Betty Thomas


Interviewed by Alec Cawthorne

Former Hill Street Blues bombshell Betty Thomas turned her hand to directing in the 90s, churning out hits like "The Brady Bunch Movie" and "Dr Dolittle". Now she reunites with Eddie Murphy for espionage comedy "I-Spy".

What was the funniest thing about this story, the thing that made you want to film it?

Eddie and Owen, that's the funniest thing. As soon as I put them together, it clarified the movie for me. It allowed me to make it a left-handed spy movie rather than a straight-ahead spy movie and since I don't like anything straight-ahead anyway... We got to make fun of 007. We got to make fun of all the things that fill the spy genre movie. The two guys are my way into that. Eddie being a boxer is weird and wonderful and edgy, and Owen's also wonderful being the imperfect spy, the sort of everyman spy.

Tell us about devising the gadgets...

You know, we thought of gadgets to set up comedy. So we'd think of the funny situation and then think about what gadget would get us to that spot. For example, we have this funny scene - we call it the Cyrano de Bergerac scene - where Eddie's going to help Owen get the woman of his dreams and they use one of their spy gadgets in this scene. But we came up with the scene before we came up with the gadget.

How much of this film was improvised?

27.3% was improvised! Yeah, I let them experiment. Eddie and I have worked together before and he works very well improvisationally and so does Owen - even though I think Owen might have been thrown on the first day. I think he was a little bit taken aback by Eddie's "Bam! Right to it!" attitude.

The good thing about these guys is that they make the script sound like it was improvised. That's the way they deliver all the lines. So honestly, for everybody to walk around saying all the improvisation was great... guess what? Most of that, and especially the two funniest scenes in the movie, are 98% written.

Why did you shoot in Budapest?

I shot in Budapest because it had an urban palace, a river, and a place to put my sports centre. That's where Eddie's character was going to have his last fight, and it was a place to put my invisible plane... No other place in the world, that I could find, allowed me to do that.