After a decade of hysterical Funny Or Die encounters with celebrities from every corner of the country, Between Two Ferns is finally releasing a full-length film. The movie drops on Netflix on September 20, and it goes far beyond piecing together 90 minutes worth of unbelievable interviews. Director Scott Aukerman and star Zach Galifianakis worked in an entire road trip storyline and underdog scenario for everyone's favorite public access television host.
Galifianakis has a whole production team behind him in Between Two Ferns: The Movie, including his right hand woman Carol (Lauren Lapkus), who work to make his late night talk show dreams come true. Lapkus and Aukerman chatted with Screen Rant about bringing the ferns to life and building a film on the strength of their improvisations.
Congratulations, you guys, on Between Two Ferns: The Movie.
Scott Aukerman: Thank you. Until you said the movie I was like, “Why is she congratulating me on Between Two Ferns the videos?”
Speaking of: when that first video came out a decade ago, the deeply disturbing interview with Michael Cera, how far did you imagine this going?
Scott Aukerman: I thought it went as far as I sent it to Funny or Die, and they were going to upload it one day, and then not pay attention to it after that. No one would watch it, and that would be it. And to have it come this far is just really insane to me.
It's not something that we planned. It's not something that I sat there with Zach and said, “Okay, to really make sure we break through to the mainstream…” You know, it was nothing that we ever thought about.
When did a Netflix film become a possibility?
Scott Aukerman: We've been talking about doing a film for a few years. And a couple years ago, I just kind of clicked into what the structure of the movie would be. So, Zach and I took it Netflix and barely pitched it; just kind of said, “Hey. It's going to be filmed like this, with these characters, and that's all we know.” And Ted Sorento said, “Yeah, okay.” And that was it! It worked out.
Lauren, I believe the film is mostly improvised. What was that experience like for you as an actress?
Lauren Lapkus: That was like my ideal scenario. I have an improv background; I've been doing improv for, like 15 years, so –
Scott Aukerman: And she can't read.
Lauren Lapkus: For me, I just say whatever I think of. But it was just so much fun. I mean, we had a great cast of all improvisers; everyone's so talented. So, it felt like every scene was really safe to be able to play around and do whatever we wanted. And Scott let us get really weird, and that's what we all love to do.
Scott Aukerman: I would give them one weird take, then I would scold them if they did two. I would say, “Not so weird!”
How about for the guests and the interviewees? How much of an idea do they have when they come in of what they'll be hit with?
Scott Aukerman: I usually have a speech that I give to all of them, because I have learned to in the past that not everyone knows exactly what they're doing there. Sometimes they're told to go there by an agent or a publicist, and they have no conception of what they're about to do. So, I have a sort of prepared script. But I still get very nervous before each one, because you never know if someone's gonna flip out at you. I've been in that situation a few times.
Are you allowed to keep filming if they do?
Scott Aukerman: We usually do keep filming. And it's not comfortable. So, I always come in with a lot of trepidation. But at least on the film, everyone was just so generous – Keanu Reeves and Matthew McConaughey. David Letterman was the nicest. But every once in a while, someone flips out, and it's not pretty.
I'm kind of fascinated by this dual world situation: Zach Galifianakis is a public access TV host and he's interviewing Jon Hamm, who's just Jon Hamm. So, Lauren, what would happen if Zack had to interview actress Lauren Lapkus instead of harried yet passionate producer [Carol]?
Lauren Lapkus: Yeah, I don't know. I guess I would love to see how he would insult me.
Scott Aukerman: Okay, just know in the process, he he'd make a lot of Orange Is the New Black references. And what else have you done?
Lauren Lapkus: That’s it. Then we’re done. That would probably be how it would go.
Scott Aukerman: There’d be a whole section on Holmes and Watson. He’d basically just show Holmes and Watson.
Lauren Lapkus: Did you just ask him to roast me?
It’s just preparation, so you know.
Lauren Lapkus: Now I know how it goes. So, thanks! I guess I won't do it.
Thankfully, no Matthew McConaugheys were harmed in the making of the film. But how many ferns do you guys think were harmed?
Scott Aukerman: I will tell you, we had two [of] what we call picture ferns and we had two stunt ferns. The stunt ferns were harmed a lot, and I think we went through maybe 10 stunt ferns. The picture ferns were the nice, pretty ones.
So, what I really hope people do is they watch the movie constantly looking at the ferns and they say aloud to themselves, “Stunt ferns!” anytime they see the stunt ferns.
Is there a reward if we get it right?
Scott Aukerman: Yeah, I will personally drive to everyone's house, and I'll bring a giant check with me. And I'll say, “Hey, look at this giant check!” and then I'll cash it myself; deposit it into my account.
Lauren Lapkus: So, you can deposit those big checks?
Scott Aukerman: Oh, yeah. You have to go to a giant bank.
Assuming this will be a rousing success, because why wouldn't it…
Scott Aukerman: Yes, thank you for assuming that.
What do you hope next for Between Two Ferns? Three ferns?
Scott Aukerman: Yeah, I think Between Three ferns is the sequel's title.
Lauren Lapkus: How do you get between three?
Scott Aukerman: That's a good point.
Each person is between two.
Scott Aukerman: Like Damocles, maybe we split it in half. I’m not sure.
But, yeah, I think a sequel would be really fun to do. We have a lot of ideas for it. So, Netflix, call us up. We're not doing anything for the rest of our lives.
Lastly, Lauren, what was one day on set or one moment that sticks out to you most?
Lauren Lapkus: One day that I really thought was great was when we were shooting the scene where we're falling down the hallway with the rushing water behind us. Because they built an amazing replica of the hallway that was tilted, and then put a gigantic thing of water that was coming down and knocking us over.
Zach was so funny that day. I mean, he was truly an amazing clown. He was like standing up and falling down with the ferns over and over again. And I was just trying to hide my face and not laugh, and it was impossible.
That sounds wonderful. I'm glad he was funny that day.
Lauren Lapkus: He was. Just that one day, to be clear.
Scott Aukerman: We tried to shoot the rest of the movie that day, because we were like, “He’s on fire!” But, unfortunately…