Jody Hill, Will Ferrell, Ben Best, Danny McBride and Adam McKay - The Foot Fist Way
Jody Hill, Will Ferrell, Ben Best, Danny McBride and Adam McKay

Throw a press conference in L.A. to promote a $70,000 indie martial arts comedy called The Foot Fist Way written, produced and directed by three friends from the North Carolina School of the Arts and you might be hard pressed to find many takers. Promise free booze, hors d’oeuvres, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell however, and Internet types start crawling out of the woodwork.

LiC recently crawled out of said woodwork for said press conference, but just between you, me and the monkeys, we would’ve gone even without the vodka tonics or Will Ferrell. It turns out we liked the film in question, and the rest is just gravy. We’re huge fans of gravy too, but that’s another story.

More about what Ferrell and McKay were doing there in a minute. Back to the film in question.

The Foot Fist Way is the literal English translation of Tae Kwon Do, the Korean martial art that the film’s star Danny McBride quips “is only useful against other people who know Tae Kwon Do.” McBride plays Fred Simmons who runs a low rent strip mall Tae Kwon Do dojo in Concord, North Carolina. There he teaches an all ages mixture of students how to break things with their feet and hands and also the five tenets of Tae Kwon Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit. Though Simmons talks a big game, much of the comedy comes from him repeatedly breaking each one of these tenets as he spirals out of control upon learning that his wife has been cheating on him.

Despite McBride’s remark about the relative value of Tae Kwon Do, co-star and fellow NCSA alum Ben Best emphasized that they weren’t so much making fun of the martial art as they were the character of Fred Simmons, a man who imagines himself to be something of a big fish without acknowledging the small pond in which he swims. Best plays bigger fish Chuck “The Truck” Wallace, a low-grade, Chuck Norris-like movie star who is the object of a hasty pilgrimage organized by Simmons and his black belt friend Mike McAllister.

McAllister is played by Foot Fist producer co-writer and director Jody Hill who is himself a Tae Kwon Do black belt. Hill’s experiences formed the root of the inspiration for the film and it was a natural subject to draw from in 2005 when he approached McBride and Best about making a film with him. He’d managed to save $30,000 of his own money and essentially paid for the rest of the micro-budgeted effort with assorted credit cards. The film was shot in 16mm over 19 days on location in North Carolina.

Though Hill, Best and McBride are largely unknowns, McBride did have a role in art school classmate David Gordon Green’s sophomore writing/directing effort All the Real Girls. Later this summer, he’ll appear in Seth Rogen’s Pineapple Express (also directed by Green) and Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. Next year he’ll appear alongside Will Ferrell in the adventure/comedy Land of the Lost.

Though The Foot Fist Way hasn’t been released yet, much of McBride’s success can be attributed directly to the right people seeing him as Fred Simmons. The film played as part of the Park City at Midnight category during the 2006 Sundance Film Festival where it was picked up for distribution in the UK. Though it failed to secure US distribution, it did get the attention of Judd Apatow who is a guy whose attention is good to have if you’re selling a comedy. Through Apatow, it was seen by Adam McKay, the writer/director of Anchorman and Talledega Nights. McKay then showed it to Will Ferrell and the two decided to make it the first release for their newly formed Gary Sanchez Productions (straight facedly named for and financed by a fictitious Paraguayan NFL place kicker…a story made funnier by the fact that it has repeatedly been taken at face value by Variety and others).

And so it was that Ferrell and McKay found themselves eating Power Bars and deflecting silly questions at a press conference in Los Angeles along with three guys from North Carolina. When asked what drew him to the film, Ferrell said it was the specificity of the world they’d created around this strip mall dojo. Foot Fist isn’t a typical set-up/punchline comedy with lots of gags and one-liners. Hill, Best and McBride aren’t comedians, they’re filmmakers and they approached the story from a character standpoint. Having made a career playing clueless characters who are blissfully ignorant of their own failings, the appeal of Fred Simmons to Ferrell is obvious.

As for the film, AICN’s Drew McWeeny declared The Foot Fist Way one of the best movies he saw in 2007. Though Ferrell jokes that they’d like to see an $80 million opening weekend, expectations for the micro-budgeted film are modest. This isn’t a high-concept comedy with A-list stars like the films McBride will be appearing in later this summer. It’s a movie by people who liked to drink beer and watch movies in college for people who liked to drink beer and watch movies in college. It’s also a true indie success story…or it will be if you go see it.

The Foot Fist Way begins its limited release on May 30. If you haven’t already seen it, check out the official website here. In the mean time, since this is a movie best discovered for yourself rather than having it crammed down your throat, let’s pretend we never had this conversation.

10 Responses to “Will Ferrell and Adam McKay Learn ‘The Foot Fist Way’”

  1. While the production’s back story is intriguing and endearing to a fan of the indie, I’m still not completely sold on this one. However, I may just see it anyway, if only because I don’t see enough comedies in the theater and this looks better than most of the other big-name comedies coming out this summer.

    Amen for gravy.

  2. This one is not going to appeal to everyone. It’s not in my wheelhouse either, though I have to admit it’s grown on me.

    Comedy is such a weird thing, much more than drama it’s very subjective. One man’s comedy gold is another man’s comedy turd.

  3. Super awesome post.

    I think it sounds like the kind of film I would see, whether I like it or not is completely unknown.

    Ferrell is funny,even if I skipped “Semi-Pro.”

  4. Wow, another LiC exclusive! I can’t believe that guy second from right is the guy in the trailer. Correct?

    I share Joel’s hesitancy a little bit. I just hope it’s not a one-note song, even though you’ve done your best to make it quite clear that it’s not. I’ll be there.

    What other hilarious jokes did Ferrell tell, aside from the box office prediction? Jokes!

  5. Yeah that’s the same guy. It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to get roles in such big comedies.

    Ferrell was pretty funny in that way that he has that might not translate in writing so well. The press conference was pretty awkward with lots of stupid questions, but he deflected them all amusingly.

    One old guy (who apparently couldn’t be bothered to do any research in advance or to even read the press notes) asked what other films Gary Sanchez Productions had released, Ferrell deadpanned “Another Stakeout and Krull”.

  6. As a camo-belt in taekwondo (yes, that’s a real belt, not quite halfway to blackbelt, even if it is silly looking), I’m somewhat curious about the film. I’m obviously not the target audience (though I do like beer, movies and quite a while ago, college), but I’ll probably see it sooner or later.

  7. Wow JB. Have you ever killed a man with your bare hands?

    Please say yes even if it’s not true.

    Perhaps you and Mr. Bee would enjoy this one after a couple of beers when you’re not taking things too seriously.

    This isn’t high art, but I think its heart is in the right place and it’s completely unpretentious.

  8. Not with my bare hands, Craig. I used the nunchucks.

  9. That Superbat never stood a chance.

  10. Do NOT mess with that Bee girl, all I’m saying.

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