“Stuber,” starring Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani, arrived in theaters this week. The unlikely pair are inadvertently thrown together as Stu (Nanjiani), an Uber driver set on getting a 5-star rating, picks up near-sighted detective Vic (Bautista), and the embark on a cop-buddy adventure like no other.
Bautista and Nanjiani were in Chicago to sit down with film critic Chuck Koplinski and I to discuss their differences, the physicality of humor and, most importantly, the dog in the film.
CK: After being an Uber driver in “The Big Sick” and now “Stuber,” are you concerned about being typecast as an Uber driver for the rest of your career?
KN: No, I’m not concerned because that’s what I’m going for. First, I’m an Uber driver and I have someone who falls into a coma, and now I’m an Uber driver for someone who gets LASIK, so the stakes are going down. The next movie is someone who has a light migraine the whole time.
CK: There’s a physicality of the humor in the film; how did you prepare?
KN: I’ve never done that kind of physical acting before. Watching Dave do it because he’s so good at it — I learned so much because he’s so good at it.
DB: I’d never really done the straight man thing, as Drax in “Guardians,” but I’d never done the full-on comedy, so it was really a kind of learning experience.
PP: There’s a certain chemistry with you both. Did you know each other beforehand?
KN: We met at the audition. We got along great the whole time, immediately from the beginning, so that stuff translates on screen. Even when we’re antagonistic toward each other, I think knowing you have a strong bond personally actually allows you a little more leeway in the scenes where you’re fighting to really take it to a place because you know your base is so solid.
DB: I think there’s a certain comfort level. I think you either have chemistry or you don’t. I don’t think it’s something you can create. Maybe you can, but I think with us, it’s just kind of natural, [and] it shows.
CK: With this comfort level, was there an improv going on?
KN: There was a lot of improv. We improvised a bunch, and a bunch of it is in the movie. Not just the funny stuff but also little character moments.
DB: A lot of improv and a lot of alternative lines. There are probably enough alternative lines to make another film. (Laughs.)
KN: We would do four or five different versions of every joke, almost every joke. We would do it scripted, then we would do versions all that were scripted, but not that were in the script and then we would do improv.
PP: Kumail, you’ve got a double degree in Computer Science and Philosophy. How did this prepare you for comedy?
KN: (Laughs.) It was a complete waste of time and money; sorry, parents — I’ll never pay you back. It really does, you know, because I think philosophy and computer science are similar. They sound different, but they’re really all about problem solving. … It’s the same with comedy. There’s a situation or an observation, [and] you can see the funniest way to come at it, from different angles to see what works. It actually prepared me pretty well for it.
PP: So are we talking about a sequel to this film yet?
KN: If it was up to us, yeah, I can see it; we would green light it. It’s not fully up to us.
DB: We’ve talked about it a lot, but we’re both kind of downplaying it, but yes we’ve both talked about it a lot.
PP: Tell me about that amazing dog in the film.
KN: Stroker. Dave fell in love.
DB: He’s such a sweet little guy. I’m a dog lover. I’m in a bit of a separation anxiety on this film away from my dog, and Stroker kind of filled that void for me. He’s a big part of the film, and he’s a big part of my character, explaining who my character is on the inside.
CK: Dave, you’re known to not appreciate labels and preconceived notions. Who is the real Dave Bautista, and what does a steel lunchbox have to do with it?
DB: Man, that’s a good question. That’s a really big, loaded question. (Laughs.) Let’s go straight to lunchboxes. … I’m 50 years old, and I’m still finding myself. (Laughs.) The jewel of my collection I acquired just a couple weeks ago. It’s this 1950s Toppie lunchbox. It’s almost impossible to find. It’s something you couldn’t purchase. You had to get it through trading stamps. Remember you had to wait forever for trading stamps to come?
KN: You just got it a week ago. Toppie’s this elephant. I never knew this character, but when we were shooting, he would show me his lunchbox thing, and he was like, I’ve got to get this Toppie. Who is Toppie? And he showed me his trading stamp stuff, and oh, it’s rare. Well, good luck. And just a week ago, I saw his Instagram story. He got his Toppie lunchbox.
The interview concluded and Bautista asked us if we had seen “Avengers: Endgame” yet as he had not. He was planning to see it at a theater as a regular customer — I’m sure those viewers had quite a grand surprise.
See “Stuber” in theaters now.