Listen to the second part of the All Inclusive with Jay Ruderman holiday special featuring Peter and Bobby Farrelly! Tune in to hear more about what authentic representation in the entertainment industry means to them!
Award-Winning Film Directors & Producers
Speaker 2 (00:00):
Authentic representation in the entertainment industry of people with disabilities is something that the Ruderman Family Foundation has been involved with for some time now. While there have been some improvements lately, such as at the Sundance Film Festival, making Crip Camp, a movie about summer camp for people with disabilities in the 1970s and the Disability Rights Movement, a major piece of their festival this year. And Zack Gottsagen presenting an award at the Oscars in February. Hollywood is still lagging behind when it comes to the inclusion of people with disabilities.
Speaker 2 (00:40):
All Inclusive, a podcast on inclusion, innovation, and social justice, with Jay Ruderman.
Jay Ruderman (00:51):
I’m Jay Ruderman host of All Inclusive. And we have with us today, two people who’ve always made inclusion for people with disabilities an important aspect in their movies. Acclaimed filmmakers and Morton E. Ruderman Award in inclusion honorees, Peter and Bobby Farrelly.
Jay Ruderman (01:06):
I’m also excited to announce that we’re running a giveaway right now to spread some joy during this season. From December 14th to January 15th, we’re giving away one iPad per week for five weeks. That’s five iPads. To enter you simply go to my Twitter, Instagram or Facebook at Jay Ruderman. Follow me and comment on the weekly contest post with the hashtag all inclusive iPad contest. Enter to win. We’ll draw a random winner each Friday. So enter now. You must be 18 or over and in the United States to participate.
Jay Ruderman (01:43):
You know one thing Michelle Obama said fairly recently is that most of us get to know people who are not like ourselves through TV and film. And so the medium has tremendous power, but you said it’s a business. So, you sort of have like a chicken and the egg, you want to get actors with disabilities who have some notoriety so they can become more regular in film and TV, but they have to get a shot for it to happen in the first place. So I give you guys a lot of credit because you’ve given a lot of people their start and you know that this is an issue that society needs to be more well aware of. Can you talk a little bit about your influence on other people in the industry? Now that you’re speaking out about this and you’ve spoken out for a while, but how do you influence others who are making movie and TV?
Peter Farrelly (02:32):
Well, I can’t say we’ve had a huge influence. I think that we’ve done what we’ve done and we’ve been involved in media access, like I’ve passed on, tried to get Canadian people involved. I’ve done that kind of stuff. We’ve opened ourselves up to it. But from this point forward, we were going to do more because it time has come and we really didn’t get as active as we should have. We did what we did, but we didn’t think about the when we weren’t making movies and that’s why we’re doing this thing tonight with you, because we want to, I hate awards. I don’t like getting awards. But this one is an important one because we’re drawing attention to something that nobody’s talking about which is people with disabilities not being allowed in the door for not just entertainment jobs, but jobs across the world.
Peter Farrelly (03:22):
As we’ve stated before the unemployment rate’s at 4% in our country right now, 70% for people with disabilities. There’s 20% of the population is disabled and in movies and TV, it’s represented 3%. It’s just kind of a moment right now where we think that things were about to change and we want to be part of that change, we want to help out.
Bobby Farrelly (03:45):
Yeah. I think I might be going a little off base here, but one of the things I have learned along the way is that in order to get more people with disabilities into movies, you have to consider them for all roles. They don’t have to just be the one part where they’re that super great friend that you have, like an angelic role. You can consider it for any role. You can consider them for the bad guy, the good guy, the duplicitous person. And if you open up your mind and you think that they could play anything, they don’t have to just be portrayed one particular way, that in itself opens up a lot more opportunity. And honestly, the people that we’ve met from the disabled community, they love that. People love to play a role that it’s not always the good person. It’s fun to be the villain. And so just considering the people in the disabled community for these roles opens up a lot of doors.
Jay Ruderman (04:44):
So you’ve made many movies and many successful movies, any of them your favorites, ones that you look back on you’re like, “I really liked making that, it came out really well.”
Peter Farrelly (04:56):
This is a cliche, but, and every director will always say, they’re like your movies are like your kids. So it’s hard to say pick one over another. But I do have to say making The Ringer was probably the most fun I ever had in my life. And we produced the ringer with Johnny Knoxville and it was backed by the special Olympics about a guy who tries to fix the special Olympics. Gets in there he makes a bet and he’s going to enter a race and he’s bet on himself. But what he doesn’t realize is they’re good athletes A, and B though, he can fool the special Olympic officials, he can’t fool the athletes themselves. And they ended up calling them on it and they all bonded. It’s just a really uplifting movie, but what was so great about it is we had 150 kids in that movie with disabilities.
Peter Farrelly (05:43):
Most of them with down syndrome and as anybody who’s been around people with down syndrome, they’re the most loving people on the planet. And every morning you’d get there you get 20 minutes of hugs before you could start shooting. It was the warmest most beautiful set. And also we shot it in Austin, Texas. And I just remember how much joy I felt seeing packs of kids with disabilities, like 10 down syndrome kids together going down the street, having a ball and people stopping them and asking for autographs. “You guys in the movie, can we have an autograph?” I knew watching it, it was the happiest times of their lives. And so it was for me too, it was my best time ever making a movie.
Bobby Farrelly (06:32):
Yeah. That, that was a really fun movie. And it kind of indicative of why a lot of movies like that don’t get made is that the studio was thinking, “No, you can’t make a big comedy with all these disabled people. It’ll look like you’re making fun of them.” And we were like, “Well we’re absolutely not making fun of him.” The guy who’s in the wrong here is the Johnny Knoxville character. He thinks one thing about him, but he learns otherwise. He learns that there are a lot more able-bodied than he thinks they are. So it was only when we talked to Eunice Shriver and the Shrivers and the special Olympic people on all of them that they said, “No, we’d love it if you’d make this movie because that nobody’s making these kinds of movies.”
Bobby Farrelly (07:09):
And so the studio grudgingly agreed, but it was a little bit risky but very proud of it.
Peter Farrelly (07:16):
Well, here’s the other thing is that the studio said, “How can you do that with 150 kids with disabilities? They’re not going to be there on time. They’re not going to know their lines. You’re going to take forever to shoot stuff.” They were the best ones on the set. They all were on time. They all knew their lines. It was the other guys who were like, “Are you kidding me? Are you joking? Johnny, get your shit together.” No, they were the most prepared people on the set. And that’s the other myth about people with disabilities. That it’s somehow going to cost you more money, slow you down, slow down productivity. It’s not true at all. And so I this isn’t just for people in the entertainment industry. This is for people everywhere. If you have a company, look around, think about it. If you don’t have people with some disability or another, you’re not being truly fair. And so just get them in the door and interview them. And you’re going to find out you’re going to end up hiring a lot of people with disabilities.
Jay Ruderman (08:13):
So our foundation did a study not so long ago about, because you talked about money and this being a business, the marketability of the entertainment business and the people want authenticity. They want to see authenticity, they’ll pay for authenticity. And I think there’s a lot of stereotypes out there, including in the entertainment industry about people not being able to act, which you’ve proven is not the case. But I think that we’ve reached an age where people want to see people like their friends and their neighbors and their family members on screen. Yeah. I mean, you think of how hugely impactful it will be to those people and their family, but just the general population.
Jay Ruderman (08:56):
I’ve had the privilege to know business leaders and major figures in industry who hire people with disabilities, but they all have a personal connection. So I think the challenge in the country and around the world is to move beyond the people that have that personal connection to people that don’t just say, “Listen, hiring a person with disability is, they’re 20% of the population. It’s the right thing to do, and they’re good workers and it’ll help improve the morale and the production of your company”
Peter Farrelly (09:26):
There’s if you’ve ever seen Hamilton and most people have by now, it’s the all time, it’s just an amazing play. But Thomas Jefferson is played by a black man. And I think George Washington too, and Hamilton and the whole thing. You think about that for 10 seconds and then you’re beyond it. And you’re watching a thing and color doesn’t matter. Race doesn’t matter, nothing matters, except they’re telling the story about these people. And that’s how we would like the entertainment world to eventually get to that point where you can have people in wheelchairs and blind people and deaf people and whatever the disability is. People with cerebral palsy and in roles that you would never expect them to be in because you going to find that you won’t notice it very quickly.
Jay Ruderman (10:15):
So I just want to get back to the movie making process. How do you come up with an idea and how does that whole process go from an idea that you have, you guys might work together to becoming a script, to getting made into a movie?
Peter Farrelly (10:28):
Sometimes we can find a script, like in the case of there’s something about Mary, it was a script written by Ed Decter and John Strauss, a couple of our buddies. They’d written it a few years earlier. We’d read it, we really liked it. We liked the set up particularly a guy who he’s in his 30s and he doesn’t have a girlfriend he’s excuse me, never really been in love. And then we find out there was one girl in high school, but she moved away and his friend convinces him “We’ll track her down and see if she’s single.” And he hires a private I, tracks her down. The private I falls in love with her comes back reports that she’s got all sorts of issues. And she’s got a bunch of kids and she’s all sorts of problems and he still wants to find her.
Peter Farrelly (11:08):
And we thought there’s a great movie there. So we took that. And then we wrote what we thought was missing, which was the first act like, why does he love her so much? So we hadn’t seen that. That movie had started at him looking for her. So we thought we have to write a first act where-
Bobby Farrelly (11:25):
Well, I remember and nothing against the script that they had written, but it had been developed at a studio and they were getting a lot of notes from a lot of people. And he was supposed to be madly in love with this girl, but there wasn’t anything about her that seemed so much that you’d fall head over heels for her and remember her for the rest of your life. And so we did work on that.
Bobby Farrelly (11:46):
And really one of the big things that, that worked for us was that she had a brother who was intellectually challenged he was based on a real guy that we know growing up. But her relationship with him was really something that was very endearing. You knew that you was a solid person just because of how much she loved and cared for her brother and how much of a big part of her life he was. And so that was something that we had changed and it really helped a lot.
Peter Farrelly (12:14):
And we were able to put a couple of the guys that we grew up with, Jimmy Gifford and Warren Taschen in the movie. And yeah, that’s when we really started realizing that we have to do more and more and more. And incidentally that movie got good reviews, but one or two reviews, not many, but a couple of them said, they felt uncomfortable watching the brother, Mary’s brother for whatever reason. But we never got one negative letter ever about that relationship, we always get positive letters. We got letters from people saying, “Hey, I saw the movie Mary and I have a sister with an intellectual disability and I realized I haven’t done enough with her. And you’ve inspired me to do more.” I got a lot of letters. It was really interesting to see the real world response to it as opposed to some critics who thought it was not appropriate.
Jay Ruderman (13:09):
Well, the casting was amazing. I mean, you guys pick, great actors. I have to ask you who wrote the scene, where he has the beans above the frank?
Bobby Farrelly (13:19):
Well, Pete and I wrote it. I think he came up with franks and beans if I recall correctly. Our writing is like we don’t really remember who did what, but I do remember that one is we thought something’s going to happen on this date and you know what could happen that’s embarrassing? And we thought about it long and hard and drew on some real life experiences that we had that believe it or not, it was based off stuff that had happened at our house.
Peter Farrelly (13:48):
And right now by the way, we’re developing a musical, Something About Mary. Yeah. We’ve already written a few songs, it’s a ball. And it’s a whole different thing and it’s a lot of laughs.
Jay Ruderman (14:00):
And the firefighter in that scene right there is a Boston comedian.
Peter Farrelly (14:05):
Yeah. That’s Lenny Clarke.
Bobby Farrelly (14:06):
There is Lenny Clark and Steve Sweeney is the police officer. So yeah those two guys are in there.
Peter Farrelly (14:12):
Jackie Flynn was in there. Yeah Jackie was a cop in there, not in that scene, but a later scene.
Bobby Farrelly (14:21):
Then we always have a lot of friends and local Boston people in our movies yeah.
Jay Ruderman (14:29):
You’re listening to all inclusive with Jay Ruderman, you can learn more view the show notes and transcripts at rudermanfoundation.org/allinclusive. Please remember to subscribe, rate and review us wherever you are listening.
Jay Ruderman (14:47):
Tell me about Shallow Hal. That’s my favorite movie that you guys have made. And I think the story of disability just intertwined throughout that whole.
Bobby Farrelly (14:59):
Well it’s funny, you should mention that because we just got, in the last couple of days, Gwyneth Paltrow came out and says, that’s the movie that she’s regretting having made. Yeah.
Jay Ruderman (15:07):
Why did she say that?
Bobby Farrelly (15:11):
I think she was not comfortable with the heaviness of the character or whatever. I’m not sure why, but I-
Peter Farrelly (15:20):
I think she forgot what it was about. It was about not judging people by how they look and rather look inside and to what kind of person they are. And that’s where the beauty is. And in our story, Jack Black had bumped into Tony Robbins who had sort of put a spell on him. And so he could only see inner beauty and he fell in love with this girl that other that his friends might not have thought she was the prettiest girl, but she was such a beautiful person that all he could see was a luminous beauty.
Bobby Farrelly (15:50):
And by the way just to be clear, we’re not saying that if you’re heavy, you’re not beautiful. It’s just, he was shallow. In fact, we love all sizes, all types honestly. It’s just that he was a shallow guy. So he didn’t think that was attractive and had to learn what inner beauty was like. But in any case, Gwyneth was a pleasure to work with. We had a ball with her, so it was disappointing for her to see this but we have no regrets. We loved making it, we had Reen Kirby who was in it, he was born with spina bifida. And he’s a guy from Vermont who we met up in Burlington one day and he did a phenomenal job in it. And it allowed us to do a lot of the stuff. He was an important part of that movie.
Peter Farrelly (16:38):
Absolutely. The people that I heard saying when we made that movie, that if I ever heard anyone saying, and it wasn’t everyone, but if I heard someone saying, “Oh, they’re making fun of fat people.” I knew instantly that they hadn’t seen the movie. They just thought they knew what it was about. Because if you see it, you’d realize that it’s not, that it’s the exact opposite of that.
Bobby Farrelly (16:59):
And we actually got that a little from The Ringer. The Ringer, we had an actress, I won’t name her, but we offered her a role in The Ringer and she responded “No.” She passed on the project and added that she was offended by the material. And I knew well, she obviously only read the opening where a guy’s trying to fix a special Olympics, because if you read it to the end, you would see it’s all about inclusivity and love and acceptance.
Bobby Farrelly (17:26):
So it’s disappointing when people, and maybe the message doesn’t come across all the time, the way we intend it. Maybe we’re a little at fault there. I’m not saying we do everything perfectly, but we’re bringing people in trying to get people more comfortable with people with disability and more accepting of them.
Peter Farrelly (17:48):
I remember when you had to meet with the board of the special Olympics. They were questioning like “How do we know that you guys aren’t going to take this movie and make all the Olympic athletes look silly?” I know you’re not going to do wrong by them. And I think you said, “Because I don’t want to go to hell.”
Bobby Farrelly (18:05):
Yeah. I believe there’s a God. And I don’t want to go to hell then, like, “Okay.’.
Peter Farrelly (18:11):
No, but the other guy said, “Well, I just want you to know this board, we do have the authority. We can send you to hell.”
Bobby Farrelly (18:16):
I know, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was there. And she’s one of the most important people in the world as far as helping changing people’s perceptions of people with disabilities.
Jay Ruderman (18:28):
Well, if you’ve got the Shrivers behind you and Tim Shriver and Eunice I think you were in good company.
Peter Farrelly (18:34):
Peace Corps, special Olympics, best buddies all came from that family. Anthony Shriver started Best Buddies. And if you don’t know what best buddies is, I’m sure most people is. It’s basically Big Brothers with kids with some sort of intellectual disability, not always intellectual, but some sort of a disability. And it’s the greatest thing you could ever do. I did it for 20 years until my buddy moved back to Boston. I still see him when I get back there. But it’s just, it’s just the greatest. It’s like you go through life and you’re always wondering if you’re doing the right thing. Should I be here or should I be there? Should be there should be that. But when you’re spending the day with your buddy you know you’re exactly at the right place at the right time. And it’s just a freeing peace comes over you. And that’s the beauty of that program.
Jay Ruderman (19:22):
What’s next? Anything exciting on the horizon for you guys?
Peter Farrelly (19:27):
Well, we just, we’re doing a really interesting show on Quibi which is this new network.
Bobby Farrelly (19:34):
Which is a subscription network like Netflix, but it’s meant to be watched on your phone or on your iPad. It’s kind of geared towards millennials who watch a lot of things on their phones and iPads. So it’s a subscription service for that. And it’s coming out in April.
Peter Farrelly (19:49):
It’s called The Now. And it’s about a guy who is suicidal, opens with the guy who was suicidal and through a series of things can’t bring himself to kill himself. So realizes he has to find a better way to live. And so he happens upon Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now which is about living in the now. Most people fear the future or regret the past. That’s how people live. Rarely are you in the now, the moment. By the way that you want to get in the moment, go to best buddies, be with your buddy.
Peter Farrelly (20:22):
You’re in the moment. And this is a guy who was trying to learn how to live in the now. And it’s a dark comedy because it’s not easy to live in the now. You’re on your way to a business meeting and somebody flags your car down, they need help and they need a ride the other direction, but you have a business meeting. What do you do? If you take the guy and you’re living in the now helping the person who needs help right at that moment, you’re messing something up that could hurt you later on. So it’s a interesting story.
Bobby Farrelly (20:48):
Yeah. And we’re pretty excited about it because with Quibi is real short episodes. The episodes only run from like six to 10 minute maximum. So it’s a much quicker format. We have a show that’s got about 14 or 15 episodes, 10 minute maximum, and a really good cast. Dave Franco and this kid Jimmy Tatro and O’Shea Jackson, Bill Murray, Daryl Hannah. So a really good cast and we’re excited.
Peter Farrelly (21:18):
Yeah. And they release one episode a day for about two weeks. You get a 10 minute episodes. So wherever you are, you’re on the train, on the subway, whatever you just put it on, you get 10 minutes, it’s over.
Bobby Farrelly (21:29):
Listen, I hope it doesn’t go to a 10 minute episodes everywhere. But I think that this will catch on because just watching them ourselves, these little 10 minute things, it’s really fun, and it leaves you wanting more. You’re like, “I can’t wait until the next one.”
Peter Farrelly (21:43):
Yeah. This all the idea was dreamed up by Jeffrey Katzenberg was really smart, successful guy out here in Hollywood. And so this is where he sees the future going. So we’ll see if he’s right. But he probably is.
Jay Ruderman (21:58):
For those of you that know me, I’m a huge Red Sox fan and Fever Pitch was a great movie that those of us in Red Sox nation loved. But one final question. Favorite Red Sox player of all time. Okay.
Peter Farrelly (22:14):
Good choice. I think Tony Conigliaro for me. Yeah. Tony C.
Bobby Farrelly (22:19):
We’ve been trying to do what we can to help Tony C, get his, he’s number should be retired by the Red Sox. He was at that time, the youngest guy to have a 100 home runs. He would have been probably a Hall of Famer and he was struck down during a game in the game because of the game, not like off car accident or something. And so it seems to us that he should have that number retired. they don’t retire a lot of numbers there, but Tony C.
Bobby Farrelly (22:46):
Yeah, there was something about whenever you’re struck down, even before your prime it was really, it was heartbreaking. So I did love Tony C, but I love Johnny Damon till he tarnished himself a little by jumping over the Yankees. But for those moments when he was with us and particularly when we were making Fever Pitch, he was the man.
Peter Farrelly (23:07):
I was tickled to see Yaz’s grandson get called up last year and killing it. He was really in the hell out of the ball. And that just made me so happy to see his strength ski up on the board again. 1967, I was 10 years old and that was the beginning of my lifelong love affair with baseball.
Jay Ruderman (23:29):
Yeah. Well, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you guys and thank you for your time and thank you for your leadership. You’ve done great work and the comedy and everything you’ve accomplished. I wish you continued success.
Peter Farrelly (23:41):
And thank you. I appreciate what you’re doing. You’re changing the world. You really are. I appreciate it.
Jay Ruderman (23:45):
Jay Ruderman (23:50):
All Inclusive is a production of the Ruderman family Foundation. Our key mission is the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. You can find all inclusive on Apple podcast, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. To view the show notes, transcripts, or to learn more, go to rudermanfoundation.org/allinclusive. Have an idea for a podcast? Be sure to tweet @Jay Ruderman.