The Big Picture

  • Nathan Lane’s career takes a dark turn with his involvement in “Dicks: The Musical,” a genre-busting, raunchy comedy with an all-star cast.
  • Lane’s performance with the Sewer Boys, called Backpack and Whisper, brought the crew to tears, showcasing his talent in this eccentric film.
  • Despite its unconventional nature, “Dicks” is ultimately a movie about family and people’s desire to create one, even in the most bizarre circumstances.

2023 has taken Nathan Lane’s career to some dark places, first with Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid and now in Larry Charles’ aptly-titled Dicks: The Musical, which celebrated its world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Employing the talent of stars like Lane, Megan Thee Stallion, and Parks and Recreation costars Nick Offerman and the always-hilarious Megan Mullally, this musical adaptation took home this year’s Midnight Madness Award. It may seem an eccentric choice, but according to Lane and Mullally, there’s much more than meets the eye with A24’s most recent R-rated release.

From writers and stars Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson, Dicks adapts their play, Fucking Identical Twins, into a studio feature with an all-star cast that sees Lane feeding two gloopy, toothy creatures—affectionately called the Sewer Boys—deli meats “like a mother bird” and Megan Thee Stallion leading men on leashes. You’d never guess this foul-mouthed musical, helmed by the director behind Borat, would be a play on the classic film The Parent Trap or that, at its core, “it’s a movie about family. It’s about people trying to create a family.”

During their interview with Collider’s Steve Weintraub, which you can check out in the video above or in the transcript below, Lane and Mullally talk about what drew them to Sharp and Jackson’s raunchy comedy, Lane’s “love-hate relationship” with Backpack and Whisper, a.k.a. the Sewer Boys, and how Lane’s performance brought the crew to tears.

COLLIDER: So this is one of those films, being honest, that I cannot believe got made. It is comedy, it’s sci-fi, it’s horror, it’s mental, and I love that this got made. Can you talk about the fact that this is a genre-busting, not what-you-‘re-expecting kind of movie?

MEGAN MULLALLY: Well, I haven’t seen it. Tonight is the first time I will see it, but I think that doesn’t really matter, right?

NATHAN LANE: Oh, you have to see it to believe it.

MULLALLY: [Laughs] But from what I’ve heard to the way Larry, you know, breaks the fourth wall a lot and stuff like that, I love that. That’s my shit.

LANE: I think it’s a movie that you really do want to see with a group of people in a theater, which is nice, that communal experience, because you wouldn’t want to sit home alone and watch this by yourself because it’s really sort of built that way. I was certainly trepidatious after I read it. I thought it was funny, but I didn’t know whether I wanted to do it. Then, when they said Larry Charles was doing it, we had a couple of Zoom meetings. I was a longtime fan of his and his work, and I thought that was really interesting that he wanted to do it and that he got what these guys were trying to do. And then I still wasn’t sure, and so I said, “I can’t agree to this until I meet the two guys. I’ll have dinner with them.” And then, of course, I fell in love with them, and we spent four hours together.

In a world of insane political correctness and banning of books, and “don’t say this, don’t say gay, don’t do that, you better not do that,” this was sort of refreshing. I love their chutzpah, their audacity, and they don’t really give a crap whether you like it or not. This is them having fun with a particular genre. Obviously, they had done it for audiences, the two of them, it was a two-man show at Upright Citizens Brigade. So, they sort of knew how it worked for an audience, but it’s a very different thing of being in a 200-seat theater preaching to the converted and then to put it on a big screen, and actually see Sewer Boys in a cage.

Megan Mulally and Nathan Lane in Dicks: The Musical
Image via A24

MULLALLY: It’s also hard to make a movie that is different, that just breaks out of the usual norms of the way films are structured and what’s okay and what’s not. It’s nice that there’s something different and funny.

I really mean this seriously, you two are both fantastic in this, but I do think it helped that you had the Sewer Boys to work with.

LANE: Do you?

Yeah, I do. I think they added a lot, especially the avant-garde nature of their performance.

LANE: First of all, to find two Sewer Boys, the casting of that, it was not since the search for Scarlett O’Hara…The search for the Sewer Boys went on for months and months, and finally. The problem was we were looking for Sewer Boys with tails, and it’s hard to find that. You can find Sewer Boys, but they don’t usually have tails.

MULLALLY: You had kind of a love-hate relationship with the Sewer Boys.

LANE: Well, you didn’t really have to work with them.

MULLALLY: Well, I didn’t. That’s true.

LANE: I did. Backpack and Whisper, that’s their names—that’s their real names, the real Sewer Boys who played the Sewer Boys, they were called Backpack and Whisper.

MULLALLY: I want to say that you did all your stuff with the Sewer Boys, right? So we were shooting, it was like the last night of shooting, and you have this scene where—well, I don’t want to…okay, spoiler alert—he has a scene where he says goodbye to the Sewer Boys. We were all crying. I mean, it was so good. It was beautiful.

LANE: [Laughs] Thank you.

Image via A24

I want to ask you specifically about having to feed them and the way you feed them with the spitting…I was rolling.

LANE: No, he feeds them like a mother bird. They eat deli meat, they like ham, and I chew it up and then spit it into their mouths, and they’re in a cage, you know. I had asked Larry if I could stand over them and have them underneath here, like a mother bird, but he said, “No, they can’t move.” They don’t do too much, the Sewer Boys. It’s extra. That costs extra to get them to move a lot. So he said, “No, I want you to actually spit into their mouths from out outside the cage.” I said, “Okay, that’s, something.” The mouth could move on one of them, I think, at least they showed me that. Maybe it was just for close-ups or something, but his little mouth and little teeth could move up and down, but that was thousands of dollars.

Look, ultimately, it’s a movie about family. It’s about people trying to create a family. As weird as they all are, and they are all truly bizarre people, they want a family. I mean, even though he gave up one of his sons and just raised one of them, because they had separated and she raised the other, he found himself raising two Sewer Boys to replace that in his life. So, it is sort of moving in its strange way that he cares so deeply about them. They’re like rescue dogs, you know?

Dicks: The Musical is now playing in limited theaters before its wide release beginning on October 20.

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