The troubles behind  ''Team America: World Police'' -- Trey Parker and Matt Stone discuss the many strings attached to their new film

By Gillian Flynn
Updated October 22, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Behold puppet love: hot, shiny, and genital-free! On a big screen in an L.A. soundstage, Gary and Lisa, the marionette heroes of Team America: World Police, are hitting the sheets. And walls, and floor. It’s 11 days until the movie, the latest from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, debuts. Last night, the filmmakers presented Team America to the MPAA for yet another inspection — they need an R rating — but it was slapped again with an NC-17 on account of the plasticized sex scene. It’s the latest in a series of snafus that have kept the two working nonstop since May. Of course, the biggest headaches were caused by their bestringed stars. These marionettes aren’t as easy as they look.

Outside the studio, director Parker, 35, and his cowriter, Stone, 33, grab a bit of fresh air and try not to weep. Parker has just snipped some more of the offending puppet humping. He looks exhausted and sore, like maybe even his hair hurts. Stone is equally worn: ”I want this movie to be done so bad. It’s all I think about every second of every day: F— this movie, I wanna go home.”

The ”f— this movie” part is being echoed by not just a few folks. The film features Team America agents kicking ass incompetently all over the globe as they try to take down North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his terrorist friends. That prompted some snipes from the right that the movie is making light of the war on terror. On the other hand, the film also ridicules liberal celebrity activists — in the movie, under the banner of the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.), they try to destroy Team America. Thus, puppet likenesses of Janeane Garofalo, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, and others are snuffed in ludicrously violent ways. Parker and Stone have already received an angry letter from Sean Penn, who was not so much peeved for being an on-screen punchline as for an interview in which they mocked P. Diddy’s ”Vote or Die!” campaign — and Stone encouraged uninformed citizens to sit out Nov. 2.

Other reasons to be tense: Parker and Stone are facing crazy-high expectations for this follow-up to their 1999 South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (for which Parker received a songwriting Oscar nod). Oh yeah, and Parker, Stone, and their fellow producer, Scott Rudin, are basically doing the film for free. They gave up their collective $8 million or so in up-front fees when Paramount initially balked at funding the first-ever R-rated marionette film. Then they forfeited most of their back-end deals after the budget jumped from about $25 million to $30 million due to complications of shooting with those stinking puppets. In conclusion: ”Making Team America was just not that fun,” Parker says. ”It was, most of the time, horrific.” Here Parker and Stone reflect on MPAA miseries, overpuffed actors, politics, and Jerry Bruckheimer.

EW Ultimately you got the R rating for Team America, but you had to know the MPAA was going to have problems with that sex scene . . .

Team America: World Police

  • Movie
  • R
  • 98 minutes
  • Trey Parker
  • Matt Stone