Allen Covert is part of the Happy Madison family of comics who circle the sun of Adam Sandler. His off-beat approach to comedy and willingness to morph physically to whatever role is put in his path makes the pugnacious paparazzi smacker and Florida native the DeNiro of comedic actors.
"The secret to my look is actually how much time between films I have, I method diet," laughed Covert, who took time out to talk to Monsters and Critics about his role.
I was curious to know how much input he had in creating the look of his character Fred, the erstwhile soundman to Steve Zahn's clueless Peter.
"Normally I get a lot of input. I was thinking that I should be finding something different about Fred, we loved the idea of him having really long hair, the moustache was all me. I wanted him to be in all brown clothes, sort of non-descript and just looking like a total burn out. Fred is a burn out! “
“He just sort of melted into the crowd," shared Covert.
"Our costume designer Maya (Lieberman) brought in everything, racks and racks of stuff to pick out," added Covert. "Our crew is consistent for all the Madison movies, it's important to find people you like, and work well together. Our crew people we like a lot, we work long hours and they work hard."
His beginning were auspicious, meeting Sandler at their alma mater of NYU, then later working at the Improv in the vaulted position of doorman, which has seen HBO macher Chris Albrecht and manager/producer titan Jimmy Miller also in the beginning their respective careers.
"I was there with Judd Apatow, (Rob) Schneider, Adam, Fred (Wolf) and we all came up together," revealed Covert.
Covert played many roles in Sandler flicks; he had the role of a short-term memory loss patient, 10-Second Tom in "50 First Dates"; he was a gay friend in "Big Daddy"; the homeless caddy, Otto, in "Happy Gilmore", a town limousine driver in "The Wedding Singer" before taking on smaller roles as villains or antagonists such as the creepy journalist in "Mr. Deeds" and a romantic rival in "Anger Management", a film he was also executive producer. In "Little Nicky" as Nicky's roommate, Covert packed on 40 pounds and shaved his hairline to reflect the character.
Many of Sandler's posse does this, interchanging writing, producing, acting and directing hats amongst each other.
Writers Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf, who also directed the film "Strange Wilderness" present a satire of wild animal shows gone wrong in 'Wilderness."
What animal show stuck in Covert's mind and influenced his role for the film?
"Oh 'Mutual of Omaha, Wild Kingdom' without a doubt. The funny thing about 'Wilderness' was everyone was supposed to be drunk or high, but our crew inside the film story took it all seriously, it was never a joke to us. We had to determine to keep the show afloat, and the writers set it up, inserting the animal footage.”
Covert plays Fred, a soundman who earnestly tries to crew on a hopeless smallscreen adventure show that cocks up one assignment after another.
His co-star, Steve Zahn, inherits a venerated show from his father, Strange Wilderness. The twist in this pot infused, sight-gag laced comedy is that the son is no chip off the old block.
Lust, greed, envy, sloth and wrath are just a few of the deadly sins visited as we trek with Covert as Freddie with his motley minions, trying to make the best of a very bad situation. Covert's Freddie is the meatball to Zahn as Peter's mountain of spaghetti.
The cast is interesting. We have animal show rival, Sky Pierson (Harry Hamlin), crusty cameraman Milas (Ernest Borgnine),and Milas' stoner son Junior (Mac spokesman Justin Long) and crewmembers Cooker (Jonah Hill) and Danny (Peter Dante), travel agent, Cheryl (Ashley Scott), a tracker named Guys Hayden (Robert Patrick), animal handler Whitaker (Kevin Heffernan) and their Big Foot contact Bill Calhoun (Joe Don Baker).
How was it working with Ernest Borgnine?
"He shot scenes in the beginning and the end of the shoot, and never stopped. His energy was amazing though he did sit down a lot between takes. I mean, I grew up with him on ‘McHale's Navy,’ what do you say? He was great. There was a weird moment when he was sitting down at the conference table, and Justin (Long) and Jonah (Hill) had been drawing some pornographic doodles on a notepad, they yelled 'cut' and left the paper there, and he's checking them out sitting there, it was like, 'go over and make sure Ernie is okay.' "
Their show is on the knife's edge, and in a hare-brained effort to keep it alive, they hatch a plan to capture Big Foot on camera.
I was curious to know what crew position in real life intrigued Covert.
"Oh man, I like props. Both making and finding them. These guys, they get to make the coolest things, and it's a huge part of any movie."
Covert continued, "The creativity is amazing, they create a lot of things, and we have these amazing two guys, Max Brehme and Tim Wiles, who do our (Happy Madison) movies. I love when they bring in the props."