Tower Heist: A Conversation With Matthew Broderick

Matthew Broderick may play a moping, down and out Wall Street financier in Brett Ratner’s zany luxury condo crime caper, Tower Heist. But it seems that no matter how sad sack a character his role in a movie may be, there’s always room for magically conjuring a huge dose of humor. Which is exactly how this sitdown conversation for Tower Heist with Broderick played out as well. As the frowning funny man mulled the aggravation levels of typical New Yorkers, and memorable moments shared with costar Eddie Murphy on and off camera. Along with taking a little time out to commiserate with hi-rise window washers too.

Now about those calls made to 911 because people around Columbus Circle where you were filming, thought you were real criminals…

MATTHEW BRODERICK: Oh yeah. Well, I don’t know. I remember we had a fake Thanksgiving Day parade. Which if you’ve grown up here as I have, is such an amazing thing. And to see those floats up close – and get behind the scenes with the floats – was very exciting. As a New Yorker.

And in New York it’s not like, oh neat. A movie’s shooting in my neighborhood. Cool. It’s more like, get the f**k outta here!

And, Sir. Would you mind walking on the other side of the street? F**k you!

Tower Heist seems pretty timely to what’s going on in the real world today. Your thoughts?

MB: Yeah, these days people want money. And we steal it in this movie!

How do you feel about your costar Casey Affleck referring to you as that old guy, Mister New York?

MB: I feel like I have a top hat and a monocle! Mister New York? Mister Knickerbocker! [Matthew makes playful motions like he’s ready to leave] Any other questions?

Matthew, you play a tragic and also comical character at the same time in this movie. Talk about walking that fine line – although you had lots of practice doing that in The Producers – and now with this character who is a victim of foreclosure.

MB: I am? What happened! Whaddya mean? You mean the character, oh okay. Wow. I was gonna call my accountant. I have no idea! Tragedy and comedy. Sorry, I just got here! I’m trying! Comedy and tragedy…

Well, I’ve had a little experience in dramas and comedies. And I don’t find them terribly different, to me, really. You know? Whether you’re telling a joke-y story or a suspenseful story, even in life, you either tell it well and have a good story. Or you don’t.

I don’t know, some people are more comfortable in comedies than other people. But I don’t feel very different with either.

Did Eddie Murphy’s humor influence you while filming?

MD: No, I think he pretty much wanted everybody to feel like they owned their own part. And I actually found that he’s a very nice audience. It can be intimidating to work with somebody that great. But I never had the feeling that I was being directed by either Eddie or Ben.

And I don’t think any of us felt that way. Eddie just seemed to enjoy laughing, and enjoy making people laugh. It was really a pleasure to work with those guys. And even though this movie was Eddie’s idea, he didn’t behave like it was. Ever.

What did Eddie do to make you laugh?

MB: Oh man, everything. Well, I guess we’re all gonna watch ourselves disintegrate on screen. For the rest of our lives! We’re just gonna watch ourselves disintegrate.

But Eddie was always funny. He’s the kind of guy that if he feels like it, if he’s in the mood, he can do five versions of a take in four different languages.

You know, if he feels like it, he can kill anyone. I mean, it’s a comedy term, you know, get a big laugh! He also was, interestingly, a big movie buff.

And any time I came in after watching an old movie and we talked about it, he always knew about it. And he’d say like, there’s another version fifteen years after that, you should check it out. He’s like an encyclopedia.

And also a lot of boxing talk. And I didn’t know who or what he was talking about with that. It went over my head. I’m just girlish!

What about doing the action in Tower Heist, and hanging way up high over Columbus Circle?

MB: Yeah, I get strung out very high for awhile there. It was green screened, but I would have certainly been…hurt badly! Had I fallen. But everybody is so good at it these days, so I felt perfectly safe. And I actually enjoy those scenes.

You know, with a little bit of action that I’ve occasionally gotten to do. I always find that kinda fun. Not everybody gets to hang out of windows safely! I know window washers do. And actors, once in a while. But it’s just fun, you know?

You can feel like a fool, because you’re having to make a lot of scared faces, and things like that. But all in all, I always enjoy pretending I’m an athlete, and all that.

And there was a big car on top of me. Which had it fallen, would have certainly crushed me to death! So I felt a little…uneasy! Um, yeah. That’s all! Thank you.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.