Putting the 'R' in ''South Park''

"The document was hilarious," says Rudin. "It's like Alice in Wonderland, it was so crazy. I realize they're good people trying to do a good job, but the MPAA's not meant to be some moral arbiter of an entire culture." The filmmakers insist the cuts only made the movie racier. "Hands down, the MPAA made our movie much more graphic and subversive," Stone says. Adds Parker, "We should send a thank-you letter to [MPAA president and CEO] Jack Valenti. Our movie's funnier because of him."

"Those two hair balls don't know what they're talking about," says an outraged Valenti. "They're trashing us to get attention for their film, and guess what? They have brilliantly succeeded." As for the back-and-forth between Paramount and the board, Valenti says: "These negotiations go on all the time. A filmmaker has a right to know why he got a rating, and he's got a right to say, I'm going to adjust my film to get a less severe rating."

Ironically, all this quarreling can only help Paramount and Comedy Central, which is halfway through its 73-episode South Park contract. After all, the series isn't the pop-culture behemoth it was last year. This season, ratings dropped nearly 40 percent and a good old-fashioned backlash appeared to be under way. "Suddenly we suck and we're not cool anymore," Parker says. "The funny thing is, last year we were saying the same things and we were hip, fresh, and cute. Now they're telling us we're pushing 30, we're failures, and we're sellouts."

Given the less-than-enthusiastic receptions for the duo's previous big-screen efforts, Orgazmo and BASEketball, Parker and Stone admit that the pressure is on. "If this one screws up, it will definitely hurt," says Parker. The team has commuted between the $20 million movie and the series for the past year, pushing both to scheduling extremes (changes to Bigger, Longer & Uncut were made as late as two weeks before its release) and fighting constantly with Paramount. "They wanted us to do a PG-13 movie," Parker says. "We said no. They wanted a Disney kind of trailer. We said no. They put together a totally un-South Park MTV video [for the song "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"]. We had to go make our own version."

"If they had a strained relationship with us, I feel bad about it, but it's part of the moviemaking process," says Rob Friedman, vice chairman of the motion-picture group at Paramount. "Matt and Trey have a unique style of working.... Maybe they're not used to working within studio guidelines."

But infighting might have to take a backseat after Uncut's opening weekend, when loud protests may be heard not only from the MPAA but from MADD, GLAAD, the NAACP, the PTA, the USMC, the CIA, the UJA, the NHL (Canadians get it real bad), MSNBC, and C-3PO. Not surprisingly, Parker and Stone don't seem to care. "We'd be a little disappointed if a chunk of the audience wasn't p---ed off," says Stone. "We weren't exactly doing this movie to please people."

As for mending fences with the studio, he's philosophical, in a sort of South Park way. "We hate Paramount," he says. "People are telling us we're torching our relationship with them. The fact is, if the movie does well, we'll be their best friends. If it doesn't, they'll hate us anyway. We're just their whores."

Originally posted Jul 09, 1999 Published in issue #493 Jul 09, 1999 Order article reprints