The affecting documentary I Am Chris Farley, about the meteoric rise and swift fall of the late, great comedian, opened Friday. We spoke to Vancouver-based co-directors Derik Murray and Brent Hodge.
The two of you spoke to Chris Farley's friends, family and fellow comedians. What's your takeaway on the man?
Derik Murray: That this guy was born Chris Farley. From Day 1, he was absolutely destined to be the guy that he ended up being on the world stage. On school buses, this kid was taking his shirt off and conducting a chorus of other kids. In high school, he decided it's a good idea to type with his penis. He was on fire.
Brent Hodge: He never did stand-up. He was competitive athlete when he was younger, and he was always a team member, whether it was with his brothers growing up, or Marquette University being on the rugby team, or improv comedy. That's all about the team. It was never about him – it was about making the sketch better.
He was being considered to star in a movie about the disgraced silent-film comedian Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle, which would have been a different, darker role for him. Would Chris have had the confidence to tackle something that?
Hodge: I don't know if he did. When the reviews for Tommy Boy came out, Lorne Michaels says in the film that it was really hard on Chris. The movie got savaged, and Chris took it really personal. But I think he would have tried to do dark comedy, and probably some serious roles.
Your film is getting positive reviews, but many critics, and I'm one of them, have a problem with the way you guys shied away from Chris's dark side. What's your reaction to that?
Hodge: We didn't feel we needed to do that. We already had that story, from every media outlet in the world. We wanted to remember this guy, and we wanted the film to be a celebration of his life.
But given that Chris's demons affected his comedy, shouldn't the film have gone a little deeper into his addictions and dark side?
Murray: I think it's there. In this film, you're going to hear that at Second City he was on the stage hammered. You're going to hear Lorne Michaels say that Chris had a sense that if he was a little [messed] up, it would be more magical. And you're going to hear Tom Arnold say that he told Chris, "You can be a drug addict or an alcoholic or overweight, but pick one, or you're going to die."
Was he beating himself up, with his comedy and the way he lived?
Murray: There was a sense that he didn't have the confidence that you would imagine from a person who had that genius and that following and that admiration.
His lack of confidence may have been the issue that beat him up in the end. The last two years, without the comfort zone of SNL or being on a team, were very tough on Chris. It happened fast, and, really, at that stage of the game, he was out there on his own.