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Mike Myers made a rare public appearance in Hollywood on Wednesday night, joining David O. Russell for a Netflix Is a Joke Festival outing that featured the pair in conversation before a packed house inside Auditorium 1 at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres. The event came less than 24 hours after Dave Chappelle was assaulted blocks away on the Hollywood Bowl stage on the final night of his Netflix Is a Joke stand-up series and, as a result, security was beefed up and on alert.
“Tonight is different, for obvious reasons,” a security insider told THR when asked how the protocols had shifted in the wake of the shocking incident. But the presence paid off as the night was a success and included plenty of laughs thanks to the participants and the wide-ranging conversation. Myers and Russell were welcomed into the spotlight by Netflix’s Peter Friedlander, head of scripted series. But before he did so, Friedlander offered a fun factoid: One of his early jobs in the business was working as an assistant on one of Myers’ biggest hits, Austin Powers.
Russell then walked to the front of the theater and kicked off the conversation with a slew of compliments for his Q&A partner (and one of the stars of his upcoming film Amsterdam), praising him as a “national treasure even though he’s not from here” and describing his filmography as “legendary.” Russell singled out 2003’s The Cat in the Hat, saying he’s a huge fan. Myers then took a seat as a smattering of guests stood up to greet him with a standing ovation. Before answering any questions, he revealed that he was battling seasonal allergies that have saddled him with a scratchy, sore throat.
Still, he was able to get many words out over the course of an 85-minute discussion that covered the early days on Saturday Night Live, his biggest big-screen hits like Wayne’s World and Austin Powers, and how mentors like Lorne Michaels and Del Close influenced his career. Though he did get help, courtesy of a movie theater staffer who delivered a Coca-Cola and a throat lozenge.
The first topic of conversation was the reason Myers and Russell were seated beneath a screen branded by the Netflix Is a Joke logo. At midnight, the streamer debuted Myers’ latest, a six-episode series titled The Pentaverate. The comedy showcase finds him playing a gaggle of new characters in a story involving a secret society made up of five men who influence world events. Meanwhile, a Canadian journalist finds himself embroiled in a mission to uncover the truth and possibly save the world.
“I really wanted to dedicate this show to local journalists,” Myers said of the series in which he plays a character loosely based on a beloved Canadian journalist, the late Glenn Cochrane. “Right now, in the global war between fascism and democracy, the first casualty of war is truth. Getting rid of local news is just the beginning of a slippery slope of all unfalsifiable fact.”
He also credited the idea for the series to an obsession he had with both the Masons and Illuminati after “seeing the rise of weird conspiracy theories and devaluation of fact” he’s witnessed play out over the past six years or so. “I thought, what if there was a secret society of five people who ran the world, but they were nice?” he explained, giving props to Canada and how grateful he is to have grown up there and benefited from its systems. “This was the whole idea.”
In The Pentaverate, he stars alongside such names as Jennifer Saunders, Keegan-Michael Key, Ken Jeong, Rob Lowe, Lydia West, Debi Mazar and Maria Menounos. “Everybody I wanted said yes,” Myers said. “Everybody came to play. I love talented people. Love to give them the ball, get out of the way and let them run.”
He reserved special praise for Key (“a national treasure”), Jeong (“I haven’t met someone that inherently funny since Chris Farley”), Menounos (“I worship Maria — she knocked it out of the park, and she’s easy on the eyes, that gal”) and Lowe (“I love him so much”).
Russell, well-prepared for the chat, proven by how studiously he flipped through a thick script-sized packet of research and questions, guided Myers through a look back at his career, starting with the first commercial he booked all the way through to The Pentaverate, hitting the major highlights in between.
Though he landed a gig with Second City on his final day of high school in 1986, Myers noted that he had other creative ambitions outside of comedy. “I really wanted to be Canada’s John Cassavetes,” he said, adding that he also had an eye to direct documentaries. He heralded auteurs like Stanley Kubrick and François Truffaut as heroes. “Kubrick is a god that walks as man. He’s the mack daddy of everything. I worship him.”
Myers also dished out plenty of praise for SNL boss Michaels and beloved comedy figure Close, an improv guru known for his work at Second City and iO. Russell asked Myers to share some words of wisdom from the latter, and he delivered by saying, “Don’t invent, remember,” “The end is in the beginning” and never limit yourself in improv scenes.
As for SNL, Myers recalled how when he was hired for NBC’s iconic sketch series in 1989, he was living in London and unaware of “how great the cast was that I got hired for.” When he found out that he’d be working alongside Dana Carvey, Al Franken, Ben Stiller and others, “I was scared shitless.” He added: “I thought I was going to get fired every week, and that’s the God’s honest truth.”
After suffering a “complete and utter breakdown,” Myers eventually conquered his fraud syndrome by writing the sketch for “Wayne’s World,” a bit that captured a piece of pop culture and went on to become a feature film of the same name.
But before it did, Myers remembered going to Michaels’ house in the Hamptons for a weekend visit alongside some of “the world’s most famous people.” While on the getaway, he revealed, Michaels pitched him on a remake of The Graduate, the 1967 classic directed by Mike Nichols and starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. Myers was not interested.
“I said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’ The Graduate doesn’t need to be remade — it’s a perfect film. A little man should not stand in a great man’s shoes,” he recalled. Instead, he pitched his boss on a Wayne’s World feature. “He said, ‘Write it.’ He’s a genius. I’m forever grateful.”
The movie became a smash hit and still ranks as the highest-grossing SNL film ever, Russell noted. “It was like being strapped to a rocket,” Myers said of how the success impacted his life and career. “It rocked my world.”
But the ride was not immediately enjoyable, he said, because the success coincided with the loss of his father. “I was very, very sad. I got very fat. The only person I wanted to see it wasn’t there,” he said of his father, Eric, who died in November 1991, and Wayne’s World was released the following February.
He added how “the healing that’s happened for me is having kids,” referencing Spike, 10, Sunday, 8, and Paulina, 6, with wife Kelly Tisdale. “They are tough New York kids.”
Russell later noted how many of Myers’ films have produced iconic songs, including Madonna’s “Beautiful Stranger,” and that led into a conversation about Beyoncé, who starred opposite him in Austin Powers in Goldmember. The superstar played Foxxy Cleopatra for her feature film debut in the Jay Roach-directed 2002 comedy. Myers said after they met her, he realized she had that special something. “The Obamas have it,” he said. “They exude molecules that take the shape of their persona.”
He said that everyone on set “fell in love with her,” even if Michael Caine didn’t know how to properly pronounce her name, leaving off the “é”: “Nobody wanted to correct him.” Myers said he introduced her to the legendary Led Zeppelin, a band she hadn’t heard of because of her age. “I don’t know this Led Zeppelin,” he recalled her saying, adding that a few days later on set, she pulled out her headphones and professed to be listening to their music. “It’s Led Zeppelin — they’re great,” she told him.
Moments later, Russell and Myers wrapped up their chat. Just then, a woman seated in the front row jumped out of her seat and asked if she could have a picture with the comedy icon. “You asked if you could have a picture, but you didn’t ask if you could stab me,” Myers joked, as other audience members raced to the front of the theater to get a selfie as well. “They are getting nervous,” Myers said in reference to security as they abruptly shuffled him out of the theater. “See you guys later.”
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