Writer and star duo reveal all about A24’s filthiest film
In this A24 musical from the director of Borat, a pair of business rivals discover that they’re identical twins in Dicks: The Musical. Stephen A Russell speaks with writers and stars Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp about turning their two-man show into a film – including which jokes got cut.
Dicks: The Musical writers and stars Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp are as surprised as anyone that their potty-mouthed, incest-joke deploying, off off off off Broadway two-man, six-song show Fucking Identical Twins somehow made it onto the big screen, backed by indie powerhouse A24.
“Our producer Kori Adelson came and saw it when we were doing it in LA, and she was the one who was like, ‘Would you want to pitch it as a movie?’,” a bemused Sharp reveals. “And then, miraculously, we sold it to Fox, who paid us to turn it into a feature script.”
In a relatively predictable plot twist, Sharp adds, “But then they read that script, and they were like, ‘Well, we’re never fucking making this’.”
Limbo followed until A24 stepped in. “So it was suddenly one of those beautiful, meandering Hollywood journeys,” Sharp says. So much so Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm legend Larry Charles was attached to direct. “He saw a video of the old show, then loved the script and very much got the DNA of the comedy and aesthetic.”
Jackson and Sharp play two allegedly heterosexual, toxically competitive Roomba parts salesmen who accidentally discover that they were separated at birth and try to reconnect their until-now-presumed-single parents, Evelyn and Harris, in a very fast and loose twist on The Parent Trap.
“We always dreamed of Nathan doing it, he read it, we had a boozy dinner then he said yes,” Sharp, still sounding stunned, says. “It was the same with Megan Mullally, so it built in waves. Once you have A24 and Larry Charles behind you, it makes people more likely to be down to clown.”
Including another mega Megan in the shape of rapper and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law guest star Megan Thee Stallion, whose show-stopping Dom boss song includes the lyrics, “I’ll screw these cocks… I’ll juice all these nuts.”
“She was so incredible, and not just at her job, but also as a person,” Jackson says. “She was so sweet and such a pro, such a hard worker, because we didn’t have her for long. She had two days of rehearsals and two days of shooting, so she learned her entire number so fast it was very impressive to watch. And she was so cool, hanging out with the dancers between takes and cutting up with Josh and I. We loved her. It couldn’t have gone better, really.”
Long-time buddy and Fire Island star Bowen Yang also appears as a wildly permissive God who doubles as the film’s sassy narrator, huffing a bump of what I assume is cocaine, but I’m challenged on this front. “It might be ketamine, we don’t know,” laughs Sharp, who has been mates with Yang since they did children’s theatre together.
Hitting the wrong notes
The hilarious musical numbers, composed by Karl Saint Lucy and Marius De Vries, allow the duo to get away with murder. “It gives you a weird licence, because musicals are so inherently earnest and then you can say these horrible things, especially since we’re playing these like big, broad, ‘straight’ guys,” Jackson says. “And then when it’s underscored with sweeping music, you’re like, ‘Oh, no, what are these awful men doing? But that’s the logic of most ‘you can’t give up’ songs. It’s like, someone said ‘no,’ but you’re gonna do it anyway. It’s like, I don’t know if that’s the right lesson.”
The film has scored an R-rating in the US, but there was never any consideration of toning it down, Jackson says. “Larry would push us to take it further. He was always ‘Bigger, bigger, more, more.’”
That includes the Sewer boys, strange creatures kept as pets by Nathan Lane’s character which he outrageously feeds by spitting regurgitated deli meat at them. The puppets are grotesquely gorgeous. “We love that they’re lo-fi, because Josh and I are very influenced by those movies from the ‘80s like Gremlins, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and E.T.,” Jackson adds. “We were never going to get a large budget for this movie, so Larry embraced the practical.”
Jackson still can’t wrap his head around the delirious dream that’s led from a dank basement theatre to here. “We live in New York, but we shot in Los Angeles faking New York. It’s just funnier that we didn’t want to try and make it look real. When the sets were being built, it was like ‘I can’t believe we tricked them all’. Getting to shoot with Meghan Mullally and Nathan Lane, these people we’ve admired for so long.”
Speaking of long, I wonder if any dick jokes got cut? “In the office when you meet the guys, my character says ‘Use people like pawns on a checkerboard’,” Jackson says. “And then right after that, what got cut is he went ‘I’m the big hung king,’ and I love that he’s confused that checkers doesn’t have kings, and also that they must have big dicks.”
There’s also a visual gag A24 visual gag when a cinema billboard features X24’s Everyone Everywhere Cums at Once. “We wanted to do a bunch of them, but they were like, ‘You will not be able to read them all’,” Jackson recalls. “But I remember we wanted Mid-cummer…”