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VERY BAD THINGS

A Festival of Scene Stealing
To make a film that pushes the envelope this far, both cast and crew members flung themselves into the project from day one of the tightly scheduled, 35-day shoot, most taking deferred pay

To make a film that pushes the envelope this far, both cast and crew members flung themselves into the project from day one of the tightly scheduled, 35-day shoot, most taking deferred pay. The ensemble cast bonded so quickly that they became like a "den of thieves," Schiffer reports. "It was a festival of scene-stealing - hysterical to watch."

"This was the first movie I'd done in about ten years where I felt this comfortable with both the character and the people," Slater comments. "The character had an edge like my characters in Heathers and Pump Up the Volume, and it gave me the opportunity to play someone colorful, with no boundaries. We could all let loose and say whatever came to our minds - literally - although we ended up sticking to the script pretty much because it was so well-written."

At the same time, dark comedy can be hard work. "Everyone was totally committed to whatever situation we were depicting," Leland Orser recalls, "so we exposed ourselves to each other every day, all day. Each one of us had to be willing to be real."

The hospital scene was a case in point. "There we were," Favreau recalls, "in a hospital corridor in tears, everyone doing some heavy duty, challenging acting."

"Although for me," adds Stern, "the big challenge was not to blink. But the rest of the time, Peter pushed us so far that the only fear was we'd be too far out there, without any pauses in the pace. When I saw the movie cut together, though, it was clear Peter knew exactly what he wanted."

Because improvisation was encouraged, there were times when the director was caught off guard. Diaz, for instance, began to rift out loud during the tuxedo scene, which was being shot without sound, and her off-the-cuff comments were so wickedly acid that Berg had to scramble to capture them on tape. And he describes Jeremy Piven, in the role of Michael, as 'one of the greatest improvisational actors around today.

'This was a group of truly kind actors," Berg continues. "Unpretentious. Grounded. No celebrity stuff going on. But in really healthy ways, they refused to let anyone else steal a scene from them. It was enormous fun to watch them think on their feet and pump up each other, scene after scene."

"It's true that we had to absolutely hit the ground running every single time," Piven says. 'And for actors, this was very high stakes stuff, so we didn't want to stay in such intense scenes for very long with too many takes, or it would've been unbearable.

"But Peter's script was so tight, so rich, and the schedule so demanding," he continues, "that I actually improvised a little less on this one than other times. Michael starts off as a guy in a cubicle who wants one lucky moment to make him a winner and, instead, he totally unravels. It was the kind of role that doesn't come along that often -a beautifully written train wreck."

As an actor himself, Berg made it a priority to create a set where people would want to come to work: "I wrote the script to interest myself in playing these roles. It's a story about watching the world go to pieces - anything less and I would've gotten bored. And as someone who's seen tension on sets in the past, I wanted to provide the kind of environment actors love."

Cowan calls it "t

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