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The film, with Bautista as a rogue cop and Nanjiani as a straightlaced Uber driver, is meant to be a modern action movie, taking on toxic masculinity and calling out some classic action-hero tropes, says the cast.
“I feel like we’re in a time where we can talk about masculinity and how it’s always been very traditionally defined in a narrow way and how that’s led to problems for everyone — for women and for men,” Nanjiani told The Hollywood Reporter at the Los Angeles premiere on Wednesday. “I felt like it would be interesting to try to talk about that stuff in a traditionally very masculine genre. A buddy cop action comedy is such a dude movie, so we thought it would be interesting to talk about dude issues that also affect the whole world, in a traditionally male genre.”
Bautista, a former wrestler who has starred in many an action film, added that people need to start talking more about toxic masculinity and open their minds to different things.
“Throughout the film, we’re constantly talking about it,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t realize it because we’re making you laugh or disguising it with action, but we really do have the discussion throughout the film.”
Glow‘s Betty Gilpin co-stars as Nanjiani’s love interest and said she was so excited how Stuber “Trojan-horses a woke narrative in it.”
“It still checks all of the boxes of a classic action movie, but it has this secret thread of men talking about their aggression and anger that are no longer helpful or are standing in their way,” Gilpin said. “I think that’s such an important missing piece that we have right now of men joining the dialogue, and I think Kumail Nanjiani as a person has really stepped up vocally to talk about what men need to change and talk about. And honestly, it’s very sexy.”
Nanjiani, who is known for his comedic work in Silicon Valley and The Big Sick, takes on his first action role in the film. He said that doing his own stunts proved much more exhausting than he thought, especially because he didn’t do any training or prep beforehand.
“I was like, ‘Oh you just run around? I know how to run,'” he said. “Then I showed up and was like, ‘Oh wow, there’s a lot more to this than I realized.’ I was just being cocky and arrogant. So no prep: I do not recommend that.”
Stuber, a former Fox film now being released under Disney after the merger, is notable as the first R-rated Disney film in six years, and the first with full-frontal male nudity. It also breaks the mold with two people of color in the lead roles, as well as a diverse supporting cast.
“I try to cast colorblind as much as I can and just find the best actor for the part, and they were the two best guys. It felt like they were having a moment and hopefully we can be part of that,” director Michael Dowse told THR. “I do think that we tried really hard to cast as diverse as possible and change things up as much as we can. But the two leads just happened, which I think is great.”
The L.A. premiere, held alongside the ESPYs at L.A. Live, also included stars Natalie Morales, Mira Sorvino, Jimmy Tatro, Iko Uwais and Steve Howey.
Stuber hits theaters Friday.
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