Ricky Gervais has laid into “homogenised” comedy films which he says appeal to the lowest common denominator and are “focus-grouped to death”.
Speaking in Paris at Netflix’s showcase of upcoming programmes, the comedian said he relished his new film for the streaming service because it allowed him creative freedom to make his own work and still cater for a mass audience.
The star of the upcoming Netflix film Special Correspondents said, “A lot of comedies are gross-out, lowest common denominator, and that’s because they want everyone to go to the cinema on the first day or it’s taken off the screen. And it’s very homogenised and it’s very safe and it’s OK. They know what they’re getting, but they don’t take chances any more.
“They’re made by committee and they’re focus-grouped to death. They are the same as the film you saw last month that you liked. Netflix will see the return of the auteur because you will make the movie that you wanted.”
Gervais’s upcoming The Office follow-up David Brent: Life on the Road is set to be released in cinemas this summer. However, the comedian said that Netflix, which claims 75 million subscribers, has “cut out the middle man” because it served a large audience who watch films after they have appeared in the cinema.
Gervais was speaking alongside his Special Correspondents co-star Eric Bana. In the film, a struggling radio journalist (Bana) and his hapless technician (Gervais) find themselves faking an Ecuadorian war in a New York hideout. They inadvertently become celebrities when it is claimed they have been kidnapped, forcing the pair to try get into the country for real.
Speaking about the film he said, “I get so excited about having an idea but because I can get the thing made. It’s playtime. Its such a f****** privilege to do this. I am so excited. If you’re not excited about this why should they be? Otherwise what’s the point?”
“Creativity is playing, it’s finding your inner child,” Gervais added. “Children play but then it’s beaten out of them [by people who say] ‘grow up’. No, don’t grow up.”
Gervais also reflected on the perils of fame and creative freedom in his question and answer session and admitted that speaking his mind can antagonise people.
“I think offence is the collateral damage of freedom of speech. But just because you are offended doesn’t mean you’re right. Some people are offended by equality.
“The more famous you get the more people love you and hate you. If you are doing anything that isn’t anodyne and watered down you are going to polarise, but it’s good to polarise because some people are smart and some people are f****** stupid. And the people who hate you can’t affect you, they don’t buy your stuff anyway. Do what you want and do it as well as you can and it will all be OK.
“I once thought reputation is everything but now I don’t care. Character is what is important. Reputation is just what strangers think of you.
“Unless people are coming to my house I don’t care. Twitter, it’s like reading every toilet wall in the world. You mustn’t worry about it. It will send you mad. Who gives a ****.”
He also appeared to pour cold water on the idea of a sequel to Special Correspondents, which is due to land on Netflix at the end of this month.
“I never really [saw] it as a franchise or chapter two,” he said. “You put everything into chapter one. I don’t know. I don’t know where it would go. We’d have to fake another war. Or we could do something else. We’ve always wanted to be clowns….”
Special Correspondents premieres on Netflix on 29 April