Note to Hollywood: If you send Aziz Ansari a script, chances are he won't like it.
"I generally don't like any scripts I read. I mean, think about it like this — to find a movie, it's gotta be good, then there's gotta be a part that is workable for who I am and what my comedy is," the 28-year-old said the other day, fidgeting with his coffee cup in the back of a Los Feliz cafe. "I need to feel like, 'Oh, I could play that character.' Not, 'Oh, that's an Indian guy with a beard!'"
That's why when he stumbled across "30 Minutes or Less," the buddy bank robbery comedy out on Aug. 12, Ansari jumped to audition for director Ruben Fleischer. He actually could see himself playing Chet, the clean-cut schoolteacher whose best friend (Jesse Eisenberg) ropes him into being an accomplice to a major crime. And he also knew that Fleischer would be open to letting him improvise, as the actor has on the set of films with his mentor Judd Apatow, and on the sitcom "Parks and Recreation."
"I'm a writer and I enjoy that process of trying to make the scene better on set," Ansari said. "I'd try to do stuff that was actually useful, as opposed to just riffs that won't make it into the movie. If I had a joke I wanted to try, or I didn't feel great about a certain joke, Ruben was always like, 'Try anything you want, and if it works, we'll use it.'"
But beyond the movie being a good comedic fit for Ansari, it also seemed like a natural step in his transition to the big screen. Although he's had scene-stealing cameos in some of Apatow's projects — most memorably as the raunchy stand-up comedian Randy in Adam Sandler's "Funny People" — "30 Minutes or Less" marks the first time he'll put in some serious time on the big screen.
"This is the first time I've been in a movie the whole time. Not like, 'Oh, I pop in for five minutes and whip out my penis for a little bit and head out,'" he deadpanned. "I hope people are up for it. I hope they're not like, 'Oh, what? He's in the movie for longer than five minutes? No! I can only take him in small doses!' That would be bad for my career."
In any case, Ansari is already working on developing his own movies. Apatow recently purchased a few of his movie projects, one of which focuses on his "Funny People" Randy character. He's also working on "Space Men," which he describes as a story "about two disgraced astronauts who have to go back to the moon to clear their name."
"I'll be one of the astronauts, but I'm not sure who the other one will be. Maybe Paul Walker," he joked, referring to the hunky star of the "Fast and the Furious" franchise. "If I'm not available, I'll put him in."