Renée Zellweger won’t say the word ”dildo.” Which is a problem, because she’s trying to discuss her role in the Farrelly brothers’ new split-personality comedy ”Me, Myself & Irene,” starring her beau Jim Carrey. ”I had a little more to do with… THE PROP,” she says, sounding agonized. ”Oh, I don’t want to say it! I don’t want my dad reading this.”
Zellweger’s dad may have a problem hearing about how his little girl is starring in a movie with jokes about public defecation, cow abuse, and a chicken’s encounter with the nether end of a Rhode Island state trooper. But the Farrellys themselves aren’t quite so shy, even when they’re talking about some deleted scenes involving the aforementioned sexual device. ”The ‘prop’ was a running gag,” says Peter, 43, the elder half of this directing and screenwriting duo. ”But we cut it down to size.” Bobby, younger by one year, recalls: ”Renee was very concerned about the dildo scenes. In fact, she wouldn’t do them until we let her use her own dildo.” Long pause. ”That’s a joke.”
Fortunately for the Farrellys, movie audiences have been embracing their ”so sick they’re funny” gags ever since their directing debut, ‘94’s ”Dumb and Dumber.” Their ‘98 hit, ”There’s Something About Mary,” grossed $176 million in the U.S. And we do mean grossed: The comedy, starring Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller, featured showstopping sequences involving damaged male genitalia, unorthodox hair gel alternatives, and a mentally handicapped man running amok.
But despite their penchant for low comedy, the brothers say they also strive for something even rarer: twisted humor that is also strangely heartwarming. ”The audience won’t laugh at truly mean-spirited stuff,” says Peter, who looks a little like Jeff Bridges’ stoner hero from ”The Big Lebowski.”The relationship between Jim and his sons is the heart of the movie,” he adds, referring to the three African-American teenagers that the sweet-natured Charlie has raised as his own – despite the fact that the triplets are obviously the product of his ex wife’s brazen affair with a pint-size limousine driver. ”In one scene, [Charlie’s kids] are making fun of him,” says Bobby, ”and we had him say, ‘Ha, ha, ha, yeah well, Your mother f—ed a midget,’ and the audience laughed. But later they said we should cut it because it was MEAN.”
And how will audiences feel about what Peter calls ”the chicken in the butt thing”? ”No one’s hurt,” he says (the chicken was mechanical). And what of the chicken’s unlucky recipient, played by collaborator Michael Cerrone, the brothers’ childhood friend? ”He wrote the script with us,” says Bobby, ”and out of respect… we gave him that scene.”
Despite the envelope-pushing high jinks, the Farrellys are known for maintaining a certain comfort level on set. Still, Carrey acknowledges that the brothers are one of the few forces on earth with the power to make him blush. Case in point: a scene where Charlie’s debauched alter ego suckles at the ample breast of a nursing mother. ”It’s very rare that I get into a place where I’m actually humiliated,” says Carrey. ”I was embarrassed for the girl, and she was fine with it. She was like, ‘Whatever. I didn’t even notice.”’ So mortified was Carrey that he asked to clear the ”Irene” set of nonessential cast and crew. ”What a great tabloid story,” the actor jokes. ”’Jim asks for 150 takes!”’
Unfortunately for the tabs, that would probably never happen: the Farrellys don’t sift through dozens of takes, searching Kubrick-like for the perfect dildo gag. As directors, they’re after laughs, not technically dazzling filmmaking. ”We don’t consider ourselves directors, and a lot of other people don’t either,” says Peter. ”We consider ourselves writers. We direct so that no one messes up our script. We don’t worry about the cameras, the angles, the lenses. Our crew does all that. They set up the shots. We’ll look at the monitor and say, [The people are] too little. How do we make ‘em look bigger?”