Exclusive Interview : Dane Cook

He may play one on screen, but Dane Cook wants it on the record that he’s the furthest thing from a bastard playboy. In fact, he’s a big old softie.

Though he’s played an immoral ‘player’ in last year’s ”Good Luck Chuck” and now, ”My Best Friend’s Girl”, the popular stand-up comedian says he treats women with the utmost respect. He thanks his older sisters for the knowledge he’s acquired in helping keep a female happy.

“My older sisters would come home from these horrible dates; they’d sit me down in my pajamas and proceed to tell me how to treat girls. So when I started dating I was heavily romantic, and treated the woman right. I usually play a salacious bastard but that’s certainly not how I approach relationships. If you talk to my ex’s they will all safe I’m a bit of a softie. Probably the dinner with the candles is more my style.”

Cook based the character in his latest movie on a friend, Robert Kelly.

“I was very introverted and shy and he was so no-filter – so darn not afraid to say anything to anybody. My play would be that I would let Robert, and my other buddies, go to the girls and say whatever they liked to them, and when a girl was put off by that and started to slowly kind of walk away, I would go up to the girl – I was the clean-up guy. I’d apologize for my crazy friends.

“I was the sensitive guy. That’s how I would get the girls.”

“Thing is”, adds Cook, “if you are [the] nice-sensitive guy you might also be setting yourself up to a four-hour conversation about their favourite poems or the story about ‘my uncle that touched me, funny, when I was ten’. You better be ready for a long night”.

Cook jumped at the chance to star in ”My Best Friend’s Girl” as soon as he read the script – at which point it was titled ‘Bachelor No. 2’ (“I understood why they changed it because most people would’ve thought it was a sequel to a bad Chris O’Donnell movie”, says Cook).

“I wanted to do one more R-rated comedy”, the star of the sexy 2007 comedy ”Good Luck Chuck”, co-starring Jessica Alba, says. “I know that my fan demographic is vast, but I wanted to do another R-rated film. I’d done the raunchy sex-romp, with Chuck, so this time decided that I’d like to do something in which we omit the sexual stuff but keep the coarse language.”

Cook remembers the point in the script where he knew he was in love with the material.

“There’s a point in the script where [my character] says ‘I’m gonna make her lose her script like a shit collector with amnesia’. I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to be saying that for the rest of my life anyway, whether I do this movie or not. I called my team up and said ‘I think this is the one that I want to put my heart and soul into and battle to the death’.”

Just as he did on Chuck, Cook helped out a bit on punching up some of the jokes in the Best Friend’s Girl script.

“My strength is, if you come to me and say ‘This scene is weak. Do you have some notes?’ Well, yes, I have some notes – they’re already ready to go – but I certainly believe that this is a democracy, and everyone has an equal amount of say – and so they should, they all work just as hard – and not everything I want should end up in the movie. So there are a certain amount of scenes that I really pushed to put into the movie – because it was more suited to my style of comedy – and then there moments when I said ‘I’d like to try and challenge myself as an actor-comedian and give that a try, even though it’s not normally my thing’. So yeah, I helped but not a lot”.

One of the funniest moments in the film doesn’t involve Cook’s character but his on-screen best friend, played by American Pie star Jason Biggs. Making a sudden move in the hairdresser’s chair, the character finds himself suddenly eyebrow-less.

Cook says Biggs was such a professional that he was “going to shave his eyebrows, but [Biggs] ended up doing a lot of research on the internet – he said there’s a site called dontshaveyoureyebrows.com, with all these warnings that it doesn’t grow back the same way as hair on your body – and ended up going with a prosthetic fake thing. It looked real”.

“I shaved my testicles”, cheekily adds Cook. “For no reason whatsoever but just as a show of appreciation for Jason.”

Cook had a great time with Biggs on the film.

“People want to pigeonhole [Biggs]”, Cook says, referring to the actor’s legendary role as ‘Jim’ in the ”American Pie” movies. ‘’He’s always ‘the guy with the pie’ but I think in this he gets to show his strengths. He does some great stuff in this. He shows a different side of his comedy. It’s a breath of fresh air for Jason and I’m really glad to hear that people are enjoying seeing him in the part. He’s a funny cat.”

Cook also gets to share scenes with one of his idols, Alec Baldwin. He recalls a day on set where he finally got to courage to admit to Baldwin his love of his work in the acclaimed ”Glengarry Glen Ross”.

“I’d made a DVD, which was in my office, which kinda pumped me up, which featured all my favourite scenes from my favourite movies – like Reservoir Dogs and The Empire Strikes Back. And it also had [Baldwin’s] whole 7-minutes from Glengarry Glen Ross. So to sit with this man, and be collaborating ideas and vice versa, and then looking at him one day and saying ‘Alec, coffee’s for closers’ and having him shake my hand and say ‘you’re damn right’ is tremendous!”.

The only thing about the movie the actor wasn’t pleased with was the film’s theatrical poster. Famously, Cook mentioned on his MySpace page that “Whoever photoshopped our poster must have done so at taser point with 3 minutes to fulfill their hostage takers deranged obligations” and “The left side of my face seems to be melting off of my skull. I guess I am looking directly into the Ark of the Covenant? Are they going for the bells palsy thing here? My left side looks like Brittany Spears’ vagina.”

He meant what he said, but he didn’t mean to ruffle anyone’s feathers with the comments.

“I had a little funny with the poster”, says Cook, following his words up with a devilish smile. “Some people were saying ‘were [the film’s American distributor] Lionsgate upset?’ but I come from a stand-up comedy background where you only roast the ones you love. I think it was more self-deprecating on me. If the movie makes a $100 million dollars then I get to change the poster”.

Though he’s appeared in several films now, including the Kevin Costner thriller ”Mr. Brooks”, the comedy ”Waiting”, and Jessica Simpson vehicle ”Employee of the Month”, Cook’s still relatively new to the scene and as far as the critical community is concerned, remains unproven. The actor says he still gets a little upset reading some of his reviews but realizes they’ll probably never be his audience so it doesn’t matter matter.

“I read every single review when I first started – a couple out of ego, but a lot of it because I just wanted to know if I’m doing anything wrong. I wanted to know if there was a glimmer of hope for me – whether I could add anything to the Hollywood legacy. And so, I read the worst quote ever about myself that said ‘Dane Cook gives one of the worst performances to ever disgrace the silver screen’. I was sitting by myself, in my office, near weeping and then I thought ‘there’s nowhere to go but up’. So early on, when they would attack me, and I would read them, I would be pretty bummed out about it but now…. I just think there are some critics out there who just yield mallets and can’t wait to swing them. They just know great vicious words. See there’s better words for vicious reviews than there are for complimentary reviews – you know somebody just wants to use those [vicious] words. It still gets under my skin a bit, but I try and focus on the fan reviews – that’s the stuff that really matters. My job is to keep the people that have come with me, pleased. Too many people are focused on trying to get those people ‘over there’ to love me and not keeping those people happy who already love you.”

Having said that, doing movies gets easier because Cook slowly gets more confidence.

“I used to think when I was 25 ‘Why can’t I make it now?’ – I’m so glad I didn’t. I have the focus and experience now that I didn’t have back then. So yeah, it has got a little bit easier”.

Though he’s got nothing directly lined-up at the moment – he is planning an international comedy tour for 2009; Australia being one of the places he’ll bring it – Cook has written a comedy script he’d love Meryl Streep to star in with him. He knows it’s a long shot, but knowing Streep’s penchant for comedies, doesn’t think it’s a dead-end.

“I loved her in Devils Wears Prada”, Cook says of the Oscar-Winning actress. “I’ve written a comedy script, where if she were to ever play my mother in this film I think it would be a tremendous collaboration.’’

WIN! WIN! WIN!

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CLINT MORRIS