From first glance, War on Everyone is not a movie I’d normally watch. Nope: a bro action comedy that’s described as offensive to nearly everyone would not get my money (although Spencer Pratt would be interested in it). But writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s tale of two bad cops, Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob (Michael Peña), who use their own bad behavior to eradicate even badder guys, manages to be surprisingly heartfelt. Even as you watch these guys snort coke and drink beer at 8 a.m., you get a tender examination of a friendship.
But the movie couldn't be what it is without the chemistry of Skarsgård and Peña. And their chemistry is just as palpable IRL, as we found out when we sat down with the two actors to talk about War on Everyone.
I want you two in every buddy comedy. Can you just team up and make franchises or something?
Michael Peña: I’d love to work with Alex again.
Alexander Skarsgård: I would have to think about it.
Peña: I’d like to hire him for stuff.
Skarsgård: He wants to be my boss. He would just like to hire and fire me.
Peña: Exactly. [Throws something at Skarsgård.]
Was this the first time you worked together?
Skarsgård: Yeah, we didn’t know each other at all. We met in Albuquerque actually.
Peña: At the table read, a week before filming. It was crazy.
The chemistry between you guys is great. It’s kind of romantic.
Peña: We didn’t want to make it trivial. Bob is so important to Terry. He’s like the most important person in the world. Terry feels stupid. I’m lost without him. That’s how it feels. It’s funny and broad in many ways, but it’s also a beautiful love story between these two.
I wanted to ask, why aren’t you both doing a ton of comedy stuff all the time?
Peña: I think about it as food. You want to do these movies that you absolutely love, and I would just love pizza for a long time, that’s my jam. Then all of a sudden I’m like, "Fuck pizza. New taco spot!" I totally like that. It will be the same thing with TV shows. Right now I’m really up on Forensic Files.
Skarsgård: To me, I was working on a television show for seven years. We had five months off every year. Because I wasn’t known before the television show, that was the only character that people knew. It was like, "Oh, he’s Eric Northman." So people have a tendency to typecast you. I want to prove and show people I can do something else. It’s just like you said: why would I spend seven months shooting True Blood and then, during my hiatus, play the same character?
Peña: They wanted to put you in horror movies?
Skarsgård: Not horror movies. But it was more like—
Skarsgård: There’s actually a True Blood porn. But no, but more like character with traits that are very similar.
Like, the "brooding hot guy?"
Skarsgård: Brooding, alpha male, strong.
Skarsgård: So over it.
Do you have any good stories from the set?
Skarsgård: There’s so much down time. It’s crazy for five minutes, but then you sit around, you wait. I really like the Iceland parts. We wrapped the movie in Iceland, the last week of shooting. We had been in Albuquerque for over two months and it was just a lovely way to end that experience. Even the kids came. Some of them had never been on an airplane before. They went from Iceland from Albuquerque. It was so great to have that experience together.
When the film hits theaters, why should people go see your movie?
Peña: You want us to give you a tagline.
Skarsgård: Sell it, Mike!
Peña: I just think it’s a well-written, smart, dark comedy. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s definitely fun. You will probably be offended.
Come on, sell it.
Peña: Skarsgård takes off his shirt.
Skarsgård: We doubled down on the bad cops. It’s bad cop, bad cop. To me, when I watch movies, it’s always fun to watch the bad cop or the bad guy. Here, you get two for the price of one.
Peña: I’m in my underwear, he’s in his underwear.
Welp, I’m going to end on that.
To read more coverage of SXSW 2016, click here.