Tim Griffin On ‘Central Intelligence,’ Working… by Uinterview

Tim Griffin stars alongside Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the new action comedy Central Intelligence.

Tim Griffin Video On Central Intelligence

Central Intelligence features Hart as a high school big man on campus-turned-office monkey and Johnson as a bullied overweight kid, who becomes a ripped CIA agent. Hart’s Calvin, who was kind to Johnson’s Bob back in the day, is stunned to see the man he’s become. Caught up in the surprising reunion, he ends up getting roped into the dangerous role of being Bob’s right-hand man.

“[Calvin] gets this friend request from [Bob], who in high school would’ve been like, ‘I need to make myself feel better about my life, I’ll go have a drink with this guy, this loser.’ And he shows up and it’s The Rock,” explained Griffin. “And they have a great night out, a great night drinking and then come to find out, we come knocking on his door. Me and Amy Ryan the next day go, ‘Have you seen this man?’ — because he’s like the world’s most dangerous fugitive. He’s a CIA operative gone rogue.”

Right now, Hart is arguably the biggest comedy actor around while Johnson is the most in-demand action star. Working with the two men left Griffin in a state of awe of Hart’s effortless comedic chops and how well the “gentle giant” title fits The Rock.

“You hear Arnold Schwarzenegger is huge, but when you meet him he’s a regular sized dude, or everyone knows Tom Cruise is in lifts or whatever. But [Dwayne] is literally like a mountain, in Game of Thrones, he’s like The Mountain,” Griffin said of Johnson. “He couldn’t be nicer and thank god that he was hard wired with some sort of laid back, Hawaiian, Polynesian…or otherwise humanity would be in big trouble. He’s so funny and he’s so generous and he’s also the busiest man alive.”

And Hart? “I can’t even describe how funny Kevin Hart in particular is. I think he might be the funniest man alive,” said Griffin. “I’m supposed to be the straight man in this one, where like between Amy Ryan and I we’re never supposed to crack a smile, and I must have bitten my cheek — I think I actually bore a hole in my cheek sometimes when Kevin Hart would go on a rant and Dwayne too.”

For Griffin, who plays one of the CIA Agents in the film, his favorite day on the set of Central Intelligence was when he got to turn the tables on Hart, becoming the one to make him break character and let out an unscripted laugh while the cameras were rolling.

“My proudest day was when I returned the favor. I was supposed to be showing him something…. I don’t know what they went with in the movie, but anything that would be inappropriate to show,” Griffin explained. “They would be like, ‘Okay, we’re not gonna tell you what it is, then boom it’s Grindr and then I have to go on my own improv rant about like, ‘Marcy and I are having problems,’ or whatever. And I watched Kevin Hart start to lose it because he’s sitting there judging me like, ‘Oh you got personal problems,’ but he started to break down. It was one of my favorite days.”

Central Intelligence hits theaters Friday, June 17.


Q: What is the premise of ‘Central Intelligence’? -

I don’t think I’m giving anything away because it’s been advertising like crazy, and the premiere is tomorrow so I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t seen it. We’re all getting together tomorrow and it’ll be fun to see everybody. But, the premise is that, back in the day, Kevin Hart was sort of the alpha in high school, like the lead jock and the lead whatever, and believe it or not, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was your prototypical like super shy, super awkward, he’s like a 300-or-something-pound kid and gets picked on all the time, gets bullied. So, cut to whatever it is, their 20-year high school reunion or whatever the time is, and Kevin sort of had this role reversal where he was going with all this great promise and now he’s like an accountant – working kind of a dead end job, and unappreciated, passed over for promotions. And he gets this friend request from a guy who in high school would’ve been like, ‘I need to make myself feel better about my life, I’ll go have a drink with this guy, this loser.’ And he shows up and it’s The Rock. He’s like, ‘Oh my God!’ And they have a great night out, a great night drinking and then come to find out, we come knocking on his door. Me and Amy Ryan the next day go, “Have you seen this man?” — because he’s like the world’s most dangerous fugitive. He’s a CIA operative gone rogue and that’s all. We spend the rest of the movie chasing them all over the city of Boston and we were actually shooting in Boston. It was so much fun.

Q: What was it like working with Kevin Hart? -

So you have a script, a brilliant, really funny script. It’s directed by Rawson Thurber. Everybody knows him from We’re The Millers, but my personal favorite Dodgeball — he wrote and directed — that was his first directorial debut and he’s worked with some of my best buddies and they’re like, “You’re gonna love this guy,” because he’s a young guy. He’s looking at me like, “Who let in the preteen?” But he’s just a very well preserved guy. He’s so great with the actors, because he writes all this brilliant dialogue but then he doesn’t get precious about it. So we say the script, which is brilliant and funny, and then he just lets you go. He’ll throw out suggestions like, ‘Go on a riff about you’re scared sh—tless!” He’s like, “Kevin, you’re scared sh—tless! Go with that!” Kevin Hart would literally on the spot make up an entire five minute monologue, because in the modern age of filming it’s not like we’re gonna run out of film, like in the old panavision days. You can just go and go until you fill a tape. Kevin can go. He can go on one of the funniest improv riffs you’ve ever seen to the point that he’ll be like, ‘Is it like air? Is it like poof? like dust?” We’re just like, “What did he just say?” And there were days that I just wanted to…[laughs], but my proudest day was when I returned the favor. I was supposed to be showing him something – Amy Ryan’s like, ‘Show him the picture,’ and it’s supposed to be a picture of what happened to Dwayne Johnson’s old partner. It’s like this gory, mutilated thing and I hold up something — I don’t know what they went with in the movie, but everything that would be inappropriate to show. It’s like I got the wrong picture loaded up on the iPad and then it’s just me scrambling to explain what it was and so they kind of like “Stefon’d” me. They would be like, ‘Okay, we’re not gonna tell you what it is, then boom it’s grinder and then I have to go on my own improv rant about like, ‘Marcy and I are having problems,’ or whatever and I watched Kevin Hart start to lose it because he’s sitting there judging me like, ‘Oh you got personal problems,’ but he started to break down. It was one of my favorite days.

They’re so funny. I can’t even describe how funny Kevin Hart in particular is. I think he might be the funniest man alive. Everyday that I went to work. I’m supposed to be the straight man in this one, where like between Amy Ryan and I we’re never supposed to crack a smile and I’ve must have bitten my cheek — I think I actually bore a hole in my cheek sometimes when Kevin Hart would go on a rant and Dwayne too.

Q: What was it like working with Dwayne Johnson? -

Between him and Kevin, first of all, everybody knows the physicality, but it’s a specimen. Usually when you hear Arnold Schwarzenegger is huge, but when you meet him he’s a regular sized dude, or everyone knows Tom Cruise is in lifts or whatever. But [Dwayne] is
literally like a mountain, in Game of Thrones he’s like the mountain. [Dwayne] couldn’t be nicer and thank god that he was hard wired with some sort of laid back, Hawaiian, Polynesian...or otherwise humanity would be in big trouble. He’s so funny and he’s so generous and he’s also the busiest man alive. While we were filming there he was off promoting San Andreas. He literally filmed a scene at four o’clock then hopped a jet — he’d be off to China, go do two days of press, come back to like jump through a window. I’m like, ‘Do you need some time?’ and he’s like, ‘No, I’m good.’ We had a sequence that I think is in the movie, that’s gonna be sort of a Reservoir Dogs type — an action sequence that we shot with no cuts, must be a three minute sequence, must be 40 moving parts. Guys pulling up on motorcycles, guys getting thrown through windshields, bullets going everywhere to the point that the rest of us plebeians and the stunt team were all like, ‘We’re gonna really rehearse this for like four days.’ We even had mock rehearsal spaces where they rebuilt this underground garage with boxes, like, there’s gonna be a wall here, so you’re gonna fly through this wall. The Rock shows up and we’re like ‘Rock, do you wanna do some dry rehearsals? No shots’ and he’s like ‘No. Let’s go.’ Obviously not his first rodeo, but it was something to behold. Really something to see — without even missing a beat. He’s so like the world’s greatest action star and professional.