INTERVIEW: Andy Fickman (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2)

Published on theMusic.com.au, Aug 2015

Gary Valentine, Ana Gasteyer, Kevin James and Director Andy Fickman on the set of Columbia Pictures' PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2.

Gary Valentine, Ana Gasteyer, Kevin James and Director Andy Fickman on the set of Columbia Pictures’ PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2.

The themes and depth of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 go further than you may think, as director Andy Fickman tells Daniel Cribb.

“Oh, that makes me very excited!” a loud and chirpy Andy Fickman begins after realising he’s on-call with Australia. His late father worked for Shell Oil and so Fickman spent a “tremendous” amount of his formative years in the country. “I grew up loving — aside from all the Mad Max movies — Peter Weir. He was just somebody who I was blown away by and I think Picnic At Hanging Rock haunted me so much and still does to this day.”

It was his father’s connection to Australia that put his love for film into overdrive and his own son that saw him decide to take on the roll of director for Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. “The original movie, my son and I saw together and we both just laughed and enjoyed the ridiculous nature of Paul Blart, and it was always a favourite movie of my son’s,” Fickman explains.

“When I was given the opportunity and I read the script, I thought it was a chance to kind of be a part of something that has a personal connection for my son and I.”

The storyline immediately caught Fickman’s attention, and it’s clear when watching the slapstick-oriented film where Fickman was drawing his directorial influences from. “The fact that this one was an art heist and in a beautiful resort, it felt very Pink Panther to me, so I think I was very interested in exploring that type of film.”

And explore that area they did indeed — just ask the old lady that gets slammed in the stomach by mall-cop Kevin James. “It was a lot of fun,” he laughs. “The minute we shot it I think we were all looking at each other thinking, ‘This’ll be one of those things where we’ll know in the first test screening that audiences love this or want to punch us.’ And you know, the sustained laughter and we were like, ‘I guess people enjoy punching the old lady.'”

James co-wrote the script, and you might think the fact that he wrote himself beating up an innocent old lady might make him a questionable human being, but Fickman suggests otherwise. “I was always a big fan of his but I’d never met him. And what’s great is that he’s not only an obviously very gifted comedic actor, but he’s just a great actor. And he’s very aware of his comedic sensibilities and he’s very aware of his emotional core. It was just a joy every day on set with him.”

Having directed family comedies She’s The Man and The Game Plan, Fickman taking over the reins from Steve Carr, who directed the first film, was seamless. “I really give credit to Kevin and Todd Garner [producer] for welcoming me and allowing me to put my handprints on it. When you come into a sequel, I think it can be a little scary because you’re the last person on the team and the team’s been winning, you want to make sure that you’re helping to continue the winning.”

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