July 11, 2019

‘Stuber’ Stars Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista on Testing Their Limits and the Buddy Action Movies That Inspired Them [Interview]

Red Band Stuber Trailer

Although both have made names for themselves outside of the world of movies, Kumail Nanjiani  (as a stand-up comedian) and Dave Bautista (as a pro wrestler) are still relatively new faces on the big screen that have had recent, high-profile successes upon which they plan to build. After years of TV work and smaller parts in films, Nanjiani shared an Oscar nomination with wife Emily V. Gordon for their original screenplay for 2017’s The Big Sick. While Bautista co-starred in a pair of Guardians of the Galaxy movies as the mighty Drax, in addition to sizable roles in Blade Runner 2049, Hotel Artemis, and the upcoming Dune adaptation from his Blade Runner director Denis Villeneuve.

With their latest film Stuber, the pair each get to try out something they rarely get to do on screen. Bautista does something more purely comedic as Vic, an LAPD Detective in search of the drug dealer (Iko Uwais) who killed his partner (Guardian’s Karen Gillan) six months earlier. Having just gotten corrective eye surgery earlier the same day he gets a tip as to the location of said drug dealer, Vic is forced to hire an Uber driven by Stu (Nanjiani) to take him around the city in search of clues, as well as make it to his daughter’s (Natalie Morales) art show to prove he’s not a terrible father (he still is). There’s a potential love story opening itself up to Stu on the same day, with his long-time best friend, Becca (Betty Gilpin), and Vic’s boss (Mira Sorvino) is also involved, since technically the case has been passed on the feds and Vic shouldn’t be working it at all. As involved as the plot might sound, Stuber really comes down to this odd couple in an electric car driving around the worst neighborhoods in L.A., each learning things from each other about being tough and tapping into ones sensitive side. And there’s a lot of killing and crashing and exploding.

/Film spoke with Nanjiani and Bautista back in late April, not long after the’s film’s work-in-progress debut at the SXSW Film Festival. More the point of this particular interview, the interviewer had just seen a press screening of Avengers: Endgame (which features Bautista) the day before. But we also discussed the winning formula of buddy action-comedies, Nanjiani transforming into an action star, and Bautista’s attempts to broaden his range as an actor outside of the MCU. Stuber opens nationwide on Friday, July 12.

Who is the genius mixologist that thought of bringing the two of you together for this?

Kumail: Was it the director, Michael Dowse? It certainly might have been, but I don’t know.

Dave: I never asked, but we he had this idea to have me play Vic, and I got the call and the script and heard Kumail was attached; that was all I needed to know.

Kumail: Yeah, I read the script when there was nobody attached, and I met the director and he said he wanted Dave, and I was like “Yeah, if you can get him.”

Well Michael made Goon, so that’s all I’d need to know before saying yes.

Dave: I got the nod from James Gunn, who said he loved Dowse. I don’t know if they’d ever met, but he loved Goon so much. But he’s buddies with Kumail and had nothing but great things to say about him.

Kumail: Is that right? I didn’t know that.

I should mention that I’ve seen Endgame already and this isn’t running until July, so anything you might say about it won’t be a spoiler.

Kumail: He doesn’t even know what happens in it. I can’t wait it see it. What sucks is that when I get home, my wife is out of town, and she’s like “We have to see it together.”

Dave: Oh, that’s the worst [laughs].

Kumail: “Or maybe I can see it separately and you can see it separately.”

Dave: I went to see the last Jurassic World movie twice because I promised  [someone] I wouldn’t go see it without her, and she was on the road and I wanted to see it.

Kumail: I liked Jurassic World 2; it was cool. And the way it sets up the next one with the raptors in the suburbs…

As we were coming into the [Avengers] screening, there were people going into the two-and-a-half-day Marvel marathon, and we were thinking that we should make those people pay us not to ruin the final movie. 

Kumail: Does Captain America die? Don’t respond! I don’t want to know. I don’t know if that’s true.

Tell me about meeting each other for the first time. What was that like? Was it all a done deal at that point?

Dave: Oh god no, not the first time we met.

Kumail: We were doing a chemistry read together.

Dave: They definitely had in mind for us to play these parts, but they wanted to be sure we meshed together.

Kumail: I remember being very tired and very nervous. I had just gotten back into town, and you had just flown in.

Dave: We squeezed this in. You were still doing a lot of press [for The Big Sick] and traveling around the world. I think I had come out for some Disney thing.

Kumail: It was like Saturday at 8am.

Dave: But I was excited and nervous as well, but more excited about meeting Kumail, but it was great.

Kumail: I remember being very nervous for it. And it’s weird because you’re doing the scenes for the first time, and you’re doing a lot of different scenes. So we’re doing scenes where we’re not getting along, but we also did the goodbye in the rain scene, which was so weird because I’d just met Dave and we’re doing this sweet, emotional goodbye at 8am on a Saturday on the day we met, hoping each of us and the other person gets the job.

Dave, you’ve obviously done things in which you are funny, but you’ve never done a straight-up comedy. And Kumail, I don’t think you’ve ever done a balls-out action movie.

Kumail: Just in my life.

[Everybody laughs]

Dave: He lived it.

Kumail: I’ve mopped the floors with some scumbags.

Was that important, to change things up and have people see you differently?

Dave: For me it was, for sure. It was more of a personal challenge. This really stick in my head—I went in to read for this casting director and she was talking about Lee Pace, and I wasn’t familiar with him at the time, but she was like “Oh, he’s great. He can do anything, across the board.” And I thought, “God, I want someone to talk about me like that.”

Kumail: Well, they do now.

Dave: Since then, I want people to think that I can do anything. I want people to want to work with me and get excited about working with me and trust that I can deliver for them. Anything that can break me out of the mold that I should be in—the gorilla mode—I’m good with and want to give a shot.

You have another film coming out later this summer, My Spy, that’s more family friendly.

Dave: That’s another thing, I just wanted to broader my horizons and hit every genre.

And did you want to so something more action-oriented, more physical?

Kumail: Yeah, I wanted to do an action-comedy. After The Big Sick, I was like “What’s next?” We did something so personal that’s our thing. Where do you go from there? And I was thinking to do something completely different that no one would compare to The Big Sick. I wanted to do a big-studio action-comedy—that would be really fun to do.

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