To bring Myers’ distinctive brand of comedy to life in “The Love Guru,” the filmmakers knew they would need a supporting cast that would be capable of keeping up with him in the film’s equally hilarious co-starring roles. This was especially true for the part of Jane Bullard, the young, gorgeous female owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs who is determined to undo the “Bullard Curse,” which has left the Maple Leafs without a coveted Stanley Cup since her father bought the team in 1967. Jane needed to be tough, smart, beautiful – and completely vulnerable to Guru Pitka’s mysterious charms.
The answer to the riddle of who could encompass all those qualities came in the person of Jessica Alba, one of today’s fastest rising stars, whose roles in such films as “Sin City” and “Fantastic Four” have brought her a huge global following. But what took Mike Myers by surprise were her comic chops, which had yet to be showcased on screen.
Myers says, “Jessica Alba is very beautiful, but she’s also a sweet, dedicated, talented and wonderful human being who has become one of my favorite co-stars I’ve ever worked with. And she’s really, really funny. She knocks her scenes right out of the park.”
Schnabel concurs: “She came to this film ready to laugh and to create a wonderful sense of play and then she took it to a level neither Mike nor I could have imagined. Of course, she’s absolutely stunning, but her comic ability is really what surprised and delighted us and I think people are going to love what they see.”
One of the things that struck Schnabel right away was Alba’s chemistry with Myers. “There’s this wonderful romantic feeling between them as they dance around one another, taking one step forward and one step back,” he says.
Alba says the chemistry was born in part out of her love for Myers’ exuberant style of comedy. “He has always reminded me of Peter Sellers, the way he can completely transform himself into these outrageous characters. Yet, they all have a heart and soul, so you’re always rooting for them. It’s a balance not many other comic actors can strike,” she observes. “He’s really tapped into this inner-child kind of playfulness that’s very inspiring. With this film he’s also tapped into something that’s going on right now, with so many people reading self-help books and trying to find new ways to change their lives.”
Working with Myers turned out to be a fresh challenge for Alba as an actress. “He likes to do a lot of improv and you never know what he’s going to come out with, so you really have to stay on your toes to keep up,” she says. “They meet under such unconventional and bizarre circumstances that I think they both are immediately resistant to these feelings, so they try to put a lid on them, which is part of the fun,” explains Alba.
Equally challenging for Alba was getting into hockey, a game she admits she didn’t have a clue about before she was cast. “I got a very intense crash course in hockey on this film,” she laughs. “Basically there’s lots of testosterone, a lot of funny guys and some real fragrant outfits. But I wouldn’t dare get on skates. I leave that to the pros.”
Alba might have been able to avoid the blades, but not Romany Malco. For the role of Darren Roanoke, the so-called “Tiger Woods of hockey,” whose unhappy love life has led to an agonizing losing streak for his team, Malco had to head straight to skating boot camp. Best known for his role as Mary-Louise Parker’s “business” associate, Conrad Shepard, on the acclaimed Showtime comedy “Weeds,” Malco might be a comedy veteran but he was a definite hockey amateur, barely able to wobble across a rink when he won the part. But, with a lot of devotion, he was able to turn that completely around.
“For a guy who never really skated before, Romany became an amazing hockey player,” Myers notes. “Romany is also an awesome actor and I especially enjoyed improvising with him, because he’s so spontaneously hilarious.”
Malco was equally thrilled to work with Myers and especially excited to play an African-American hockey player, even holding out hope that with more role models, greater diversity will one day soon come to the game. “Darren is supposed to be like the new Wayne Gretzky, so I gave my all to master all these strides and deliver my best,” he says. “But I’m thinking if my uncoordinated body can learn to skate in six weeks, there must be some really talented kids out there who haven’t had the opportunity yet but could really cut it up,” he says.
Darren’s scoring troubles begin when his wife’s affections are stolen out from under him by his chief rival, the savagely seductive Quebecois goalie Jacques “Le Coq” Grande, whose prodigious charisma, love of chick-flicks and crooning of Celine Dion tunes melts her heart.
For the hilariously uninhibited role, Myers immediately thought of someone unexpected: the global pop star and multi-talented Justin Timberlake, with whom he had worked on the animated hit “Shrek the Third.” Timberlake had also been seen on a number of memorable “Saturday Night Live” sketches, but this would mark his first major comedic film character.
Says Myers about Timberlake: “I do have a man-crush on him. He’s like the most talented human being I’ve ever met in my life. And as the most well-endowed player in the National Hockey League, he’s very funny. Justin instantly nailed the character. He also turns out to have a great goalie stance.”
“Justin’s comic abilities have been largely untapped,” notes Schnabel. “But I believe a new comedy star has been born. As Darren Roanoke’s romantic rival, Justin took it to a whole new level with his dancing and singing. We had to do take after take because we were laughing so hard. And Mike and I were having a ball because we just never knew what Justin was going to do next.”
To develop his Quebecois accent, Timberlake worked with a special dialogue coach and underwent weeks of skating training to hone his hockey skills. In the end, his transformation was so complete – topped with curly hair and a bushy 1970’s mustache – that most extras on the set had no idea that Jacques was actually Justin Timberlake.
Me in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” came on board in the role of the NHL’s toughest (albeit smallest) hockey coach, Cherkov.
Myers couldn’t wait to reunite with Troyer. “Verne is a great actor and he didn’t speak in the Austin Powers movies, so this was a great chance to finally hear Garbo talk, in a sense,” he says. “Here, Verne plays an old hockey man who is set in his ways and can’t believe he’s having this guru thrust on the team by his lady team owner . . . but in the end he’s redeemed.”
“People are going to be very happy to see Verne Troyer and Mike Myers together again,” notes Schnabel. “Ever since ‘Austin Powers’ Mike has been looking for new ways to capitalize on Verne’s comic abilities, and in this film he has a wonderful three dimensionality to him.”
For Troyer, the role was a true change of pace from his previous outings with Myers. ”It was about time he gave me some lines,” he laughs. ”But seriously, Mike is such a cool guy that working with him again has been an honor and a lot of fun.”
Completing the main cast is an Academy Award®-winning actor in the role of Guru Pitka’s own revered Guru Tugginmypuddha. Few people could be more suited for the role of a guru than Ben Kingsley, who won international acclaim and an Oscar® for his portrayal of the great Indian philosopher and activist Mahatma Gandhi.
The contrast alone brought a smile to the filmmakers’ faces. “Of course Ben Kingsley is one of our finest actors and with Tugginmypuddha, you have a cross-eyed guru who hands out chastity belts, so it’s a very broad conceit,” says Myers. “But Ben is such a consummate actor that he really fleshed him out, gave him his own voice and posture, as well as his own gentle way of interacting with people. He also understood that we were trying to have fun and he certainly came to play. We were very, very fortunate to have him in our film.”
Rounding out the supporting cast are a number of fun, surprise cameos. “Mike has a great track record of pulling in cameos because he really tries to be very of the moment and take advantage of what’s happening in pop culture, and of course based on his past work a lot of people want to be involved with him,” notes Michael De Luca.
Naturally, Deepak Chopra, the world’s #1 guru in both the film and contemporary American culture, also makes an appearance. Chopra contends that spending time exploring comedy with Myers led him to some fresh insights – and this from a man whose very job is coming up with insights. “I’ve learned to take myself less seriously,” he says. “Mike helped me to appreciate comedy a lot more and also to really understand it. Spirituality is all about a lack of self-importance, and comedy is the best way to get beyond all that.”