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A Mighty Wind - Catherine O'Hara and Harry Shearer Q&As



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Catherine O'Hara

Q: Miss O’Hara, we must mention your secret talents, too. How on earth did you come up with the lyrics for the Catheter Song?!
A:
Jim Pittock, who plays my husband, Leonard, had a catalogue of medical supplies and there was this show at the end of the movie and Chris said that I would be singing for my husband’s wares and Jim lent me this catalogue.
And, first of all, I said to Chris: ‘I’d like to write this song’. And he said sure. Because only Chris can say go ahead and do it and made me feel like I could. So I just took the catalogue and went through it, and all those things I mentioned are real – I hope that none of them will know them personally.
But, buttock scraper, and penis clamp, are real products that Leonard would be selling. And I sang about them very seriously and tried to make the music as pretty as possible, because I was now back in the music world.

Harry Shearer

[Spoiler warning]

Q: Harry, how much input did you have on your character’s final look in the film? You make a lovely blonde!
A:
Thank you very much! Well, that, I think, is a transitional look for Marta while the hair grows out. The thing about these pictures is that, as an actor, you have a great deal of involvement in the look of your character, from start to finish.
Unlike a normal movie, where you arrive in your trailer, and there’s your wardrobe and they slap on the make-up and maybe consult with you, but probably don’t, in these movies, you’re invited to come in and talk to the wardrobe people, the make-up people.
You choose what your character will wear in each scene, so you’re involved in the choices your character makes long before you start acting, and you’re thinking as your character thinks. So when Chris said, ‘we have this idea for the ending’, after breaking out the champagne, I sat down with the hair lady and wardrobe lady and said what fascinated me with people who make that change is not that they end up looking not necessarily like people in a drag show.
But that people will go through this incredible upheaval in their lives and then kind of end up, a bit dowdy, a bit ‘mumsyish’, as you would say, with just a touch of glamour in the wig.
Christopher Guest: Small touch, Harry. [Laughter]
A: Yes, a small touch. But the idea was to walk that line and leave you wondering, so what was this about?
Christopher Guest: If you don’t know, I could tell you!
Catherine O’Hara: [Picking up a paper to fan herself] As a friend of mine once said about someone who was going through a sex change, why would anyone choose to become a middle-aged woman. Of course, you don’t choose it.

Q: How much of an impetus was it for being the people behind Spinal Tap?
A:
None of us are impotent.
Catherine O’Hara: Oh, Harry, you’ve got to stop talking about that.

Q: Harry, I guess you’re probably better known for your voice performances than your screen work. Do you have to approach them differently in the way you work?
A:
Obviously, it’s different if you’re doing lines than if you’re doing improvisation – that’s the big difference.

Q: But with ‘The Simpsons’, you’re also part of a large comic ensemble…
A:
Yes, and with that show, you are able to listen to each other most of the time and hear what the performance that precedes you does, so you can work off that. Because most of the normal animation, historically it’s been line 47, "I’m going to lunch!" Line 49, "I’m back!" Without any sense of what’s been happening in the interim.
Christopher Guest: I like line 47.
A: Thank you. I did my first Disney animated movie and said: "Why don’t you guys work the way we do, because you get better performances that way?
And they said: "Yeah, we know. But we work with stars and they’re not available."
So it just so happens that one of the reasons as to why the show works is because Jim Brooks decided, when he set it up, that he wanted people acting, rather than laying down lines, like laying down tracks.

Q: So are we going to see you at the Royal Albert Hall soon?
A:
I would love it. Me personally, I haven’t had as much fun in my life as I did doing this show with these guys. First of all, each of us does about three minutes, so I spend two thirds of the show watching the New Main Street Singers and Mitch and Mickey, and I have the best seat in the house for that and it’s amazing.
And then we get to play in addition. Chris is even more laissez faire with the live show than he is with the movie, so it’s even more remarkable what people now start bringing in and the story moves ahead. The story of all these characters has moved along and you see that in action.

Q: I’m quite intrigued – do you do it in drag now?
A:
We all do it as we left it when the movie ended. So yes.

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