Q&A with Steve Zahn

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How did you come to be involved in this outdoorsy comedy?
My agents finally got ahold of me at the Hilton Hanoi. They told me I needed to read this script, and they needed to know in, like, 12 hours if I wanted in. So I had them fax it to me. [I] read it and loved it. I did have a thought though: do I think this is funny because I’m in my underwear at a hotel in Hanoi? So I re-read it and still loved it, called my agents and said, “Let’s do it.”

Do you regret frequently being cast as a sidekick?
It’s great to be typecast at 20, but by 40, it gets a little old … I don’t see myself as the lead of this film, in that it’s more of an ensemble cast.

How do you feel about critics who call the film a “stoner movie”?
That pisses me off. I didn’t read this script and say, ‘Great, I can’t wait to do a stoner movie.’ I read this and saw it as a movie about an animal show that [centers around] trying to find Bigfoot. People categorize it because, yes, we do smoke pot in a few scenes, but we also drink beer, so it’s a beer-drinking movie, too.

What was it like working with Ernest Borgnine?
He was amazing considering he is 88 years old. You’d think that someone at that age wouldn’t really get the jokes, but he was really with it. It was a thrill to work with him, and I’m glad he did it.

Are you like Peter Gaulke, your character in the film?
I’m totally like Peter. I’m so na’ve and so assertive at the same time, a lot like Peter. You can be in a position where you can talk loud and point your finger, people will think you know what you’re talking about, and it’s amazing how far you can go with that. There’s a lot of Peter within me.

Was the role of Peter Gaulke challenging?
It was hard. I had to memorize a lot of lines and was the one who had to move the story along . Director and writer Fred Wolf and writer Peter Gaulke made it so much fun. We came to set one day with a lot to do and they handed us the lyrics to the Cher song “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.” They just thought that it’d be funny if we all sang it together in the Winnebago.

Do you have a favorite type of role?
I don’t really have a favorite type of role, [because] there so many different roles. I do enjoy doing comedies because they are so much fun.

What was it like to work on a set with so many funnymen?
Kevin [Alejandro], Jonah [Hill] and Justin [Long] were so funny. I worried that I was ruining takes that would be great for the movie because I would laugh so much. Jonah, man, his part was so small, but everything he came up with was genius.