Brent Butt said he was aiming for “gritty” rather than “slapstick” when he wrote the script for his first movie, a comic thriller.
Never mind that his character, hap- less amateur detective Leo Falloon, appears with a luggage stand stuck to his backside in the movie trailer — Butt still insists there will be no scenes “of anyone falling over ladders back- wards” in No Clue, which is pegged for a March 7 release.
“There will be things in the movie that happen to be funny, but this is a dark and gritty thriller. I get into ac- tual danger. I get strangled and beaten up,” said Butt, who didn’t want to play “zany or wacky,” like Don Knotts in the 1966 classic, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.
He believes his Canadian-made film is more in the vein of the Coen brothers’ Fargo or Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, combining comic overtones with escalating tension. “I’ve always liked The Thin Man series because (it’s) actual murder mysteries that happen to be funny,” said Butt.
The comedian who’s best known for his Corner Gas TV series is on a cross- country movie-promotion/standup comedy tour that hits Red Deer’s Memorial Centre on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
His Almost a Movie Star Tour will bring new and some older material to the stage, since that’s what fans like and have come to expect, said Butt. He won’t specify what topics will factor in- to the show because his conversational standup routines fluctuate, and he doesn’t want audience members waiting around for jokes that don’t happen.
While his movie trailer will be shown on a big screen at the Memorial Centre, audience members shouldn’t expect his film experiences to come up, since Butt doesn’t find filmmaking to be an overly hilarious process. “When you’re making a movie, you have to have your head down . . . . You have a short block of 20 days (for the shooting), so while there are a lot of laughs, you have to get to work.”
Luckily he found his co-stars in No Clue, U.S. actors Amy Smart (Varsity Blues) and David Koechner (Anchor- man 2), easy to work with.
Smart portrays Kyra, the femme fatale who walks into the wrong office and mistakenly recruits Leo, an advertising salesman, to help find her missing brother. “There was a really good chemistry between us,” said
Butt, who noted Smart’s character exudes the kind of sexually that would make Leo — who usually has no higher aspiration than getting home for dinner — pretend to be a detective and follow her into danger.
Butt also praised Koechner for being super funny in his scenes as Leo’s best friend, Ernie.
Koechner is best known for playing obnoxious outside salesperson Todd Packer in The Office TV series, and Champ Kind in the Anchorman films. In fact, he was filming Anchorman 2 at about the same time he took on the Ernie role, so Butt is grateful the shooting schedules did not conflict.
No Clue’s schleppy hero, Leo, is portrayed by the 47-year-old Saskatchewan native as an affable underachiever. Butt said, “He’s a good guy, and his heart’s in the right place, but he’s pretty complacent. He lives a lower middle-class life and likes it because he doesn’t have to work too hard….”
Leo would never have opted to help Kyra, if he knew what he was getting into, said Butt, who admitted that the movie required more acting of him than any of his previous projects.
“I’m dealing with situations, here, where I’m (supposed to be) really terrified and in trouble — where my life is really on the line.”
Butt said he tried to act without appearing to be acting — something he believes he accomplished by focusing really hard on what his co-stars were saying, then reacting to it.
“I try to feel the situation. Once people see you are acting, it’s not working.”
The comedian, who lives in Vancouver with his wife, actor Nancy Robertson, said he is looking forward to his movie opening across Canada. “It’ll be a pretty wide release for a Canadian independent film. It’ll open in 20 to 30 larger markets,” with the potential to expand into smaller ones, depending on the audience reception.
In the meantime, Butt isn’t adverse to doing another television series. He said he’s “fleshing out” a new TV script: “I have an idea I’m pretty excited about . . . hopefully, someday I will sell it to somebody.”