A/V Room









A Mighty Wind - Eugene Levy Q&A

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q: Mr Levy, it was lovely to discover what a great singing voice you’ve got…
[Incredulously] Really?

Q: Have you been singing in secret before this role?
Er, no. I haven’t done a lot of singing in my career. I did do a little folk singing in the Sixties. The first public appearance I made in front of an audience, in public high school, was singing in a group, because my brother was in a singing group in high school and I saw him performing, and they were really great. And I thought, wow, this is neat. So I formed a singing group myself and that’s how I started getting up in front of people and doing stuff and eventually getting into sketch work and comedy and stuff.
But I could not make a living doing this. I think I have a musical ear and can carry a tune. The idea of doing this movie was a particularly frightening thought. At the end of this movie, when we do the concert, it was all filmed basically live.
We’re not pre-recording the music and lip-synching to it. We’re actually filming it live. It put a little added pressure on what you thought was a relatively good singing voice. It took a little work and I think I can speak for Catherine, too, as two of the relatively non-musician people. It was exciting and scary.
Christopher Guest: Well I think he’s being a little…
EL: [Ironically] Concise?
Christopher Guest: Modest. I think he has a wonderful singing voice and is a talented musician. I couldn’t have gone into this film arbitrarily assigning people these roles if I knew they weren’t musical.
I did a film a couple of years ago, called Best in Show, and when we were editing, at the end of one of the reels, there were people singing. It was Catherine and Eugene and Jane Lynch and Michael Higgins, I believe, singing.
It just happened that during a break they were singing this amazing arrangement. I found out that Michael Higgins had arranged it, and it gave me a lot of the impetus to go into this film, knowing that they could do this. And Michael Higgins arranges all the vocals for the New Main Street Singers.

Q: Do you all basically share the same comic inspirations?
Christopher Guest:
For me, as a child – I spent a long time here as a child – Peter Sellers was my first idol, and still is, I suppose. They were others, but that was the first person.
[Catherine O’Hara accidentally hits a glass]
Eugene Levy: The elevator’s here in case anybody wants it. [laughter]
Catherine O’Hara: I guess I was first inspired by my very funny parents, and I have six brothers and sisters, and that was the way to get heard in our home, was to get a laugh. I get asked who I like in movies, and there are people, but honestly, it started at home!
Harry Shearer: Watching and listening to people it was The Goons, from here, and Stan Friedberg and Bob and Ray, from the States, and then I started working as a kid in showbusiness and Jack Benning was enormously influential.
Eugene Levy: I would have to say that Jack Benning, for me, was a big influence. I loved watching him and found him very funny, and was very intrigued by the length of his takes, and maybe I’ve tried a little too hard to surpass the length of his takes.
I didn’t discover Peter Sellers quite as early as Chris and Harry did, but he was definitely such an amazingly funny character actor. I guess, for me, it was the television era, growing up in the 50s – the Jack Benning’s and Jack Gleeson, and those were my earliest influences.

Q: Mr Levy, where did you find Mitch – how he speaks and his body language. It rang so many bells with me about victims of that year.
I’m sorry to hear that. Christopher Guest: I heard those bells!
Eugene Levy: I don’t know where it came from. There’s no real answer – it wasn’t modelled after any one person. It wasn’t modelled after Ozzy Osbourne. It wasn’t modelled after Brian Wilson, although when you look back, you say, ‘boy, I can see the similarities’. It really wasn’t the case.
We created the back story for this guy in the script and the closer we got to shooting, I was getting more nervous that we had painted such a picture of this man, who had just lost everything, and he was so sedated on drugs and had left the sanatorium long before the doctors thought he should. And when he shows up in the movie, what’s this man going to be like?
Honestly, it was a couple of things. I was in an art gallery a month or so before we started shooting, and there was an artist who was describing his work, and there was an intensity that he was using to describe his work with three or four people standing in front of a painting, and he was so unbelievably intense and waaay over the top.
And I thought what is this guy like in real life? How intense is this guy? He’s so close to being insane! That was the first stepping stone into finding out who this guy was.
I modelled the voice patterns after this guy that I knew growing up in my home town in Canada. He was a kind of clerical guy and that was it. And the character really came when I saw what the guy looked like and the little things I had been collecting over the past few months just came out as this character and that’s really how it happened.

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