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The Fretts on Film Interview: Kevin James (The Outtakes)

October 8, 2012

I got a chance to talk with one of my favorite guys in show biz, Kevin James, for today’s New York Daily News. His new movie, Here Comes the Boom, about a high-school teacher who steps into the UFC octagon, opens Friday, and it’s explosively funny and surprisingly sweet. Here are a few choice tidbits from our chat that didn’t make it into the paper.

Did you base your character on any teachers you had?

Yes, we even named a few in the movie—Mr. Becher was one of my teachers in junior high school. He taught social studies, but he was also a football coach. He’s just a great guy I still know to this day. And by the way, I still follow some of his principles that he taught me 30 years later.

Like what?

Just basically being a good person. That’s when you realize it’s not so much about history. He was always very funny and engaging. And on the flip side, I had some crappy teachers who were basically like, ‘Just do whatever you want.’ And you remember them too. They don’t really advance you much, they’re not very positive with you, and these things form these kids. And it’s important. So that’s why I wanted to do a movie about a guy who was maybe a good teacher at one time, but became very complacent—as we all do in life, you just kind of get dragged down at times—and it takes something like cutting back the music program. And a lot of schools are facing cutbacks. Henry Winkler’s character becomes this catalyst for me. Seeing how he still loves what he does and does the best job he can, that makes me want to be a better version of myself. The whole movie has themes of basically being better.

I’ve gotta bust you on one thing since I’m writing this for New York’s hometown newspaper. Why is the movie set in Boston? That’s gotta be hard for you.

I know, I know. First of all, Boston has that feel with the schools there—not that New York City doesn’t. But number 1, the tax breaks there, it’s literally the studio always pushes us there. But I also gotta tell you, great neighborhoods, great feel on the East Coast. And it felt organic to the school that we found and scouted there. But it’s also a big, big mixed martial arts town, where New York State did not sanction the UFC. So the UFC had a big part in that too.

Did you look at Warrior at all? It’s a very different story obviously, but it’s about a teacher getting into mixed martial arts.

We shot this a year and a half ago, and I didn’t know anything about Warrior, and then they said, this movie’s coming out and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And then they go, ‘Yeah, the guy’s a teacher…’ And the producer on our movie was just like, ‘Do not see that movie. It’s just gonna break your heart!’ And I said, ‘I gotta see it,’ And I did see it, and I gotta say, I liked it a lot. But it felt so different from my movie. Ours is a comedy in a lot of ways, and it’s not trying to be anything different. It is what it is—a fun, emotional, inspiring comedy and that’s what we accomplished. And Warrior was great—I wish it made more money. For the UFC, I think this is more like getting the aspirin in the applesauce, for people who don’t know the sport as much and can kinda learn about it and get excited about it.

You’ve been working with a lot of the same guys for years—your brother Gary Valentine, writer-producer Rock Reuben, Adam Sandler. Adam does that too—is that something you like to do in terms of loyalty or in terms of comfort?

It’s both. It is comfort because they’ve come to know you so much and what you’re comfortable with so it’s literally having shorthand with people and you don’t have to explain anything. On the flip side of it, and I’ve always told Adam this every once in a while—including me because he hires everybody, he’s so loyal—I say, ‘Don’t use me in the next movie. Do something different because you can stretch and do something a little bit more creative and not feel like you’re on the same path.’ But he’s such a mensch! He’s so great with everything. He’s really that guy. I feel somewhat like that as well, but at certain points, I want to do different things. Like The Dilemma—it didn’t work out great, but I tried something that was like a different world for me. I wanted to work with Ron Howard and Vince Vaughn. I’d love to do another comedy with Vince—a real comedy. So you know, you try.

Is it okay with you if you go down in history as “The King of Queens” even though you’re from Stonybrook, Long Island?

Absolutely! And I want to say thank you to you because you were literally one of the few true believers back in the day, and honestly always gave us credit. It was always nice to hear, and I always appreciate that. If people recognize me for that show, so be it. It was a great show. I love it. And yeah, I hope it runs forever.

Are you a Kevin James fan? Post a comment!

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6 Comments
  1. Can I mention here an almost irrelevant fact? I was the editor at Stuff magazine who suggested we put Leah Remini on the cover. Sold like hotcakes, with sausage and homefries. America, you’re welcome. —Bret

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Leah Remini was hot until she started speaking without a script on “The Talk” and proved what a nutcase she is. Been there, done that…

  2. Kara permalink

    King of Queens is possibly the most underrated sitcom of all time!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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