Matt Stone

Team America: World Police

Interviewed by Anwar Brett

“We thought it would be cool if someone used the Thunderbirds kind of look but made the film fast-moving and funny. Then we realised that the only people stupid enough to do that would be us ”

Along with friend and collaborator Trey Parker, 33-year-old Matt Stone is one of the more terrible enfants in the American comedy mainstream. Swimming against the current of political correctness they created the award-winning animation series South Park in 1997, which was followed by the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut two years later. Other features include the porn industry-set Orgazmo and Cannibal: The Musical. As well as providing the usual chorus of voices for Team America: World Police Stone co-wrote and produced the pic while Parker directed.

There's a rumour circulating that you and Trey Parker are no longer working together - is that true?

Quite the contrary. We worked so hard on this, doing 16 hour days almost every single day through 2004 and we never wanted to kill each other. That's kind of amazing if you think about it.

Why make a film with marionettes, as opposed to the animation style of South Park?

Pretty obviously it came from watching Thunderbirds. Trey and I were just flicking through the channels a couple of years ago, and it was on. And it was like one of those things where you instantly remembered it from your childhood because visually it's so different from anything else. We thought it would be cool if someone used this kind of look but made the film fast-moving and funny. Then we realised that the only people stupid enough to do that would be us.

No one is safe from mockery in the film, even innocent actors like Alec Baldwin. What was his reaction?

All I know is that when Alec Baldwin heard he was going to be in it he called Paramount and said he wanted to do the voice. We said 'Thanks, but that's ok'. That's all we ever heard from Alec Baldwin. And Sean Penn wrote the now infamous letter where he got mad with me and Trey for doing the movie - and that speaks for itself. I think it speaks pretty badly for itself, but that's his response. Other than that I haven't heard a thing.

For all the targets you choose to take pot-shots at, George Bush isn't one of them. How come?

If you want to see Bush-bashing in America you only have to walk about 10 feet to find it. Trey and I are always attracted to what other people aren't doing. Frankly that wasn't the movie we wanted to make.

Michael Moore interviewed you in Bowling For Columbine, and you seemed to get on so well then. Are there any feelings of guilt over how you portray him here?

I've hung out with him a few times, and he asked me to be in Bowling For Columbine because I grew up in Littleton, Colorado, so I did. And he didn't misrepresent me in the film at all. But what he did that really pissed Trey off, and kind of pissed me off too, was put a little animation right after our interview. Tons of people have come up to us and said: 'Oh I love that animation you guys did in Bowling For Columbine'. It's very South Park-esque but we didn't do it. I was offended by the cartoon, personally I thought it was retarded. That's just my opinion and the only reason my opinion matters is because people thought I made it. It was a good lesson in what Michael Moore does in films. He doesn't necessarily say explicitly this is what it is, but he creates meaning where there is none by cutting things together. But I don't really hate the guy.

Was your hero in the film, actor Gary Johnston, based on anyone?

No, the Hollywood actor thing kind of came to us because we wanted to have Alec Baldwin as kind of like Darth Vader, with acting being the force you could use for good or evil. It was an interesting study in character because when we started out Gary was this character who was taken off the street and given to Team America and was like, 'What's going on?' - and that's a comedy movie. The problem is that doesn't work with the rest of the movie, because it has to be the whole Jerry Bruckheimer thing of 'You've got to save the world', and him saying: 'You know, I think I just might be able to do it.'

Sometimes the parody element of the film comes close to plausible reality. You could almost imagine your hard rock anthem 'America - F*** Yeah!' in a Bruckheimer film, couldn't you?

I read this article recently that some of the PsychOps guys, when they were storming Fallujah, went through the streets playing loud music to freak everybody out on big speakers on the tanks. And they actually played 'America! F*** Yeah!'. I felt like some kind of DaDa artist, the joke was complete then. It was done.

Team America: World Police is released in UK cinemas on Friday 14th January 2005.