When one thinks of a good old high school fisticuffs film, immature football jocks, cheerleaders or wet behind the ears freshmen come to mind. But not with Fist Fight. Two teachers, Mr. Strickland and Mr.Campbell, hilariously played by Ice Cube and Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,) is putting a spin on physical confrontation, preparing for an epic showdown after school at 3:00pm.
Directed by Richie Keen (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Crocodile Tears,) who makes his directorial debut, showcases two teachers who couldn’t be more different; one mild mannered and soft spoken and the other, hot headed and violent with a sketchy past, who’ll face off in the parking lot after one gets booted from the school. The last day of school is filled with unforgiving senior pranks, pathological co-workers and an incompetent sports Coach Crawford, played by Tracy Morgan, his first feature film since his accident.
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But Fist Fight is more than just a battle of physical strength, as Keen imparts salient messages of the public school system, the importance on teachers and standing up for yourself, even in the most against-all-odds fashion.
The Source caught up with Day and Keen during their Chicago press stop as they talked all things Fist Fight and how to stand up to bullying. – Angela Wilson
The Source: Congratulations Richie as Fist Fight is your directorial debut! Was there any pressure?
Richie: Of course! For several reasons; I ‘ve been working with Charlie for years on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and it felt like I really wanted to deliver for Charlie, first and foremost. He’s the leading role in this movie so it was a lot of pressure for me there because I wanted my star to be taken cared of.
And I had a specific take on the movie and I wanted to make sure I delivered what I said I would and most importantly delivered on the title of the film. So I felt a lot of pressure to make this fight dynamic, unexpected and epic. But I’m very happy with how it all came together.
Take me back to the beginning; how did the project come about and how did you get involved with the film?
Charlie: We (Richie and I) both got involved at the same times in different ways. I was looking for new material to do in the off season of Sunny and this script came up and the second I read it I knew I wanted to be apart of this.
Richie also read it but I hadn’t known he had read it and it wasn’t until after I was attached, and even after Ice Cube was attached, that Richie called me. And he sent me a trailer of the movie, clips of me from other movies and it had such a fun old school movie feel to it, like Ferris Bueller or any of those high school movies, so that it made it very easy for me. And when he started talking to the studio it all just came together.
Any challenges on set?
Richie: The challenges were I wasn’t willing to compromise on the things that I wanted. If we got behind, I was being encouraged to not take a dynamic shot that would take time, I just said too bad, I’m getting it.
Shooting the fight with nearly a thousand people was the biggest thing I’ve ever done and making sure it looked and felt real was incredibly challenging. There’s a lot of physical stuff in the movie; I shot the fight over 8 days! Eight days out of 40 we spent on the fight and the reactions of the fight, inside and outside- I mean these guys tried to get what I needed.
Charlie, could you identify with your character Andy in anyway?
Charlie: Yeah- I identified to both sides of him. There is a piece of me that can be very soft spoken, reasonable very allergic to confrontation, trying to avoid it if I can then there’s a piece of me, growing up that would always stand up to a bully. That no matter what you do I’m going to keep getting up and that’s going to just drive you crazy. And there’s a piece of me in life that no matter what comes at me I find a way to get back up and just keep going and I think that’s why I’m in this position today.
I love how the movie also focuses on the dynamics of the work place! Any funny co-workers stories?
Richie: I can tell stories about all the co-workers in this movie! When you hire Tracy Morgan to do the first movie he’s done since his accident- that guy is the mayor. He will walk around in a tank top when he’s done filming and no matter how much work you have to do he’ll tell you stories- even the same stories, and you don’t care because he’s just so funny!
Charlie: When you do a movie or a television show you employ hundreds of people and over the 12 years of doing Sunny, I feel like I met and worked with every personality under the sun- good, bad or otherwise. That’s something anybody can relate to; you got that person in the office that won’t stop telling you the stories you don’t want to hear, or someone who you think is certifiably insane and I don’t know why they don’t fire them!
The title is Fist Fight, but the story line does inevitable showcase bullying. What advice would you give to someone dealing bullying?
Charlie: You got to believe in yourself and keep standing up for yourself and you have to get back up, constantly get back up. If they knock you down emotionally, find a way to get back up, because if you stay down, they win. And that’s what a bully wants, they want to put you down.
Try to avoid physical violence by all means, but don’t let them ruin your self-worth. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and know that no one can ever get inside of you. They can bash the outside of you, they can throw insults at you but the inside of you, that’s yours.
Richie: I’m not going to beat that answer. *laughs*
Fist Fight punches it’s way to theaters nationwide on Friday, February 17.