'Pain & Gain': Making Comedy Out of Tragedy (Video)
In Michael Bay’s new film, based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson play Florida-based bodybuilders who kidnap and extort victims in an attempt to live their American Dream.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you are not familiar with the story of Daniel Lugo and the "Sun Gym Gang."]
Dark comedy is nothing new, but there’s a fine line to walk when recounting a horrific true story for laughs.
In Michael Bay’s action-comedy Pain & Gain, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson play Florida-based bodybuilders who kidnap, extort and attempt to murder Victor Kershaw -- a regular at their gym and a rich businessman -- played by Tony Shalhoub. Based on a true story, as documented in a series of 1999 Miami New Times articles, Wahlberg’s character currently sits on Florida’s death row. (Johnson and Shalhoub's characters, meanwhile, are mashups of multiple players in the story.)
“Tragic as it is, they made it a comedy when they tried to pull this stuff off as badly as they did,” co-screenwriter Christopher Markus tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Adds Bay: “It’s so absurd that it’s funny. It wasn’t funny in the circumstance, but it’s one of those bizarre stories -- it’s hard to believe it’s true.”
The film’s actors are quick to clarify that the movie draws laughs from the criminals’ harebrained schemes, not from a place of “making fun” of the victims or circumstance. Says Rob Corddry, who plays gym owner John Mese: “The reason this story’s being told is because it is so preposterous and so true, right? So a story like that, to be able to take the audience on a ride like that, you have to use comedy. Otherwise, I think it would be really tiring.”
Pain & Gain opens nationwide April 26 via Paramount.
For more from the film’s stars, watch the videos above and below.