Just read on FB that a sequel to the "Stooges" movie is in the works, so I guess it's technically a successful movie.
sub- For years, Malibu native and ‘Sinbad’ actor Zen Gesner and wife Cindy Farrelly Gesner have enjoyed the joys of being Farrelly Brothers-adjacent.
by Michael Aushenker
By sheer happenstance, actor/producer Zen Gesner and wife Cindy Farrelly Gesner found themselves talking to the press last Sunday. Not the usual way to spend one’s 17th wedding anniversary. Then again, this Malibu pair is no ordinary couple.
Gesner, who portrayed the titular character in “The Adventures of Sinbad” in the late ‘90s, is married to the youngest sister of outrageous comedy kings Peter and Bob Farrelly, whose often controversial broad comedies, including “Dumb & Dumber” (starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels), the cult favorite “Kingpin,” and signature blockbuster “There’s Something About Mary,” dominated American comedy throughout the ‘90s. Farrelly Gesner, an entertainment attorney at the Beverly Hills firm Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler, has long represented her brothers. Being related to the Farrelly Bros., both routinely get bit parts in the brothers’ movies, including “The Three Stooges,” an homage to and revival of the iconic slapstick trio, which is currently topping the DVD and Blu Ray charts. Gesner also filmed a handful of five-minute behind-the-scenes featurettes appearing in the bonus features.
Released July 17, the “Stooges” DVD includes co-stars Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”), “Glee”’s Jane Lynch, and Larry David (as “Sister Mary Mengele”) on Gesner’s featurettes, alongside stars Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry) and Will Sasso (Curly).
Gesner and Moran created the shorts (narrated by the brothers) with a skeleton crew, capturing the behind-the-scenes craft and chaos.
The son of Modernist architect/inventor Harry Gesner and late actress Nan Martin (“The Drew Carey Show”), Gesner grew up in Nicholas Beach. (For more on Harry Gesner’s incredible back story, read “Living by Design, Not by Accident” by Michael Aushenker in the MalibuTimes.com archives.) Gesner followed his mother’s footsteps into acting. After moving around from Santa Monica to Capetown, South Africa (for “Sinbad”) to Manhattan (for a Gesner’s year-long stint as evil twin/rapist Ryan Lavery on “All My Children”). In 1999, the Gesner family settled on the Mali-Pali Sunset Mesa border. Gesner, a third-generation surfer, has passed on that torch to his sons, Finn, 15, Rory, 11, and Tuck, 9.
As a producer, Gesner made “Bag Boy,” a movie starring Dennis Farina, Larry Miller and Brooke Shields. He is currently working with Good Surf Productions co-founder Rob Moran to get a one-hour episodic medical drama on the air. (In the Farrelly Bros.’ “Stuck On You,” starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, the partners appear on a mock Variety cover under the headline “Gesner and Moran Land Major Deal at Fox.”) Gesner is also designing eco-friendly surfboards with carpenter Ben Stoddard. (The boards appear in an upcoming Men’s Journal photo shoot featuring actor Gerard Butler, promoting his surfing film “Chasing Mavericks.”)
“One of my best friends is a teacher at Malibu High School,” said Gesner, whose middle child studies saxophone with two of his former teachers, Steven Ravaglioli and Bonnie Lockrem Rory.
Cindy’s older sisters live in Massachusetts. Beth works in market research for Ocean Spray. Kathy of Duxbury, MA, works on “Chronicle,” a regional “60 Minutes”-type program. Peter lives in Ojai and summers in Martha’s Vineyard while Bob lives in Beverly Hills. The Farrellys’ parents have retired to Cape Cod.
The Farrelly Bros. and their three sisters (of which Cindy is the youngest) grew up in Cumberland, Rhode Island, and summered in Cape Cod; the offspring of a general doctor/obstetrician and a nurse. New England figures prominently in most Farrelly Bros. movies. Peter shared stories related to their upbringing in the 1988 novel “Outside Providence,” which became a 1999 film years later produced and co-written by the Farrellys.
The Gesners get sheepish when asked how they met...line-dancing at the now-defunct Santa Monica country-Western bar Denim and Diamonds. (They swear they don’t even listen to country.)
Gesner spent two years living in Capetown, South Africa, filming 44 episodes of “The Adventures of Sinbad.” As the iconic sailor, Gesner did his own stunts (swordplay, trampolines, flips).
“It was just a chance to showcase a lot of the skills I’ve been practicing my whole life,” said Gesner, who got to meet Sinbad predecessor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Post-”Sinbad,” Gesner did a “Friends” episode and relocated his family to Manhattan in 1998, when he worked on “All My Children” as Grayden Lavery, evil-twin rapist brother of character Ryan Lavery.
“That gave us a great year in New York City,” he said.
The family occupied a Upper West Side apartment, behind Lincoln Center, vacated by “All My Children” colleagues Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuela. Recently, Gesner appeared on his first reality series, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “Take the Money and Run.”
Gesner has enjoyed bit roles in a roster of Farrelly Bros. flicks, beginning with an FBI agent in their 1995 debut, “Dumb & Dumber.”
“It’s such a warm and friendly set,” Gesner said. “They’re like the Coen Brothers. Once they start working with a group of actors, they like bringing them in along for the ride” in subsequent productions.
For “Kingpin,” the 1996 bowling comedy starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid and Bill Murray, Gesner fervently studied Amish dialect only to arrive on the set and find he was the only one in the movie employing the German accent. Gesner also played a bartender in “Something About Mary” (“Cough it up, chompers!”) and a shot FBI agent in 2000’s “Me, Myself and Irene.”
“‘Shallow Hal’ was one of my personal favorites,” he confesses of the 2001 comedy in which he played Gwyneth Paltrow’s boyfriend. “It was a fun role to play––goofy character, goofy voice.” He played Katherine Heigl’s jerk fiance in “The Ringer” and Ione Skye’s trains-obsessed hubby in “Fever Pitch.” Despite being family, Gesner auditions for these roles.
“Anyone who comes to a set finds themselves in the movie,” Farrelly Gesner said of her brothers’ fraternal shooting protocol. “In ‘Three Stooges,’ I was a nun. My kids were in the orphanage. Brian Doyle Murray fell on a group of nuns, lying on top of me and my sister Beth.” A trying scene, shot in 105-degree Atlanta heat.
A Farrelly Bros. set is collegial, friendly: drinking games such as Quarters in-between takes; group outings to restaurants and bars after shooting.
“On set, the crew refers to ‘FOP’ or ‘FOB’ –– friend of Pete’s or Friend of Bobby’s,” said Farrelly Gesner, who added that while Bill Murray is “very funny,” Bob and Peter were not as loose around the “Moonrise Kingdom” star as with other actors. “My brothers just revere him!”
Growing up Farrelly meant growing up laughing.
“They were very, very funny, no question,” Farrelly Gesner said. “We had a lot of laughs. They weren’t particularly driven or focused and they didn’t do that well in school. I don’t think anyone would have thought they would amount to anything.”
The Farrelly Bros. exited college pursuing “random business fields,” as their sister puts it. Peter, an accounting major, worked for a shipping company, while Bobby entered into insurance. “Pete wasn’t happy so he turned to writing ‘Outside Providence,’” Farrelly Gesner said. He went from University of Massachusetts in Amherst to the writing program at Columbia University.”
While Peter found early success selling screenplays, they remained unproduced for a solid decade. That included the first comedy script he wrote in the mid-‘80s, “Dust to Dust.” However, a neighbor of Eddie Murphy passed it along to the superstar comedian, who laughed his ass off.
“Eddie Murphy told the story on ‘Letterman,’” Farrelly Gesner said. “He was on a flight when he read it and he laughed the whole way to California.”
Peter brought in writing partner Bennett Yellen and then convinced his brother to come out to L.A., where Peter lived in a West Hollywood apartment on Doheny.
“He told Bobby, ‘Come out and write with me,’” Farrelly Gesner recalled. “They work so well together. Bobby is hysterically funny. It’s a different style then Pete’s. Bobby is a little more slapstick.”
“It took them many, many years,” she continued, “and it didn’t begin until ‘Dumb and Dumber.’ That really did change their lives.”
Meanwhile, their kid sister had embarked on a parallel pursuit of entertainment law. Finding herself feeling stuck as a litigator, things changed as “Dumb & Dumber” approached release: “One day, Peter called and said, ‘Cindy, just start being our lawyer. We got this guy in CAA.”
That “guy” was uber-agent Richard Lovett, whom, with Adam Kanter, still reps the Farrellys today.
But their next project, “Kingpin,” bombed. Luckily, the Farrellys rebounded quickly and formidably with the 1998 Ben Stiller/Cameron Diaz comedy which slapped critics in the face with a certain infamous hair-gel gag that permeated the pop culture. Grossing $369 million globally, “Something About Mary” ranks 27th on American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 funniest films of the 20th century.
The Farrelly Bros. are currently working on setting up “Dumber & Dumber Too,” which hit a well-publicized snag when Carrey wanted out. The filmmakers remain optimistic a sequel to the film launching their careers will materialize.
The Farrellys have become immune to criticism.
“Even if they had a movie that did well at the box office,” their sister explained, “the critics were so scathing of their work.” Some found gags about the handicapped, in movies such as “The Ringer,” a Special Olympics-themed comedy, tasteless.
“My brothers have the biggest hearts ever,” she continued. “They weren’t making fun of them.”
The boys were heartened when three important media outlets––Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today––loved “Three Stooges.”
While the comedy may be over-the-top, its success was not. The $36-million-budget comedy has grossed only $44-million domestically. However, despite its national home-video release, the 2012 film has just began opening in foreign markets such as Australia and New Zealand. Most importantly, “they were really happy with the way it turned out,” she said.
Long a Farrelly Bros. passion project, “Stooges” was not a slam dunk in Hollywood’s eyes. As well documented by the entertainment press, Benicio del Toro was originally earmarked to play Moe with Sean Penn as Larry. However, Penn’s personal problems prompted him to back out of the project, forcing a casting overhaul.
“We worked on getting that movie made for 13 years,” Farrelly Gesner said. “Everybody was so gun shy about green-lighting it. Fans of the Stooges were angry it was getting remade. My brothers don’t make choices based on commercialism. They love the Stooges. They love their comedy and they felt the Stooges’ legend was falling away from people and they wanted to reach the kids.
“They wanted to show how they influenced comedy. They left such an indelible mark on comedy.”
Cinemaphiles, no doubt, will one day say the same about her brothers.