In Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s new movie “The Three Stooges,” opening today, Sean Hayes — Jack McFarland on the hit TV series “Will & Grace” for eight seasons — portrays Larry Fine, the balding stooge with poofy, curly clown’s hair.
Jack was a lot of things — vain, flighty, self-obsessed, sex-obsessed, but not a fan of the Three Stooges. Yet the real-life Hayes, who began his career as a musician and a comedian, grew up on the three famous buffoons, Larry, Moe and Curly.
Hayes says he loved watching all the great comedy groups: The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis (he played Jerry Lewis in a TV biopic), and the Stooges.
He insists the Stooges’ humor is usually misunderstood.
“A lot of people associate the Three Stooges with slaps, hits, and pokes in the eye,” Hayes says during a recent phone conversation. “But that was just filler for the brilliant parts, the situations they got themselves into.”
Hayes says he was honored to play Larry, generally considered “the middle Stooge” and not the showiest role.
When people first see the famous Stooges shorts from the 1930s and ’40s, the boisterous, comedic Curly, the bald-headed one, attracts the most attention.
“When you get older you start watching Larry more,” Hayes says. “He’s kind of the period at the end of the sentence. He’s subtly adding things that you don’t really notice the first time.”
Speaking of subtlety, the usually clean-cut Hayes is nearly unrecognizable as the frumpy Fine.
He initially considered wearing a bald wig, but given that the production shot in Atlanta during the summer, he says it would have “created a greenhouse effect on my head.” Instead, he shaved his head twice a day for three months: “This way was much easier on everyone, and much cooler.”
Surprisingly, the new movie is not a biopic, but something rather like a new Stooges episode.
“I think that if they were in their 40s today, this is the movie they would have made,” Hayes says.
Hayes has seen the movie with an audience and is pleased with the result. He thinks the Farrelly brothers — best known for “There’s Something About Mary” — took the right approach in their homage to the unsung comedy heroes: “I think with the Three Stooges, you just let them do what they do.”
IF YOU GO
The Three Stooges
Starring Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso
Written by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Mike Cerrone
Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Running time 1 hour 25 minutes