Warning: The following article contains material that may be offensive to anyone with an iota of taste or sensitivity. At least, the Farrelly brothers hope so.
Dante drew inspiration from Beatrice. Shakespeare looked to the Dark Lady. And Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the sibling auteurs of Dumb and Dumber, had a fourth-grade pal named Rob. ”To this day, the funniest thing I ever saw was when Rob lit a fart,” says Bobby. ”I thought, ‘How come no one’s ever had that in a movie?”’
Years later, Jim Carrey similarly lit up the screen in the Farrellys’ Dumb and Dumber, which pulled in nearly $250 million worldwide. This month, the writer-directors disgust again with MGM’s Kingpin, starring Woody Harrelson as washed-up, one-handed bowling pro Roy Munson, who takes Amish tenpin phenom Ishmael (Randy Quaid) under his clipped wing. Their road to a showdown with an archrival (Bill Murray) is littered with gags about oral sex, bull semen, and the effects of cold air on breasts. ”They don’t really care if they appeal to everyone,” says Quaid. ”In fact, they’d like to not appeal to everyone.”
And yet, on a recent afternoon in an L.A. mixing studio, scraggly Peter, 38, and cherubically preppy Bobby, 37, were willingly toning down their film. The MPAA’s ratings board had threatened to bestow an R rating, citing a scene in which Munson, holding a milk bottle, tells a farmer, ”I took the liberty of milking your cow…. It took a while to get her warmed up, then pow! all at once…” As Munson takes a swig, the farmer says: ”We don’t have a cow. We have a bull.” Spit take. The Farrellys trimmed a bit; Munson still milks the bull, if not the joke.
Despite such restraint, the Farrellys affably insist that Kingpin remains true to their goal — cracking up 16-year-olds of all ages. The children of a doctor and a nurse in Cumberland, R.I., the Farrelly boys weaned themselves on TV, and their idea of a cinematic master is less Orson Welles than Don Knotts. ”To this day, I haven’t seen Citizen Kane,” says Bobby. ”And it’s funny,” Peter deadpans, ”because I know we’re compared to that kind of movie a lot.”
The brothers began collaborating in the late ’80s, after Peter had published a novel (Outside Providence), and penned 10 screenplays. The partners sold two Seinfeld episodes and six screenplays, but none made it to celluloid until D&D.
With Kingpin, the duo inherited a script by former Golden Girls producers Mort Nathan and Barry Fanaro on which they applied the Farrelly touch — or knee in the groin. (They share directing credit.) ”This script is probably better developed than Dumb and Dumber,” lauds Quaid. ”There’s more heart.” Peter even touts Kingpin as ”much more sophisticated.”
”There were opportunities to throw in a few farts and s— type things,” says Peter. ”But we thought: ‘That was Dumb and Dumber. This is more of a puke movie. We feel we’re growing.’ ”