Hot Tub Time Machine is like an inexorable force of nature coming at you through all mediums: TV commercials, movie trailers, tie-ins (30 Rock!), Twitter, and even a tub crawl, wherein three of the four stars traveled across the country doing appearances at various functions like Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the icy Polar Bear Plunge in Maryland.
The premise is stoner simple. Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), and Lou (Rob Corddry) are three former best friends whose adult lives have not quite lived up to their dreams. After an accident brings them begrudgingly back in touch, they decide to take a road trip to an old ski lodge where they used to party back in the '80s. Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) is forced to detach himself from his avatar in Second Life and join them. After finding the lodge a shadow of its former self, and staffed by a resentful, one-armed bellhop (played by Crispin Glover, naturally), they decide the least they can do is get into the hot tub and get trashed for old times' sake. They wake up in the '80s and have to decide if they want to relive exactly what happened so they can return to the future or risk rupturing the space-time continuum (or something) by pursuing what they refer to as the Great White Buffalos of their pasts. The missed chances, the bad decisions, the ones that might have gotten away...
Craig Robinson phoned from in from the past - that is, he called NYC from LA - to discuss his dream date, his own Great White Buffalo, staying professional in the face of hilarity, and his upcoming movies. Which, despite what IMDb says, does not include The Other Guys. (Someone should probably get on that.)
Cinematical: I understand there are a lot of hot tubs at the press day today. Were you forced to do all your interviews in hot tubs?
Craig Robinson: We were not forced to do interviews inside the hot tub. There was a fake hot tub in front of us though, that we had to sit behind.
Cinematical: I wouldn't want to be in a hot tub full of journalists, myself.
Craig Robinson: That could be real tired real fast. I don't mind. Journalists are pretty fun. They're trying to get a fun good story, so they're pretty much on your side, I guess... That's very naïve of me.
Cinematical: What was the craziest thing that happened when you guys were out on your tub crawl?
Craig Robinson: The Polar Bear Plunge, as far as that, was the craziest thing I've ever seen. People - it was freezing, freezing, freezing and there were people walking around in bathing suits in the snow with no shoes on, you know? Not even sandals, just barefoot, and then hopping in the water which was freezing. So that was pretty amazing.
Cinematical: And you didn't join in?
Craig Robinson: I did not join in. They told me I could have one of those bodysuits, and I was like, on the fence about that. I was like, well, let me see how I look in it, if it's flattering to my figure, and then they said, well, you can only get in with swim trunks, and that's when I said no.
Cinematical: So if you did indeed have a time machine, would you choose to go back to the '80s or some other time?
Craig Robinson: I would go at my whim... Like when someone says, "Oh hey, this is what happened," and you get into those little arguments and going on Google just isn't enough, then I could just go right back to whatever time we're arguing about or whatever we're talking about. [And] that'd be like the best date ever. Like, come over. You wanna go see Prince on the Purple Rain tour? Come on. Let's do this.
Cinematical: But if you did have to go back to the '80s, what would you do? What's your Great White Buffalo?
Craig Robinson: [whispers] Great white buffalo! Oh, I got a couple of great white buffalos... I wouldn't even know where to start. In the 1980s, I was in high school. I went from grammar school to high school. And I would have, you know what? I would have been a better basketball player. I would have been more confident. Yup, I said it.
Cinematical: I overheard someone at the screening - and maybe this is just gossip, hearsay, whatever - say that the origins of the story were either an acid trip or a magical refrigerator magnet thing where one of the writers woke up and someone had arranged the magnets to say Hot Tub Time Machine. And they wrote a story based on that. Is that true or false?
Craig Robinson: It's a complete falsehood.
Cinematical: It's great, though, right?
Craig Robinson: Yeah, I mean, it's nothing that phantasmagorical, but it's a pretty cool story. Rob Corddry has been telling it, and this is all second-hand story-telling right here, but the guy who wrote it, apparently him and his friends were talking about it for years, like, "Yeah, that's what we're gonna do. We're gonna write a movie Hot Tub Time Machine and pitch it to Hollywood." And it was a joke for them, you know? And then one day, one of the guys actually wrote it. And the rest is history.
Cinematical: I read that Tom Cruise was texting you guys during the premiere and saying how much he liked it.
Craig Robinson: I didn't get a text from Tom, so yeah, I'm still waiting on my Tom Cruise text. Thanks a lot, Tom.
Cinematical: I'm relieved because my next question would be why is Tom Cruise texting you? Who was he texting?
Craig Robinson: I don't know. The director? It was directed by Katie Holmes.
Cinematical: What was the weirdest, funniest thing that happened when you were shooting?
Craig Robinson: We made this movie. This movie is the weirdest, funniest thing that happened in the course of shooting, because, and I'll tell you why, because whatever we did got on the screen! It was like, hey, you guys should do that. We kind of wrote it as we went along and played with it as we went along.
Cinematical: What did you do off the cuff?
Craig Robinson: "What color is Michael Jackson?" That was off the cuff. Bam. It happened.
Cinematical: How did you keep from not laughing?
Craig Robinson: Yeah, it's called professionalism, young lady. I work with Steve Carell, so if you can hold a laugh in one time with Steve Carell, you can pretty much handle anybody else.
Cinematical: And you did, in fact, tell the New York Times that you had a high top in the '80s, as you did in the movie.
Craig Robinson: I did have a high top. I was very much in with the times. R. Kelly, Guy, New Edition.
Cinematical: How high was it, though?
Craig Robinson: It went up high. It was as high as it was in the movie. It was very, very, very high and nice.
Cinematical: Do you think that people who weren't around during the '80s are going to get the movie?
Craig Robinson: It's really not that hard to follow. [laughs] It's a fun romp, and yeah, don't go in there trying to think because that's just going to hurt you.
Cinematical: What are you most tired of people asking you? You've been doing a lot of press; I know you've had a long day today.
Craig Robinson: "What would you bring back from the '80s?"
Cinematical: Yeah. That's kinda lame. What would you bring back?
CR: Why would you ask me that?! I'd bring back Ronald Regan. Bam. I said it. Done. Pow. You're welcome.
Cinematical: So you're also in The Other Guys with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg...
Craig Robinson: I'm not in that, actually.I don't know how that rumor got started but it's on my IMDb page and I'm not in it.
Cinematical: Oh. Well, that's awkward. Okay, but you are in Shrek Forever After, right?
Craig Robinson: I am in Shrek Forever After, yes!
Cinematical: Which will be in three glorious dimensions.
Craig Robinson: Yes, it's very exciting to be in 3D and be in a movie with Eddie Murphy and Mike Meyers. Come on. It's great. It's just a great, great, great, great time!
Cinematical: Did either of them make you break character?
Craig Robinson: I didn't work with them. I just went in and did the recording by myself with the director and the producers, so I didn't get to work with Eddie and Mike like that.
Cinematical: But you'll be here in New York for its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, right? Doing press and all that?
Craig Robinson: I don't know. That would be great! When is it?
Cinematical: It's in a few weeks.
Craig Robinson: I have not gotten an invite to Tribeca! They are promoting this movie without me and I don't like it!
Cinematical: Well, what is your character Cookie about?
Craig Robinson: A female ogre named Cookie. It's the cook. I cook.
Cinematical: Are you into doing more animated films? Or was it just that the opportunity presented itself?
Craig Robinson: Both. I would love to do more animated films, and the opportunity to do [other types] of films.
Cinematical: Serious films?
Craig Robinson: Absolutely. What you got? Throw it to me. Bring it. I'm in.
Cinematical: Since IMDb has led me astray once already, I'll just ask you what you have lined up next.
Craig Robinson: No, no, no. You still have to try and go with IMDb.
Cinematical: No. No way.
Craig Robinson: No, you have to learn to trust after somebody breaks your trust. You gotta be able to get right back on and trust. Come on. Let's see you try.
Cinematical: No. That was all I had.
Craig Robinson: Oh, you didn't have any more! No wonder... Okay, I get it. I'm on The Cleveland Show, speaking of animation. I play Cleveland's father. I have a band called The Nasty Delicious, and we're going on tour. Look out. And I'm also in a movie with Kevin Spacey called Father of Invention that's coming out later this year.
Cinematical: So let's talk about The Nasty Delicious and this tour. What's this about? Tell me.
Craig Robinson: We are still in negotiations and all that, but we are a nine-piece band... it's comedy and music blended together as natural as two things can be. And I've been doing comedy 15 years professionally, and now I have a band that supports my act.
Cinematical: Tell me about Father of Invention with Kevin Spacey.
Craig Robinson: Kevin Spacey comes out of jail after seven years because he's an inventor, and one of his inventions was cutting peoples' fingers off, and he gets out of jail and I've married his [ex]-wife and living in his house and driving his $600,000 Benz, and he's gotta get his life back on track... It's a quirky independent comedy.
Cinematical: I notice that both John Cusack and Rob Corddry are on Twitter, and you are not. Why are you not on Twitter?
Craig Robinson: Because I have to ease into it. I don't know who will be interested in anything that I'm Tweeting.
Cinematical: You have to Tweet!
Craig Robinson: Yeah...
Cinematical: I think a lot of people want to know what you're Tweeting.
Craig Robinson: Well, that's yet to be seen. I think I'm leaning towards doing the Tweeting thing, so, you know, look out for Craig Robinson coming through to you in 2010! Yo! Will you be my first Tweet friend?
Cinematical: Yes, I will.
Craig Robinson: All right. I'm gonna look for you when I get on there.