I recently had a chance to spend a few moments with Andy Fickman, director of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. Fickman has a long career of direction in the fields of film, television, and stage. His work includes The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain with The Rock, “Liv and Maddie” on The Disney Channel, and musical productions of Heathers and Reefer Madness!. Meet me after the jump to get to know him a bit better and learn more about Mall Cop 2.
Being a gentleman, I let the other journalist on the line ask the first question. Katrina Olson-Mottahed of the Calgarymovies.com asked, “What was your biggest challenge in directing a sequel?”
Andy Fickman: I think, well, just starting with that, that it’s a sequel. That you’re stepping into somebody else’s world you didn’t help develop, the characters, or the original back story, so you want to make sure that you give the fans, the people who love the original movie, you want to make sure you’re doing a movie for them, as well as kind of its own stand alone. So I think that what was helpful was Kevin James and Todd Garner wrote and produced and created this character… you know they were my producers on it, my writers on it, and Kevin, my star, so that certainly helps keep a level of continuity. That’s always the challenge coming in to someone else’s world. It was very inviting, though I have to say, open to the very collaborative effort. And anytime we would talk about something, they were always open to it and made lots of changes to accommodate toward this version of the storytelling.
Glenn Walker: What was your favorite thing about filming in Las Vegas? And could you talk about your experience filming at Wynn Las Vegas?
Andy Fickman: This was my second opportunity to film in Vegas. I did Race to Witch Mountain with The Rock, and we shot all over Vegas and at that time we shot at Planet Hollywood, which is really at the other end of The Strip. And here, having the opportunity to shoot at Wynn where it’s typically the only kind of 5-star resort in Vegas. It’s the first time anyone was allowed to shoot there, so it was a big rush to have such a wide canvas that was untouched. So any angle you were shooting was sort of new for the audience, so that made it a lot of fun. Definitely a high energy town and because Vegas doesn’t shut down during filming for you, you’re constantly rolling with the direction of everyone around you.
Glenn Walker: Cool. I want to say that the heist scenes in Mall Cop 2 were very well done…
Andy Fickman: Thank you.
Glenn Walker: Do you have any thoughts on doing a serious heist movie in the future? And, if so, what are your influences in that area?
Andy Fickman: Yeah, I really appreciate that. We kinda kept saying we wanted it to be a heist movie in which you put Paul Blart in the middle of it and I really wanted it to be kind of like the original Pink Panther movies where you had these beautiful locations and these real sort of crimes taking place, and then you put Peter Sellers to sort of disrupt everything. And certainly, the Oceans 11 – even the original Frank Sinatra version of it – those sort of classic 1960’s heist movies really played a big part in my mind.
Glenn Walker: Very cool. I want to ask: How does directing a stage show compare to a movie or a TV series and which did you prefer and why?
Andy Fickman: You know, I love all the mediums. When I was prepping this movie, I was in New York doing my off-Broadway musical of Heathers, based on the movie, and you know, when you’re doing something on the stage, you really are very presentational in your blocking, because the audience is more or less, the camera. But you’re limited because the cameras for film and TV, I can move the cameras, and therefore I can guide where I want you to watch.
On stage, I have to move everything and sort of put it in front of you–your seat doesn’t move, your angle doesn’t move–and I gotta make sure the person on the back row in the corner has the same reaction as the person in the middle. And so, a lot of times, I think you’re maybe painting the picture a little bit broader onstage. Lots of eyeballs from different angles need to see it, whereas in the film, I can do that super close-up and if I need to show a finger pushing something that says “Do Not Touch” I can make sure it fills up an IMAX and everyone knows “Do not touch the red button!” I really love all the mediums ’cause each one’s a challenge and really, when you get a chance to work with great actors, and a fun script, it just makes going to work really easy.
Glenn Walker: Thank you.
As we were tentatively taking turns asking Andy questions, Katrina went next: “I have a question actually. Is this film (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2) geared more for children? Because a lot of the humor I felt as an adult, I found hilarious and it probably went over my kids’ heads, but I felt it was almost marketed quite heavily on Family Channel and the channels that my kids watch and they were talking about the film long before they saw it. I felt like, when I watched it, I got a lot of the humor, and my kids didn’t. The things they thought were funny were a lot different from what I found funny.”
Andy Fickman: I think we were gearing it towards a comedy that the whole family could enjoy. When I did Parental Guidance, Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marissa Tomei – three wonderful actors dealing with really kind of adult situations in terms of disconnections from your parents – and yet I had three great kids who were dealing with sort of silly kid shenanigans with their grandfather and grandmother and I tried to find a balance in that… that there would be enough things for the kids, to keep them happy, but enough things that would maybe make Mom and Dad a little weepy as well.
And The Game Plan same thing, as much as I had The Rock working with Madison Pettis as his eight-year-old daughter, we had tons of kids’ humor with the dog and everything. But I was also dealing with sort of a father and separation anxieties with a daughter he doesn’t know, and so I was hoping that it would be… adults would come away having one experience and maybe kids would come away with a different one. And I think here, we felt like there was a lot of stuff… once kids started responding so well to it, there was a lot of fun adventure for them, but then there was adult humor as well.
And I remember –going back to Pink Panther, when I was a kid, I remember watching Pink Panther, watching Peter Sellers and just laughing so hard at dumb stuff. But I don’t think I really had any clue about what the robbery was, or the crime, or how much the diamonds were worth… I didn’t know any of that stuff, but I just enjoyed Peter Sellers knocking a lighter over and catching the sofa on fire.
Glenn Walker: That two-level humor is really nice, ’cause you can watch it as a kid and then, ten years later, you’re enjoying a completely different movie.
Andy Fickman: Oh yeah! I love… I started watching them again with my son, so he could experience the same thing, and I’m laughing at stuff that I just didn’t realize was funny then, and was very adult and very sly and clever, that Blake Edwards and Sellers put in there. But as a kid, it just went over my head.
Katrina: “Yeah, even my kids hadn’t seen the first one and they were so excited to see Mall Cop 2 and I sat down and watched with them not knowing what to expect, and I actually thought it was hilarious, so…”
Andy Fickman: Thank you.
Katrina: “Yeah, it was great.”
Andy Fickman: When you’re doing movies that can be enjoyed from eight to eighty, it’s a pretty wide swathe, and sometimes, you know, the challenge is, you can’t be all things for everybody, and you know, somebody who is only looking for a more sophisticated palette of like, a heist movie, might feel distracted by, you know, Kevin punching an African Crane bird. Yet, the kids watching the African Crane bird could not get enough of it, and would be like ‘more of that, punch the bird more.’ You’re definitely playing on a pretty wide canvas.
Glenn Walker: I was wondering if you could tell us about your upcoming projects, like Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse?
Andy Fickman: Yeah, there’s a couple of things, the most … the thing that’s in process, in terms of it’s coming out, Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse opens Halloween, and we’re really excited about it. The cast is spectacular and it’s very different from all… it’s very… it’s an R-rated romp, it’s Super Bad meets Zombieland, and Chris Landon, who directed it, just did a truly spectacular job and we’re just now… the materials are starting to get out there and it’s a fun ride. It’s got great laughs and great scares and really excited about that. And then my Disney Channel show that Kevin James actually starred on, “Liv and Maddie,” we just started our third season, and that’s doing great. And I just finished a show for ABC Family that will start airing in January, called “Recovery Road,” which is a really smart drama about teen addiction. And I’m really proud of all three very different, for different audiences, but really proud of all of them.
Glenn Walker: Very cool.
Katrina: “My kids are huge fans of “Liv and Maddie” so…”
Andy Fickman: Tell them season three is only gonna get better.
Katrina: “Oh yeah, they love these shows.”
Andy Fickman: By the way, that’s how I ended up doing a Disney Channel show. I would watch the shows with my son, and seeing he was having so much fun, and I should go and do one …and cut to three seasons later, “Liv and Maddie.”
Glenn Walker: So, as a Disney Channel watcher, I should be getting a directing gig soon? (laughter) It was worth a try.
Andy Fickman: We always have a lot of fun. Thank you guys for taking the time out to talk to me.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and OnDemand. The third season of “Liv and Maddie” will begin in Fall 2015, and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse opens the day before Halloween.