Ricky Gervais, best known as the trash talking host of the Golden Globes and the creator of The Office, took jibes at Donald Trump on the red carpet at the premiere of his new Netflix comedy, Special Correspondents, Friday evening at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Gervais wrote, starred and directed the comedy, which is based on a 2009 French film of the same title. Gervais plays Ian, a meek sound technician, and Eric Bana co-stars as a swaggering, macho star reporter at a struggling Manhattan radio station. The pair lose their passports and fake war front reporting from Ecuador while hiding out above a Spanish restaurant in Queens. (American Ferrera and Raul Castillo play the couple that aids them in the subterfuge and serve them wine and snacks throughout their deceit.)
On the red carpet, Eric Bana, who is Australian, was asked, since the film is about the media and politics, what he thought of American politics. “I don’t talk politics,” he replied coolly.
Ricky Gervais Talks Donald Trump at ‘Special Correspondents’ Screening
Not so with Ricky Gervais. I asked him how he thought journalists were handling the America election so far.
“I just could watch Donald Trump talk 24/7. I want him given his own channel in a playpen. I want him to be in a big romper suit, right? And given all the toys, right? And he would just say, ‘I’m worth 10 billion. I’m going to build a wall.’ I just want him talking and then it’s not really being broadcast,” cracked Gervais with a big smile. “He’d be happy. Why can’t we tell him he is president and never let him out? So he thinks he’s running everything and he watches it on telly and that’s all fake and all his broadcasts they’re not really going anywhere. That’d do, wouldn’t it? He’d be happy. Let’s tell him he’s president.”
On another track, a reporter asked Gervais which of the arts forms he prefers most. “Writing. I became the director to protect the writing. I became the producer to protect my directing. I love doing it all. But I love creating. An idea gives me an adrenaline rush and then it’s how little you ruin it,” he said. “If I’ve got my own way, I don’t care what happens then. I’m bullet proof and then I’ll move on to the next project.”
Other cast members include Kevin Pollak and Kelly Macdonald. But Vera Farmiga steals the show as Ian’s celebrity hungry wife, Eleanor, who profits from her spouse’s supposed kidnapping by Ecuadorian rebels as a way to get on television and become a reality star.
During the Q&A following the screening, when asked about the harsh light the movie shines on journalism, Gervais said the film wasn’t about that, but rather about modern day celebrity worship and obsession, which he said is worse now than ten years ago. “Let’s have more singers, not more doctors, more singers,” Gervais joked. “The film is really about a bunch of idiots trying to get on.”
Asked about Gervais’s directing style, Bana replied, “I forgot Ricky was directing a movie. I must say it wasn’t that apparent he was directing a movie because it was literally like, on the first day he started pissing himself laughing.”
The toughest part about directing himself, Gervais said in reply to a question from the audience was, “I’d forget to. I’d say, ‘Was I acting then? Does that look like acting’?”
Finishing shooting before 6 p.m. was a priority for Gervais, as well as keeping down costs and making everything as convenient as possible. Some exterior shots were filmed in New York but most of “Special Correspondents” was shot in Toronto. For the scenes set in Ecuador, huts were built 50 minutes from the actors’ Toronto hotel, which Gervais complained was too far. When Ferrera pointed out the set in no way resembled Ecuador, Gervais replied, “Can I say I don’t care?”
A woman in the audience, referring to a scene in the film where Gervais’ character gets an extra burst of courage after sniffing cocaine, asked, “Is this a pro-coke film?”
“Pro-cocaine? No it’s about a guy who…,” Gervais began.
“The answer is yes,” cracked Kevin Pollak to laughter.
“It’s more of a guy who would never do that, so he does it and he can’t cope with it, so that’s (how he reacts),” said Gervais. “I’m not saying, ‘Do cocaine, kids, and get stoned and it gets rid of all problems.’”
During the panel, Gervais mentioned his new film out in August, “Life on the Road,” which features the return of David Brent, the smarmy boss he played in “The Office.” Said Gervais, “Brent is now 15 years older, the world’s changed, it’s harsher. Now the world is full of people who are saying, ‘I will destroy anyone who stands in my way.’ Brent’s selling toiletry products, and he’s cashed in his pension. He’s put a band together, just immersed himself (in the rock world) and he’s booked some gigs, and he thinks he’s going to get signed. He’s followed by this documentary crew. It’s like Scorsese following the Rolling Stones,” cackled Gervais. “It’s tragic, but very funny.”