15 Minutes With Charlie Day

’It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ star Charlie Day on his director’s debut in ’Fool’s Paradise’ and why he doesn’t read his reviews anymore.

From voicing Luigi in the The Super Mario Bros. Movie and a new season of  It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on the way, Charlie Day has had quite the year.

Now comes Fool’s Paradise, a satirical comedy about the entertainment industry, featuring an ensemble that includes Ken Jeong, Kate Beckinsale, the late Ray Liotta, John Malkovich and Jason Sudeikis.

LA Magazine: In Fool’s Paradise you are credited as the writer, director and also play the lead. What was the appeal of that?

Charlie Day: I’ve always loved films by filmmakers who starred in their films. I had a fondness for Albert Brooks’ movies, Christopher Guest is another great example, and whether it’s in bad taste or not to say these days, Woody Allen has some incredible movies that he starred in. I like these comedic actors, I identify with them and their voices within the film. The showman in me likes taking on all that weight and as much as it was a difficult and painful process to get it all done, the actual acting and directing and writing of it I enjoyed every second. 

You’re known for playing flamboyant characters but in Fool’s Paradise you play one who doesn’t speak.

For the story to work, he had to be in some ways uncharismatic. It was a balancing act between how can I do as little as possible from a character standpoint, in terms of what he is bringing into the scene, but also ensure that there’s a little bit of that clowning in the film that the audience will want from a character that’s not speaking. So I try to just be a little strategic about when and where the character was doing sort of a physical bit. There were definitely times when I thought I should be doing a physical bit in every scene but I think it would have gotten old.

The only time your character reacts is when he’s facing violence.

That’s right [laughs.] He’s really driving the comedy in every scene and I wanted to be passing that buck to all the great performers who come in and out of the story like a tornado.

With Fool’s Paradise, you directed the late Ray Liotta in one of his last roles.

There’s nothing I like about it being one of his last roles because I want to see Ray in movies for 20 more years. I wish that I had been able to get the movie out to the public earlier, but it just took me a long time to complete it. I do feel grateful that Ray had gotten to see it, unfortunately, he never got to see it with Jon Brion’s amazing score.

But I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten a chance to work with Ray. Obviously, none of us knew thdat it would be close to the end for him so that was very surprising and I was pretty devastated to find out. I do feel good and confident about the performance that he gives in the movie.

You recently voiced Luigi in the The Super Mario Bros. Movie

It was a pleasant surprise. I can never really picture these things, people sometimes say, “Did you ever expect It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to last as long?” Or, “Do you know Mario was going to be as big a hit?” No, I can’t know and I can’t wrap my head around it at all. I was just a guy trying his best in a sound booth somewhere and then all the brilliant people at Illuminations make these movies a thousand times better than a performer could even imagine. 

As a voice actor what was it like to watch the final cut for the first time?

Incredible because it was so much more gigantic than what I thought it would be. And then just Jack Black’s performance and to go to the premiere and stand on the carpet with Jack and Seth [Rogen], Anya [Taylor Joy] and then jump out of a Mario truck with Chris Pratt and have my son and all his friends, really no complaints on this one from beginning to end.

Super Mario Bros. was mostly loved by audiences and loathed by critics. How do you reconcile that?

In the last few years I have, for better or for worse, removed myself from looking at reviews. Not in a snobbish “I’m better than it” way or not in that overly protective way but because I realized the most healthy thing that I can do as a performer is to perform. Whether it is writing or directing or acting, my job is to show up and do the absolute best that I can do to entertain the audience. If Mario was the biggest movie of all time or critically people love it or hate it, I have no control over that. I learned that I didn’t want it to replace the experience of the work for me. 

When It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia first came out we got horrible reviews. Sometimes art, or whatever you want to call it, needs time to sit and mature. Maybe years from now [critics will] look back and say, “Oh, I see why the audience likes it.” Or maybe they won’t.

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