Brooklyn-born director Steve Carr discusses new ‘Freaky Friday’ remake, movie career
Steve Carr is a man of many talents. His versatile career has included stints as a graphic designer, music video producer and director of popular movies such as the Kevin James comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and Eddie Murphy’s “Daddy Day Care” and “Dr. Dolittle 2.”
The Brooklyn-born Carr’s latest endeavor is directing and producing Disney’s new musical remake of the classic “Freaky Friday” body-swap comedy. The original 1972 film starred Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris and the 2003 remake starred Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis.
The new Disney Channel movie stars Broadway veteran Heidi Blickenstaff in her first leading role as the mother who exchanges bodies with her daughter, played by Cozi Zuehlsdorff, whose resume includes the films “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2.”
Carr, who grew up in Sunset Park, took the time to answer some questions about his newest project.
Brooklyn Eagle: Congratulations on “Freaky Friday.” How did you come to direct this film?
Steve Carr: Thank you. Well, you know I’m very fortunate in my life to have a choice in what I do, and I get a ton of scripts sent to me. I got a call from my agent mentioning that they were doing a new “Freaky Friday” remake. I wasn’t really that interested at first, but I became really interested when I found out it was going to be a musical.
Prior to making films I was a music video director and I had done videos with artists like Jay Z, Moby and even Hall & Oates. I saw this as an opportunity to combine my music video career and my feature film career into making a musical.
Eagle: How did your music and video background serve as a foundation for your work in film?
Steve Carr: Making music videos taught me how to make films. I didn’t go to film school but was lucky enough to become part of the Def Jam family when the hip-hop culture emerged. Directing videos back then was like the Wild West, and if you had a good idea you could do it. Luckily what I was doing turned out to be good and through those music videos I learned how to tell stories on film.
Eagle: You directed some incredibly successful movies and worked with actor/comedians like Kevin James and Eddie Murphy. How did those projects come about?
Carr: Well, it’s kind of that age-old story of stumbling forward. I made my first film, “Next Friday,” which was a small film that did very well and that led me to “Dr. Doolittle 2” with Eddie Murphy. I just kept making movies that people liked to see.
Working with actors like Eddie Murphy and Kevin James has been amazing. Eddie Murphy was so generous and so wonderful to me. The same with Kevin James.
“Paul Blart” was Kevin’s first starring role in a film after “King of Queens.” He was like a puppy in a pet store window. He couldn’t wait to do it and we did a lot of great improvisation. Kevin James is just what you see. Everything you hope he’ll be is what he is.
Eagle: How does your “Freaky Friday” differ from the previous versions?
Carr: It’s a similar concept, about switching bodies and over the course and the arc of the story they get to learn more about each other. That hasn’t changed. That stays consistent with the original version. But the dialogue and the modern setting give it a whole new feel.
All the emotions and all the comedy is brand new with the added layer of icing being that it’s a musical with original music by Peabody and Tony Award-winning composers.
Eagle: How did growing up in Brooklyn influence and impact your career?
Carr: Well, I tell this to everybody who will listen. It took me 25 years to get out of Brooklyn and what I realize now is that it was a little too soon. Now everybody wants to go back there.
For me personally, in all honesty, I felt so secure and confident in my Brooklyn upbringing. I felt part of something special during my formative years that has never left me.
Brooklyn was everything you wanted it to be. I consider myself the luckiest man in the world. I grew up in the best place and its stuck with me forever.
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