In I Am Chris Farley, viewers are treated to Farley’s most hilarious sketches. One of my faves is his “Saturday Night Live” character Matt Foley, the pathetic motivational speaker who bursts into rage, lives in a van down by the river and constantly tries to pull his pants up, then falls face first, breaking everything he hits on the way down. Another favorite “SNL” skit was his Chippendales dancer who out-danced the fit and trained dancer Patrick Swayze. Farleys dancing skill is reminiscent of Jackie Gleasons and much of his physicality is likened to John Belushi, Farleys idol.
“SNL” creator Lorne Michaels tells how the comic refused to break his falls even after Michaels advised him to, like Chevy Chase did. Sadness is all over Michaels face when he describes Farley as infuriatingly talented. He refers to Farleys character, the hopelessly insecure talk show host, as the purist Chris.
In addition to Michaels, the cast includes Bob Odenkirk, David Spade, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Christina Applegate, Dan Aykroyd, Tom Arnold, Bo Derek, Bob Saget, Molly Shannon, and Farley’s brothers Kevin, John, Tom, and sister Barbara.
It seems everyone who knew Chris Farley loved him. He got laughs for his wild antics in the real world, too. He’s known for doing anything including mooning people and even pulling his penis out if dared to.
Farley died 18 years ago on Dec. 18, 1997 from an overdose of morphine and cocaine. He had gone to rehabs for obesity and substance abuse 17 times but was never able to lose weight or kick drugs and alcohol.
Filmmakers Brent Hodge and Derik Murray decided to focus on the joy that Farley brought to the world, and they spoke with TheBlot Magazine’s Dorri Olds about the film.
How did this film come about? Did you approach the Farley family or did they come to you?
Derik Murray: Our company Network Entertainment works with families and estates often. We focus on creating iconic films about iconic people. We reached out through David Reader, who works with Kevin [Farley] and David Spade. David set up a meeting with Kevin so we could discuss the possibility of creating a legacy documentary about Chris Farley.
The family was not in the marketplace to do a film or even thinking that a film must be made. It was really a scenario where Brent and I both expressed our excitement, and that we felt it was time to do a film on Chris Farley. There had never been a film that celebrated his genius, and we felt the time was now. Over a couple of meetings with Kevin, we built up some trust and finally he said, OK, boys, come on out to Madison [Wis.].
Brent Hodge: We had such an incredible cast: Mike Myers, Lorne Michaels, David Spade, Adam Sandler all these guys that really knew Chris Farley. We wanted to go to the people that knew him best and have them tell the story.
Did you ever feel moved to tears during the interviews for the film?
BH: Oh, yeah, I cried every interview. As they told these stories after 18 years, theyd start to relive it again. Then theyd come back to the present, realize were not back in the ’90s and Chris isnt with us anymore, which was really hard for everyone.
This years documentaries Amy and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck were equal parts, if not more, about struggles with addiction. Would you agree that yours focused more on honoring Farleys comedic talent?
DM: With Amy, she really had a short career. That movie was about the couple of years when she produced her two albums and the struggles that she had during that short period. As for Kurt, he was a loner. There werent a lot of folks in his life that were part of that movie, not friends or band members. The movie was told in that confined space.
In our case, we went back to Madison. We really wanted to be back there and be where Chris was when he was in the backyard playing with his brothers. We take you to the summer camp he went to, the high school, the university he went to, Second City [improv troupe] where he used to be a comic.
We told those 33 years of Chriss life, and in that sense, we told a much bigger, broader story. Our story is about a comedic genius and that, too, is the defining difference. Our film shows who he was, this incredible guy you would love to have as your friend. A guy that would love you to death, would bear-hug you. Thats the person we told you about.
Are there extras on the “I Am Chris Farley” DVD?
DM: Yes, we focused on Chris’ family members and included a wonderful section called, The Farley brothers and sister. We compiled many of the stories they told us that were not in the film.
BH: Theres at least one naked story for every single person. Either Chris took his shirt off, pants off or got naked. It was like inside jokes between them.
Watch the trailer:
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.