Here's an interview with Marcel that I lifted from the great on-line 'zine Urban Desires. For more urban-type stuff, visit them.
Tales of a Capuchin Monkey
by Peter Braunstein
UD: I'd like to hear your side of the story about your departure from the hit series Friends. The word is that the cast got annoyed with all the extra work and time it took to have a monkey on the set, and that the producers decided to get rid of you.
Monkey: (sarcastically) Yeah, like the power dynamic really flowed in that direction. Like that cast of twenty-something wannabees had veto power over me. Who starred in Outbreak? Who's big box office? Do you want me to play the messages left on my machine just for this morning? It's like producer after producer.
Here's what really happened. They offered me this gig as the monkey in Friends. I was ambivalent about it, but I thought the show had some potential. The friction started when my agent and I came up with this idea to center the show around me. We went to the producers with this idea: change the show's title to "The Monkey's Friends," and restructure it so that the cast all have a kind of obsession/infatuation with the monkey that prevents them from having normal relationships with other humans.
It was brilliant. Sort of like "Gorillas in the Mist" meets "Seinfeld." I couldn't get enough of the idea. Anyway, they decided not to go with it, they went with the been-there, done-that format of all these yuppie friends living together, flirting, possibly falling in love.
UD: Any regrets? It's a plum series.
Monkey: Look, I'll let you in on a forecast. Career-wise, the show's a death-trap. Look at that Aniston chick. I mean, can you imagine having your entire career depend on your hairdo? Without that hair, the chick is nowhere. She decides to crop her hair like Josie Bissett on Melrose, and three months later she's living in Pasadena, wondering why no one's returning her calls. Now, ER is another story. My agent's been trying to sell Crichton on the idea of introducing a monkey into the cast. Get this--they buy the monkey to use as guinea pig for an experimental AIDS protocol, but George Clooney develops a fondness for the chimp and tries to save it from experimentation. Crichton seems interested. I don't know, we'll see.
UD: Yet you haven't burned all your bridges with Friends--I'm thinking of your recent guest appearance in the special post-Super Bowl episode.
Monkey: What was funny about that cameo bit was that my agent insisted that I have full artistic control over any parts of the script that involved me. The producers of the show started crying and making a big fuss, so I told my agent to let them have their way. I figured, even with a lame script, exposure is exposure. As it turned out, my role read like some kind of subconscious journey into the producers' minds. I don't know if you saw the episode. . .
UD: Everyone saw it.
Monkey: I couldn't have written a better script myself. The guy who owned me on the show--I forget his name--has this flash of regret about giving me up, then spends half the show trying to track me down. When he finds me, I'm on the set of some high-budget movie, and he and the rest of the cast begin to perceive the huge status gap between me and them. He begs me to meet him for lunch, I blow him off a few times before giving him an hour of my time.
But even while I'm with him, I'm preoccupied, I've got bigger things on my mind. It was beautiful on so many levels. It's like the producers and writers were suffering some sort of residual anxiety about having let me go. Sure, the show is number one now, but they have next season to worry about. And once the hype plays itself out, once the hair thing dies down, the producers know just what they're left with--a show without a monkey. If I were them, I'd be sweating too.
UD: How was it working with the cast again?
Monkey: Well, let's put it this way--if I were human, they would have tried to sleep with me. When I was a regular on the show, I was just this annoying primate who needed special attention, who couldn't just be fed tofu or decaf cappuccinos and run on that. Half of them didn't even know what I was--I'm a capuchin monkey, but that didn't prevent them from yelling, "Hey, the chimp messed up the set again" or "the orangutan is freaking out." I'm not an orangutan--that's the Dunston Checks In monkey. I have nothing to do with that.
Anyway, during the cameo bit it was just the opposite. They kept coming over to me, asking me if I needed anything, telling me "we really should get together more often." Like I don't know that while they were looking at me they were visualizing a Rolodex filled with names of casting directors. It was so obvious. The worst was that Courtney Cox chick. Before, she never had anything to do with me, wouldn't share a ride with me even though we both lived uptown.
Now she wouldn't leave my side, she was like my personal bodyguard. If someone near us was talking too loud, she'd yell "Careful, you're annoying the monkey." She kept telling me what beautiful fur I had, recommending hair care treatments that had worked for her. Finally I signaled to my personal assistant, who rescued me by saying that I had some urgent phone call from my agent.
UD: You've mentioned your agent several times, and that seems to be another bone of contention. The word is that your agent is too aggressive, that he's alienated a lot of Hollywood insiders.
Monkey: First off, I think alienation is too deep a word to be using. This is Hollywood we're talking about, not France. Most forms of alienation, anguish, etc. in Hollywood last about 48 hours, unless you can't reach your therapist by cell phone. The only lasting sentiments in Hollywood are envy and resentment. My agent pushes hard, but so far his aggressiveness has paid off. I still haven't spent the money I made from Showgirls.
UD: Showgirls? I don't remember you in that.
Monkey: Do your homework. (Laughing) No, I'll let you off the hook. I was only in the film for about 30 seconds, even though my agent scored me a cool $100,000 for that cameo bit. It started when Esterhaz called me, said that Verhoeven wanted to work me into the film as an adjunct fetish to the lesbian flirting going on between Gina Gershon and Elizabeth Berkeley. I was over committed, so I said no, but as a favor to Verhoeven I did a walk-on where I leap into Berkeley's lap and she pets me. It was a no-brainer.
UD: I know you must get asked about this a lot, but what is it like being a primate working in Hollywood?
Monkey: Actually, I was just talking about this the other day with Brad [Pitt]. I'm sort of tired of the stereotyping of primates in Hollywood. You know, either we're these cute, animated furry things that defuse some tense moment between humans, or else we're menacing and uncontrollable threats, like in Outbreak. I mean, how about some middle ground here? I'd like to see monkeys like myself used in more creative ways, like a mirror that is held up to humans to show them what they're not, to unmask all their foibles and inadequacies. But then that puts me into independent films, where I'm paid $25 a film and fed only when some intern remembers. No thank you.
UD: We've got to wrap this up, but any advice for other aspiring actors, human or otherwise?
Monkey: I don't give advice, because I can't deal with it when you're in the know, you're an insider, you offer someone some free advice and then find out that they did their own thing, and now they're on the UPN network or something. Where I come from, when an authority figure gives you advice, you follow it, or you get eaten by something. There's none of this, Yeah, well let me see for myself crap. It's not that I'm bitter, it's just annoying.
© Copyright 1996 Urban Desires