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There's a scene in Strangers With Candy where Jerri Blank, a 47-year-old high-school student played by Amy Sedaris, must run with the bulls in a school gymnasium. The look on Sedaris' face teeters somewhere between gleeful exhilaration and scared-out-her-mind fear. "I had two live bulls chasing me," says Sedaris, who did her own stunts. "It was like, holy shit!"

Strangers With Candy (which opens today) was written by and stars Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Dinello. It's based on the cult TV show that lasted three brief seasons on Comedy Central before it was canceled in 2000. The movie, which serves as a prequel to the series, centers on what happens when Jerri, an ex-con and drug-addicted prostitute, returns to her childhood home. Finding her dad in a coma, she vows to wake him by starting her life over. So she goes back to high school. "I tend to be a little innocent, like Jerri," says Sedaris. "Unlike her, I'm not a junkie-whore user-abuser."

Along the way, Jerri feuds with her new stepbrother, enters a science fair, and offers oral sex to a classmate. The film's comic absurdity sets up its biggest hurdle: How do you a market a movie based on a TV show that hardly anyone watched? "That's tricky," agrees Sedaris. "We've always written for 22 minutes. We just figured, why not try a movie?"

Fans like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Matthew Broderick, and Sarah Jessica Parker appear in meaty roles. But even that couldn't convince Warner Independent, the movie's original distributor, to release the movie. It was completed more than two years ago, but sat on the shelf till ThinkFilm picked it up late last year. Despite the film's post-production woes, Sedaris says, she had the time of her life making it. "It was our project," she says. "The only bad thing was wearing the wig, the turtle neck, and the stitches in my mouth. And the fatty suit. I had a lot going against me."
Fri., July 14

Speaking of Highlights

More by Michael Gallucci

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