EXCLUSIVE | Screenwriter Tripper Clancy talks 'Die Hart', working with Kevin Hart and writing witty comedies
'And what it does for Kevin's character on the show is it creates a lot of inner conflicts because he wants something so badly that everybody else is telling him he can't do'
'Die Hart' premiered on Monday, July 20, and the action-comedy starring Kevin Hart, John Travolta and Nathalie Emmanuel is already a hit with the audience. One other person that deserves credit for bringing the thigh-slapping comedy to life is screenwriter, Tripper Clancy, the man who also wrote 'Stuber' starring Dave Bautista. In an exclusive with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Clancy talks about the concept, the audience's expectations and his inclination towards writing comedies.
How did the idea of 'Die Hart' come up?
It started really with Kevin and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Kevin said that he wants to do something where he can be an action star and maybe his version can be Kevin Hart's version of a James Bond-type character and what's it look like and have some fun with it. When I came on board, I looked at it and said, "I think the coolest way to do this, we try to really focus on what would that look like if Kevin Hart, who I think the biggest comedy actor in the world...if he really wanted to try to transition, I don't think it'd be that easy. I don't think that many people would be accepting of it.
So that's where I came up with the idea that here's a director that wants to put them in an action star movie, but he's going to make Kevin first go to an action star school where he has to train under this lunatic. It was played by John Travolta. And if he can pass through that school, only then can Kevin become an action star. I thought it's a really funny kind of obstacle course of action sequences to get them to, to achieve his dream.
Were there any plans of making 'Die Hart' a film?
No. This was always going to be a Quibi show. The thing about Quibi where I think, when the show is at its best, is when it's truly a hybrid. I wouldn't call 'Die Hart' a TV show or a movie. It's probably closer to a movie that's told in seven or eight-minute portions. But I do think the trick is can you get these small chapters to stand on their own as episodes? But also, if you want to binge-watch it, when all the episodes are up, will it feel seamless, like one larger narrative? And I think 'Die hart' really functions well as both but it was always supposed to be as Quibi show. Later on down the line, I think there's going to be a version of it that we can show people like a movie but right now I'm really excited about how people are enjoying each chapter as it's released each day.
How challenging was it to zero-in on an actor like Kevin?
It was not challenging at all. I had seen all of Kevin's movies and I've seen his standup. And so for me, I came on already having a good grasp of his voice and what he's capable of on-screen which is a lot. I work in this business, so I know how people get typecast. It was a lot of fun to have kind of an inside joke about Hollywood about how for somebody to change their stripes when everybody knows them as one thing and they want to be something else.
I think we see that with actors all the time, somebody who's a dramatic actor tries to accommodate. And sometimes it works, sometimes it fails miserably, and it's really hard for the town to take them seriously because we'd like to put labels on people and say, they're good at this thing or that thing. And what it does for Kevin's character on the show is it creates a lot of inner conflicts because he wants something so badly that everybody else is telling him he can't do. And for a guy who's as driven as Kevin Hart, that's the last thing you want to do because it's only going to make them want it more. And that's where we get a lot of conflicts and a lot of comedy in the show.
Three episodes in and 'Die Hart' has gained positive reviews...
I think when all of the episodes are up, we'll see even more reactions. Eric Appel is the director. Eric and I and Kevin's team along with the cast, we've all obviously all seen it. We felt like we had something really special here and Jeffrey Katzenberg and our executives at Quibi, they all felt the same way. So we've spent the last few weeks, we've just been crossing our fingers like "Are we all crazy?" I think it's just natural and easy to watch. There are action and comedy at every turn. And there are great cliffhangers. That's really all you want. If you want to entertain people, like, I feel 'Die Hart' has kind of the full package.
Is writing comedies a conscious choice?
I've written stuff. Comedy and I've written dramas for studios that haven't been made. I think the universe is telling me that the comedy is the stuff that I write that actually ends up getting made. So maybe I'm better at it. I definitely have more fun even in the stuff I write. I love finding those little moments to bring levity in the situation to tell an unexpected joke. I love putting two characters in a scenario where they're going to have a lot of conflicts, because in that conflict, in our daily lives, I feel like I see a lot of comedy.
The thing that is challenging about comedy is you're not going to find anything that's universally funny. Somebody out there is going to find a joke. So all you can do is try to tell jokes and create scenes that you think are funny. And then you hope that people get on board and find it funny as well.
What can the audience expect from the upcoming episode of 'Die Hart'?
Twists and turns...things that you didn't see coming. I have 10 episodes. There's three or four larger twists and turns. And within episodes, each cliffhanger has a smaller twist and turn. I want to keep the audience engaged throughout every single page. And so I think what I want the audience to do is to think they know where it's going every step of the way. And then I want to try to prove them wrong and try to pull the rug out from underneath them and reverse their expectations. I think with Kevin, John and Natalie, it's really fun to do that because they sell it so well at every turn.
'Die Hart' is currently streaming on Quibi.