Harold Ramis looks back at "Year One" from Day One

Sun Jun 21, 2009 9:42pm EDT
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By Martin A. Grove

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In the beginning there was nothing. Then Harold Ramis got an idea.

That was in the summer of 2005. His comedy "Year One" opened this weekend via Columbia Pictures with Jack Black and Michael Cera as lazy hunter-gatherers on a Biblical epic road trip after being kicked out of their primitive village. The film opened at No. 4 with a solid $20.2 million.

Inspiration? Mel Brooks' "The Two-Thousand-Year-Old Man."

"I loved the conceit of putting characters with a contemporary consciousness in an ancient world." It all sounded funny to Ramis, who definitely knows "funny" after "Caddyshack" and "Ghostbusters."

Another influence: A mid-'70s PBS documentary he recalled about how Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons co-existed for thousands of years and must have met.

"I was working with John Belushi and Bill Murray at the time at National Lampoon and I directed them in an improv," he told me. Murray's Cro-Magnon was "his usual contemporary hipster and John played the Neanderthal like a moronic thug." There was "a nice Abbott & Costello quality" that stuck in Ramis' head.

Inspiration struck: "Why not do something set in the ancient world and invest the characters with my own consciousness?" Genesis supplied the story.

"I imagined the hunter-gatherers living in a virtual Garden of Eden with one rule -- 'Don't eat the fruit from that tree.'"   Continued...

<p>Actor/director Harold Ramis arrives for the premiere of "Year One" in New York June 15, 2009. REUTERS/Stephen Chernin</p>