“The first thing I thought was, how are those guys going to do the lifts?” Amy Poehler says, remembering when she first heard the premise for “Blades of Glory,” a comedy about two disgraced male figure skaters banned from men’s competition who return to the ice to compete as a pair. “Where does the hand go?” she asks in mock seriousness. “Isn’t that always the question? Isn’t that life’s question — where do my hands go?” She finally concludes, “I always start every film and every script with, ‘Where do my hands go?'”
Sitting down with Poehler is a delightfully dizzying adventure, as she sprinkles real answers in between the hilarious improvised riffs that seems to flow effortlessly from her lightning-fast mind. She and husband Will Arnett, best known for his stint as Gob on “Arrested Development,” play Stranz and Fairchild Von Waldenburg, a smilingly monstrous pair of skating siblings who are the arch-rivals to the male skating pair of Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder). Producer Ben Stiller corralled a constellation of comedy stars for the outrageously funny film.
“I got a couple of threatening letters in the mail, [made] from cutout magazine letters,” Poehler explains when asked how she got involved in the project. “And, weirdly, they were all signed, ‘Love, Ben Stiller.’ And they said if I didn’t do this, they would hurt me and my family.” Arnett, whose answers are more serious and considered, explains that, in actuality, the couple was involved in early readings of the script and decided that with folks like Stiller and Ferrell involved, Blades was going to be something special.
“We’re not a comedy team,” Arnett says, “and we had decided that we didn’t want to spend our lives working together.” But the lure of Blades was irresistible and, as for the prospect of working with Ferrell, “I would shine that gentleman’s shoes,” Poehler offers.
With much of the film’s drama set on the ice, the shoot involved considerable skating for the four major players, and some serious training. Having grown up in Canada, Arnett had an advantage. “I grew up playing hockey,” he explains. “For me it was very exciting just to lace up skates every day as part of my job.” As for Poehler, “I was probably the worst skater of the four and had to learn the most,” she admits. “But I had my skater face,” she says, breaking into a hilariously fake smile. “I knew I could pull that off!”
Stranz and Fairchild are the reigning pairs champions, toothy but ruthless villains who live in the same ridiculous, silver-sequined splendor on and off the ice. “They’re incredibly bratty, entitled people who are very — not even shallow — they’re hollow,” Arnett says. “Very Siegfried and Roy, very Barbie and Ken,” Poehler says, explaining that Fairchild is “one of those girls that looks really together and on the inside is kind of rotten.”
Even if they don’t want to make a habit of it, working together was enjoyable for both. “The good news is that all the intimate stuff we had to do – even though we play brother and sister, we had some inappropriate physical moments – were easy to do,” Poehler shares. “And it was fun to play bad versions of ourselves with each other.”
The film shows off the pair in a wild array of ludicrous skating costumes designed by Julie Weiss. “My favorite, just because it was so off the mark, was the hip-hop outfit,” Poehler says, of a denim and sequins ensemble the pair wears while skating to “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. “Yeah, real current,” she says, laughing. “I think I wore gold fingernails that had our logo on it, which I don’t know if a lot of people saw, but I knew it was there!”
One of the film’s more outrageous sequences finds Arnett’s Stranz literally hunting Ferrell’s Michaels across the city of Montreal. “I was wearing this stretch JFK suit” in preparation for the pair’s routine, he recalls. “Because it was all one piece, I had to clip this skirt over the top. It was basically like a tutu of the bottom of a suit jacket – totally bizarre! So I’m wearing that, and I’ve got a crossbow, and I’m on these skates, and I’m running through the streets of Montreal, and it’s 20 below, and I thought, ‘God, this is fun!'” he says, laughing.
The suit comes into play later when Stranz and Fairchild skate as JFK and Marilyn Monroe in a hilarious routine that features unorthodox props, including a bottle of pills. “Historically accurate!” Poehler declares. While the film covers the routine in highlights, Poehler says much more footage was shot. “I learned some spins and some lifts that hopefully will make the DVD. Because Marilyn and JFK should really have their own show. Or, at the very least, a 10-week skating tour that we can go on with Scott Hamilton.”
Husband and wife both enjoyed the rare luxury of working with two directors, with television commercial team Will Speck and Josh Gordon sharing the Blades helm. “I loved it, Arnett says. “There was always somebody you could go to and really talk about the script or the scene.” Poehler explains, “It was a strangely technical film. All the ice stuff was super complicated, with dollies and stuff, so they had to juggle a kind of weird mini action movie within this big comedy movie. I loved working with them,” she shares, before clarifying in a confidential tone, “I do generally prefer four directors instead of two. I like to keep everybody on their toes. But we’ll take two.”
With Poehler’s ongoing gig on “Saturday Night Live,” the couple calls New York home, and has for a long time. Surely this comedic pair is constantly improvising and inventing crazy characters at home together, right? “Most days it’s me just walking the dogs in the Village and picking up poop with a plastic bag,” Arnett says. “It’s a lot of that.” Poehler adds, “We love hour-long dramas, sad documentaries, and shows like ‘Intervention.’ We do like to make faces in the bathroom mirror and see who can make the grossest face — that’s a fun thing we do at night. But for the most part we’re not big party people.”
When asked if she has any final thoughts on the film or their characters, Poehler goes out riffing. “When Stranz [with his sequined, formfitting costumes] is your alpha, masculine guy, then you know you’re in an ice skating movie!” she says with a big laugh. “And by comparison, Ferrell looks huge, he’s like a bull. On those skates he looks like a redwood. He was on steroids the whole time,” she concludes. “And you can write that down.”