Hill, McBride and Best might look like average indie filmmakers: former film school pals with a 2006 Sundance entry, “The Foot Fist Way,” and a $70,000 credit card bill.
But something funny happened on the way to Park City for this Tar Heel trio: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay caught “Foot” and persuaded Paramount Vantage to acquire it.
Directed by Hill, “Foot” follows the life of tae kwon do strip-mall instructor Fred Simmons (McBride), a cocky black belt who happens to have a bad influence on his students.
In the midst of dealing with his unfaithful wife, Fred realizes his life dream and meets martial art movie idol Chuck “The Truck” Wallace (Best).
“Their sense of humor is very similar to what Will and I like to do,” McKay says. “Fred is a guy who is full of himself and completely unaware that there are huge problems going on in life.”
“I wanted to show the martial arts world that wasn’t,” says Hill, a third-degree black belt who co-wrote the film with his North Carolina School of the Arts classmates Best and McBride. “Many perceive from the movies that these instructors are peaceful creatures, but in actuality they’re rednecks who beat people up in bars and go through divorces.”
While “Foot” was shooting, “Talladega Nights” was also in production 20 minutes down the road. “I actually got to work a day in craft services on ‘Talladega,’ ” Best says. “When I walked in the conference room to meet Adam and Will after Sundance, I reminded them that I was the guy who made their hot dogs.” Adds Hill: “Right before Sundance, I took this office job as assistant water carrier. When I found out we got into Sundance, I ran out into the main room and flipped everybody off.”
Buzz: While “Foot” is expecting a rollout this summer, the trio will begin shooting their HBO pilot, “P.E.” in May. The story revolves around Kenny Powers (McBride), an arrogant, washed-up major-league baseball player who returns to his North Carolina hometown to teach physical education. McKay and Ferrell’s Gary Sanchez Prods. will produce, Hill will direct, and Best will co-star. Meanwhile, McBride can be seen in such upcoming Paramount laffers as “Hot Rod” and “Seven Day Itch.”
References: “You get the sense that they’re friends screwing around, but they also possess a great sense of filmmaking and artistry,” McKay says. “When you talk to these guys, they’re funny as shit, but they also converse about Cassavetes and Altman.”
Fallback plan: “We’re already working on our other profession. We’re a British trip-hop band called Massive,” twangs McBride about the trio’s techno-rap hobby. “I just stand in the background, Jody is the fire starter of the band, and Ben has a good lyrical flow.”