemi­ans, im­pro­vi­sa­tional act­ing tech­niques, dog mas­tur­ba­tion – when a me­mory from his not-so-dis­tant past stopped the ac­tor-co­me­dian mid­sen­tence.

“I used to wash my feet in the bath­room here,” Gal­i­fi­anakis re­called, sud­denly wideeyed.

He owns a home nearby and when con­struc­tion work­ers turned off its wa­ter valve for retrofitting in 2000, the then-strug­gling ac­tor and stand-up comic re­sorted to wash­ing him­self in the cof­fee­house’s sink.

“I made sure my feet were clean be­cause Je­sus said if your feet are clean, your whole body’s clean,” Gal­i­fi­anakis said, rolling his eyes at his self-con­tained logic. So, um, did he scrub any other body parts? Glanc­ing guiltily around Ab­bot’s Habit, the bearded ac­tor’s eyes darted to­ward his lap. “That’s why they have a san­i­ta­tion level of Dmi­nus,” he ex­plained, qui­etly.

The ex­change – self-lac­er­at­ing and loopy while re­joic­ing in the in­ap­pro­pri­ate – is vin­tage Gal­i­fi­anakis. It could well have been an out­take from Due Date, a rol­lick­ing trav­el­ogue in the Planes, Trains and Au­to­mo­biles vein.

The movie fol­lows two wildly mis­matched com­pan­ions – blunt-smok­ing wannabe ac­tor Ethan Trem­blay (Gal­i­fi­anakis) and ragea­holic ar­chi­tect Peter High­man (Robert Downey Jr) – who get ejected from a cross-coun­try flight thanks to an ill-timed ter­ror­ism joke and a trig­ger-happy sky mar­shal.

The trav­ellers must jour­ney by car from At­lanta to Los An­ge­les, where High­man’s wife is sched­uled to give birth. En route, Gal­i­fi­anakis’ and Downey’s char­ac­ters’ ev­er­widen­ing per­son­al­ity rift re­sults in vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional law, eth­i­cal co­nun­drums and over­step­ping most bound­aries of good taste.

Due Date reteams Gal­i­fi­anakis with Amer­ica’s pre-em­i­nent raunch-com­edy writer-di­rec­tor, Todd Phillips, who en­listed the ac­tor to play Alan, a portly ne’er-do-well with bro­mance in his heart and Ro­hyp­nol in his pock­ets for 2009’s bach­e­lor-party-from-hell fea­ture The Han­gover. That sur­prise hit grossed more than US$467mil (RM1.46 bil) world­wide.

And in Gal­i­fi­anakis’ case, it thrust a rel­a­tive un­known to the fore­front of main­stream com­edy.

“We have the same sense of hu­mour,” Gal­i­fi­anakis said of the di­rec­tor.

“We both like mak­ing peo­ple laugh. And then hav­ing them say: ‘ Oh my God, I can’t be­lieve I’m laugh­ing at that.’”

Phillips re­cently be­gan work on The Han­gover 2, his third con­sec­u­tive film co-star­ring the ac­tor, ex­plain­ing that un­like some movie co­me­di­ans who have to bend over back­ward to win movie­go­ers’ af­fec­tions, Gal­i­fi­anakis im­me­di­ately cap­tures the au­di­ence’s sym­pa­thies.

“Alan is the most-loved char­ac­ter in The Han­gover,” Phillips said on the new movie’s set ear­lier this fall. “He loves the peo­ple who hate him and hates the peo­ple who love him, but you never hold that against him.”

Gen­tly chided that Gal­i­fi­anakis had be­come a kind of Grace Kelly to Phillips’ Al­fred Hitch­cock, the di­rec­tor jok­ingly vented some spleen at the 14th an­nual Hollywood Awards Gala last month.

“I al­ways thought the idea of a muse was sexy,” Phillips said. “And in my head, I imag­ined my muse would look like Mila Ku­nis or Rashida Jones. In fact, my muse looks like (com­edy writer) Bruce Vi­lanch with­out the funny T-shirts.”

Un­like The Han­gover, Due Date aims to warm view­ers’ hearts. But de­vel­op­ing a con­vinc­ing emo­tional in­ter­play be­tween Gal­i­fi­anakis’ self-delu­sional char­ac­ter – a skinny-jeans-wear­ing hip­ster who’s mourn­ing his fa­ther’s re­cent death by cart­ing his ashes cross-coun­try in a cof­fee can – and Downey’s fa­ther-to-be – a guy known to spit on dogs and punch chil­dren in fits of pique – would prove cru­cial to that ef­fort.

Ac­cord­ing to Gal­i­fi­anakis, the ac­tors and di­rec­tor took daily meet­ings on set to strike the right funny-sen­si­tive tone.

“It was more of an ar­gu­ment than a meet­ing,” the ac­tor said, again rolling his eyes. Phillips and Downey “would hash it out and it was re­ally funny: two guys with strong, thick-skinned egos. I begged them to let me film it! In the end, we thought in­stead of this be­ing a raunchy, R-rated movie, we said: ‘Why don’t we add a layer of emo­tional devel­op­ment? Where it’s about fa­ther­hood: the loss of a fa­ther, about be­com­ing a fa­ther’.” Not nec­es­sar­ily the kind of thing you’d have ex­pected given Gal­i­fi­anakis’ early ca­reer run.

In the mid-1990s, the Wilm­ing­ton, North Carolina, na­tive landed a small part in the short-lived sit­com Bos­ton Com­mon. But af­ter es­tab­lish­ing his bona fides through un­der­ground com­edy per­for­mances, he won a gig as host of VH1’s Late World With Zach, a sendup of main­stream chat TV that sur­vived less than half a sea­son.

The co­me­dian read­ily ad­mits he “hated” in­ter­view­ing celebri­ties but lacked the where­withal to skewer en­ter­tain­ment cul­ture in pre­cisely the way he had in mind (he would later ac­quit him­self with the star-ex­co­ri­at­ing fun­ny­ Web se­ries Be­tween Two Ferns With Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis).

Over his years in show­biz, Gal­i­fi­anakis es­ti­mates he’s packed on about 11kg – added heft he of­ten jokes is re­spon­si­ble for his cur­rent stand­ing in Hollywood; the ac­tor has had a sup­port­ing role on HBO’s Bored To Death since 2009 and last month ap­peared in the in­die dram­edy It’s Kind Of A Funny Story as a rab­ble-rous­ing mental pa­tient.

But ac­cord­ing to many re­ports cit­ing sources close to the ac­tor, he threw his weight around to have Mel Gib­son bounced from a cameo part as a tat­too artist in The Han­gover 2.

On Oct 21, Phillips re­leased a state­ment ex­plain­ing he had nixed Gib­son’s ap­pear­ance in the film be­cause the de­ci­sion “did not ul­ti­mately have the full sup­port and back­ing of my en­tire cast and crew.”

Gal­i­fi­anakis re­fused to pro­vide any de­tails about the flap but said with fi­nal­ity: “I do not con­sult in the hir­ing of any­body in Todd’s movies.”

Star­ing out the win­dow of Ab­bot’s Habit, the per­former pon­dered see­ing his “ugly mug” on bill­boards all over town and the 12year span when no­body knew or cared who Gal­i­fi­anakis was in Hollywood. He also con­sid­ered the neg­a­tive im­pact of gain­ing so much weight – at least in terms of win­ning amorous at­ten­tion at a cer­tain wa­ter­ing hole.

“There’s a bar around here that I used to go to, Roost­er­fish. It’s a gay bar,” Gal­i­fi­anakis said. “I used to go be­cause I liked to get hit on, even though I’m a straight guy. And now it never hap­pens any­more!

“I mean, be­cause of me gain­ing 25 pounds (11kg)? Re­ally frus­trat­ing.” – Los An­ge­les Times/McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion


Rol­lick­ing trav­el­ogue: DueDate stars Robert Downey Jr (left) and Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis.

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