Interview with Kevin Hart and Regina Hall, the co-stars of About Last Night
This Valentine’s Day the remake of the classic romantic comedy, About Last Night descends on theaters. The film, from director Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine), is more of a reimagining of the 1986 and actually has more in common with the David Mamet play Sexual Perversity in Chicago on which both films are based. The new contemporary version two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom as they try to carve out their own unique space in the world of dating.
The cast is headed by Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant, who play Danny and Debbie, a couple brought together on a blind double date with their best friends, Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall), who are on their all-important post-coital second date. The film then follows all four as they navigate through the rocky terrain of the contemporary world of dating and through the sometimes painful life-cycle of a relationship.
Stars Kevin Hart and Regina Hall sat down with a few Detroit-area film writers to discuss just how difficult it is to be funny, Kevin’s busy schedule, the modern relationship, and how liberating it is to make an R-rated comedy. What follows is a transcript of that discussion.
Is this the first time either of you has done a remake?
KEVIN HART: I don’t think I’ve ever done one. No, I’ve never done one.
REGINA HALL: I did The Honeymooners (2005). We opened at $79 million domestically in one city. I think it was Detroit. Thank you, Detroit.
HART: No, that is not true Regina. Don’t lie to these people.
HALL: Oh okay, I don’t know. Maybe my numbers are off. Maybe it’s $78 million. I can’t be exact, it’s been some years.
Was there anything specific that attracted you to these particular roles?
HART: It gave me a chance to be a grown man on camera. This is the first time you get a chance to see me interact with a woman and [show] levels of emotion from anger….
HALL: It’s like I popped Kevin’s acting cherry.
HART: Well, you know Regina, that doesn’t mean I was a virgin.
HALL: I did it. I popped your cherry.
HART: Fine Regina. You popped my cherry. I just can’t [argue] with Regina….
HALL: Just an observation.
HART: She’s just playing around. [But], this is an adult role for me. It’s a chance for me to be seen in a different light. I love the fact that I got to show levels within my character. At the end of the day, that’s what you want. You want to always challenge yourself and show growth as an actor (gestures to Hall) and an actress. I think we both did [that] in these particular roles.
You talked about the layers in the film, did it cause you in any way to look at yourself differently or your craft overall?
HALL: I had so much fun making this movie. I can’t say I did a whole bunch of introspection. I’d come to work with Kevin and I’d just have fun. I think I kind of realized when I read [the script] that Leslye Headland wrote [that because] she is such a great writer, so much was there on the paper already. Then I’m working opposite Kevin and Joy Bryant, who was amazing. I just love here. She’s the kind of person I’d be friends with in real life. So, I had fun going to work, and it was a fun challenge as opposed to a heavy or scary or dark one. It was a fun one.
HART: That is true. That is very true.
What’s it like going into an R-Rated comedy?
HART: It’s fun. You get to be filthy. You get to cuss. You get to be okay.
You get you be Kevin. (Everyone laughs)
HART: I get to be myself. It’s like someone taking off the leash for a change. Not to say that all R-rated movies are better than the PG movies because PG movies definitely serve a huge purpose. Coming off the success of Ride Along, which is a movie that [all ages] can go see…this is why the success level can vary. But…when you make an adult comedy, you want to be different, you want to be edgy. You want people to walk out entertained and at the same time be able to relate to a real point of view. A real perspective on what the problems are that couples go through. I think this movie does a good job of showing you that, in two ways. From Danny and Debbie’s relationship to Bernie and Joan, you’re looking at two completely different perspectives of a relationship. But they’re all going to the same place, which is eventually a place of love. But how they get there is so different, and so complex. You know, the R-rating helped because….
HALL: Well, when men are alone, you are all clearly talk R-rated.
HART: That is true.
Oh, I’m sure ladies never have those conversations.
HALL: Yeah, we have some too but….
HART: I heard Regina talking about some guy’s dick the other day. I don’t know what she said.
Well, piggybacking on that, this film is raunchier than the original, would you say that that’s because of the modern…
HALL: Well, the play was pretty raunchy.
HALL: The original About Last Night was off David Mamet’s play – Sexual Perversity in Chicago. He’s that kind of playwright. And a woman wrote this [version], which is why I think I liked the female characters. I appreciated that they were unapologetic about being independent and sexually liberated. I thought the raunchy was not gratuitous. I thought it was just [about] those people and how they interacted and what happened in their lives. I felt there was a lot of sex. But the sex was always between the same two people, there wasn’t a lot of sleeping around, although Bernie encouraged it.
HART: Yeah, I tried to.
HALL: I still felt like all of the characters were smart. The women were career women. Bernie was a lot of fun, but I think the important thing for us was to make sure that [for] all of these characters, especially Bernie and Joan, because they were comedic, that there was a humanity that subsided in all the scenes so that you could see that they were flawed. But aren’t we all?
HART: It was grounded. With anything that you do, it’s very easy to be funny. As hard as people may think it is, being funny is not that hard.
Well, says you Kevin Hart.
HART: I’m saying [that] you can write funny. In other words, you have funny writers that can write it and the actor’s job is to deliver. You look at Robert De Niro. Robert De Niro isn’t necessarily a comedian, but you can’t tell me that in Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers that [he] wasn’t hilarious. In Silver Linings Playbook, Robert De Niro was hilarious.
HALL: Yeah, but you’re talking about [one] of the greatest actors….
HART: I’m saying achieving what’s on the page is one thing. [The script can say] Bernie and Joan go out and Bernie takes a sh*t in the corner and then it’s ew, crazy, crazy, crazy. But we wanted to make sure our characters were grounded. Because the more real they are, the easier it is to relate to them.
HALL: And you have to want to go on the journey with them. So that when they do end up together, you care.
How much was actually written on the page and how much was improvisation?
HART: What was on the page was solid. [Leslye Headland] turned in a very good script. The words on the page were there, but you can’t use me and not allow me to improv. That’s cheating yourself of what I do.
HART: All the fighting scenes…and every scene that you see that ends up in a fight…that was all improv.
When you hire a comedian, you know going into it that there’s going to be considerable improvisation, how much leeway is there before everyone else has to respond and catch up?
HART: Regina did more than respond. She didn’t have to catch up. She was up front. I felt like this was more of a coming out party for Regina than myself.
HALL: Well, comedically. But for you (gestures to Hart) I thought we saw a different side of Kevin Hart, a lot of vulnerability. We saw a lot more of a serious side of Kevin’s acting. That’s going to launch a whole different set of opportunities, not in terms of what they’re going to give you but in terms of what people are going to know you can do. So what they’re able to write for you and what you’re able to show. I felt that in this, it felt a lot more [like a] leading man. Even though you’re the lead in all your movies, to see you in a relationship to a woman was different and to see you vulnerable…actually, one of my favorite scenes was with Kevin and Mike. I loved seeing two men vulnerable. I loved seeing that scene with him where he opens up and he’s like “I’m Bernie, man” and you still felt [there] was a glimpse of the swinging single Bernie, but a new man [had] emerged from that emotionally. That was very well done.
What are your thoughts on producers like William Packer repeatedly using the same actors again and again?
HALL: I think it’s done quite a bit.
HART: I think right now you have to understand that finding chemistry on camera is very important. I’m a firm believer that if it’s not broke you don’t try to fix it…. Will Packer understands me. He understands how I work. He understands my comedian’s timing.
HALL: [Packer] wants people to see how much [Kevin] can do. I think what’s really important as Will and Kevin are creating their own list of movies that they do, [is that] they also have to be conscious…of someone who can play opposite Kevin.
HALL: When they need to show him doing different things. If that happens to be a women, who does it twice, then thank God it’s me. You have to be conscious of who can keep up with him. Because you don’t want to mute what he has to offer so that Kevin has to carry every single moment. You need to see his levels [and] his vulnerability.
HART: And another thing, even me and Michael [Ealy]….
HALL: I love you and Michael together.
HART: In Think Like a Man, me and Michael have great chemistry. We play opposite friends very well. If you look at us in Think Like a Man and you look at us in About Last Night, it’s two different tones; two completely different tones of our friendship and how we are. In this one, I’m an asshole…. In the other one, I’m a battered man. In this one, I’m battering women. I’ve come full circle in a completely different way. I love how Michael gets my humor. It’s hard for another man to be around another man in a scene and I’m doing the punch lines. It takes a special man to be a straight guy. I take my hat off to Ice Cube in Ride Along, because I don’t have to get off the way I got off. If you’ve got a person who wants to challenge everything, or feels that they need to do what you do, those scenes don’t become scenes anymore. Your character isn’t balanced in the story. Michael understands me and I understand Michael. I think when you get that dynamic, hence me and Regina, the chemistry that we have, you don’t let that go. That’s like having a sure bet and not wanting to place it. I think Will Packer definitely realizes that and he’s not going to let us go.
Kevin, you’ve had three movies stacked up on top of each other, are you going to take a little break?
HART: I’ll sleep when I die. Here’s what I don’t understand, and I’ve said this before….
Well, you’re a comic, so you’re not afraid of working.
HART: No, it’s not just that. Why do you bust your ass to get to a successful place to just have to take a break? I don’t understand that. It doesn’t make sense to me. That really is the biggest contradiction of all. I put eighteen years into this craft of entertainment and now I get to a place where I’m getting my just due and people are demanding to see me and people want to work with me, I’m going to turn that down because now I say I’ve done too much? What the f**k have I done? I haven’t done anything compared to those who have done things before me.
C’mon you did Soul Plane. (Everyone laughs.)
HART: No, I’m not taking a break. I’m about to do another movie with Will Ferrell. Me and Seth Rogan got one that’s in works right now as well. My TV show is going into season four. I’ve got to take some time off to build up my next hour of stand up and then I’m going to go on tour again. Do another stand up special; then I’ll go do some more movies.
The end of About Last Night was a little predictable in that everyone’s relationship appeared to work out….
HART: Joy and Michael didn’t work out. They took a long walk.
HALL: It’s tonally different, but it’s still a romantic comedy. I mean, I’m a girl [and] I still go to see my happy ending. You know what I mean? I’m broken up in real life, I can go home and see that when it don’t work out. I’ve mastered that scene.
HART: Joy and Michael are left in the air though. He puts his arm back out, in other words this is how we started…. It’s them trying to rebuild and do what they attempted to do in the first place. They leave it all as just a simple walk in the park. Of course, you automatically assume that they’re happy. But they aren’t, they didn’t come to the party. They didn’t come see us. They didn’t say, hey we’re happy and we’re doing good. You have to figure out where that couple’s relationship goes. In real life, that’s normally the couple that falls off.
Did you have a favorite scene or a really memorable experience making the film?
HART: All the sex scenes for me.
See Kevin Hart and Regina Hall in About Last Night everywhere starting February 14th!