Steve Martin and Chris Tucker Talk 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk'

Ethan Alter
Writer
Yahoo Movies

No question about it: Steve Martin and Chris Tucker are two wild and crazy guys. That’s why it’s so compelling to watch them play against type in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ang Lee’s dramatic experiment in high frame rate filmmaking. “To be approached by Ang Lee is really fantastic — it’s like being invited to the prom,” Martin told Yahoo Movies in our recent Facebook Live interview direct from the Billy Lynn press day. “We knew it was going to be a drama and a technological adventure, shot in 4K and 3D.” Adds Tucker: “Ang Lee is one of the biggest and best directors in the business. “He really sold me; I knew he was going to do something new and different and great.” Watch the full interview above and read on for some highlights.

Related: ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’: N.Y. Film Festival Review

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is based on the 2012 bestseller by Ben Fountain, and tells the story of a platoon of soldiers — including the title character, played by newcomer Joe Alwyn — who have temporarily returned to the U.S. from Iraq War to be celebrated for their heroic actions on the battlefield. “I didn’t read it before the movie, because I didn’t want to be influenced by it,” says Martin. “But afterwards my wife read it aloud to me and it was a beautiful way to hear it.” As for Tucker? “I looked at the cover,” he jokes.
Joe Alwyn in 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' (Photo: Sony)
Joe Alwyn in ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ (Photo: Sony)
  • In the film, Martin plays the owner of a Dallas Cowboys-like football team, who takes an interest in the soldiers. “I’ve met many entrepreneurs and I’ve seen their power and how they approach the world,” Martin says. “In many cases, they are incredibly charming people as you can expect.” Meanwhile, Tucker portrays the Hollywood liaison trying to sell the film rights to the soldiers’ story. “I’ve known so many agents, and young guys trying to get into the business. He’s trying to make it work for them, because if it’s good for them, it’s good for him, too.”
  • Most movies are filmed at 24 frames per second; for Billy Lynn, Lee made the decision to shoot the movie at 120 frames per second, giving the image a stark crispness and clarity that can take a little while for viewers to adjust to. Tucker, for one, says he didn’t have any doubts about the visual style. “I just knew it was going to look good, because Ang Lee movies always look good!”

Related: ‘Meteor Shower’ by Steve Martin: Connecticut Theater Review

  • Frank Oz’s 1986 film version of the cult musical, Little Shop of Horrors, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and it’s a film that Martin — who memorably played psycho dentist Orin Scrivello — still has fond memories of. “I had some fabulous scenes with Bill Murray, and I had to learn to ride a big, heavy Harley motorcycle. Whenever I think ‘Steve, you can’t sing,’ I go, ‘Wait a minute…I did Little Shop!’ “
  • Memo to the producers of next year’s Oscar telecast: Martin and Tucker are totally down to be your hosts. Better yet, they say, the show could be directed by Quentin Tarantino. Just listen to Martin’s pitch: “Tarantino directs the Oscars and we have a shoot-out onstage!” That’s one way to ensure boffo ratings.

‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’: Watch the trailer: