- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

LOS ANGELES — Had comic Tom Green opted not to direct as well as star in his first big feature, "Freddy Got Fingered," it might have become a 10-minute short.
"Everything thats in the movie that makes you go, 'Ooh, thats crazy, somebody tried to take out," says Mr. Green during a recent interview to promote his film.
Studio pressure flanked him at every page of the script. But as director, he wielded enough clout to keep most of the controversial material intact.
Good news for his rambunctious fans who have come to expect just about anything from their goateed guru of gonzo comedy.
The film, a flimsy frame upon which to dangle his outrageous bits, concerns his quest to win his fathers affections by becoming a successful cartoonist. But Dad, as played by an unleashed Rip Torn, is as dyspeptic as a caged bobcat, and their bonding attempts become more like wrestling matches than therapy sessions.
"The movies about that misunderstanding that a lot of parents and kids have today," says Mr. Green, his hair shaggy and unkempt, blending into his trademark goatee.
"Freddy" loosely echoes Mr. Greens own rise to fame. The Ottawa native toiled at a small television station while living in his parents basement, waiting for his break.
Most will see the film as a delirious assault on conventional comedy, something he doesnt deny.
"Im walking along a line," he says. "In order to make people laugh, you have to flirt with this line. I like to make an audience a little bit uncomfortable, when they dont know whats gonna happen next."
In person, Mr. Green charms, his sly sense of humor in stark contrast to his on-screen, bare-knuckled assault on societal norms. Seconds later, though, hell use a kiddie phrase to describe a naughty thought, his sad-sack eyes alive with mischief.
He admits his humor may be madcap, but it doesnt intend to injure.
"Its important that for me, that nothing is ever completely mean-spirited. Its an edgy movie, but is it a shocking movie? Maybe. Sort of. But also, can it have been more shocking? Sure."
The topic sends the comic into full-blown defense mode, during which some of his arguments hit their targets.
"Its OK in an action movie to go around and shoot 200 people in the head, " he says, trying to put the movies outrageous set pieces into perspective. "In 'Hannibal, its all very fun and cute to feed pieces of brain to children."
Mr. Green, a nefarious comic presence on MTV and now, he hopes, the big screen, wasnt in prime shape to direct his first film.
Sure, he had directed segments of "The Tom Green Show," seen first on Canadian television, then MTV, for years. But he had never directed a Hollywood feature, and at the time he was recuperating from testicular cancer.

Mr. Greens successful battle against the illness became a highly publicized MTV special, a serious note in his otherwise manic career.
"We did the show because I was really scared and depressed about what was happening to me and was crying myself to sleep every night," he says.
"This might make this a little more positive, this cancer thing, if we make a goofy show about it," he says of a program even his detractors would say put a human face on an illness too many men might otherwise ignore.
"Young men dont ever think theyre in that risk group of getting cancer," he says.
The comic originally wanted an established director to lens "Freddy." He interviewed potential directors from his bed while painkillers to ease his cancer treatments coursed through him.
"I was continually getting the impression that we werent talking about the same movie," he says of the meetings. "They were going the traditional route formula teen comedy."
And "Freddy" is anything but formulaic. Gross and tasteless? You bet. But not the same old comedy.
Mr. Green, who cops to Monty Python, David Letterman and "SCTV" as his early influences, says his cancer experience made something as nerve-racking as directing his first feature a less threatening affair.
"I find Im not as nervous getting involved in things like that than I may have been before. Its just a movie," he says.
To his core audience, though, "Freddy" represents a new stage in his career.
But to paraphrase squeaky-clean comic Jerry Seinfeld, "who are these people?"
"Most people who like my show are college age who are on their own for the first time and are into messing with the system," he says.
His co-star, Mr. Torn, hardly falls into that demographic. But the reliable curmudgeon claims to be a fan of Mr. Greens oeuvre and cites him as one of the best directors hes ever worked under.
"I had to wrestle him for the part; I have witnesses for that," Mr. Torn says, smiling, of the physical role.
Between skirmishes on the set of HBOs "The Larry Sanders Show," and his own stage directorial work, Mr. Torn knows how to throw himself into a physical scene.
"The first thing Tom said to me, is, were gonna do all our own stunts," he says. Which, save for one scene at the tail end of the film, proved true.
Mr. Green picked an impeccably qualified character actor to both co-star with him and run defense for the films outlandish scenarios. Mr. Torn points to Chaucer, then Punch and Judy, for cultural touchstones where shock humor was used to high effect.
"Im not an apologist, but thank God some of the things they had in store for me they didnt do," he says, grinning, without elaborating further.
Hell also defend his directors personal peccadilloes.
"He had a good mom and dad. Hes basically, to me, a decent human being. Hes very shy and intellectual," he says. On screen, "he is, Ill admit, pushing the envelope."
That envelope includes his dealings with the media.
The conversation began with Mr. Green teasing reporters about their coverage of his courtship of actress Drew Barrymore, who has a cameo in the film.
"We goofed around with the concept of getting married while we were engaged," admits Mr. Green, whose publicist recently confirmed that the nuptials actually took place.
"I dont think anybody ever gets angry. People know that Im lying," he says of the dodges and feints aimed at the media.
"When we actually went and did it for real, nobody believed us," he says. "We went on a little trip. It was very small, just us two," is all he spares in the way of details.
"You didnt even talk to me about my movie, which I worked two years on," he says, an edge creeping into his goofy persona.
Sometimes, even Mr. Green knows when its time to be serious.

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