Verne Troyer talks about Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

     June 22, 2008

While “The Love Guru” arrived in theaters a few days ago, due to me being out of the country this past week, a few of the things I meant to post got delayed till today. Perhaps you’ve noticed how much has been posted this afternoon….

Anyway, one of the things I meant to post sooner was this roundtable interview I did with Verne Troyer. While Verne is known the world over as Mini-Me, he’s actually been acting almost non-stop since the “Austin Powers” movies and he’s in one of the the most unique movies of 2009 – Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

As most of you know, the film will end up being Heath Ledger’s last performance, as while they were shooting the movie he died. But rather than have the footage lost or not used, three actors stepped forward to play versions of Heath’s character at different places in the movie. And if you don’t know who stepped up to help out…it’s Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Needless to say, many of us cannot wait to see the final product.

So, with Verne playing a character named Percy in the movie, after a few questions about “Love Guru,” we started asking about Imaginarium. It ends up he only recently finished filming and he also talks a bit about working for Terry.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. “The Love Guru” is currently playing in theaters.

Question: You must have a fantastic relationship with Mike Myers?

Verne Troyer: Yeah. I guess so. It’s fun to do the films that he asks me to do. If Mike Myers calls and asks you to do a film, you’re going to say yes.

There were a lot more of the little jokes in this particular movie. Were you a little bit worried about how much they were making fun of your size?

Verne: No. It’s a movie. It’s comedy. Entertainment. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. It doesn’t bother me. If that were to happen in the outside world, depending on the tone or how they said it, it might offend me a little bit. But, like I say, it’s a movie and it’s there to entertain people.

You get to talk in this one. As Mini Me, you didn’t. Were you really happy when you were reading the script? Did you go “Ooooh, dialogue!”?

Verne: Yeah, I was. It wasn’t like I hadn’t done anything with speaking lines before. I have. I’ve done a bunch. Just being in this big movie, everybody is going to see that he can actually speak.

I’ll bet you have the best, funniest line in the entire movie at the end. Was that always a post credit thing? Did you know that was going to be there?

Verne: I didn’t know. I didn’t think they caught that on film. That was just…that came up and it is. That’s how I see it.

It’s hysterical.

Verne: It’s like when I walk behind somebody, what do I have? A crack.

Your character is really this badass coach. Did you model him after somebody in particular? What did you have in mind when you were creating him?

Verne: Well Mike thought the character should be based around an actual coach from the Maple Leaves like back in the 60s. His name was Punch Imlach. He based it on the way I dressed and things, and he wanted the kind of old school, hard nosed, straight to the point, angry, mean coach. Maybe like back in the day of Vince Lombardi or something. Just in your face.

What are the challenges for you to find roles in movies that really interest you? How hard is it for you to find the kind of stuff that you want to do?

Verne: It’s difficult because a lot of people, most people, just look at somebody of my stature as being an elf or a leprechaun, you know, things like that. What was great about this film with Mike, it was really good that he kind of thought outside the box and cast me in this movie because normally you’d think that it would be an average size man. Having him give me that opportunity is a great stepping stone for me to show other people I can do many things.

How long ago did he tell you about the role? Was he working on the script? Was it something that he’d thought about in that process? Or was it something afterwards where he sort of had a realization?

Verne: No, I think he thought about it. He didn’t tell a lot of people. I found out when I was having dinner. I ran into him and he just mentioned something about it. And the next day I got a script in the mail and bam! I loved it and I jumped on top of it.

Were you part of the public readings that Mike had where everyone came and read the script? He put on a show and tested out the character.

Verne: No, I wasn’t a part of that. I knew that he did that and he didn’t get out of the Guru character. He stayed in it to test how it would be. But no, I wasn’t involved. The only way I knew about Mike doing that was all from the internet.

After you wrapped this film, you started working for Terry Gilliam on Imaginarium, could you talk a little bit about playing Percy, your character in the film?

Verne: His name is actually Percival St. Antoine de la Terrain San Sepulcral da Piedmonte III.

What a mouthful!

Verne: So you can just call me Percy.

That sounds like Terry.

Verne: Yeah.

What kind of character is he?

Verne: Kind of a sidekick to Christopher Plummer who plays Dr. Parnassus. It’s like a traveling theatre group that stops in certain places, you know, and entertains audiences.

After what happened with Heath, I know they reshot. Have you reshot stuff or did you just film at that one point.

Verne: No, I was part of their reshooting of it. We had some great people come in to help us finish the film kind of to give tribute to Heath.

How many more weeks of shooting did they have to do?

Verne: When we were in London, we just shot exterior scenes, that’s all. So we had all the interiors to still shoot when we went to Vancouver.

What was it like? There were some pretty heavy hitters that came in to help out to finish this film. What was the vibe on set like and what was your experience working on it as a whole?

Verne: It was something different that I haven’t really done. I’ve done a little bit of drama like on Boston Public and other things, but this is a big movie role for me and it’s not really…it’s out of the comedy role. So, in that way, it was good and I need to do more things like that.

How did you find Terry Gilliam as a director?

Verne: Awesome. He has an eye for exactly what he wants and he and his DP Nicola (Pecorini) just work well together. You can’t believe the shots that he gets after you see it. It’s just beautiful.

Do you have any idea when it might come out?

Verne: It’s supposed to come out sometime in 2009.

Did you do much improv on this or were all your lines pretty much there on the page for The Love Guru?

Verne: They were pretty much there, but doing a Mike Myers film, everybody has to improv. If you have a scene with Mike and he improvs, what are you going to do? You need to be able to keep up with him. And he makes it fun.

You guys have something special. Does it just automatically switch on when you start working with him?

Verne: I don’t know how to explain it but we just seem to have this great chemistry. I guess great minds think alike.

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Was it fun to have your own office that was your size and watch everybody else adjust to your world for a change?

Verne: Yeah, exactly. In the average size world I adjust to, you know, I’m used to everything. It was very different for me to get on this stage. It was like a different world that was very comfortable.

Have you talked to Mike about possibly doing another Austin Powers?

Verne: Personally no. If it happened, I would love to do it. I just haven’t really heard anything.

Are you signed up for a sequel to this?

Verne: If there was, I would be. But I don’t know. Since the Guru can teach a lot of different people, I don’t know if I’d be involved in that unless he wanted me, maybe I have a personal problem.

What are you doing next? Do you know?

Verne: I just got done with Imaginarium so I’m taking a little bit of a break doing some commercials and things.

How long was the shooting in Vancouver of Imaginarium?

Verne: About a month and a half almost. For me. There was probably two and a half months, three months or something.

So it was a healthy shoot?

Verne: Yeah.

What’s your favorite place for filming?

Verne: We shot Guru in Toronto and I fell in love with that city.


Verne: It reminded me of a miniature Chicago. I just fell in love with it.

Do you love traveling? Is there a part of the world you’d like to see?

Verne: Yeah, there’s a lot of places that I haven’t been to that I would love to see. What I try to do is I try to take these movie roles as my vacation. I just look for the ones that are traveling. But I have been to a lot of interesting places while working and eventually I will go and see the places I haven’t.

Do you share any of these Eastern philosophies that are put forth in the film in a comedic way? Does some of it stick with you and make you think “That’s actually pretty smart. It’s a wise thing”?

Verne: Like the things that Mike said?

Yeah. Like the DRAMA and all that.

Verne: I mean it’s funny. I’m not worried how you look at it.

Is there a certain kind of code or philosophy that you live by yourself?

Verne: I wouldn’t say a code or philosophy. I do believe that there is a higher power but I’m not here to throw it down somebody’s throat of anything. I mean I just believe.

It seems that there might have been a lot of stuff cut from this?

Verne: There was a lot of stuff cut. The movie was over two hours.

Were there scenes that you remember doing that were just really out there and you hope will make there way onto the DVD?

Verne: It’s so hard to remember because I did Imaginarium right afterwards. So I guess it wasn’t too funny if they didn’t put it in the film.

What was one good thing that happened?

Verne: I guess what I said at the end of the film and I didn’t know they had captured that. So I guess that’s the funniest thing.

That got a huge laugh. It was very, very funny.

Verne: Thank you.

For someone playing this temperamental coach yelling at the team, it seems you would be limited in terms of the PG-13 rating and what you could say.

Verne: Yeah. I had other takes where it was inappropriate for me to say for a PG-13 film.

What about the physical stuff that you do in this movie? Was it sort of fun to get your hands and feet dirty?

Verne: I got started doing stunt work and I did that for 8 years and I fell into this so I love doing all of my own stunts. I’d rather do it than have somebody else do it.

That wasn’t you flying into the hockey goal?

Verne: That was a doll. I probably would have broken my neck. That was actually me sliding across the ice attached to the camera along for the ride.

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