Steve Oedekerk talks with EW Online about his digit-ally produced epic 'Thumb Wars,' which is premiering on UPN

By Dan Snierson
Updated May 18, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Thumb Wars

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After tackling such big-ticket movies as ”Patch Adams,” ”The Nutty Professor,” and ”Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” writer-director Steve Oedekerk has been sitting around lately twiddling his thumbs — literally. You can see the result of his hand-i-work Tuesday, May 18, when ”Thumb Wars,” a finger-friendly spoof of ”Star Wars,” airs on UPN at 9:30p.m.

EW: First question — Why thumbs?
Steve Oedekerk: That?s the magic of the whole thing. I was talking to a producer who works with me, Paul Marshall, and I looked at my thumb and said — this is sad but true — ”That really makes a nice shot. We gotta do something with thumbs.” It was that arbitrary. But I didn?t just want to draw faces on thumbs. I wanted a low-tech meets high-tech production.

So do you guys take casting pretty seriously?
Paul is getting very strict now. At one point he said, ”Let me see your thumb,” and I held it up and he said, ”How far backward can you bend it?” and I tried and he said (dismissively) ”Whatever.” So I guess I didn’t even live up to the really strict thumb guidelines that we need. We?re looking for better thumbs than mine.

There’s been so much secrecy about the plot of the ”Star Wars” movie. Are you fighting off Internet leaks, too?
There are some characters outside my house following me around in shades — I think they?re government guys — so everyone?s really trying to get to the bottom of what the true ”Thumb Wars” story is. But I’ve still kept it pretty secret.

How about a hint?
It involves an evil guy who is called Black Helmet Man, and it’s about how the evil Thumbpire created a dangerous big weapon thing that needs to be destroyed.

Does Black Helmet Man wear a black Papermate cap on his head?
No, but that’s a great idea. I might have to use that. He?s actually a thimble head. Oh, and the thumb sabers are pretty great. The thumbnail glows and then grows really long and then the thumbs sort of bend over and fight with their numbails and make their own ”whoosh whish” sounds themselves. It?s pretty epic. There’s also Princess Bunhead, whose hair is literally cinnamon buns on her head.

That can get expensive — were you able to keep the budget under $100 million?
We came in at one million dollars lower than the actual ”Star Wars” and I?m feeling really good about that, because it shows that I can button things up a little tighter than Lucas.

You’re a well-respected Hollywood writer-director. What do your agents have to say about all this thumb stuff?
I hear a lot of, ”What do you mean, thumbs?” And then I?ll explain it, and they’ll go, ”What do you mean, thumbs?” We started out as a lark, just doing these little thumb trailers, and we were laughing, saying, ”This is half entertaining and half disturbing — we have to do something with this.” Now it?s turning into this big thing and everyone wants to do some version of a thumb thing or a thumb show. The thumbs are coming now and they can?t be stopped.

Any future thumb projects?
We’re coming out with ”Thumbtanic” next. Dipping back into the past will be fun: Who wouldn?t want to see ”The Thumb, the Bad, and the Ugly?” We’re also working on a Thumbtales children’s line of videos: ”Thumbdarella” and ”Jack and the Thumbstalk.” It?s going to be quite a little thumb adventure the next year and a half.

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Thumb Wars

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