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The Panther Strikes Again
The legend of the "Pink Panther” began in 1963 with Blake Edwards' original The Pink Panther starring David Niven, with Peter Sellers in the role of Inspector Clouseau. The film was conceived as a vehicle for Niven, who was a major Hollywood star at the time. Sellers wasn't even Edwards' first choice for Clouseau (it was Peter Ustinov). But Sellers' performance as the hilariously inept French detective proved to be the film's lasting legacy and the actor went on to star in several popular sequels.

For more than a decade, the beloved franchise has lain dormant, its reintroduction to contemporary audiences reliant on finding the perfect actor to step into the late Sellers' shoes. Steve Martin proved to be an inspired choice, since his witty, slightly absurd brand of comedy and his physical style echoed that of Sellers. According to the new Pink Panther director Shawn Levy, "The Clouseau character is an homage to silent film comics like Chaplin and Keaton. As imagined by Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers, the character referenced silent film comedy where the humor was physical rather than verbal. In the same way that those classic film comics have endured for nearly a century now, Clouseau's intuitive, physical humor is equally timeless. What makes Steve Martin the perfect Closeau is his incredible, unique talent as a physical comic. Whether it's his ‘wild and crazy guy,' the man with the arrow through his head or The Great Flydini, Steve has always been edgy and inherently physical in his humor.”

Producer Bob Simonds adds that The Pink Panther is the first movie Martin has starred in since The Jerk that plays directly to his comedic persona. "Steve is a really interesting combination of vulnerability and self-assurance. He's got a gift for physical comedy, but he is also incredibly erudite. He possesses an incredibly sophisticated sense of humor with an underbelly of big laughs. Just as importantly, his comedy is ironic and smart but never mean-spirited. That works because all the comedy in the Pink Panther films is at the expense of Clouseau, who is simply trying to maintain his dignity in all these situations. Our ambition in making this movie was not only to be really funny but to have audiences emotionally invest in Clouseau and all that plays into Steve's strengths.”

Simonds was producing Martin's recent hit film Cheaper by the Dozen (which was also directed by Levy) when MGM approached him about taking on similar chores for The Pink Panther. Soon after, Martin was offered the role of Clouseau and he tried out one of his ideas for the character on Levy after one of their looping sessions for Cheaper by the Dozen. "I thought it was so funny that it led to a month-long back and forth of other ideas and concepts and gags,” says Levy. "What began to emerge was a story that was true to the franchise but fresh and original and specific to Steve's kind of comedy. After a few weeks of this, we came to a mutual agreement that I would direct the film.”

In fact, without those improvisatory sessions, Martin might not have even accepted the role. "When I first got offered the part, I said no. I didn't think it was right for me,” Martin says. "But I thought about it and thought about it and I tried writing a few scenes to see if I could get my head around it, and they seemed funny. Still, you need an audience to test comedy and Shawn turned out to be my first audience.”

Both Levy and Martin were aware that Blake Edwards' original movies with Peter Sellers were regarded as classics. "We're not trying to compete with or top the original Pink Panther movies,” says Levy. "Steve and I were appropriately respectful. But while we honored the history we were inheriting, we were trying to reinterpret the franchise. We were hoping to make something relevant and current but still in the tradition of The Pink


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