How Stuber Star Kumail Nanjiani Put His Own Spin on the Buddy-Cop Comedy

Kumail Nanjiani had a full-circle moment at SXSW earlier this year. The first time he came to Austin for a splashy premiere, he was the fourth lead on Silicon Valley, the Mike Judge comedy premiering on HBO that April. Five years, several Emmy nominations for outstanding comedy, and one Academy Award nomination for best screenplay later, Nanjiani was back, and as the lead this time—premiering his studio action-comedy, Stuber, which opens wide this week.

His hesitant Silicon Valley character, Dinesh Chugtai, is the reason Nanjiani broke out of his lane as a beloved fixture of the L.A. podcast and comedy scene. But Dinesh, a hoodie-wearing software engineer beta male, is also one of a few character types Hollywood has thought of for East Asian comedians like Nanjiani. Stuber—a classic shoot-em-up, fish-out-of-water buddy-cop comedy in the mold of 48 Hrs., Midnight Run, or Rush Hour—is only Nanjianis latest effort to change that. Nanjiani plays Stu, a, yes okay, hapless beta male Uber driver who gets roped into a dangerous criminal investigation thanks to an angry, alpha male cop, Vic (Dave Bautista), who commandeers his vehicle. As the bullets and fists fly, Vic has to navigate his relationship with his disapproving boss, played by Mira Sorvino, and estranged daughter, played by Natalie Morales. Stu, meanwhile, is grappling with the unreciprocated feelings he has for longtime friend and would-be business partner, played by Betty Gilpin.

Its a conventional set-up with straightforward action-movie beats, but for Nanjiani, thats the point. “I think its great that its a big studio action-comedy and neither of the leads are white,” he pointed out hours before the films SXSW premiere. “People tell you what they think you should do, and you sort of start believing that. I never thought Id have the opportunity to be in a movie with car chases and fist fights, and all that stuff.”

Stuber is his second studio movie of the summer; Nanjiani described his attitude as a supporting motion-capture player in this years Men in Black: International as “okay, Ill do what Im told and then Id go home.” But the process on Stuber was much more collaborative. Nanjiani praises the original Tripper Clancy script, but also quickly identified some areas where he thought there was room for improvement. Starting with a core element of any modern action movie: the weapons.

“Guns are a very real topic of conversation in our society,” Nanjiani points out. “I felt like if you have a movie with a lot of guns, you have to say something about guns.” That “something” comes in the form of some very Nanjiani-esque quips tossed off between hails of bullets.

The other lethal weapon in the film is Bautistas Vic, who is, in many ways, the hulking, shouting, exasperated cop stereotype weve seen many times. But Bautista, a former wrestler of Greek and Filipino descent, is as committed as Najiani to breaking out of the roles hes expected to play. When he was promoting his rRead More – Source