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Behind The Music And Madness
The birth of Death to Smoochy began in the mind of Adam Resnick, a former co-executive producer of the acclaimed HBO comedy series The Larry Sanders Show, who was intrigued by the comedic possibilities of setting a film in the multi-million dollar, high-stakes world of children's television programming. Drawing inspiration from Barney, the iconic purple kids entertainer, and the recent explosion of marketing aimed at the under-10 demographic, Resnick conceived a story that satirizes the darker side of children's TV. "Wherever there's big money, there's going to be corruption…and a good chance that someone's gonna wind up dead,” Resnick notes wryly. "The world of children's television is no different. It's just Enron with a prettier shell.” 

Together with Andrew Lazar, producer of the summer 2000 comedy-adventure hit Cats & Dogs, Resnick brought the hilariously twisted pitch for Death to Smoochy to Warner Bros. Pictures. "We pitched it as Trading Places set in the world of children's programming,” Lazar recalls. "Death to Smoochy tells the tale of Rainbow Randolph, a shady performer who suffers a fall from grace and then obsessively seeks revenge against his squeaky-clean replacement, Sheldon Mopes, AKA Smoochy the Rhino, a third-rate entertainer with first-rate morals.” 

"I liken Sheldon Mopes' introduction to the world of children's television to Frank Serpico entering the police department,” says Resnick. "Like Serpico, Sheldon is a naïve and highly principled person who enters a situation full of hope and optimism, never suspecting that it's a corrupt, cutthroat business populated by ruthless players who hardly share his honorable agenda.”

Working from a detailed 20-page outline, Resnick swiftly delivered a screenplay so wickedly funny and compelling, the project came together in a matter of weeks – record time for a major studio feature film. "Our director and cast became interested quickly because of the strength of the material,” says Lazar. "Adam's script is filled with vivid characters, inherent comedic conflict and original musical numbers. This story is smart, it's got heart, and it's highly entertaining. Ask any one of the cast, from Danny to Edward to Robin to Catherine Keener and Jon Stewart, and they will all tell you that the script made them laugh. A lot. Out loud.”

"The first time I read the script, I was lying on my back at about two in the morning,” Edward Norton remembers, "and when I was finished, I had these rivulets of tears running down my head because I was laughing so hard. Usually when I read material, I'll have a critique of some component of it, but with this script, I didn't want to change a comma.”

The filmmakers immediately approached acclaimed actor-director Danny DeVito about bringing the highly stylized characters and world of Smoochy to life. "Like me and all the stuff I do, this film has got an edge to it,” says DeVito, making his fifth feature directorial foray with Death to Smoochy. "In fact, the way my cinematographer Anastas Michos lit and shot Smoochy, you might even say that it's a noir comedy. It's dark comedy, black comedy, comedy that's actually about some very serious stuff – bribery, jealousy, revenge, assassination. You know, all the good things in life.”

For the riotously warped role of entertainer-gone-awry Rainbow Randolph, DeVito and Lazar turned to multi-talented performer Robin Williams. "Danny has a particularly dark sense of humor,” Williams says. "In the wrong hands this material could be dangerous because it's darker than a coal miner's <bleep>hole. It's Tarantino meets Mr. Rogers. It's Reservoir Rhino. But Danny's not afraid of anything. It's his demonic little flair that makes this film work so beautifully.”

"I've known and admired Robin for many years,” DeVito says. "We used to shoot Taxi righ

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