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DEATH AT A FUNERAL

About The Production
How did an acclaimed 2007 British farce set in the English countryside find new life three years later as a comedy about an African American family in Pasadena, California? Two words: Chris Rock.

When Rock saw the original film during its theatrical release, he instantly recognized its potential. "It was really funny,” says Rock. "There weren't a lot of people in the theater, but we were all laughing our heads off. Death and funerals are something everyone relates to and the comedy was good.”

Death at a Funeral began life as a British release that made a splash at the Aspen Film Festival, winning the prestigious Cinemax Award. Directed by Frank Oz (Bowfinger, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and written by Dean Craig (executive producer of the American production), the film attracted a small but enthusiastic audience in the U.S. and garnered wide praise from critics.

Rock had the idea to remake the film with an American cast. "It seemed like we could make a different movie and the same movie at the same time,” he says. "It had a lot of parts, so we would have a chance to cast a lot of funny people.

Transforming a British farce to American madcap mayhem could be tricky, but then again, coming up with a good script is the biggest challenge on any project, according to Rock. "I always tell people, write the movie you want to write and greed will get it made,” he says. "Trust me, between the agents, the manager, the studio and whoever else, greed takes over and the next thing you know you're making a movie. And I mean, greed in a good, Gordon Gecko way, not in a bad, somebody-trying-to-take-advantage way. Just, ‘hey man, this is too good an opportunity to let pass.'”

William Horberg, executive producer of the first film, signed on to produce with Rock. "Death at a Funeral was well reviewed during its original release, but didn't attract as much of an audience in the US as it deserved,” he says. "We knew that when audiences got in front of it, they really responded. I received a call from a friend who represents Chris Rock asking if I'd have lunch with Chris. I didn't know what the agenda for the lunch would be. He told me that Death at a Funeral was one of his favorite comedies of the last couple of years, and said ‘I've got to be honest with you. I'm the only black man in America that's even heard of that movie. I know it's fresh and I know it's recent, but I think it would be a fantastic idea to remake it.'

"It was kind of an epiphany,” says the producer. "We talked at length about what it would mean to transplant it onto American soil and how that would change it. Chris and I both liked the same things about the film, so we were looking to preserve as much as reinvent. The film's structure, which was perfectly worked out in the original by Dean Craig, is something we fought hard to preserve and honor. Chris helped create the American voice of the piece by finding the right jokes and language and intonations for these characters.”

Horberg was an invaluable resource as Rock worked with screenwriter Craig to adapt and develop the script. "Bill really understood the movie,” says Rock. "We had some ideas that had been proposed before, and he was able to say, no, we tried that in the first one and it died, so don't write those scenes. He understood the importance of doing it on a sound stage as opposed to doing it in a house. He understood which moments the audience would really go crazy for and which moments wouldn't work as well as they could.”

Finding the American voice for the film was Rock's first priority. "Sure, we all speak English,” he says. "But their English is a lot different than our English. The British ask a lot of questions. ‘Is the tea okay?' We tried to take all the Briticisms away without losing the essential humor. It was a big job. You think it's a few words at first and then you realize a lot of these phrases sound odd coming out o

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