Heads of State

Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 am

David Wain and Ken Marino have precision timing. They've been pals forever, the kind who finish each other's sentences and, probably, sandwiches. This synergy helped them create the singularly weird new comedy The Ten, which Wain directed and co-writer Marino stars in. The film is a collection of comic sketches loosely based on biblical commandments, such as "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife" — which here gets warped into a tale of penitentiary romance. The movie marks a full reunion of The State, the influential and prolific comedy troupe formed in the mid-'90s, and which continues to roll with various offshoots like Reno 911!, Stella, and in such movies as The Baxter and Wet Hot American Summer. Perhaps none of those projects had as much of the old flavor as this one, a dark and funny anthology that also features respected actors, such as Liev Schrieber, in some seriously twisted scenarios.

Ken Marino: Wait. Who are we speaking with

Metro Times: Corey Hall of Detroit's Metro Times

Marino: Holy shit! Finally.

MT: What was the genesis, no pun intended, of this project?

David Wain: The initial structure element comes from a passage we found in an older thing called the Bible. There were these 10 directives. God had come up with it first and we sort of adapted it.

Marino: Actually, Dudley Moore did a version of this.

Wain: Yes, with Bo Derek.

Marino: The book has been around for a while, at least a hundred years.

Wain: We wanted to do a variety of stories and work with a lot of actors we were friends with and all of that tied together.

MT: This feels sort of like a State episode, it has a sketch structure ...

Marino: Yes, I guess there is a heavy State vibe to it.

MT: Not that you want to be The State forever ..

Wain: It's not such a terrible thing.

MT: Do you write parts with each other in mind?

Marino: We wrote one character with Kerri Kenny in mind; after that, everyone else just sort of fell into place.

MT: Then you've got Oliver Platt in the movie ..

Marino: Also a core member of The State. He was Louie the "dip my balls in it" guy. [Ed.: Actually, that was Marino]

Wain: He was one of many so called semi-serious actors we thought would be great. He thought it was something fun and different; he actually took time out of his vacation to come shoot it.

MT: You also have Winona Ryder, Famke Janssen.

Wain: That was deliberate on our part; we really wanted to have people not associated with comedy, or the kind of silly comedy we do. The idea was that the more seriously you present these silly premises, the funnier it is.

MT: I hear you can't make a comedy in Hollywood without Paul Rudd.

Marino: Yeah, that's a prerequisite, you're not allowed to.

Wain: I think there was a congressional directive that came from Washington.

Marino: They forced us, our hands were tied

Wain: Paul was also a producer on this one

MT: Ken, in this, you have some of the most tender prison rape scenes I've ever seen.

Marino: Wait, some of ... what others?

MT: Well not since Stir Crazy have I seen this material handled so gently ... How close are all The State alum?

Wain: It's this amazing thing where we met this group of people in our freshmen, sophomore years of college, and we meshed and worked well, and thought: Why stop now?

MT: You have an ensemble now, like the Judd Apatow crew.

Marino: Exactly but we're a lot more ... more ... poor.

Corey Hall is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]