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Leon Schuster is back on the big screen with Mad Buddies. Abandoning his plethora of disguises – a Schuster trademark – he also has Kenneth Nkosi as his new partner in crime. Debashine Thangevelo had a rollicking time interviewing these funny men as they bantered on about their characters and the shenanigans they got up to in the movie…
THE thought of Leon Schuster partnering with anyone other than Alfred Ntombela, his long-time friend on and off screen, would be declared a rather preposterous one. Fans delighted in their Laurel and Hardy-type moments in movies like Oh Shucks! Here Comes UNTAG, Sweet ’n Short, Mr Bones (1 and 2), Mama Jack, Shuks Tshabalala’s Survival Guide to South Africa and Kwagga Strikes Back.
But in Schuster’s latest slapstick release, Mad Buddies, he has Kenneth Nkosi sharing the frame with him while Ntombela plays his nemesis, Mr Mda, the Minister of Tourism.
“It must have been difficult for Kenneth,” said Schuster, reflecting on this turn of events.
“I can imagine if I were in his shoes, to know that Alfred and I have had this nearly lifelong collaboration and he is driving in from the side. I’m sure he was wondering if he would fit in. But we are humble guys. Even before we started shooting, I kept telling Kenneth, we want you for this movie, feel at home with us.”
Nkosi adds, “I don’t do movies where I feel like I am not going to have fun. To me, this is about fun and entertaining. These guys opened their arms and it felt great. We were boys on set and had our ‘boy talk’ moments.”
Schuster, however, struggled to wrap his head around the fact that Ntombela was the “bad guy”.
“Alfie (Schuster’s nickname for Ntombela) and I are always buddies in movies. It was very difficult knowing he was the enemy. The Minister of Tourism hated these two guys for not performing the way he wanted them to,” laughs Schuster, who sung the praises about Ntombela doing his own stunts.
“I never believed Alfie would crack the slapstick scenes. None of the scenes was stand-ins; it was him falling to the water, the rake in his face, slamming into the door and diving into that porcupine hole.
“I take my hat off to him for what he physically did in the movie,” he applauds.
The story, inspired by Jamie Uys’s early comedy, Hans en die Rooinek, was co-written by Schuster and director Gray Hofmeyr.
On marrying reality and comedy, Schuster says, “People know me for reality. The candid camera is a reality show. This one is scripted. It had the element of hidden cameras. I love reality shows, especially crime reality. I love Idols. I don’t do chef shows because I’m a bad cook. I’m going to be a bit boastful in one sense and say I taught Gray, when we did Sweet ’n Short, about slapstick movies and timing. He taught me a lot about drama and good lines in comedy. Ten years ago, we had huge chips on our shoulders. We are older now and we have grown so accustomed to each other.”
Nkosi laughs when I ask him about an earlier comment he made, saying, “I think the older he gets, the more he acts like a child”.
“I think it happens to everybody,” he chuckles. “He just wants to play more. Being with him in the same movie, enter-taining the masses, what more could I ask for?”
Known for his action (Jerusalema) and comedy (White Wedding) roles, I asked Nkosi how he felt about slapstick.
“I was a bit scared. I remember having a conversation with my partner Rapulana Seiphemo and he was like, ‘Go for it! Just go have fun and stop thinking about it’.”
The two crack up when I mention the car scene.
Nkosi says, “My line is cut in the movie. That scene with these two human beings letting their guard down; it shows men can do that. They can cry. Although if they knew they were being filmed, I don’t think they would have.”
“What was so good about the scene is the fact that we spoke to each other like men. I said, ‘These are my hang-ups and you shot off my toe’. He was like, ‘I was a policeman and now I am only a security guard’. And it was sad. I started singing a sad song, we cried like babies … and then he has a crap on the back seat,” laughs Schuster.
Although Schuster’s movies do well at the box-office, he doesn’t get smug about how Mad Buddies will perform. But he does know his target market.
“I am my biggest critic. I wrote the movie with a certain purpose in mind – and that is to entertain the average guy on the street. I’m talking to the okes on the ground. The guys that wear helmets when they watch Kaizer Chiefs play Moroko Swallows; the Blue Bull supporters who lift their shirts to show their boeps. That is the kind of people I want to entertain.”
Film critics and snobs can say what they want but as far as Schuster is concerned “the thicker the gags, the thinner the plot … the better for the audience”.