For the Writers Guild of America West, Denis Faye talks to Harold Ramis (co-writer of films including Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day) about his new film (written with Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg), Year One.
What was the genesis of the Year One script?
The influences have been kicking around in my head for my whole life. I include anything that puts characters with a contemporary consciousness in a historical setting, like Mel Brooks – specifically, the 2000 Year Old Man. I thought that was hysterically funny when I was in college. I memorized all that material. And I really admired Life of Brian and Holy Grail.
Then a lot of religious thoughts started kicking around for me as I got older. And then post-9/11, I started thinking about fundamentalism and orthodoxy and the role they play in world conflict. The history of religion seems like an ongoing tragedy of some kind – persecution and injustice, torture, inquisition, and the way religion is used to justify politics.
Then I thought back to an improv that I directed in the ‘70s that had Bill Murray and John Belushi. I had been watching PBS and I didn’t realize that Cro-Magnon – modern man – had co-existed on the planet with Neanderthal. So, I had John and Billy do an improv. Bill played Cro-Magnon like a hipster and John played Neanderthal like a moron. It was very funny, I thought.
So I thought about trying to track some of my religious and political ideas through the dawn of man, and then I thought, Why not Genesis? And I started using the early start of Genesis as a template for these ideas. And it just started coming together in the summer of ‘05.