Thursday, November 4, 2010

Behind the Scenes of "Due Date" and The Morning Truck Stop: A Grilled Donut with Bacon, Egg and Cheese

If you want to be schooled in comedy, get ready, because class is in session and you will be tested on this later.

Lesson number one: “People who are like a truck with no brakes are inherently funny.”

So decrees Zach Galifianakis when discussing his new movie, Due Date.

The film, which reunites Galifianakis with his Hangover director, Todd Phillips, offered the comedian the chance to go mano y mano with Robert Downey Jr. who stars as a high-strung father-to-be forced to hitch a ride across the country with a train wreck aspiring actor (Galifianakis) in order to make it to his child’s birth on time.

Looking over the trio’s cumulative bodies of work, you realize these men are responsible for some of the funniest moments in recent film history. Perhaps that’s why Due Date is drawing inevitable comparisons to the comic classic, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, another odd couple road comedy.

But Phillips, looking polished and professional, sporting a crop of short salt and pepper hair usually hidden under the curly black wig he sports in cameos as “Mr. Creepy” (The Hangover) and “Gang Bang Guy” (Old School), says the movie they feel the most related to is “in an odd way, Rainman.”

“It is a road movie [but], at its core, it’s about Zach’s character having just lost his father and Robert, who’s about to become a father for the first time, and why they needed to meet at this moment,” Phillips offers, in a moment of surprising sincerity.

Asked why the theme of fatherhood was appealing to a “Frat Pack” director whose films usually center on men clinging to their faded youth, Phillips replies, “I started making movies about college kids and I tend to grow with my movies, they’re always about my age range. That’s the next step in life; fatherhood. It seemed like an interesting thing to mine, both for emotion and comedy.”

Much like Bradley Cooper in The Hangover, when asked about his part, Downey Jr. admits he was sort of playing Phillips, though, he adds, “Every time I feel I really hit critical mass is when the director and I become a third thing and that’s the character. I always feel I’m playing an aspect of the director--an appendage--especially when he’s an auteur. It's a way of making him a proud parent.”

Phillips is quick respond by lavishing praise on his star, applauding Downey Jr.’s “producerial brain.”

“He made me a better director because he’s constantly challenging what we’re doing in the larger, bigger picture. Robert thinks of the movie as a whole. He’s basically another writer in the room,” Phillips says. “Not to discredit the writers.”

“No, it’s a great script--which made me hate it even more,” Downey Jr. smirks.

“Yeah, Robert has an aversion to all things typed, I’ve learned,” Phillips replies. “Even if we just rewrote the scene on a napkin, he felt better about it.”

Phillips explains that he and Downey Jr. has “lots of spirited discussions” over the material, which they crafted and re-crafted as they shot.

“Every morning, [Robert would] have the [day’s script] and say ‘Okay, what are we really doing?’” the director recalls.

“And [Zach] was like a hostage child we’ve taken who’s watching dad and dad just hash it out,” Downey Jr. says, laughing at the memory.

“Yup, each morning there was a meeting,” Galifianakis nods, “Todd yells, Robert yells back. There was a discussion for at least an hour—”

“Sometimes three—” Phillips corrects, chuckling.

“Every morning,” Galifianakis nods.

“But, to be honest, this was the most healing project I’ve ever worked on,” Downey Jr. says. “I’ve never come up against anyone who is so confident and thoughtful and spontaneous. He’s just in a class by himself. And Todd is the best director I’ve ever worked with, bar none.”

“Did you all get that?” Phillips deadpans.

“And did you get what he said before it?” Galifianakis asks, before turning to Phillips and admitting with a laugh, “You know, I thought he was talking about you the whole time but then he switched over!”

Due Date opens November 5.

originally written for Metro Newspapers

Combining road food with pregnancy level cravings for salty-sweet indulgence may I introduce...

The Morning Truck Stop: A Grilled Donut with Bacon, Egg and Cheese

Inspired by Dunkins’ old “Time to make the donuts” commercials, I started thinking about how good a donut is when you first wake up. There’s nothing like the jolt of pure sugar glaze and fried dough when you’re still a light groggy and that inane little voice inside your head which barks “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” or “Do you really need to eat that?” has yet to stir from its slumber. Taking a page from the Luther Burger and McGriddle, I realized donuts are the perfect vessel for a breakfast sandwich that’s salty, sweet, crispy, cheesy and utterly yolktastic. All you need to finish this bad boy off is a hot cup of Joe.

Serves Four

4 strips high quality bacon (preferably applewood smoked but turkey or soy can be substituted), sliced in half
4 eggs
4 thin slices mild cheddar cheese
4 glazed donuts, original or maple if available, sliced in half

In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp.

Remove bacon from pan. Reserve half of resulting bacon drippings and lower heat to medium. Do not clean the skillet.

Carefully crack eggs into pan, two at a time, and cook until whites are firm but yolks are still runny, gently flipping once if desired, about two minutes.

Remove from pan and repeat with remaining eggs. Set aside.

Return 1 tablespoon remaining bacon grease to pan and swirl to coat. Place donut halves, cut side down, in skillet and grill until golden brown, about 90 seconds-2 minutes.

Flip and top four donut halves with cheese. Cover and continue cooking for 1 minute, until cheese begins to melt.

Remove donuts from pan and top with two half-pieces of bacon, a fried egg and donut top.

Serve immediately.

And then go for a three-mile run.

But it’s totally worth it.

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