The election process in America can sometimes get so wild, you just have to laugh…especially if you’re Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis or admitted political news junkie Jay Roach, director/producer of Warner Bros.’ irreverent new comedy “The Campaign.”
Known for “Meet the Parents” and the Austin Powers send-ups, Roach also successfully addressed the American political system from a more serious perspective in HBO’s acclaimed dramas “Recount” and “Game Change,” and has come to believe that sometimes the best way to confront the subject is head-on, with humor.
“I think comedy is the correct response to politics these days. At least it gives you something to laugh about and makes the reality of it easier to swallow, whereas if you just watch the news it can be pretty scary,” Roach offers. “Looking at some of today’s election campaigns, I don’t know if this is what our founding fathers had in mind.”
Luckily, Roach was able to exorcise his anxieties in a big way in “The Campaign,” with Ferrell and Galifianakis, who also served as producers on the film, and whom he calls “two of the funniest, smartest guys on Earth. Will and Zach go all the way as rival candidates who have the resources to completely destroy each other by pulling out every form of shady campaign strategy you can imagine, every sleazy video and shameless dirty trick. And it quickly degenerates from there.”
The filmmakers, anticipating an R-rating, knew they’d have free rein to take this story as far as it needed to go, in a way that audiences everywhere could relate to—whether Republican, Democrat, Independent or fill-in-the-blank.
Ferrell, who stars as entrenched incumbent Cam Brady, friend to all and faithful to none, says, “One of the things the story makes fun of is the amount of money that can be poured into elections and how much influence it can have. The district these guys are fighting over is a relatively small one, unimportant on the larger stage, but, for the powers that circle it, it’s vital for their business interests and therefore worth a great deal to them.”
Representing the competition, Galifianakis stars as clueless first-time candidate Marty Huggins, who may have started out with some good intentions but soon adapts to reveal a talent for treachery that just needed some focus—which his backers are happy to provide. “I’ve followed politics all my life and I’m still amazed by the amount of puppeteering that goes on behind the scenes in the making of a politician, and how the public can be duped by that,” says Galifianakis. “We’re just showing, in a fun and funny way, how the sausage is made.”
“The Campaign” is an equal-opportunity offender, taking aim not at the politics but the process, and how, for a growing number of campaigns being waged around America, it doesn’t seem to be so much about parties or issues or ideology anymore but about spending, fighting and winning… and spending some more. So why not take that to the next level and see what happens?
“As one insult leads to another, both characters eventually lose their minds,” producer Adam McKay says. “They snap. What starts out as typical mud-slinging and crazy accusations turns into a coliseum death match.
Still, screenwriter Shawn Harwell points out, for all the mayhem on screen and improvisational input from the cast, “Jay made sure it all made sense and that we were getting the most emotional payoff for the journey, by telling a complete story and then finding ways to mine the comedy from that, rather than a lot of throwaway gags. And Will and Zach bring a lot of likeability to these characters that I think will make audiences root for them to succeed in their own way.”
Considering the timing of the film’s American debut, Ferrell says, “Releasing it before the next big presidential race might give people some relief from the election season and the fatigue of campaign ads, and bring them some laughs just when they need it most.”
“If there’s a message here,” suggests Galifianakis, “It’s that we’re all screwed.”
Opening across the Philippines on Aug. 29, “The Campaign” is distributed in the Philippines by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.