“Saturday Night Live” star Will Forte is too grounded and self-deprecating to think of himself as a big-time celebrity. But the Lafayette, Calif., native does acknowledge that being on television has boosted his profile to the point where he feels it necessary to be cautious about his behavior among the masses.
“I’ve never been a huge public nose-picker, but I’ve forced myself to put a complete stop to that,” he says. “I don’t want people to see me and say, `Ew, there’s that guy from `SNL’ and he’s picking his nose.’ And another thing: I can no longer get super-drunk when I’m out with my friends.”
His public visibility could get a considerable boost if “The Brothers Solomon” resonates with moviegoers. The low-budget comedy contains the first big-screen starring role for Forte, who shares top billing with Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”), and Forte also penned the script.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he says of his head-spinning foray into feature films. “The whole way through, I kept saying, `Oh , they’re not going to make this. They’re not going to make it.’ Even as the cameras were rolling on the first day, I was going, `Are we really making this?’”
Forte is discussing the film over breakfast at a coast-side cafe in Santa Monica, his residence when he’s not in New York for “SNL.” It’s a glorious Southern California day - the kind that inspires Sheryl Crowe songs. But it’s mostly lost on Forte, who will spend much of the afternoon hunched over a laptop computer, working on another script.
“I’m constantly in a state of biting off more than I can chew when it comes to work,” he says. “Every once in a while I have to force myself to get out and take some mid-day walks just to remember I’m living in a very beautiful area.”
Forte knows he should make an effort to slow down some - the “SNL” routine is one of the most demanding in show biz - but not even the death of his beloved grandmother, Helen Louise Stivers, earlier this summer could induce him to do so.
“All the family was at her bedside and it was a super-heavy experience,” he recalls. “It made me take stock and start thinking that I’ve got to make some changes. I’ve got to reconnect with friends. I’ve got to work less. ... But within 36 hours, I allowed myself to get sucked back into the same ol’ grind.”
Forte, however, was able to spend some quality time with the woman he called the “cutest grandma in the world” before she passed at the age of 92. He brought along a videocamera to record their conversations, some of which he cobbled together to form a few adorably hilarious online trailers for “The Brothers Solomon.”
The film has Forte and Arnett playing “very smart, but socially clueless” siblings whose father is dying. When they realize their dad’s chief regret in life is not having a grandchild, they rush out to enlist a surrogate to produce one for him.
“And they’re not very good at it. Not at all,” says Forte, who describes the tone of the film as “uplifting and slightly absurd.”
In the movie, which also features “SNL” vet Kristen Wiig, Forte and Arnett share a very tight bond - one that more or less reflected what was happening on the set.
“It was so much fun making this and getting to know him at the same time,” Forte says. “In the script, we play these incredibly close brothers and by the end of shooting the film, I was incredibly close to him. The whole production was like going away to summer camp.”
Forte, who began his career in comedy after a brief but miserable stint in a brokerage firm, originally developed the Solomon bothers as characters for a sitcom while working as a writer with Carsey-Werner Productions. When “SNL” came calling in 2002, Forte asked to break his contract, which the company approved with the stipulation he write a movie for them.
Thus, the bumbling Solomons made the jump to the big screen. And it was through his new late-night gig that Forte got to know Arnett, the husband of “SNL” castmate Amy Poehler.
Though he hopes he has more big-screen projects in his future, the low-key, aw-shucks Forte has no illusions of becoming another “SNL”-bred feature-film personality along the lines of Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler.
“I would love to get into a situation where I can make movies and have creative control,” he says. “But it’s hard for me to imagine becoming a movie star.”
It’s also hard for him to imagine leaving “SNL” (“I’d stay 20 years if they’d have me.”) - something that might have been hard to believe in his early years with the show, when he suffered from a nerve-fraying case of stage anxiety.
“It took me a while before I felt comfortable there,” he admits. “Part of it was my insecurity. For a couple of years there I kept thinking, `Uh-oh, they’re going to realize that I shouldn’t be here and they’re going to kick me out.’”