Tube, pic Special Olympics tales lead to comedy clash
When Ricky Blitt wrote “The Ringer,” he figured the film’s premise –normal guy feigns a mental disability to dominate the Special Olympics –was so radical that no studio would make it.
Not only is Fox Searchlight releasing “The Ringer” on Dec. 23, the comedy has the seal of approval from the Special Olympics.
Yet Blitt’s angry because of the 2004 “South Park” episode “Up the Down Steroid,” which featured Eric Cartman feigning a mental disability to compete in the Special Olympics.
The situation has created hard feelings between cringeworthy comedy titans Peter and Bobby Farrelly and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
“When you think of a premise so radical it’s unmakable, you hang in for seven years to see it through, it is a shock to the system to have people on Web sites saying, ‘You hack, you stole this from ‘South Park,’ ” Blitt said. “I set this up so long before that episode was conceived. It is bad enough to have your idea taken; it’s 1,000 times worse when you are then accused of stealing.”
Blitt admitted there is no smoking gun to tie Parker and Stone to his concept, though he said before Conundrum partners Peter and Bobby Farrelly and Bradley Thomas set it up at Fox, producer Bob Kosberg pitched it to Parker and Stone’s company. Kosberg, who’s no longer involved, said he never spoke to Parker or Stone, and Stone said he never heard of any such pitch.
Still, “Ringer” producer Peter Farrelly was steamed: “There is no way those guys didn’t know we were making this very movie as they took it upon themselves to do that episode. They know what they did and they know it was wrong. Period. These are guys I have always respected, but what they did was very creepy.”
Stone adamantly denied he or his partner was aware of the film or took the idea from it.
“I can totally see why Ricky would be bummed about people accusing him of stealing an idea he came up with himself,” Stone said. “But this is a matter of people having the same idea, and I assure you we weren’t aware of the movie when we did that episode. And I don’t agree with Peter’s point that you should back off if you have an idea and find someone else has it too. It should be a race to the market. I don’t think that is all their movie has going for it. Getting the Special Olympics to take part, now that is a cool thing.”
The Farrellys and Thomas labored for years to be embraced by the organizers of the Special Olympics, who applauded the empowerment tale.
Stone and Parker have also had a hand in helping the disabled, underwriting and exec producing “How’s Your News?,” a series of documentaries in which disabled reporters interview pols and ordinary people.
“It’s hard for Trey and I to hear them come down on us like we ripped off an idea,” Stone said. “I met Bob Farrelly once for about four minutes. I never met anybody else, neither has Trey, and we knew nothing about their movie. We thought of the idea for that episode early on, but we couldn’t make it for two or three seasons. When the show expanded, we were able to make it. I don’t think it means that much; if ‘The Ringer’ is a good movie; it will do well. And I remember wanting to remake ‘King Kong’ 10 years ago. Does that mean I was ripped off? I wish Peter wouldn’t attack us, and ‘creepy’ is kind of harsh,” he added.