South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone just love raising tempers by spoofing controversial subjects. They riff on the Middle East conflict in their latest big-screen venture, Team America: World Police, filmed entirely with puppets. Their in-your-face antics include a puppet sex scene (yeah, you read that right), which was drastically reduced to obtain an R rating instead of an NC-17 for the comedy.
"It was probably twice as long as it is," Parker says. "A lot of the shots were longer, and it had a few extra special positions of lovemaking that just showed they really loved each other. The MPAA decided that you all weren't adult enough to see that."
"It was the only thing that the MPAA had a problem with in the whole movie," adds Stone. And Parker chimes in: "Which is pretty funny, because it was one of the easier things to shoot. We've all had experience doing that as children, taking the GI Joes and Barbies and..." "...just sticking them together," Stone laughs.
The dynamic duo — who have a habit of finishing each others' sentences — warn Team America is not for kids. It's probably not for Sean Penn, either. The serious-minded actor recently penned a scathing open letter about the film, which pokes fun at him and other Hollywood actors for involving themselves in war politics. "I know that most of the actors that we use in [Team America's fictitious] Film Actors Guild are going to think it is funny," Stone says, "because, ultimately, it is. It is so absurd and stupid; it is just fun. Except for Sean Penn, [who] is so humorless that he can't even have fun with that."
"We wrote this movie before the Iraq war started," Parker points out. "When we were doing another draft on the script, the Iraq war was just starting to escalate. For, like, two months, you'd turn in to a news channel like CNN to find out what was going on, and it would be like, 'Things are heating up in Iraq. Here for commentary is Sean Penn.' And it was Sean Penn telling you what was going on in Iraq!
"It was ridiculous. It was funny to us, and we [decided to] put that in the movie because that's hysterical."
Parker and Stone don't fear the poison Penn letter will spell box-office disaster — it may be quite the opposite, in fact. "Sean seemed angry in the letter," Parker sighs, "but there is not one thing that he could have done to help us any more. One week before we come out, he sends a letter to the papers and gets us on the front page of [everything]. He easily made us an extra 10 or $12 million.
"At first, we wanted to write him a letter back and really get into it. But we were like, 'Wow, he really did us a gigantic favor.'" Adds Stone: "We should send flowers."
"All [Penn] did," Parker rants, "was take something that Matt said in Rolling Stone and take it out of context and claim, 'This is what I'm mad about.' We had heard from people that know him that he was p---ed off as soon as he saw that he was in the movie. He was really, honestly like, 'How dare someone make fun of me?'"What was so funny is that what we have him do [in the film] is be like, 'I went to Iraq, I went to Iraq!' All of us are like, 'We don't give a rat's a-- that you went to Iraq, dude. I went to the Grand Canyon once. That doesn't make me an expert.' It is funny [that] we get [Penn's] letter and it's like, 'P.S. I went to Iraq, I went to Iraq!'"
"Our lawyer and the people from Paramount called us and said, 'Did you guys plant that letter? Because if you did, you can't do that,'" Stone laughs. "We're like, 'No, we didn't. He really wrote that.'"