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Interview: Steve Pink for "Hot Tub Time Machine"

By Jeff Otto Thursday March 25th 2010 12:23PM
Steve Pink for "Hot Tub Time Machine"

It is often said that friendship and business don’t mix but, whatever the secret is, Steve Pink and John Cusack seem to have gotten past those trappings. The two went to Evanston High School together in Illinois (along with pal Jeremy Piven) and have been working together ever since. Pink was a partner in Cusack’s New Crime Productions and also wrote the Cusack vehicles “High Fidelity” and “Grosse Pointe Blank.”

With Pink’s directorial debut, “Accepted,” now out of the way, Pink is again re-teaming to direct his pal in the wild comedy “Hot Tub Time Machine,” a story of four friends who are transported back to 1986 when they unwittingly enter a magical time machine in the form of, yes, a hot tub. And who better to star in an ‘80s flick that one of the decade’s icons, John Cusack? Joining in on the fun are Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke and two other ‘80s icons, Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover.

Dark Horizons got to travel to Lake Tahoe, NV recently for a special “Hot Tub Time Machine” weekend featuring a screening of the movie and ‘80s party with the cast and crew. Somewhere along the way, we even managed to speak with Pink about the movie.

The director was in high spirits when he entered the room to speak with press. Reaction to “HTTM” has been strong and he seems confident that audiences will like the film. We also spoke about some possible future projects, including a “Grosse Pointe Blank” Sequel, a Hunter S. Thompson adaptation and a heist movie based on a true story.

“Hot Tub Time Machine” was a project MGM had been kicking around for a while. “John developed it with MGM before I was brought on,” Pink tells press. “He brought me on.”

Pink says he and Cusack have similar sensibilities, which gives the two a shorthand on set. “It helps tone-wise,” says Pink. “You don’t have to have a lot of conversations about what the tone of it is. We struck a however ridiculous tone. Also there’s a certain authentic tone that you could argue is similar to the tones we’ve struck in other movies.”

Since Cusack is so well known for his ‘80s work, the two men were careful not to go too far with the referential material. “I think [John] had the same concerns as the other actors from that era. I think that’s why we took a subtle approach to it. We just wanted to stuff it with the references [in the beginning], and then if you’re catching them, great.”

With that said, the director admits the part Cusack plays as Adam isn’t that far removed from other characters the actor has portrayed. “He’s always kind of managing crazy and absurd circumstances,” says Pink. “Whether it’s ‘High Fidelity’ where he’s got all those things hammering him from all sides; ‘Grosse Pointe Blank’ obviously people are trying to kill him and he’s going to his high school reunion. As our protagonist, he’s always kind of a wise, he’s always looking at things in a funny and intelligent way. So him being our guide through ‘Hot Tub,’ he kind of satisfies that very well. He’s like, ‘Holy fuck, I’m in these crazy circumstances.’ He’s always been brilliant at managing crazy circumstances and then having this really cool and darkly comic view of it.”

Earlier in the day, Craig Robinson mentioned that Cusack and Pink often came to him with entirely different advice on how to play his role. His solution was to ignore them both. “That’s good advice,” admits Pink. “It goes with the territory of knowing [John] for so long. We’re like Highlander, the warrior friends who battle throughout the centuries and know at the end there can be only one. We’ve done it so much that we have a shorthand.”

With Cusack as the guide, the next objective was to surround him with a supporting cast that would mix well and sell the longtime friendship vibe between Adam, Nick and Lou. “I think they all have a different speed and so they were able to mesh. They don’t crowd each other. These guys all have a different way of delivering their comedy. They are able to work together well and they all get laughs from different places. They all give you something different to enjoy. That’s how the dynamic of the group is created.”

Pink and co. also sprinkled in a few other familiar faces from the ‘80s, including Chevy Chase, Crispin Glover and a few surprises. In the case of Glover, besides just being a return to the ‘80s, the connections with his most iconic character from a certain classic time travel movie were unavoidable. “He had to really like us to go along with this crazy ass idea,” says Pink with a laugh. “Knowing that he has an iconic personality by virtue of having done the most famous time travel movie and all that kind of stuff, he had to weigh that and all that.”

After “Hot Tub,” Pink says his next project is up in the air, but it could be another movie with Cusack. “I’d make “Grosse Pointe Blank 2,” says Pink. “I’d love to do a sequel. I guess you could do another reunion. There was talk about it for a long time. I would do that. I would love that.”

As for other possibilities, Pink and Cusack have a number of projects at New Crime that could one day come to fruition. “We’ve had a lot of great projects over the years. There’s one that we didn’t get to make that I love still. It’s based on a book called ‘The Man Who Robbed the Pierre.’ It’s a true story about these guys in the 1970’s who went around robbing all of the five star hotels in New York. And the reason no one knows about it is the association of hotels kept it very quiet because it would have killed tourism in New York. They robbed the Pierre on New Year’s Eve in ’72 and supposedly Nixon was staying there that night. They would wear outrageous costumes and then if anyone identified them they would say, ‘He was wearing platform shoes and a velvet suit.’ There was $750,000 in cash of the Republican National Committee’s money in cash in the Pierre safe that night and they stole it.”

But the dream project for Pink would be a crack at the wild world of Hunter S. Thompson. “John and I co-directed the American stage premiere of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.’ We revised our own adaptation of it and it ran in Chicago for a couple of months when we had our theater company together. I love Johnny Depp and Terry Gilliam’s version, but we want to do our own version. ‘Fear and Loathing in Elko’ is also a great article that Hunter S. Thompson wrote. I think there’s a Hunter S. Thompson movie in us too. I still think that we have something to offer.”

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