Bill Hader Explains How ‘Road Warrior’ and ‘Thief’ Inspired ‘Barry’ Season 3 Episode 5

·20 min read

Note: Spoilers follow below for “Barry” Season 3 Episode 5.

You might not immediately peg George Miller’s action masterpiece “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” or Michael Mann’s neo-noir “Thief” as inspirations for Bill Hader’s HBO comedy series “Barry,” but once Hader explains the influences, it’s impossible not to see them.

For the scene in “Barry” Season 3 Episode 5 in which the Chechens’ drug front gets raided by both the police and the Bolivians at the same time – all seen from the roof of a parking garage – Hader wanted to try something different than the action scene viewers have seen countless times before.

“Initially that was going to be a very traditional action sequence,” Hader told TheWrap during our latest episodic breakdown interview. “And then I was watching ‘Road Warrior’ and there’s the shot of Mel Gibson where he’s watching the raid on the compound at the beginning of the movie and he’s got the big telescope. And I thought ‘Oh, it should be this. What if it’s Batir with his phone looking down and saying look at what we have here to the elders, and you do the whole sequence like that?’”

Hader added with a laugh, “When I see that I just go, ‘Oh we’re just ripping off ‘Road Warrior.’'”

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A more comedic sequence in the film took inspiration from another classic, although this time it was more about Hader and fellow “Barry” writer (and childhood best friend) Duffy Boudreau’s fondness for a very specific scene in Michael Mann’s 1981 film “Thief.” When Barry makes a collage for Sally (Sarah Goldberg) to show her his “true self,” there’s a direct callback to a similar scene in “Thief.”

“I remember we were in high school watching ‘Thief’ and when James Caan said, ‘This is everything I care about,’ and he took out that collage, we started dying laughing,” Hader said of his and Boudreau’s reaction to watching Mann’s film as teens. “We thought that was really funny that this tough guy had made a collage like our sisters would make. So if you look at it, the picture of Willie Nelson in the collage is the same picture of Willie Nelson in the ‘Thief’ collage. So that’s our nod to the movie ‘Thief.’”

That scene was part of some reshoots for Episode 5, providing more connective tissue to why Barry is in Sally’s apartment in the first place. And Sally, of course, is reeling from the swift cancellation of her show “Joplin,” a plot point that Hader and the “Barry” writers hit upon early.

“Yeah, that was always the thing we said would happen, was that ‘Joplin’ should get 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. She should have a storybook premiere. And then the next day the algorithm kills it,” Hader said, adding that Sally’s experience was inspired by a real event.

“I did have a guy I worked with tell me, ‘Hey, I have a show. It’s gonna be on Netflix,’ and then going on Netflix and seeing it on the homepage that morning. Then I came back that night to watch it and it wasn’t on the homepage anymore so I searched it and it was like that joke that’s in there where she had to type out pretty much the whole thing before it showed up. That is from life.”

Read on for our full interview in which Hader reveals the cut scene involving D’Arcy Carden that had the whole crew cracking up, discusses how the addition of a short scene tightened up Elena’s introduction and talks about how Gene’s (Henry Winkler) apology tour evolved.

If you missed our Episode 4 interview with Hader, catch up here.

So Episode 5 opens with Albert coming back, which is yet another unexpected twist this season. Where did that idea come from?

When we were shooting the scene when Albert gets shot and Barry avenges him in Season 2, that actor James [Hiroyuki Liao] is just great and a wonderful guy. So I remember shooting that and Alec [Berg] and I sitting there talking going, “Man, he’s so good. I wish he could come back.” (laughs) The impetus of it was just how much we liked the actor, and then we said, “Oh wow, what if he in the next season is an FBI agent who is put on the Janice Moss investigation. That just makes it a little bit more interesting.

And he also just shines a light on how inept they’ve been so far.

Yeah Gary Kraus is so incredibly funny. That was part of the reshoots where he calls ‘em “tough turf.” He says, “What does that mean?” and I said, “I feel like my dad used to say that.” My dad coached a lot of my teams when I was growing up. I remember him saying that to some kid who was acting up, “Okay, tough turf,” and just everybody on the crew kind of looked at each other saying, “What does tough turf mean?” (laughs) I guess it’s only a thing my dad says. But he he’s very funny. And Sarah Burns is very good. She’s actually insanely funny, but she’s playing more of a straight part.

Fuches is continuing his vengeance quest here of rounding up people and he seeks out this biker gang. Was that all real, with the bikes going around him?

No, that that is all real. Everything you’re seeing in that shot is real. That’s how high those motocross people get. When I saw that footage, I couldn’t believe it (laughs). And also how close they’re getting to Stephen Root is not a visual effect either. They really aren’t getting that close to him. The only thing in that scene is we had to ADR the dialogue.

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HBO

Sally’s story takes a turn here, where “Joplin” immediately gets canceled.

Yeah, that was always the thing we said would happen, was that Joplin should get 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. She should have a storybook premiere. And then the next day the algorithm kills it. Which is based on people that I know or stories I’ve heard. I did have a guy I worked with tell me, “Hey, I have a show. It’s gonna be on Netflix,” and then going on Netflix and seeing it on the homepage that morning. Then I came back that night to watch it and it wasn’t on the homepage anymore so I searched it and it was like that joke that’s in there where she had to type out pretty much the whole thing before it showed up. That is from life.

I love Elizabeth Perkins in that scene with her twist on the William Goldman quote, “Nobody knows anything… except the algorithm.”

Yeah, that whole scene was one of the few scenes where we wrote it as a room. Usually someone goes off and writes something and then me or Alec or someone will rewrite it. But that scene, my memory is the whole writers room just kind of throwing out what made sense. And I remember that line getting a big laugh, “Nobody knows anything except the algorithm.” And then the line of, “If there was someone I could reach out to override this I would. But I can’t, because I’m that person.”

Was that kind of inspired by peoples’ experiences?

I don’t know if it was necessarily that. Like I said the whole notion of a show being on the homepage of a streaming service and then immediately disappearing after a couple of hours was something that I experienced, but as far as what that conversation is, no. We said to Elizabeth Perkins, “It’s interesting if you don’t fully understand why she’s mad. Because in your world, you go through this every day. It’s a business, so these artists come in and you make X amount of pilots and shows, and then a small percentage of them go forward. You should only see it from your point of view, which is this is just a business.” To contrast that, obviously, you have to make Sally shocked and furious. And D’Arcy Carden’s very funny in that scene because she’s way in the background and she’s just listening (laughs). And Jessy Hodges is really funny, and Joanna the assistant who says the algorithm takes word of mouth into consideration.

There is a really nice scene between Sally and Natalie in the bathroom afterwards.

That was part of the reshoots. That scene initially was like a comedy scene that was D’Arcy saying, “I’m so sorry” in the writers room of “Joplin” and then as she’s leaving she starts to take stuff and put it in her bag. Like pencils and water bottles – she tries to take all this stuff with her because the show’s over with, so it was her saying how sorry she was and everything but then she’s like taking this shit and it just undermined the entire scene (laughs). It undermined the emotion of it completely. But I bring it up because D’Arcy was incredibly funny. The crew and everyone was dying laughing during it. It was so funny, but when you watched it in the context of the show, the editors especially said, “You know, if you’re gonna go back and reshoot stuff, maybe make this a simpler, sweet moment.” You do that sometimes where you read it, and you overthink stuff and say, “Well, gosh, I got D’Arcy Cardin who’s, in my opinion, one of the funniest performers I’ve ever seen and worked with, she’s effortlessly good. You’ve gotta use her!” And I’ve seen movies like that where you go, “This scene doesn’t really need to be funny just because you have a comedian in it.” So I fell into that insecurity trap that I do see in a lot of movies where it starts to get bit-tastic for no reason (laughs). And you say, “Well, what’s the emotion of this scene?” But yeah, that was one where I screwed up and I’m glad we got the chance to go back and reshoot it and I really enjoy that scene.

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I would love to see that original scene.

It was very funny. At one point she tried she takes the water cooler out on like a handcart and the whole time saying, “I’m so sorry this happened. This is such a tragedy.” It’s very funny. But yeah, it was just its own little short film. It killed all the pace of everything.

Then we see how Barry’s dealing with the breakup, and he seeks relationship advice from Hank and Cristobal which is just very funny.

That’s one of my favorite scenes of the season. That was part of the reshoots as well. Because initially, he went back to live with Nick and Jermaine. And then the next time you see him is him coming back with groceries and running into Kyle. Then we had a scene where Barry just shows up at Sally’s place, without the montage of the little thing he makes her. That was all part of the reshoots.

So the original thing was, she comes home and he’s just in the apartment. And she goes, “What are you doing here?” And I say, “Oh, I was just dropping off the key,” and then we had that scene on the couch at the end of the episode. When we cut it together, we realized Barry has no real story this episode. So this thing on the couch is good, but it’d be great to see what motivated this. So while we’re cutting, I said, “What if he goes to the only couple that he knows works?” And that’s Noho and Cristobal, because there’s that scene in Episode 4 where he drops Cristobal off after saving him and he sees they really care for each other. So he goes back to them for advice and they give him the idea to make something for her and he makes a collage, which Duffy Boudreau and I — the collage came from the movie. “Thief.” I remember we were in high school watching “Thief” and when James Caan said, “This is everything I care about,” and he took out that collage, we started dying laughing. We thought that was really funny that this tough guy had made a collage like our sisters would make. So if you look at it, the picture of Willie Nelson in the collage is the same picture of Willie Nelson in the “Thief” collage. So that’s our nod to the movie “Thief.”

And then the note says, “This is what I’m about.”

(Laughs) And it’s Michael Jordan. Alyssa Donovan, my assistant said the word “good” should just be in there, and then for some reason the planet Jupiter (laughs). And he’s so stoked about it. He’s like, “Man, I really did it.” So the reshoots are me talking with Cristobal and Hank, which Duffy Boudreau wrote that scene and I thought it was really funny and I thought they were great in it. And then me at the grocery store, pulling up and getting all the papers and scissors. So that scene and the scene in Episode 1 where I’m on the phone with a woman and I’m looking at flowers. Those were shot at the same time. They were shot in a grocery store and we shot both those scenes in 20 minutes. We ran in and did them and ran out, it was great. And then me saying, “This is what I’m about” and you see the collage that’s part of the reshoot and then me looking up. So I’m reacting to Sarah from the original shoot. So my close up of going, “Sally you’re home,” that’s February and then that’s Sarah from September.

It’s interesting then because the advice that they give is to let her see some of your true self. Which he thinks is the collage, but it’s actually when he sits down and tells her what he’s going to do to Perkins’ character.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah that was the point. Initially as written he says all that to her and it didn’t fully land because you’re going, “Why is he now doing this?” And it seemed to me it’d be nice to have a scene with Noho Hank and Cristobal where they say, “Show the real you” and he makes her this collage and inadvertently puts himself out there a little bit and by him putting himself out there he reveals, you know, he’s a psychopath. My favorite line in that is, “You plant a little seed and then they kind of hang themselves.”

And he’s so sincere about it too.

Yeah he thinks he’s genuinely helping her. I did a version of that scene that was much more matter of fact, and Alec and Duffy were at the monitors and they said you should do it more – what ended up being more sincere and wiping tears from her face.

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HBO

Cinematically, I love this idea that the Bolivian raid and the police raid happens at the same time, and that it’s all captured on the rooftop.

Yeah, that that was something that I will say we were talking about in the writers room and initially that was going to be a very traditional action sequence. And then I was watching “Road Warrior” and there’s the shot of Mel Gibson where he’s watching the raid on the compound at the beginning of the movie and he’s got the big telescope. And I thought “Oh, it should be this. What if it’s Batir with his phone looking down and saying look at what we have here to the elders, and you do the whole sequence like that?” So it’s from afar. That’s just different instead of, the way it was initially written was something you’ve seen a bunch. It’s kind of something we already did in Episode 2, where these forces come in. And yeah [cinematographer] Darren Tiernan shot that and I thought it was really funny. And JB who plays Batir is great, and that’s Michael Ironside. And I love Akhmal getting shot again. But yeah when I see that I just go, “Oh we’re just ripping off ‘Road Warrior.’”

In this episode, you introduce Cristobal’s wife and in a matter of minutes, Hank suddenly realizes Cristobal has a wife. Elena suddenly realizes Cristobal is with Hank. And there’s this like fear for life.

Yeah, again I gotta give it to Aly Greer, the editor. The initial cut of Episode 5 did not have Elena arriving. As written it was, “Who are these people at the raid? Who are these Bolivians?” And then it wasn’t until you got to the scene with Hank and Cristobal that you went, “Oh my gosh, it’s Elena.” Well, that really did not work at all. We were trying to be really tricky and hold off on information and big reveals and all this stuff, and instead of being interesting it was just incredibly confusing. So in the reshoots, we shot that scene of her arriving and we reshot that sequence with Hank and Cristobal.

Initially, what happened was Elena texted Cristobal saying, “I know where you’re at.” So there was trying to put this tension of Cristobal saying, “Come on, we gotta go. We gotta get out of here,” but he can’t tell Hank why and they get into this fight. Hank’s like, “Why can’t you just tell me what’s going on?” and then the Elena shows up and he hides in the closet and all that. And again, Aly Greer said, “Why would Elena warn them that she’s coming?” (laughs) And again, you can write it with a group of very smart writers. You can do table reads. You can do rehearsals. You can shoot it. You can do everything and tons of very smart, thoughtful people and actors and artists will look at the scripts. And then it isn’t until you’re cutting that an editor points out something insanely obvious, and you go, “You’re right.” So we reshot that whole sequence to being them happy and they’re gonna go to Santa Fe, and the “Percy Jackson” thing was solely for me and Duffy because both of our kids are obsessed with “Percy Jackson” and we have to the listen to those audiobooks all the time.

It was the art of simplification. We were making a thing — especially I was making things – that should have been incredibly simple, more complicated, which was she shows up and you just let the thing play out as you’ve set it up. And you go, “She would show up. He goes into a closet. And you’re seeing two people have the same reaction and you should have sympathy for both of them.” That was the thing I remember telling the actress who plays Elena it was like, “You’re not a femme fatale. This is legitimate hurt. You very much love him and you think he’s with another woman, and this is more of a gut punch than what you’re expecting.” And then the same thing with Anthony of, “Oh, he’s been lying to me.”

I also wanted to ask about the Gene stuff with Annie. This theme of forgiveness really comes to a head here because earlier in the episode, we saw him apologize to the writer and the writer was so gracious and forgiving, and Gene feels so good about himself. He apologized to Annie and she doesn’t accept it. She says, “You’re just saying that so you don’t feel bad anymore.”

That was a thing where the initial scene was Gene goes to Joe Mantegna’s house and again like the D’Aarcy thing it was like, “This scene has to be really funny.” A very, very early version of it played like a sketch where it was not just Joe Mantegna but it was kind of a cameo parade of different people Gene had worked with and they all had stories about how awful he was. They all had stories about how terrible he is. Then he apologizes and the problem was it felt like, 1. We’ve already seen this, we rang this bell already. And 2. It felt like he was being guilted into apologizing, as opposed to coming in sitting down and saying, “Okay, I’m making the choice to apologize to you.”

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Once we realized that, we went back to the episode and said, “Oh, that’s Cousineau’s journey for this episode.” He’s been given a second chance. He’s just been given this money from Barry, he is going to make amends. He’s going to live up to Barry’s line in Episode 2, “You are going to enjoy everything that comes with being given a second chance.” So he’s actually doing it in this episode, and then Annie comes in and says the theme of what Noho Hank says, “Yeah, but you gotta earn it.” You’re doing this for you. You’re only doing this to make yourself feel better. Which I think is just generally true with people. I’ve done that before where I’ve apologized and kind of meant it but mostly it was just to make myself feel better. So Annie should call him on it. That’s 100% what he’s doing and now he has a choice. He’s okay with Joe, but he really, really ruined this woman’s life and doesn’t really see the ramifications of it. Doesn’t fully understand it. He doesn’t even remember what he did. And I thought everybody in that scene was just wonderful.

And then the episode of course ends on a really dark note with the mom shooting her son, which feels like a harbinger of things to come. Barry looking back and then descending into the darkness.

That was something that was always very difficult to modulate because it’s already upsetting. I remember people saying, “Oh, you could shoot him in the head, you could do this, you could do that.” (laughs). No.

You already feel terrible for these people.

You already feel awful. And for me, as I said, this revenge army some people in the writers room found it to be a very cynical view of humanity. They’re not bad asses. They don’t what they’re doing, and this is what happens. More damage. Now, Annabeth Gish’s character has lost possibly her husband and her son, because of revenge. And I thought Annabeth Gish and Alex MacNicoll, who plays her son, were just fantastic.

Annabeth Gish is always wonderful.

She’s always great, and her husband is Wade Allen, our longtime stunt coordinator. So Wade is in Episode 301, he’s in the big oner. He’s the guy on the phone that walks over and shows Sally the fight scene. They’re a very cute couple, and it was very sweet – he talks about her all the time so I think he was just happy to have his wife on set. But she’s the real deal and just wonderful.

“Barry” airs Sunday nights on HBO.

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