Nothing’s Sacred in Terrorist Comedy ‘Four Lions’
Making a comedy about a cell of suicide bombers
might seem like an unlikely prospect, but it's all par for the course
with filmmaker Chris Morris.
That name might draw blank stares on this side of the pond, but
in Britain he's something of a legend. Part satirist, part surrealist
prankster, part deadly serious media critic, Morris first made his name
as the writer and star of the landmark TV show "The Day Today" -- a
spot-on parody of the nightly news that predated "The Daily Show" and
Stephen Colbert by a half decade.
He followed that with the fake newsmagazine series, "The Brass
Eye." Taking the guise of a self-important TV reporter, Morris managed
to inveigle gullible celebrities, including singer Phil Collins, into
making PSAs about the dangers of a fictitious drug called Cake. He even
managed to convince one hapless MP into making a speech on the
Parliament about the fake substance. But Morris gained true notoriety
with his show's lacerating take on the media's hysteria over pedophilia.
Channel 4 received a record number of complaints about the episode and
it caused the Daily Mail to dub him, "Most Hated Man in Britain."
So for his debut feature, Morris, not surprisingly, goes where very few humorists have dared to tread. "Four Lions," which comes out on DVD this week, is about a small hilariously blundering group of jihadists.
There have been a few flicks out there, like "Team America,"
that have taken on the War on Terror but they have always done so from
the point of view of the West. Morris' movie japes from the point of
view of the terrorists. In the hands of a lesser satirist, this would be
a recipe for something shallow, cliched, and offensively stereotypic.
But Morris has always taken pains to thoroughly research his subjects --
he took a news editing courses in preparation for "The Day Today."
The genesis of "Four Lions" came out of years of research — interviews,
poring over government intelligence, and even attending the trials of
London bombers -- and the result gives a much more complicated view of
jihadists than is given by the bloviators on cable news. "Four Lions" is
also staggeringly funny.
Yahoo Movies: What inspired you to make a movie about jihadists?
Chris Morris: Real life. Basically, reading into the subject,
not expecting to find funny incidents but finding them nonetheless. I
reading an account of the evolution of Al Qaeda and how it came into
being and I came across examples of people behaving in rather all too
human, doltish, or even sheer incompetent ways. There was a bunch of
Yemeni jihadis who wanted to blow up a warship that was moored out in
the bay with an exploding boat and they duly assembled it at three in
the morning. They put it in the sea. They loaded it with explosives. And
it sank. And I thought that's like a moment from a farce. I noted it
and moved on but these moments kept coming up. There's another story
about an Algerian terrorist who was summoned over to see Bin Laden. Bin
Laden said 'I want you to work for me, brother.' The Algerian terrorist
said, 'I have no intention to work with you, mate. I'm my own man. And
if I ever hear from you again, I'm going to come here and cut your
f**king head off." And I thought, there's a reaction shot of Bin Laden