COS­TUME DRAMA

With Mas­cots, Christo­pher Guest and troupe take on the strange world of adults in crit­ter-suits…

Empire (UK) - - PREVIEW - WORDS JAMES WHITE

HIS FAUX-DOC­U­MEN­TARIES have delved into some fer­tile sub­cul­tures: dog shows (Best In Show), folk mu­sic (A Mighty Wind), am­a­teur dra­mat­ics (Wait­ing For Guff­man). But with his lat­est film, Mas­cots, Christo­pher Guest may have found his juici­est sub­ject yet. The tale of folks who dress up in out­landish cos­tumes for sport­ing events, its char­ac­ters in­clude a steam­punk ar­madillo (Parker Posey), her en­vi­ous sis­ter (Su­san Yea­gley) and an ebullient man-hedge­hog (Tom Ben­nett). We caught up with them, plus Guest and co-writer Jim Pid­dock, to find out why they found this topic so com­pelling.

The con­cept of mas­cots is an odd one. Did you have to ex­ag­ger­ate things at all?

Christo­pher Guest: There is no ac­tual mas­cot com­pe­ti­tion like the one in the film. But if any­thing my films di­min­ish the strange­ness of

these worlds. I didn’t know much about mas­cots to be­gin with, but Jim took me to a Ley­ton Ori­ent game and we saw them there. I also talked to my son, who was a mas­cot for a team.

Jim Pid­dock: I re­mem­ber, back in the ’80s, a lot of foot­ball clubs in­tro­duced mas­cots to keep kids happy. It was all sani­tised and lovely, but very quickly there were in­ci­dents with mas­cots get­ting ar­rested for crim­i­nal be­hav­iour. I was at a game at Crys­tal Palace where a rab­bit slugged a worm. I also re­mem­ber an ele­phant be­ing car­ried off on a stretcher. Cyril the Swan, the Swansea City mas­cot, has had all sorts of bans and fines. Su­san Yea­gley: I learned that it’s a heart-cen­tred pro­fes­sion. These peo­ple get yelled at and booed at, but they’re die-hard pas­sion­ate. I have such respect for them.

Tom Ben­nett: You’d have to ask Mr Blobby that, although I hear he’s been in re­hab for the past 17 years due to in­dus­trial lev­els of sub­stance abuse. And the or­gies. My God, the or­gies.

What was it like in­side the suits?

Yea­gley: I loved hav­ing that ar­madillo head on. It’s re­ally fun to get that feel­ing of be­ing anony­mous. It made me feel very alive.

Parker Posey: I like to make things, so I made my own mask. My char­ac­ter is an ex-body­pop­per and I wanted to be able to spin on my knee on a piece of card­board, but there’s only so much you can do.

Ben­nett: In mod­ern cos­tumes they have in­ter­nal cool­ing sys­tems. Mine didn’t have that lux­ury. I learned that you can’t spring up off your back like a coiled spring in a 40lb hedge­hog out­fit in 37-de­gree heat. It’s a niche les­son, but one I will pass onto my grand­chil­dren.

Pid­dock: Tom is up for any­thing. If you told him there was a scene where he had to dive into a vat of ele­phant shit, he’d say, “Oh, I want to do that my­self.” I re­fused to put a suit on. Too hot, too sweaty, too nasty.

If you had to make a liv­ing in­side a mas­cot suit, which an­i­mal would you choose?

Posey: A tree. I would walk onto a field and just stand there. That’s some­thing I’ve never seen be­fore. Ben­nett: Wolf. Just ’cause. Yea­gley: Po­lar bear. Soft, with vel­vet fur. I’d have to cheer for an ice-hockey team.

Pid­dock: With a gun to my head, I would be the bald ea­gle, the mas­cot for my beloved Crys­tal Palace.

Guest: I was asked on a reg­u­lar ba­sis whether I wanted to try a suit on, and I de­clined. I can’t go into the psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­sons why.

Clock­wise from left:

(l-r) Ed Be­g­ley Jr., Chris O’dowd, Christo­pher Moyni­han, Jane Lynch; Parker Posey, Zach Woods, Tom Ben­nett, Sarah Baker and Don Lake; Ben­nett’s hedge­hog adopts the crane; Christo­pher Guest cameos as Wait­ing For Guff­man’s Corky St Clair.

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