Adam Scott Tells 13 Odd Stories From 13 Shoots

From his first fleeting TV guest spot on the forgotten MTV series Dead at 21 through his current stint as Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation, Adam Scott has had a lot of roles, some of which he's been proud of, some less so. With a résumé as varied as his (Hellraiser: Bloodline, Party of Five, Step Brothers … ) we thought it was time to call him up for an anecdote speed round: We threw out entries in his filmography and demanded his funniest, oddest, most awkward, or enlightening moments from the set. (Fortunately, he leaned more toward the awkward, which always make for the best stories.) So read on for an Adam Scott Babylon filled with tales of bad acting choices, Boy Meets World co-star feuds, prosthetic penises, and — to keep it classy — master classes from Martin Scorsese.

1. Dead at 21, 1994

Scott's first TV job was a guest role in the pilot of the short-lived sci-fi action series Dead at 21, MTV's first attempt at non-musical programming.

"I think I was 20, but I remember lying about my age and telling them I was 19, like – who knows why? I just thought it sounded better, so stupid. I remember getting the part and literally feeling like my life was going to change and I was going to be a giant television star, having no idea that people do guest spots all the time and then just go on with their lives and try and get another job. I just thought, Now I’ve done it, I can relax. It’s all gravy from here. It was my first time coming in contact with professional TV actors — Lisa Dean Ryan and Jack Noseworthy just looked like perfect humans, like actor robots. They just had beautiful bodies and faces and wore clothes that fit them really perfectly and looked like they grew on their bodies. I just felt like a shitbag standing next to them … It was interesting, and I think my acting in it is absolutely terrible. I haven’t seen it in fifteen years, but I’m sure it’s just godawful."

2. ER, 1995

In season one, Scott landed the role of a patient who had been hit by a car.

"I had three lines or whatever, but I remember that week George Clooney was on the cover of TV Guide for the first time, and so people were starting to notice him. I remember just sitting there, smoking outside and watching him play basketball and thinking like, Wow, it’s all starting to happen to that guy. I hadn’t seen ER and I didn’t know who he was, but it was kind of an interesting little point in pop-culture history when George Clooney was really hitting and I was there, weirdly watching it.

I do you remember this older guy, the guy that played the guy that hit me in the car. I forget his name, but I remember him telling me, 'Never leave your wallet in your trailer. People will rip you off. I always have my wallet in my pocket on set, because people will take all your shit.' I was like, 'Whoa, really?'"

3. Boy Meets World, 1995

For three episodes, Scott played smart-ass bully Griff Hawkins on the TGIF staple.

When that was on TV, it was on Friday nights at eight o’clock or whatever, and it was for little kids, so, careerwise, it might as well have been projected on the side of a building in the elementary-school playground or something. It didn’t have any significance.

I always checked the [online] message boards, which were still this kind of mysterious thing – and I remember reading someone posting that they were friends with the girl that played Topanga, and Topanga had told this person that no one at the show liked me very much. And I remember just being crushed, but it also all kind of made sense, because I was definitely on the outside of whatever was going on there. They were all friends and I was just kind of there and would hang out with Blake [Soper, future Rilo Kiley guitarist] and Ethan Suplee. I didn’t know if it was real or not, but kind of felt like it was … The Internet or these message-board things were still kind of small enough that it felt genuine. And sure enough, the next episode they wrote me off."

4. Hellraiser: Bloodline, 1996

The fourth in the Hellraiser series was one of the rare films with an "Alan Smithee" director credit, which is given when the real director doesn't want his name on it.

"We had, like, two sets of reshoots and it took forever to make that movie. I’m not really in it that much, but I remember we would do one reshoot and redo everything, and then six months later we would reshoot it again and everything was super different. My death changed from melting to getting my guts ripped out.

I remember something I did to calm my nerves — because I wasn’t into drugs or anything – would be to not sleep the night before; I thought it helped me focus. I did this on Hellraiser, I remember doing it on my guest spot on NYPD Blue, I did it on Murder One, for a big scene I had. I would just stay up all night drinking coffee and working on my lines: Think about how overcooked my performance would be come 9 a.m. when we’re actually shooting. Not only have I overpracticed it in my shitty little apartment, but I am so exhausted. It’s such a bad way to go, because not only is what I’m doing kind of not great, but then any break I have I just want to go and sleep in my dressing room."

5. Star Trek: First Contact, 1996

As "Defiant Helm Crewman," Scott's task was to attempt to steer the doomed spaceship Defiant on a suicide mission, until it is saved by the Enterprise.

"I’m just at a console on a spaceship that’s about to explode. And I’m screaming out dialogue and I’m all sweaty and I have a cut on my forehead and all I was doing was a Han Solo impression. That’s all I was doing. Not only was it my only reference point, because I was never really into Star Trek, but I was like, 'I’m on a space ship, here’s a console, I see some buttons and some dials, we’re in a dire situation … what the fuck else am I supposed to do but just be Han Solo?'"

6. Party of Five, 1998-99

For seven episodes toward the end of the show's run, he played Josh Macon, who had an extended unrequited flirtation with Neve Campbell's Julia.

"We never ended up going out. I remember there was one episode where we almost make out, but someone interrupts us, like they do on those shows, and it’s like, 'Oh, oh, oh! I’m sorry, excuse me, excuse me,' and then I leave. So I was just like, 'Fuck, why can’t you just write me a scene where I make out with Neve Campbell? Would it kill you just to do that?

I think I know why they stopped writing for me on that show. We were shooting in San Francisco, so I got flown up there, and it was fancy and everything. Neve and I had a scene where we’re walking across the street – there’s a big crane shot and they had a cable car going through the scene behind us; it was high production value for a TV show, you know? So we’re walking, having this conversation, all this stuff is happening and I kept fucking up my line. Like, probably seven times I fucked it up, and every time I fucked it up they had to roll the cable car back, move the crane, get all the extras back. It was a huge shot and I couldn’t stop fucking it up; so it was that kind of moment where they're like, 'Oh this guy is going to choke when we really need him to step it up,' and I think that was the last time I was on that show."

7. The Aviator, 2004

Scott played Howard Hughes' s press agent Johnny Meyer in the biopic directed by Martin Scorsese.

"Martin Scorsese had a screening room in Montreal where we were shooting, and every week he would have a screening and you could invite anyone that wanted to come. It was usually a movie from the period that The Aviator was set in and he would introduce it, and then after the movie he would stand up and give a lecture about the movie. Because the character I played was a real guy, and he had been portrayed once before in this Humphrey Bogart movie Barefoot Contessa — not by name, but as the approximation of this character — he showed it one night. I remember sitting there, it was like me, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Jude Law, a lot of the key crew. It was amazing … Sometimes it was sparsely attended. I remember one time going and it was me and Bob Richardson, the DP, and maybe a couple other people and Martin Scorsese, in this little screening room watching Viva Zapata! with Marlon Brando. I couldn’t believe that everyone on the movie wasn’t jumping to go."

8. Tell Me You Love Me, 2007

The edgy and sexually graphic relationship drama featured Scott and Lost's Sonya Walger as a yuppie couple torn apart by the pressure to have a baby.

"They wanted it in the contract that they could show my erection on the show. So we were like, 'Wait a second, once an erection is shown on a television show, it’s no longer a fictional show, now it’s a documentary or porn,' so we had to get them to take that out. So what we ended up doing is when they needed an erection we would have this fake penis that I would have to put on, like it had straps and stuff. And in the pilot she gives me a hand job, so they had to rig up a fake penis that shot hair conditioner. It had a pump in it and there was someone behind the couch working the pump and it would malfunction and spray all over everybody. It was hilarious. The scene itself looks real, but we were just kind of laughing. It was ridiculous."

9. Party Down, 2009-10

In one of his favorite working experiences, Scott played former actor/current caterer Henry Pollard in the cult-favorite Starz series. He has nothing but fond things to say about his former cast members, even in light of (or because of?) this anecdote.

Scott: "One cast member I won't name would take shits in my trailer and then turn the heater on. I think it’s an old trick that people do to each other on sets, but it’s horrifying when it happens to you."

Vulture: "Was Party Down frat-house-y?"

Scott: "If the frat house was filled with nerds and unathletic, sarcastic people."

10. Knocked Up, 2007

Scott had a small role as Ken Jeong's medical assistant; he was recruited because he'd been hanging around during filming with his friend Paul Rudd.

"Just by geographically being nearby for a while, they asked me to come in and play this little part. And it was really fun, but I didn’t realize at the time the significance of it and the fact that it would help me so much. It warmed me up to be on a set that has all that improv; Ken Jeong and I, it was our first comedy thing. Ken was a stand-up but it was his first movie, his first real acting job. The way Apatow works, you do it scripted a couple times and then he just kind of lets you go and improvise. So watching Ken go crazy [watch a deleted scene above], his insane rant … It was amazing. I’d never been on a set before where you’re given that much freedom, and it scared the shit out of me. I was like, Wow, so wait, we’re just gonna make some stuff up? And after working on that and Step Brothers, I never really wanted to go back to any other way of working."

11. Step Brothers, 2008

As Will Ferrell's prickish brother, Scott had a standout scene in which he berated his wife (Kathryn Hahn) for dragging down the family's a cappella version of "Sweet Child of Mine." Singer, know thyself.

"Throughout the whole process of shooting the movie, Adam McKay, me, and Kathryn Hahn kept going into the recording studio — like a real recording studio, like Guns ‘N' Roses were recording Chinese Democracy in the studio next to ours — and trying different versions of 'Sweet Child of Mine.' And nothing was really working, and it became clear that I can’t sing at all. Like, I tried, I went into the recording booth and tried recording vocals once and came out, and I was so terrible that nobody could even be polite about it. They were just like, 'Okay, that was interesting, maybe we should move on.' And that’s when Adam decided that they needed to get a singer to record my vocals. So when you see us in the car singing 'Sweet Child of Mine,' everybody is singing live, they’re not lip-synching, but I’m lip-synching to a person who was standing directly in front of me outside the windshield of the car. There’s a guy standing there with a microphone and we’re just locking eyes and I was lip-synching directly to his singing."

12. Eastbound and Down, 2009-10

Scott popped up twice as Pat Anderson, the agent who promised Kenny Powers a comeback, then screwed him over, then re-promised it in season two.

"I shot with Matthew McConaughey [in the last episode of season two], and he was the most confident person I had ever come in contact with. He's kind of become this mythic figure in show business. Like, when he came on the set it just got quiet – everybody’s just in awe of this guy, because he’s a terrific actor and everything but he also has this persona of being … it’s almost like he has this outlandish persona in the vein of Brando or something. Not as eccentric, but he just adds a presence – he kind of walks in the room before he does, you know? And he just looks incredible, his skin is perfectly tan, he smells just amazing … you’re around him and as a man you just feel like your penis disappears."

13. Piranha 3D, 2010

In the unapologetically gory killer-fish film, Scott spent most of the shoot baking in the Arizona sun on spring break mecca Lake Havasu.

"We were out there for a couple months on the water. It was an average of 115 degrees. In that movie, I am on a jet ski and I’m out on the water for a while. There was this stunt that got cut out of the movie where I go under water on the jet ski and turn all the way around and come up the other side and keep going. So I had to spend a lot of time underwater, and I developed a rash all over my body. It was really, really miserable. It was like I had severe poison oak all over my body. So I went to the doctor — first I thought it was bed bugs, then I didn’t know what the fuck it was — I went to the doctor and it turns out this was a rash that derived from all the bacteria in that lake. Because people are in that lake just being … it’s just body fluids. It was a spring break place. You know, it’s where Pam and Tommy Lee shot their sex tape. So there are all these sunburnt, drunk coeds frolicking around in the water and all of their bacteria went on to my body and turned me bumpy and red and itchy. It was horrible. As far as we know, Pam and Tommy Lee left some bacteria behind that leeched itself onto my body."