Right, straight down to business. You’re a big time producer, we’ve got a killer script. Let’s make it happen. It didn’t even get past your agent two years ago.
You’ve already tried?
Yeah, it’s called Arnie The Musical. Like the sound of it?
Well, Arnold hasn’t got much time on his hands any more. A few days before he ran for Governor I had lunch with him, and I told him how much of his life this would take up and how he will be working morning, noon and night. I sat there, looked him in the eye, held out my hands like the scales of justice and told him to weigh up the two critical options he was facing at that point in his life. I said, “Governor of California,” and dropped one hand, and then I said, “or Twins 2?” as I dropped the other. I had no luck in that area because I would have done Twins 3 and 4 by now if he was available. So I think you may struggle to get him on board.
Don’t worry, we’ve got David Soul playing Arnie. And Jamie Cullum has already written the music.
[Danny turns to his computer and searches Jamie Cullum on Google] Oh, the keyboard guy? Okay, get the script to me and I’ll have a look.
What’s it like working with the big man?
We had one hell of a time on Twins. Arnold is hysterical. He was always working out – he had an entire gym installed where we were shooting just for the duration of the film. He would do the life cycle exercise bike for 25 minutes at level 12 and get me to do it with him. I couldn’t get it to move at level 3. And he would be pushing me to go for it, shouting [does flawless Arnie impression]: “Come on, pump it, love it, move it, let’s go, Dahnneee!” Shooting that movie I got into the best shape of my life but smoked a hell of a lot of cigars too. That’s what you get with Arnold.
What about his legendary catchphrases?
Actually he did have a catchphrase he’d say all the time. He’d always say: “What are you doing, you low forehead?” or “Hey, Mr Low Forehead, what are you playing at?” He’d say it to everyone, not maliciously, it just made him laugh. It cracked me up so much I started saying it. Imagine him saying that to everyone in the crew regularly, every day. And of course Arnold had major gas problems. We would have to evacuate the set when Arnold let one go.
Must be handy being pals with the Governor of California. Do you ever see anything you don’t like in LA and shout, “Get me Arnold Schwarzenegger on line one!”?
Well, I’m more on the Democratic side and Arnold’s more of a Republican, so we differ on politics. But if I see something he’s done that I like I’ll let him know, however if I think he’s doing something wrong, like supporting President Bush overly, I’ll write to him saying, “Come on man, this isn’t right”.
So you’re not a fan of President Bush?
I would like to have somebody in charge with some sense who knows Iraq was a mistake and who can safely get our people back. The pendulum has swung so far to the right that it’s caused damage to the rest of the world. I strongly hope there is somebody in one of the families of those decision-makers that can see what is happening and can say, “Wait a minute, this isn’t right.” I know if someone was doing something wrong in my family, one of us would say something and get it sorted. Sometimes one voice can do more than thousands.
Ever met him?
No, I met his father at the premiere of Twins – he was friends with Arnold. But the first Bush wasn’t as cuckoo as the current guy.
Okay, back to movies. What’s been your favourite film role?
Either Mr Wormwood in Matilda or The Penguin from Batman Returns – they were a lot of fun.
What was the funniest moment playing The Penguin?
Do you like incidents involving monkeys?
More than you could believe.
Okay, well there’s a scene where a monkey gives me a note from Batman. We rehearsed it several times and the trainer told me to just walk up to him and take it. Of course I looked quite scary in this Penguin suit and when we shot the scene I had black ooze coming out of my mouth. I was grunting at this monkey, I went to take the note, and suddenly it leapt toward me and grabbed hold of my nuts, it was almost magnetic. He clung there for what seemed like an eternity. Luckily, I had so much padding on I didn’t feel a thing but when I got the suit off, I could see that the little bastard had taken a huge chunk right out of the suit where my nuts were. He came real close.
You were a creepy-looking dude in that film.
Yeah it took forever in make-up so I’d do everything in that suit. I’d cook the crew pasta in my trailer in that Penguin costume. One of the biggest obstacles in Batman Returns was the prosthetic flipper hands I had to wear. You couldn’t take them off, so there are certain things I couldn’t do alone in those hands – if you understand me.
We do, Danny.
I was all padded up, so firstly I’d have to dig deep to get at it, and of course it was big enough to hang out, but the hands meant I couldn’t get a grip.
Stop right there! You were involved in the production of Pulp Fiction, did you ever say to Tarantino, “Woah, slow down, you’re going to do what?”
I read the script to Reservoir Dogs and I told him I’d love to be involved in it but he was already making it. So I said, “Whatever you’re going to do next, I don’t care what it is, let me in.” He smiled and said, “I’ll make a deal with you now, I’ve got this idea about these intertwining stories.” That’s all he had to say. We made a deal there and then. He went away and promoted the movie for about a year and every once in a while I’d keep in touch with him and ask how it was going. A year later I was at home and a messenger brings me something which is literally still warm off the Xerox machine and it says, “Pulp Fiction – final draft – by Quentin Tarantino,” and I think to myself, “Holy shit.” By the end, I was dying with laughter and I thought, “This is either the most brilliant script ever or I’m the sickest man on the planet.”
You’re back on the small screen with It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Why did you fancy it ahead of movies?
When Sunny came along and they offered it to me I knew it was too good to pass on and I made the choice to go for it. It was one of those parts that if I hadn’t have gotten it, I would have really regretted it.
You’re a wee chap, do you get picked on by bullies?
No. The last fight I was in was when I was young. I had an experience where I was coming home from school with a huge pile of books in my hand and a couple of guys came out of nowhere and just pushed me over. I got up and tried to defend myself but I got a really good beating. They started to follow me home and when I got to my house I realised I had to do something. I was so pissed off at what they had done to me that I launched one of my books across the street and it sailed like a missile through the air. I watched it as it curled in the wind until it landed right in the centre of this guy’s nose. He went down like a stone. I ran straight inside my house and locked the door while his friends carried him away.
So are there advantages to being so small? Do you get free parking?
Every movie I’ve ever been in and every character I’ve ever played has been short, there’s so much work out there for a guy who’s only five feet tall. And us short guys are paving the way for other short guys to date taller girls. Just look at George Clooney!
Is he short?
Original interview by Tom Cullen in the February 2007 issue of FHM UK magazine