Mr. Brooks is a dark, comical story of a well-to-do guy (Kevin Costner) who does very bad things. I love it, because it’s wry and bloody and—gasp—downright creative. I screamed out loud in the screening, in part because it was so damn unpredictable. Can you remember the last time you used the word "unpredictable" to describe a Hollywood movie? Exactly.
Just the same, I absolutely, 100 percent did not want to go to the junket, because I was supposed to be there just as the Red Sox and Yankees were due to face off. Life is so not fair, I know. Alas, I went. And thank goodness for that. The Red Sox may have lost that day—grrr—but I came out on top. Let me just say that Dane Cook does a damn fine job in Brooks. But the real story is how he totally stole the show at the junket—and made me forget all about that Jessica Simpson mistake. A miracle, I know.
He Got the Part Because Zach Braff Bailed on Brooks: The junket starts, and I am immediately engaged by intellectual screenwriting duo Bruce A. Evans (who also directed) and Raynold Gideon. They are natural-born storytellers. Within seconds they’re telling us about how Zach Braff was signed on to do Cook’s part. Alas, Zach called them up all torn because he’d gotten the chance to direct his own movie. They promptly told him to ditch Brooks and make his movie. And I promptly lit up. Cook is eerie and believable and twisted and alive in this movie. I cannot even kind of imagine what it would have been like with Braff.
He Had to Kill His Inner Comic...Sort Of: Naturally, journalists are wondering how you get a comedian like Cook to kill his inner free-associating bad boy and stick to the script. Evans and Gideon insist that he totally did. Minutes later, Cook is in the room, telling us all about a scene where he totally improvised, and how much Costner loved it. Ha.
Holy Crap, Did He Lose 50 Pounds? A slight exaggeration, but Cook is not the pudgy, roundish fellow that he is onscreen in Mr. Brooks. When he walked into the room in his Robertson Boulevard-esque outfit, he looked borderline gaunt. It brought out the Jewish mother in me. Someone feed this boy, now!
There Were No Handouts—Cook Shot a Home Video, Like Katie Holmes Did for Dawson’s Creek: To land the part, Cook literally reenacted a scene from the movie in a hotel room and had one of his friends—who is very much not an actor—shoot him. He was humble, obviously aware that when you get the chance to go for a job with Costner and William Hurt, you go for it. Even if that means busting out the Handycam.
He Wants to See Roger Clemens Go Down: ESPN sports guy Bill Simmons has grumbled that Cook is a jerk and a fake fan, saying that he showed up to a taping of Crank Yankers wearing a Yankees cap. Hmmm. As a member of the press and Red Sox Nation, I felt it was my duty to dig a little deeper. So, after Cook finished the Q&A group session, I asked him if he thought we (as in the Red Sox) had a shot that night. “We’re losing two nothing right now,” he explained. I saw true Masshole rage in his eyes. I bought it. Am I a sucker? Maybe. Then, he said this: “Is it horrible that I hope that Roger Clemens destroys his arm on the first pitch?” Ha! No. Is it horrible that you read my mind? Yes.
He Had to Win Over Costner. And He Did: It’s not all that surprising that Costner wasn’t a huge fan of Cook’s frat-boy humor. I mean, I don’t picture Mr. Dances with Wolves as a guy who spends his downtime surfing the Net to see which comics the college kids are into these days. Still, I liked how downright blunt he was about Cook: “I wasn't familiar with his stand-up. And I'm actually glad, because I don't completely understand his stand-up all the time. But I understand him, and I understand his desire to not be pigeonholed.” Ah, the journey is complete. Cool. Can we go watch Waterworld now?