Friday, March 27, 2009

Shout Out to HANK & MIKE!

I rec'd an email from a friend today telling me that The National Post had written a piece on Hank and Mike! Woot Woot! Had to Share...

Rabbit angst is apparently a universal theme

Thomas Michael has made a pretty good career out of being an out-of-work Easter Bunny.

The gig started 10 years ago as a TV sketch and has now been turned into a movie, called Hank and Mike, and that's just the latest incarnation of the Thomas Michael-Paolo Mancini-Matthiew Klinck comedy machine (if you can call it that) that began in elementary school in the small town of Aylmer, Que., and is now in Hollywood, looking for new fields to conquer.

Michael, Mancini and Klinck met in 1991 as 12-year-old kids with ideas of a showbiz career (and also because hanging out together was a good substitute for meeting girls) that began with comedy sketches and eventually resulted in a show on a community-access TV channel that also launched an offbeat Ottawa comic named Tom Green. The show led to something bigger -- a program called Y B Normal? on the Comedy Network when they were just 17 -- where one day they came up with an idea of Easter Bunnies on their smoke break.

"It was me and Paolo in these really, really tight kids' costumes -- they were way too tight," 30-year-old Michael recalls. "Just us out standing in a field, bitching about our jobs."

The skit caught on, and the bunnies became recurring characters. When the series was cancelled after two seasons, the three friends made the bunnies, named Hank and Mike into a 15-minute short. By now the bunnies had graduated to sitting in strip clubs bitching about their jobs, but the point was the same.

"We discovered there just was all this love for these two characters," Michael says. "People really responded to it. To the absurdity of it."

Mancini, Michael and friends eventually went on to make a feature-length movie, directed by Klinck, called Greg & Gentillon, about two comedians from Aylmer, Que., trying to make it in Toronto. When it came time to write a new movie, the bunnies made their comeback.

It wasn't an easy sell. Hank -- the profane, hard-drinking Easter Bunny, played by Michael -- and Mike -- the sensitive, recovering alcoholic bunny, played by Mancini -- wear pink bunny costumes but otherwise carry on the normal (i. e. disreputable) life of two young men. They are, however, real Easter Bunnies, and when they're laid off, they try a variety of other jobs before they can fight back into the one occupation they understand: delivering candy.

The idea of turning this script into a feature movie wasn't an immediate sensation.

"We said the leads have to be me and Paolo, whom no one's ever heard of, and the director has to be our friend Matthiew, who no one's ever heard of. And I had to produce it. There were a lot of caveats going in."

But they managed to raise $2-million, and to cast two recognizable stars -- Joe Mantegna and Chris Klein--in supporting roles.

It took five years to make the movie, during which time the original distributor, Cristal Films, went bankrupt and filming in Toronto was hit by the ACTRA strike, so Hank and Mike was the only movie being shot in the province at the time. The time turned out to be February, 2007, when it was -30C every day.

However, the timing was good in one way. Hank and Mike, with its theme of laid-off workers, is timely.

"After 10 minutes, people said they forgot about the suits," Michael says. "Us too. We've been wearing Easter Bunny suits going on 10 years by the time we made the movie. For me, all I do is put on that suit and put a cigarette in my mouth and Hank just comes alive."

Hop over to the AMC @ Yonge & Dundas and catch HANK AND MIKE on the Big Screen TONIGHT @ 7:45 PM!


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