They've Got Spirit, Yes They Do: Christopher Guest Rallies His Team For 'Mascots'

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Guest's new mockumentary follows contestants in the World Mascot Association Championship.

What Best in Show did for dog shows and what A Mighty Wind did for folk music, the new mockumentary Mascots does for, well, mascots. The film, from director Christopher Guest, follows contestants in the World Mascot Association Championship.

Guest tells NPR's Robert Siegel that he started thinking of the comic possibilities of mascots several years ago, when his son was a mascot for a school team. "I became interested in the idea that people are performing, in front of large crowds sometimes, but they are not seen. ... And it's a strange paradox in show business to have that dynamic. And that became interesting to me — the lives of these people outside of the suits."


Interview Highlights

On working with the same band of actors (Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge and more) for many of his films

It is a lot of fun. These are very, very gifted performers. The films are improvised films based on an outline. ... It's very strictly enforced. But these are great improvisers and I've been fortunate to be able to work with them. So, yes, it's a combination of a family reunion and it isn't looked at as a laugh fest. Essentially, when you're on the set, people do take the scene seriously. But it's a lovely thing. It's like having a great band of musicians together, I guess that's the best analogy.

On how long it takes to film a scene when the actors are improvising

Well, it is an unusual way of working. It's not conventional. ... They have back histories of their characters — where they went to school, what happens in every scene. We don't rehearse either, so this really does require that the people in the scenes jump in. And I would say maybe two takes. ... The facts can't change. It's very strict in the line of what happens in every scene. It's just that the words haven't been written down. So the people are who they are. What happens in the scene has to happen. It can't go in different directions.

On his identity as the fifth Baron Haden-Guest, a title he inherited from his British father

It's an oddity. I spent several years at various intervals sitting in the Upper House of Parliament. And then the hereditary peers were told to leave, which was a good thing — I had a dinner date anyway! ... I can't take part in any way [now] because the hereditary peers are gone. And I can't have lunches there anymore. There was something quite endearing about that.

I would run into people in the hallways. You have to walk on the red carpet and one day I was walking — and lost, actually — walking around in a circle. And a man who worked there dressed in what you would think of as footman's clothing said, as I passed him, "Perhaps my lord would like a compass?" And it really was as if that person had been cast. Perfect timing, just as I passed him. ... It was interesting. I'm glad I did that for a bit.

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