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