When people think of Chris Kattan, they likely conjure up images of him in his many famous Saturday Night Live roles: saucy go-go dancer Mango, hairless monkey Mr. Peepers and half of the head-bopping duo that went on to star in the film Night at the Roxbury. But if you weren't such an SNL buff during his seven-year run, you may remember him better from his supporting film roles in House on Haunted Hill, Undercover Brother, Monkeybone and, of course, his starring turn as the titular Corky Romano. Since SNL, supporting roles and voice acting jobs have been steady, but he's never played a dramatic lead. That's all about to change with the debut of his new IFC mini-series, Bollywood Hero, which sees Kattan (playing himself) traveling halfway around the globe to star in a Bollywood musical. ...Okay, technically it's a comedic lead, but compared to the roles he's known for, it's an epic on the scale of Gone With the Wind. We talked to Kattan about how close to real life his on-screen persona is, and why he'd rather play Buster Keaton than Charlie Chaplin.
TWoP: How did this project come about? Was it written specifically for you?
Chris Kattan: It was pitched to me -- an idea about an actor/comedian trying to make it into the movies in Bollywood -- and I've always wanted to do what Larry David is doing with a Curb Your Enthusiasm or Ricky Gervais [on Extras], that heightened sense of playing yourself. And if you're going to do that, do it in a smart way, because you've only got one shot, you know? If you don't come out good and likable when you play yourself, that's pretty much... you've only got one round to do that. And I'm not gonna do a reality show. And this is not sketch comedy, you know, it's a mini-series, and I wanted to incorporate my personal life -- a heightened level of it -- and mix that with the antics that can come out of being in a Bollywood production. I wanted it to be like what Lost in Translation did in Japan, or the Living in Oblivion of moviemaking. There's a smartness to it -- not spoofing, you know? I think that level of comedy is dead, in a big way. I'm a fan of smart comedy. I know a lot of people are used to Mango and Mr. Peepers, but this is not what that is, so it's nice to not do that.
We should probably clarify -- this series isn't about Chris Kattan being desperate to find a job.