Problem Child Director Recalls Working With ‘Completely Committed’ Gilbert Gottfried

Joining those in paying tribute to late actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried is Problem Child director Dennis Dugan. Released in 1990, Problem Child was a dark comedy following a mischievous 7-year-old boy (Michael Oliver) who makes life miserable for everyone, including his adoption agent Mr. Peabody (Gottfried) and adoptive father (John Ritter). As one of Gottfried’s most memorable acting roles, Mr. Peabody was a character that he reprised for the sequels Problem Child 2 in 1991 and Problem Child 3: Junior in Loveas well as the animated series adaptation in the early 90s.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporteroriginal Problem Child helmer Dennis Dugan recalled his experiences with working on Gottfried on the movie over three decades ago. Dugan remembers the studio heads getting frustrated with him using so much film to record Gottfried’s scenes. This is because, as a master comedian, Gottfried had the tendency to adlib, delivering new material every time they would start recording The issue is that it was hilarious every time, and Dugan never wanted to call “cut” on Gottfried because of it.


“I got yelled at – this was early on in shooting. I got called by the vice president of Universal at the time, going, ‘What are you doing? You’re shooting so much film! ‘ … So they were yelling: ‘What are you doing there? You’re way over budget on film. ‘ And I go, ‘Well, we’re doing a comedy, right?’ And they go, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Well, we got Gilbert Gottfried. And when I’d say action, Gilbert Gottfried does the script, and then he just starts going. You do not say cut. You just let him go. Do not look at how long it is – watch the film, and see what you think. ‘ And so they called me back, and they go, ‘All right. You’re OK because he’s funny. ‘”

Dugan also explained how working with Gottfried was very beneficial to his own career, as the director found the actor and comedian’s dedication very inspiring. When working on other projects in the future, Dugan would think back to Gottfried on the Problem Child set and keeps that in mind when other skilled actors and comedians get into the flow while filming certain scenes, even if, and perhaps especially, if it goes outside of the screenplay.

“He was just a wonderful guy to work with – completely committed, and when he started acting, you’d think he should be committed because he would just go as crazy as you possibly can. Working with him really helped me later on. Going to Grown Ups was a great example because we’d shoot a scene with those five guys and then start rolling, and then they would just start yakking. I knew from working with Gilbert, if there’s a fire going, just throw kindling onto it. Because you can shout out stuff to them in the middle of it – ‘Try this, try that’ – and that was the same with him. He would do anything you asked, plus 3,000 times more. ”

Related: Gilbert Gottfried’s Death Has Hollywood in Mourning: ‘I Love You Forever’

Dennis Dugan Also Recalls John Ritter and Gilbert Gottfried Working Together

Universal Pictures

The late John Ritter also famously starred in Problem Child. Dennis Dugan also remembers Ritter being just as hilarious and easy to work with on the set of the film. In fact, the two of them together made for a very enjoyable project all-around to develop.

“Ritter was as funny and good a partner as you could imagine. If you’re on the set with Gilbert, and you’re around a shooting star, you just go, ‘Great, let me take the ride,’ and Ritter loved him. ”

If you want to revisit Problem Child in honor of Gottfried, you can find the film streaming on Peacock.

Gilbert Gottfried’s Death Has Hollywood in Mourning: ‘I Love You Forever’

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