Ghost Town: Ricky Gervais Interview
Can you believe it? It's been three years since we last sat down in The Office of Ricky Gervais. We were long overdue for a check up, so we made an appointment with Ricky and asked him about his new film Ghost Town, in which he plays a dentist who can see ghosts. He talked to us about teeth, sweet dreams and who he'd interview if he could see dead people.
LOVEFiLM: In Ghost Town you play a dentist, does it make going to the dentist any easier?
Ricky Gervais: Well luckily I only go the dentist about every 15 years. That’s my technique. Just to wake up with raging toothache and go, “Maybe I should have gone to the dentist a bit more often”. I was put off when I was about five. I had loads of fillings. I haven’t got ‘em anymore. The teeth fell out altogether! I was at a junket like this in Toronto where a journalist put her hand up and said, “I love the gag in the film that you play a dentist, but you wear those awful teeth”.
LF: No way!
RG: Greg Kinnear went, “Oh God”. I said, “Sorry? Well, no, they’re my real teeth”. She didn’t go, “Sorry!”, she went, “Really?”. Unbeilievable! She couldn’t believe that I’d be in a film with these teeth!
LF: You looked very professional doing the dentistry. Did you have a technical advisor?
RG: There was a dentist there, yeah. All I had to do was mix this thing, put the thing in and leave it. And then make it look like the thing had stuck. So it wasn’t too technical. I really didn’t like handling the syringe. It really gave me the creeps. I’m not phobic, but it makes me feel a little bit funny, just a needle. I kept putting the cap on really carefully, making sure no one left it lying around. That’s was just a... I do all my own stunts! Like on the second day. You know they put the board down to roll the dolly along? It was only just off the ground and I fell off it and hurt my ankle. Unbelievable! I’m hardly Tom Cruise.
LF: If you could see ghosts, is there someone you’d like to meet?
RG: Laurel and Hardy. I’ve been asked that before and I’ve thought about it, and I just think it began and ends with them. I’ve never seen such chemisty. I love them. And I don’t just laugh at them, I want to hug them. And that’s why they nailed it a hundred years ago. You’ve got to be able to do that even with unsympathetic characters. You’ve got to feel for them. You’ve got to care for them a little bit. And Winston Churchill. I’d go, “Why did you say all those things? Were you having a laugh?”. I love the stuff like... Well he was just so provocative and brilliant. And drunk, which I like. He’d have a brandy, cigar, “Yeah, we’ll fight ‘em anywhere. Beaches, whatever”. But I’m afraid I don’t believe in ghosts.
LF: You’ve turned down so many films in the past, had you thought, “What I really want to do is romantic comedy”?
RG: No. I mean, I’ve been offered maybe a hundred. They weren’t all bad. I just wasn’t looking. Often I didn’t even read the script. But Ghost Town was the best script I’d read in five years and I got a funny feeling... From page one I thought, “This is me”. And for the first time ever, I saw me doing the lines. Athough “romantic comedy” makes it sound like I’m trying to be Matthew McConaughey! If it had been me taking my shirt off, taking myself seriously, it wouldn’t have happened.
LF: It’s a romantic comedy without kissing. I can’t even think of another one...
RG: Exactly. There was a kiss at the very end. I took it out. Because I thought, “Why? Does that mean they live happily ever after?” We don’t know. My favourite romantic comedy is The Apartment and Shirley MacLaine says to Jack Lemmon, “Shut up and deal!” That means they’re soul mates. That means so much more. Every Hollywood and British rom-com that comes out, they kiss at the end. You might as well go, “It’s 9:30”. It means nothing. It’s just lazy writing. What we came up with was, “It’s hurts when I smile” and “I can fix that”. I think that’s really sweet. What appealed to me about it was it’s old fashioned, like It’s A Wonderful Life or Annie Hall.
LF: Your original plan was to become a pop star, right?
RG: Well it wasn’t the original plan! It was plan number 32. The original plan was to own a sweet shop. I was about six when my mum asked me, “What do you want to do?”. There was a local shop. It was called Tom Edwards. When my mum asked, “Why?”, I said, “’Cos of all the stuff in it”. She said, “You do know you’ve got to buy all the stuff first in order to sell it?” So I went off that one. And then I went to the dentist!
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