This time last year, Eric Andre couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The world was in lockdown; the fifth season of his late night rave of a series, The Eric Andre Show, was months away. And the prank movie he had poured six years of his life into, Bad Trip, was no longer going to premiere at SXSW as planned. At one point, Andre says, things were looking so bleak that MGM’s Orion Pictures, which produced the movie, was trying to sell it to the now-defunct streamer Quibi.
“We were like no, no, no, no, no! Don’t do that!” Andre said in a recent phone call, laughing and recalling his panic. He’d already been told that Netflix had passed on the film. “We were like, Let’s double-check that. And then we went to Netflix and Netflix was like, ‘This movie’s incredible! We want it ASAP! We’re in the Bad Trip business!’ And they made us an offer.”
So Netflix wound up streaming Bad Trip, which casts Andre as a Southern car washer who runs into his high school crush, Maria (Michaela Conlin). When she leaves town to head up to New York City, Andre convinces his best friend Bud (Lil Rel Howery) to steal his vicious sister Trina’s (Tiffany Haddish) car and take a road trip so he can finally tell Maria how he feels. Along the way, Andre, Howery, and Haddish unleash a slew of increasingly unhinged pranks on unsuspecting passersby, including, but not limited to: Andre and Howery getting a Chinese finger trap caught on their penises; Haddish escaping from a bus dressed like a prison inmate; and Andre falling into a gorilla enclosure at a zoo and getting repeatedly sexually assaulted by a gorilla.
After a long, winding journey to its release date, Bad Trip, directed by Andre’s longtime collaborator Kitao Sakurai and produced by Jackass auteur Jeff Tremaine, finally premiered on March 26, earning warm reviews and quickly becoming Netflix’s most-streamed film globally. Andre, who’s currently in South Carolina filming a secret project, still can’t believe his luck.
Vanity Fair: How are you doing? How have you been celebrating the movie’s success?Eric Andre: I’m doing much, much better than I was doing last year. Netflix saved the day. The movie was an orphan for awhile, and then Netflix found the orphan a mansion, basically. I’ve been working on this thing for, at that time, six years. Now, seven and a half years. I almost got murdered filming it. That’s where we were a year ago. And now, a movie where, like, a gorilla finishes on my face is about to be certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. [Laughs.]
I have to ask about the gorilla prank. I saw in another interview you said you wanted it to be more of an animal kingdom experience—not just a gorilla, but also a rhino, a giraffe. How far did that idea go before it got chopped?
That was just a budgetary thing. I wanted the entire animal kingdom to bang me, but we could barely afford that one gorilla costume. We did not have a big budget for the movie. [Laughs] I don’t know if you noticed that.
I was shocked at how close the gorilla got to people who still didn’t realizing it was a human in a suit.
It is a really expensive suit. It’s a very high-end, special design. And the guy in it (Adam Meir), I think he has Cirque de Soleil training. He’s done marionette work and puppeteering work, miming—everything just shy of Kabuki theater. He was really a fascinating guy. I don’t really know too much about him actually, I only worked with him for one day.
And what a day it was.
What a day it was! There’s also remote control and animatronic operators who were hidden in that gorilla cage, controlling his facial movements. It was a pretty nuanced production approach.
I loved all the White Chicks riffs in the movie, and the reveal at the end of you and Lil Rel dressing up like the characters at the gala. How did that come about?
We almost didn’t make that prank because it was so absurd. [But] we just kept dying laughing at the idea of what it would be like to put the movie White Chicks to the test in real life. The premise of White Chicks is completely insane. The Wayans brothers are FBI agents, and they have to go undercover as these, like, fake Paris Hilton sisters? It makes you feel like your brain is boiling while you’re watching it. Their friends are just like, ‘There they are! What’s up, girls? How are you?’ You would have to have full-blown dementia, like massive head trauma if you thought Paris and Nicky Hilton looked exactly like the Wayans bros in crazy special effects makeup. If you saw them in real life, you’d be like, what the hell?
Originally, the bit was written for The Eric Andre Show. We wanted to put me and Hannibal [Buress, his former co-host] in White Chicks makeup and put us out in the world, but it was too expensive for the show. The genesis of it for Bad Trip was that every road trip comedy in the eighties—it was always a white family, or white buddy duo, and they’d always have a scene like, ‘Uh oh! We made a wrong turn and we’re on the wrong side of the tracks.’ AKA, that means we’re in the Black neighborhood. But me and Rel are two Black guys, so how do we turn that trope on its head? What if we were on the quote “right” side of the tracks and we ended up in a really WASPy neighborhood? We’re like, Uh oh! We’re at a country club with a bunch of white people! How do we blend in?
How long did it take to transform into the characters? And how did it compare to your Eric Andre Show transformations? Was it harder? Weirder?
The special effects makeup took like six hours. Unbelievably long. It’s pretty high-tech special effects makeup, a lot of prosthetic silicone pieces that all need to be glued and painted, and a wig. It was no small feat. And then, emotionally, I knew that I had to pester people, but still be likable. That’s the threading of the needle that you have to do. I can be more absurdist and antagonistic on the Eric Andre Show.It seems like people in the movie really went along with it.
Nobody was like, You’re in special effects makeup! Nobody wants to be offensive. Everyone was trying to be very polite and almost, like, woke in a sense. Accepting and cordial. They were taking me in. But also, my behavior had their wheels spinning more than my look. My look was the kickoff and then everything that came out of my mouth—they were like, What is this person’s motivation?
Do you have it in you to do another another prank movie?
Oh yeah, absolutely. A hundred percent. I learned a lot. For every successful scene you see, there were probably like 10 failed scenes. The most heartbreaking one was the one that we shot with Chris Rock. The producing of the prank was hinky to begin with. He was playing a cop and he was going to pull us over. I was going to plant drugs on the guy we were pranking. Then Chris was going to get him out of the car and yell at him and be like, ‘Drop and give me 20!’ and all this stuff. As soon as the guy heard Chris’s voice, he was like, Oh! Chris Rock! It just flopped.
There was also stuff that people didn’t buy, like the scene where Tiffany falls out of a prison bus and tells that guy to hide her. It took a few times. I remember this one woman just looked at Tiffany and ran. [Laughs] We also have this great scene where Tiffany’s lighting up this guy at the front lobby of a hotel and she’s eating dirt out of a planter and she’s breaking all this stuff on his desk and she punches through a wall. Really funny things! It just doesn’t gel with the rest of the footage. We’re going to release all that stuff later.
I can’t wait to see it. And I still can’t believe the Quibi of it all.
Oh my god, me neither! It’s so insane. They had no faith in the movie and now we’re about to be certified fresh, hopefully! I’m superstitious. Could you imagine? The movie has such a rags to riches story right now. It’s really remarkable.
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