Christopher Meloni talks 'Wet Hot American Summer': 'Who's Bradley Cooper? Doesn't ring a bell'


Image Credit: Everett Collection

To fans of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Christopher Meloni will always be obsessive New York detective Elliot Stabler. To fans of HBO’s Oz, the actor will always be sociopathic inmate Chris Keller. But to fans of Wet Hot American Summer, he will always be the d— cream-owning, sweaters-fondling, refrigerator-molesting, Vietnam vet and camp chef “Gene.”

To mark the 10th anniversary of director David Wain‘s cult comedy classic we spoke to Meloni about his days at Camp Firewood.

Now shut the f— up and eat the corn!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get cast in Wet Hot American Summer?
CHRISTOPHER MELONI: I was called to audition. I remember very clearly, I was in the waiting area and I heard what they were doing through the wall and I was like, “Mmm, that’s not the character.” Someone else went in, did their thing, and I just went, “That’s NOT the character!” I knew exactly who the character was. So I went in there and I see Michael Showalter and I’d bumped into him at a chess shop. I’d played chess with him. My first thought was, “S—, I shouldn’t have beaten him.” [Laughs] But he was a very sweet guy and blah-blah-blah. And that was it. I knew I’d done well and, this is rare, I felt they were going to hire me. And they did.

How did you tackle the part differently from the other people who were auditioning?
Well, they were playing him big. They were playing him a little out-of-control. And I thought his natural weirdness was kind of inherent in the lines as written, so you didn’t need to add any extra sauce to him. David Wain and Michael Showalter had written enough weirdness and you really had to kind of pick your shots as to how behaviorally out of bounds you were going to play the guy.

What did you think of the script? It is in many ways an odd film. It’s a summer camp movie, but it’s also a spoof of a summer camp movie…
I got it. I mean, I recognized it as a new wave of comedy. It really wasn’t your daddy’s comedy. It wasn’t in the same vein as Animal House or Stripes. Some parts I would read and I would go, “That’s funny, I wonder how it will play?” Other things, I just thought, “That’s so f—ing out of bounds and outlandish, it’s got to play. And to be honest, some stuff I didn’t understand. But I knew that these guys were from The State. I said to myself, obviously they have a very clear idea of how to handle this comedy. This is theirs, this is their baby, this is what they do. So I never had any worries.

What was the shoot like?
Let me put it this way: Day four into I think a 28 day shoot, the local paper said, “Four Year Drought Ended, Rain Expected to Continue.” And by the end it had rained, I think, 24 out of 28 days. Every f—ing day it rained. And it was a summer camp, right? They literally set you up on these circa 1938 bed springs with a one-inch thick plastic mattress, if you want to call it that. I don’t know if you know what a “steakum” is.

I do not.
It’s like calling a piece of baloney a porterhouse steak. It wasn’t a mattress. There was mud everywhere. You didn’t take off your clothes, because you’re not going to be comfortable anyway. You just laid out a sleeping bag. Everything was muddy. Everything was damp. And it was nothing but fun, because everything was awesome.

There was a lot of extracurricular partying, right?
Oh, Jesus Christ, it really was the lunatics were running the asylum. I tried to get some sleep and you know, someone would come stumbling in, going [adopts drunken voice], “Oh, let’s talk.” I’m like, “Oh, s—!” And, you know, I am a weak man, so, yeah, we’d go drink.

A lot of the cast would go on to be big stars. Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper…
Who’s Bradley Cooper?

I’m sorry?
Who’s Bradley Cooper? I can’t remember him.

I actually have no idea if you’re joking or not. You really don’t remember Bradley Cooper?
Nah, it doesn’t ring a bell. Anyway, go ahead. I’m sure he’s very talented. I’m sure he’s done quite well for himself. Anyway, go ahead…

Actually, I’ll give you a f—ing Bradley Cooper story! So, right before my big monologue at the end of the movie, I’m just looking at a map, waiting to roll and Bradley settles up to next to me. He says, “Hey, do you mind me asking what you’re doing?” I look at him. I go, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Are you looking at Vietnam, remembering where your character came from?” He thought I was like looking at the map to get some kind of inspiration, or get to the moment by my sense memory work. I was like, “No. I’m just looking at the map!”

What was it like to act with a talking tin can?
Probably the most talented actor on the set. [Laughs] That was actually really difficult. But, you know, you do the best you can with what you’re given.

David Wain and Michael Showalter say they’re going to start working on another Wet Hot script later this year. Would you be up for appearing in that?
Oh, f— yeah. In a heartbeat.

What if they could only pay you scale?
You know, ironically, I didn’t get into the business for the money.

You can watch Meloni give his big monologue — and hump a fridge — in the clip below.

More on
Amy Poehler remembers ‘Wet Hot American Summer’: ‘The partying never ended’
Paul Rudd remembers ‘Wet Hot American Summer’
‘Wet Hot American Summer’ sequel: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, and more say they would return to Camp Firewood — Exclusive
David Hyde Pierce talks ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ and his new thriller, ‘The Perfect Host’

Comments (21 total) Add your comment
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  • omar

    It’s 10th anniversary. Great movie.

    • BT

      One of the most whacked out funny movies I have ever seen.

  • Stacie

    I said fondue with cheddar. We’re having fondue with cheddar for dinner tonight.

  • TicklePig

    That was supposed to be funny? I guess I’m too pld, 49, to get the new type of ‘summer camp’ movies. Love Christopher Melloni, but he abandoned a great paycheck and character on SVU for this. What a waste.

    • Maria

      If you had bothered to read the article you would know that he did this film more than 10 years ago. He did not leave SVU for it. He is a lot more than Elliot Stabler and has many great roles in his future I am sure, including in great comedy like WHAS.

    • JenW

      Meloni had much funnier moments in this movie, but this is his big monologue so it seems more appropriate here. And this scene is funnier to people who have seen the movie. This and Oz are my favorite roles of his.

  • GP

    the movie is 10 years old (per the title of the article).. it had nothing to do with leaving SVU…

  • caroline

    I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!!!! but no one in my family gets it. means summer needs to end so I can go back to college! OKAY YOU GUYS!

  • Em

    Loved him in this movie! I hope he does more comedy now.

  • TorontoTom

    That clip was painful to watch.

  • Kayla

    Freaking Hilarious! Loved that movie and Meloni is the best. Hopefully now that he is free from SVU he can do more comedy and more variety in dramas.

  • SL

    it was a dumb movie, but I watched it for the star studded cast and to see the somewhat smarmy Bradley Cooper (at least most of the parts I’ve seen him in) get schtupped up the tuchus.

  • Heather

    So dumb but so funny. Chris Meloni is wonderful. He can hump my fridge whenever he wants. Great cast!

  • AM

    A friend of mine turned me on to this film about four years ago- SO funny! And its great to see all of these actors who went on to have amazing careers.

    • Ahmad

      Hear, hear! Great image/collage w. speech blbeubs (how do you call this?!).And, as a girl who has to be content with subtext everywhere, I won’t give up hoping that now that New York has marriage equality (yeah!!) Alex comes back to lift Liv onto her horse and they’ll ride off together into the sunset. Big happy sigh. (Eh, I know that WON’T EVER happen, so what?)BUT, I’ve got something for you: .ENJOY! (You may hug and kiss me later )

  • Trion

    meloni’s great looking forward to a sequel of this screwy clasic film. Glad to see he left SVU that show has gotten so bad.

  • alan of montreal

    Meloni’s definitely not afraid to make some whacked out choices with his films. Ever see him in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle? He’s virtually unrecognizable in that film. Likes his TV dramatic and tough, but likes his film absurd and zany.

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