Steve Coogan, Elisabeth Shue, and David Arquette talk about their high-school-set comedy, likely to remain the fest's biggest acquisition
By the eighth day of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, director Andrew Fleming’s comedy Hamlet 2 remained the biggest acquisition, selling to Focus Features for $10 million. The comedy revolves around a high-school drama teacher (Steve Coogan) who stages a sequel to Shakespeare’s play in order to save his department from budget cuts.
On the afternoon before the film’s premiere, EW.com chatted with Coogan and his fellow cast members David Arquette and Elisabeth Shue at EW’s photo studio. (Sadly, Hamlet 2 costar Catherine Keener did not make the trip to Sundance this year.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Are you excited for tonight’s premiere?
DAVID ARQUETTE: I haven’t seen it yet, so I’m nervous. It seems like people have been enjoying it, though.
And you play…?
ARQUETTE: I play Gary. I’m the guy who lives at [Steve Coogan and Catherine Keener’s] house. They only let me live there because I have a car. They don’t have a car. I drive them everywhere. I think I’m supposed to be a trainer in it. I’m very fitness-oriented, but I don’t have any actual clients. I have a small part. I only have about 10 lines in it. And I think one of my scenes got cut, too. I was sad. I play a dumb guy in it. Which I tend to do well.
Well, you’re playing against type.
ARQUETTE: I hope so. [Laughs] Or maybe I’m just dumb.
[Arquette gets called to get his picture taken. Elisabeth Shue steps up.]
Hello. Are you enjoying Sundance?
ELISABETH SHUE: It’s really fun to be back. The most moving time I’ve had at Sundance was two years ago because Davis [Guggenheim, Shue’s husband] premiered An Inconvenient Truth [which he directed] here. That will go down as the most meaningful trip to Sundance. I remember the first screening of An Inconvenient Truth, they gave it a standing ovation. I was crying so much. It still makes me cry thinking of it.
It’ll be hard to measure up to that ever again.
SHUE: I know, it’ll never measure up to that, but it doesn’t have to. I love this movie, actually. It’s really funny. Unique and different. And I just think Steve is a brilliant comedian. I want to do another comedy — and with him. [She points to Coogan, who’s been sitting nearby, ostensibly minding his own business.] I want him to write me a movie where we can be lovers. [Laughs]
[To Coogan] Would you like to join our conversation?
SHUE: Don’t you think he’s hot?
He’s not bad.
STEVE COOGAN: I’m not too pale for a Brit.
SHUE: With his new haircut! He’s got really funny hair in the movie.
COOGAN: It’s kind of ’80s: long, wavy. I had this long, fair hair. It was dyed and bleached and straightened. And then it got so brittle I just had to get rid of it all.
NEXT PAGE: ”I was in the foreground of a herpes commercial! The herpes commercial was all about me. And I’ve had a cold sore in real life.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: [To Shue] How did you like working with the great Steve Coogan?
ELISABETH SHUE: Ah…. It was really incredible. It’s so easy.
STEVE COOGAN: We had great chemistry.
SHUE: We did.
COOGAN: We still have great chemistry.
SHUE: I want him.
COOGAN: I want her.
Well, don’t let me stand in the way. [To Coogan] So, what about working with the wonderful Elisabeth Shue?
COOGAN: It was tremendous and stupendous and chemically…
SHUE: He plays this has-been actor whose most important role was being in the background of a herpes commercial.
COOGAN: I was in the foreground of a herpes commercial! The herpes commercial was all about me. And I’ve had a cold sore in real life. Carry on.
SHUE: And then, I play myself, Elisabeth Shue. I’ve quit the business and I’ve gone to Tucson, Ariz., to become a nurse. He comes into the fertility clinic where I work and he’s so excited to see me, because he’s a great lover of film and he thinks I’m just so wonderful.
COOGAN: I’m obsessed with Elisabeth Shue. I metaphorically and literally kiss her ass. And I invite her to my school to give a talk. It’s very exciting. She says some very explicit things. I won’t tell you what they are. But they’re shocking for fans of Elisabeth Shue.
You play yourself — or a version of yourself?
SHUE: It was definitely a version of myself. The first day, I was really self-conscious and nervous because I didn’t know anybody. There were no rehearsals so I just showed up and started shooting. But Steve made me feel comfortable because he was so excited to see me in the scene that it just made me laugh every single time. [She laughs just talking about it] I felt like I understood the version I was supposed to play once he started to react to me.
[To Coogan] And your character — was he fun to play?
COOGAN: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I play kind of a heroic fool whose heart’s in the right place, but he’s a bit of a jackass and he tries to save the drama department at his school by writing a sequel to Hamlet.
SHUE: It’s a musical!
COOGAN: It’s a happy version. He figures that the original Hamlet — Hamlet 1 — it’s a bit depressing when everyone dies at the end. So he wants he want to do a more uplifting, positive, Hollywood version.
SHUE: Jesus is in it. He comes in a time machine.
COOGAN: Jesus Christ. And Albert Einstein. He travels through time and meets a bunch of people.
Wow, so it’s like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?
COOGAN: It is like that, except that…it doesn’t star Keanu Reeves.
How does it feel to be at Sundance with a comedy?
COOGAN: Great. [At film festivals, there tends to be a lot of] interesting, quirky, odd, individualistic, kind of esoteric films that make you sad. Ours is a film that makes you laugh. It’s not a film that makes you think. But if you want to think, you can. It’s a kind of optional-thinking movie. You don’t have to think too much.
SHUE: Not at all.
COOGAN: Not at all, actually, no.