The best approach for directing a roomful of comedy giants? Let them laugh with each other long before saying “Action.”
That’s the route the filmmaker Craig Brewer took for “Coming 2 America,” the sequel to the beloved 1988 hit starring Eddie Murphy.
Murphy reprises his role as Akeem, then a prince, now the king of Zamunda, who realizes he fathered a child from a one-night stand on his previous visit to the States.
This scene, narrated by Brewer, includes comedic work in various styles from Arsenio Hall as Akeem’s friend and right-hand man, Semmi; Jermaine Fowler as his newfound son, Lavelle; Leslie Jones as Lavelle’s mother; and Tracy Morgan as Lavelle’s uncle. It’s a lot of humor to wrangle.
“When I was younger, I used to think that being a director meant that you constantly have to go in and assert yourself,” Brewer said. “But I’ve found, especially with comedic artists, is what they really want is a safe room. They want to feel like they’re free to try things.”
Brewer said one of the best things he could do as a director, when he has Murphy, Hall, Jones and Morgan on set, is to not roll the camera immediately, but give them time and space to connect.
“You’ve got to let these four people tell old jokes about people they knew on the comedy circuit,” he said. Or riffs that would sometimes include Murphy and Morgan re-enacting full scenes and dialogue from movies they love.
“I would allow a good 10 to 15 minutes of just these guys coming into the room and laughing and joking and saying all this stuff. But then it was like, OK, now it’s time to get to work. And Eddie would nail it in two takes.”
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