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To Protect And Serve
"I just love this guy,” says Kevin James of Paul Blart, the mall cop at the center of Columbia Pictures' comedy titled, appropriately enough, Paul Blart: Mall Cop. "Nobody believes in him, but he turns everybody's expectations upside down. It's easy to root for a character who's tried big things but came up short every time. I want to see him make it.”

James came up with the idea for the character after a discussion with his fellow comedy superstar and producer, Adam Sandler. Having teamed on the comedy smash I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Sandler was interested in working with James again, this time in Sandler's capacity as a producer through his company, Happy Madison. Sandler was intrigued by James' idea – to play a bungling Jersey mall cop who saves the day. "Because mall cops are purportedly in positions of authority, but without the real power of the police, I thought it would be fun to play that kind of a character,” says James. With his writing partner, Nick Bakay, James created the character of Paul Blart, a bumbler who overcompensates by taking his job way too seriously, and a charming everyman who finally gets the chance to test his mettle when an extreme team takes over the mall.

"This character comes straight from Kevin,” says the director, Steve Carr, who has also helmed such family hits as Daddy Day Care, Dr. Doolittle 2, and Are We Done Yet?. "He has a real knowledge, a real soft spot for the character. Everything he wrote on the page as a screenwriter and every choice he made as an actor during filming rings true because it's a part of him.”

"The best part is that the funnier Kevin gets, the more I get to take the credit – it works out great!” Carr jokes.

Producer Todd Garner, who has previously collaborated with Adam Sandler on such films as The Waterboy, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, and Anger Management, expands on that point. "Because this character comes from the mind of Kevin James, everything he does, whether it's his physical mannerisms or his acting style, became the character. It's the truest manifestation of all his talents.”

"There is nobody better at physical comedy right now than Kevin James,” Garner says. "He'd be throwing himself over the side of a ramp or smashing himself onto a countertop or wiping out a stack of suitcases.”

"He is physical, talented and game for everything,” stunt coordinator Chris O'Hara says. "There is a lot of physical humor in this movie, and Kevin wants to do as much of it as he can; in fact, he came up with so many stunts himself. It's cool to work with an actor like that.”

To play the part, James did the requisite training – but not the kind you might expect. "I did some polyester pants training,” James confides. "You got to go through polyester pants training because polyester doesn't breathe. If you don't do the training and your legs aren't used to polyester pants, you will break out. It is not pretty.”

For a comedian so willing to put his body on the line, the story would require villains willing to do the same. "Paul is not – let's face it – the most in-shape guy,” James concedes. "We thought, well, what kind of villain would make a good, funny antagonist for him? We hit on the extreme sports, X-Games athlete, the skateboarders and BMX bikers and free runners, and it seemed like a perfect fit.”

Garner agrees. "Paul is mild-mannered, a bit square, has a kid. The antithesis of that are these daft punk, hip X-Gamer guys. We found two world-class skateboarders, two unbelievable BMX riders, and two free runners, who not only were the perfect people to play the roles, but also worked with the set designers and art and camera departments, to help us figure out how best to show off their skills in set pieces.”

At the helm is director Steve Carr. "I loved that this movie was family accessible but not ai

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