There’s Something About Mary showed moviegoers in 1998 just how funny seminal fluid could be. But after setting the bar so high for low comedy, Ben Stiller hasn’t starred in an R-rated movie since 2001, and the writing-directing Farrelly brothers have stayed PG or PG-13 since 2000’s Me, Myself & Irene. Now they’re all back in restricted territory with a remake of the classic The Heartbreak Kid, and it feels good. ”There is something really freeing about it,” says Stiller. ”When you do a lot of movies that are PG-13, you get used to having to censor yourself.”
Stiller was a big fan of Elaine May’s 1972 comedy, in which Charles Grodin plays a young groom named Lenny Cantrow who pursues a spoiled coed (Cybill Shepherd) while on his own honeymoon. But he never thought it should be remade until he heard the Farrellys’ raucous take, complete with nymphomaniacal, slap-happy sex scenes and a foulmouthed, womanizing father played by his own dad, Jerry. ”I could see it being very different from the original,” he says, ”instead of trying to go for what the original was, which never works in remakes.” The new version also flips the conceit: While Grodin spurned a plainer wife for a hot blonde, the new version makes Stiller’s character (now Eddie Cantrow) more sympathetic, ditching his sexy, batty new wife (The Comeback‘s Malin Akerman) for a lovable, corn-fed gal (Michelle Monaghan). ”We thought the original was a little mean-spirited, in that he traded up on his wife, he went for the bombshell,” says Bobby Farrelly. ”We thought, If we redo that, we’re gonna lose women. Who is he to trade up?”
To create the loopy bride character, the Farrellys and their co-writers swapped tales of their own ”craziest, nuttiest” dates, says Farrelly, and then they would ”prod each other to take it to the next level.” Audiences will certainly leave wondering who inspired Akerman’s two comically acrobatic and vocal sex scenes, in which Stiller looks like he’s holding on for dear life. As outlandish as those shoots were, they were still easier for Stiller than his solo turn in Mary‘s famous hair-gel-generating moment. ”That was probably the weirdest and most uncomfortable, because therewas no direction. They just set up the camera and shouted ‘Action!’ from 30 feet away. This time, they’d shout out things for her to say while we were doing it.” Anything for an R.