Ike Barinholtz has gone back and forth between comedy and drama, but this weekend’s Blockers is full on comedy. Barinholtz plays Hunter, whose daughter Sam (Gideon Adlon) is one of three friends who’ve vowed to lose their virginity on prom night.
The other girls’ parents (Leslie Mann and John Cena) find out and try to stop them. Hunter tags along but protests that they should really leave the kids alone.
Barinholtz spoke with Monsters and Critics in Los Angeles about making fun of Inferno, mouthing lines to Cena and Hunter’s relationship with his daughter as well as some of his funniest moments from other comedies. Blockers is in theaters Friday.
Monsters and Critics: Your “maMA” from Snatched has been my catchphrase since last summer.
Ike Barinholtz: That is actually my daughter in real life’s catch phrase. When she was little, she’s older now, she would always go, “maMA.” So right away when we started shooting, I dropped that to Goldie and it really caught on.
M&C: Katie Dippold said she wrote one “maMA” and you ran with it, so that explains it.
IB: When everyone’s down with it, you do it as much as possible. That’s my M.O.
M&C: Were there more “maMA”s that got cut?
IB: There’s a whole “maMa” cut of the movie that John needs to release.
M&C: With the clown in Neighbors 2, did you practice just how creepy to make it?
IB: The worst part about that was we were shooting, there was 1000s of extras for that scene. I’m dressed like a clown. No one knows who you are because you’re in clown makeup.
When you walk 500 yards to the bathroom through 2000 people dressed as a clown, you realize how much people hate clowns. They’ll openly be like, “F*** you clown.”
I’m just like, “I’m just a man. I’m just a man trying to work.” I was doing Pennywise before Pennywise.
M&C: Did you watch Tom Hanks’ Inferno to research your whole riff on Inferno?
IB: No, I’ve never seen it.
M&C: That makes both of us.
IB: My goal, when I saw Hunter and I knew it was Leslie and John and we started rehearsing, I was like the way this is going to work the best is if I’m really annoying.
What’s more annoying than someone asking if they’ve seen an adaptation of a Dan Brown book? I remember in that scene asking over and over again.
I was like, if Kay comes over and she’s like, “Don’t, don’t, don’t with the Inferno” I’ll be kind of bummed because that means my take on the character isn’t working. But Kay came over and said, “The Inferno stuff’s great.” So I was like all right, we’re off to the races.
M&C: Doesn’t that prove you don’t really need to see or read Inferno to get Inferno?
IB: You get it. You’ve probably seen or read The Da Vinci Code. Maybe you saw Angels & Demons but you don’t need to see Inferno to get Blockers. That’s the most important thing I can impart.
M&C: Is Hunter actually the voice of reason in Blockers?
IB: He kinds of is. On the surface he’s this old aging party boy loser, but at the beginning of the movie he’s the one being like, “What are we doing? Don’t snoop on your kids. Give them some privacy. This is not right.”
I think he ends up going along with them just because he wants to hold onto their friendship a little bit more. But he is the voice of reason. He, I think, honestly does by the end of the movie have the healthiest relationship with his kid out of the three of them.
M&C: At the beginning of the movie even.
IB: At the beginning of the movie he gets his kid more but they’re disconnected. By the end, he’s made amends with her and they’re on the road to recovery and he doesn’t have the same separation issues that Lisa has.
He doesn’t have the same military posturing that Mitchell has. I think he’s figured it out.
M&C: What do you say in the blindfold scene where even the subtitles don’t know what you say?
IB: I don’t remember. I remember pitching a version of that to Kay and her being like, “Yes!”
We started working on it. I’d have to see it again. Listen, man, it was four in the morning and I’m staring at Gary Cole’s d*ck. There was so much happening but I was really happy when that scene worked out.
It really took what could be just wacky behavior and gave it this centering of “don’t be homophobic.”
M&C: We can call in some expert lip readers.
IB: Yes, and they can figure it out. I can’t remember. Once I see it, I can tell you.
M&C: Was wrestling in the car very choreographed?
IB: Yeah, we were jumping in and out. We were doing ADR for that scene and I kept yelling, “United Airlines!”
Kate goes, “We need an alt for that.” At the time we shot this, that man was dragged off a flight. Remember that?
M&C: Yes, but just a few weeks ago animals were killed.
IB: United’s got a lot of stuff to figure out. I just think it was funny that in that scene I put in the most dated reference possible. That scene was a lot choreography and took a long time.
M&C: What did you say instead of United?
IB: I don’t know. They might have just excited it and now I might be just like, “Stop doing this” or something like that.
M&C: Was the roadside confessional a legit dramatic moment?
IB: Yeah, that was something we found a couple days beforehand. I remember the idea of in comedies, and really any movie, every scene has a game, a basic pattern you’re trying to figure out.
What’s the scene about? What is this character? How is he or she playing the game? In that scene, I remember thinking the game of Hunter having this real revelation in the moment of saying things he hasn’t said out loud in a long time and being completely ignored.
I thought that was funny. When you have that kind of setup, the more dramatic and serious to take the A side of it, the B side, the punchline works so much better.
M&C: Did you have to invent Hunter’s backstory?
IB: There was always a thing where Hunter had slept with the babysitter. My whole thing was always let’s make sure that this is a spin on that. We want to justify some of his behavior so he’s not this horrible unforgivable *sshole that people check out on.
Then I remember adding the detail of “by the way, that babysitter was a widow. She was an old lady.” Trying to make him not like your typical married guy hooking up with a young babysitter.
Kay was so great at talking through some of these small, throwaway elements that I think really gives hunter a layer of depth that you wouldn’t get in the normal type of this movie.
M&C: Is Blockers a really positive example that a parent can see their daughter is gay, but wait for her to come out on her own?
IB: Yes. I think that is. The most important thing is the parent supports the kid in any way possible.
I do think, and I don’t know firsthand, but I do think the best thing to do is take your kid’s lead. When it’s something so important and personal, you have to look at them as your child but also as an individual. That’s a decision the individual needs to dictate.
I kind of think that Hunter parented the sh*t out of that, to quote the movie. He just nailed that. Let them come to you. You’re not putting any of your pressures on them.
Wait ‘til they come to you and then you just give them all the love in the world.
M&C: Did you know Kay Cannon from Chicago improv?
IB: We’ve been friends since ’98 I think. Then I want to Boom Chicago which was this theater in Amsterdam of me and Jordan Peele and her, Seth Myers and Sudeikis.
We were there together, then I was in L.A. and she started writing on 30 Rock and writing movies. We’d always see each other and say, “Let’s work together!”
When Seth and Evan told me that Kay was going to direct this, I was like, “That is perfect. That’s the perfect person. It’s a great new take on the story.”
Then Kay and I were just like this is going to be great. As it started becoming imminent that it was going to be John and Leslie, we got really excited about it. It just worked out.
M&C: Did you see her as a director back then?
IB: Yeah, she’s such an athlete/coach mentality that absolutely. At Boom Chicago, she ran the corporate aspect of the writing. We would do shows for companies and she was in charge.
So I’ve watched her walk up to a 65-year-old CEO of the biggest bank in Europe and say to him, ”Excuse me, sir. We were told we have dressing rooms and we need them right now.”
She’s got that great midwest go get ‘em attitude and I think that’s what you want in your general.
M&C: Are there career moves or are you interested in developing an Ike Barinholtz vehicle?
IB: I have actually. I wrote and directed a movie and starred in it. We shot it last November and we’re editing it right now.
It’s called The Oath. That’s all me. If you don’t like me, you’re not going to like that movie because you see my mug all over it.
Me and Tiffany Haddish are this husband and wife. We’re dealing with an increasingly authoritarian state. It’s all about a family over Thanksgiving dealing with the ramifications of that.
There’s funny moments but it’s not a comedy.
M&C: Is it spoofing the election?
IB: I wrote it right after the election just because I was like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if America moved towards this?” As I was writing it I was like holy sh*t, this is happening in real life.
Now every day we have this text chain with me and Tiffany and the writer, the producers and stuff, just like, “Can you believe it? This is in the movie.”
We’re really excited for people to see that and hoping it will be in theaters in the early fall.
M&C: By the time it comes out, are you worried it won’t be an exaggeration?
IB: Honestly, someone’s like, “Well, what if Trump gets impeached? Will you worry that might mess up your movie?”
I was like, let it mess up my movie. What are movies? What’s more important?
M&C: Did you get on the Tiffany Haddish train before Girls Trip?
IB: I did. I saw her in Keanu and I remember texting Jordan and being like, “Oh my God, she’s so great.”
M&C: I knew from The Carmichael Show.
IB: That too. I remember in Keanu, she is so tough and funny. I started writing this and we have the same manager. I was like, I want her to be my wife in this movie.
My manager’s like, “Great, she’s got this movie Girls Trip coming out. She’s really funny in it.” Then I slowly watched her take over the world and I was like oh God, I hope she’ll do it.
Luckily she had read the script and really felt connected to it. I can’t wait for people to see her in this movie. It’s a different side of her and she’s so, so good in it. She will make your ass cry in this movie.
M&C: Who plays the parents in The Oath?
IB: Nora Dunn is my mom and a great actor named Chris Ellis. You probably recognize him from Apollo 13. He’s a guy who’s been in every movie but I’ve always loved his face.
I always thought he has such a calm demeanor. So we were lucky to get those guys. We’ve got John Cho and Billy Magnussen, Carrie Brownstein.
M&C: Billy was just in Game Night.
IB: And he is so good in my movie, man. He’s such a nutter.