IR Interview: Jay Sits Down With Author Kevin Kwan and Co-Stars Gemma Chan and Jimmy O. Yang to Discuss Their Delightful New Film CRAZY RICH ASIANS

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

“Crazy Rich Asians” is a contemporary romantic comedy based on the acclaimed worldwide bestseller by Kevin Kwan. The story follows New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is unprepared to learn that Nick has neglected to mention a few key details about his life. Not only is he the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families, but also one of its most sought-after bachelors. Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back, with jealous socialites and, worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh) taking aim. It soon becomes clear that the only thing crazier than love is family, in this funny and romantic story sure to ring true for audiences everywhere.

Directed by Jon M. Chu, “Crazy Rich Asians” features an international cast of stars, led by Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, and Awkwafina, with Ken Jeong and Michelle Yeoh. The large starring ensemble also includes Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remi Hii, Nico Santos, and Jing Lusi.

Gemma Chan plays one of the book’s most beloved characters, “Astrid’s story is so big, we had to be very strategic about which parts of it to include,” Chu acknowledges. “Casting was also challenging because Astrid is so flawless, you wonder how such a person could exist on this planet.” In sync with many fan-site wish lists, the director’s search led to Gemma Chan. “She’s so elegant and warm. She can appear both relatable and untouchable at the same time, which is, I think, the trick to playing Astrid with all those facets to her personality and upbringing. Gemma was the
absolute embodiment of the role,” he says.

Bernard Tai, enthusiastically portrayed by Jimmy O. Yang. Not technically related, Bernard nabs the honor of staging Colin’s bachelor party via his father’s business ties with Colin’s dad. In other words, they’re stuck with him. Yang calls him “a billionaire playboy not doing much with his life except partying and having fun. He’s kind of a douche, but he loves himself and he loves life. Imagine an 18-year-old who just graduated high school with a billion dollars.”

Author, Kevin Kwan served as an executive producer on the film and makes a cameo in the montage where the gossip over Nick and Rachel’s imminent visit goes viral. He consulted on myriad details from character to costumes, locations to design, opened up his private family albums to inspire the design teams and even put the filmmakers in touch with a private watch collector who lent the production a prized high-end timepiece that arrived with its own security escort. “He was the best creative partner,” Chu attests.

I was fortunate to speak to author Kevin Kwan, as well as Gemma Chan and Jimmy O. Yang on their recent stop in Boston.

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity.

By virtue of the process there are always differences between a book and film. Going into it were you told they were going to change some things? Did you have input even though you weren’t the one adapting the book for the screenplay?

Kevin Kwan: I was involved in the very beginning. I chose the screenwriter and worked with him. I helped to really lay out the general outline of the story and I knew that HE needed to make the choices, the hard choices. I didn’t know which babies I wanted to sacrifice. I’m glad I didn’t play that role. It was very clear to me from the start that we needed someone to make those hard decisions and really adapt a five-hundred page book into an hour and forty-five minutes. You’re going to lose storylines, you’re going to lose characters and hopefully we can do many more movies so THAT gets covered. I’m thrilled with how it was adapted.

What does this movie mean to you? It’s the first big studio film in a quarter century to feature an all Asian cast and there’s not enough of these being made. Did you feel the added weight of that responsibility to make sure the film was great so that there would be more opportunity for Asians going forward?

Jimmy O. Yang: I think as an actor and seeing the script with a full Asian cast, it’s so surprising that you think, “Oh my god, I can’t believe this is getting made and I NEED to be a part of this.” Then I start uncovering more and more how great this project actually is. Reading the script, it’s a good, funny script and getting to audition, I auditioned for Colin first and then they offered me the Bernard role which I was more than happy to play. Then start to listen to the audio books and hang out with everyone. When we landed in Singapore, in the hotel lobby and we’re all like, “You like Asian food, too?” like, of course. “And you like karaoke?” It was just such a special bond that all of us have and still have. We’re still really good friends, all of us.

Kevin Kwan: Which never happens, right? You see them and then you never see them again.

Jimmy O. Yang: Yeah. All the time. I might have one friend from each movie that I still kinda talk to. THIS is different. When Ronnie (Chieng), whenever he comes from New York to L.A. or Gemma (Chan) is in town, when Kevin (Kwan) is in town… it’s like, let’s hang. We are each others priority, because really… for me culturally, yes, of course, it’s very important. In just a microcosm in a personal sense, it felt like I found my creed in my peers, which has been very hard for me as a comic and as an actor. Hopefully the audience will feel the same way, watching this movie they will finally feel like our voice is being heard and that our faces are being represented. Hopefully it’s just one of many to come and this is to just open up the doors. I think it’s a great start and we’re all very excited about it.

Gemma Chan: What really excited me when I read the script and the books was that although this specific story was about these characters that happen to be Asian, the themes of it are really very universal. Love, friendship, family, relationships, the conflict between old and new and different generations. It excited me that I could feel that that would be something that would resonate and would appeal, hopefully, to people who aren’t Asian.

Kevin Kwan: Absolutely.

Gemma Chan: If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t quite fit in or that you’re an outsider, that that’s something that would speak to you. For so long the universal experience has been assumed to be white and what I hope this shows, this story, is that it doesn’t have to be. Anyone should be able to watch this film and identify and feel for these characters. That’s the significance for me.

Jimmy O. Yang: Yeah. It’s an Asian story, but at the same time it’s a very authentic story, I think that’s why it’s so good because Kevin actually knows these people and has had the experiences. I think it encourages more authentic writing from everyone, which includes Asians and other minorities.

Did you find that because of Hollywood executives might make the argument that because you have non-white leads and a non-white cast that you had to compensate in any way to make the film especially appealing.

Kevin Kwan: We really didn’t encounter that, actually. There was one producer that suggested we change the lead to a white Reese, Johansson or someone like that. I didn’t even entertain that. Every other producer that came was really truly interested in the idea of this film because of the story. The story is one that transcends race. It’s called Crazy Rich Asians, but it’s not just because their Asian. It’s a universal story. They saw the potential for this in the worldwide market.

Jimmy O. Yang: I think people should look at this like a Game of Thrones, this author has so much source material that takes you to a different world. When we watched the first clip at the wrap party, just a little trailer that Jon (director Jon M. Chu) made for the cast, I was like, “Oh my god, the color, the people, the sets-”

Kevin Kwan: The music!

Jimmy O. Yang: The music! It was just like, oh this is not just a bunch of Asian people. This is literally like taking you to Narnia or Middle Earth or Westeros. It’s a whole new world that they’ve set up that hopefully everyone can enjoy. It just so happens that in this world everyone is Asian.

Was there anything from the book that you wanted to keep in the film that didn’t end up in the script?

Kevin Kwan: Wow. So much. There’s so many characters and storylines that were dear to me that didn’t make it in.

Gemma Chan: Astrid and Charlie.

Kevin Kwan: Beginning with Astrid and Charlie. That’s a huge storyline that her entire emotional arc was very severely cut down. Although we did restore quite a bit of it as we went along. But there was just no time. An hour and forty-five minutes.

Gemma Chan: I’m waiting for the spin-off.

What were you most excited to see brought to life from the book? Was there anything that surprised you in the film?

Kevin Kwan: I think it was really cool how Jon supersized things. I had a vision of an amazing, obnoxious bachelor party, for example. In my book it takes place on a super yacht and he was like, how can we make this cinematic to a degree that people’s jaws will drop? So he did it on a super tanker. The wedding, for example, in my book it’s only a fifty million dollar wedding and that’s old hat at this point for the really, truly rich Chinese. So how could we take that and really convey that in a way that would be spectacular? I think he succeeded. I watched it and my jaw dropped in the wedding scene when the bride enters. Not only is it a spectacle, it’s just so emotionally engaging. The music, everything, it all worked. To me, those were the surprise moments.

What was it like shooting in Singapore?

Kevin Kwan: Singapore and Malaysia.

Kevin, Gemma: It was hot.

Jimmy O. Yang: It was like one-hundred fifteen degrees.

Gemma Chan: It was SO hot.

Jimmy O. Yang: The bachelor party scene was in an empty parking lot in the middle of nowhere in Malaysia. It had a functioning helipad that was three stories high. I got sunburned from my gold chain. We couldn’t have shot that anywhere else. It was brilliant.

Kevin Kwan: You could feel the heat.

Jimmy O. Yang: You need to feel the experience, right? And eat the local food. It was like a whole immersive experience. I do not think we could have done this movie on a sound stage in L.A.

There was obviously material that was excised when adapting the book to a screenplay, but were there scenes that you shot that you were bummed to see cut?

Jimmy O. Yang: There was a lot of the bachelor party that was edited out. That was actually way more ridiculous than (what was in the film). We improvised quite a bit. I was happy with how it turned out. We got some of it back in the wedding with the scene of me and Chris Pang and Colin. That was completely improvised and I’m glad they kept it in there. I know that the character serves the story and I gotta come off the bench and hit a couple shots, you know? Because everyone is so good in this romantic, great plot and I just need to get some laughs in the serious moments to cut it up and I get that. It’s no hard feelings, everybody else is so great. If everybody else sucked and they cut out my great scenes I would have had a problem, but this whole movie was such respect for each other and everybody pulled their weight. Even when scenes got cut we were happy to see other people shine.

Gemma Chan: I really thought that the whole cast did such a great job. Every character, no matter how long their screen time was were distinctive and had their moment and did shine. It was amazing to watch. Same as Jimmy, I did do scenes that did not make it into the movie, but when I saw the film I was completely happy and understood why that had happened and this just means there is a wealth of stuff we can put into the sequel.


Be sure to check out the delightful Crazy Rich Asians in theaters today!

Jay Sits Down With Director Susanna Fogel to Talk About Her Newest Film The Spy Who Dumped Me!

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

In The Spy Who Dumped Me Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon), are two thirty-year-old best friends in Los Angeles, who are thrust unexpectedly into an international conspiracy when Audrey’s ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail. Surprising even themselves, the duo jump into action, on the run throughout Europe from assassins and a suspicious-but-charming British agent, as they hatch a plan to save the world.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is directed by Susanna Fogel (Life Partners) who co-wrote the script with David Iserson. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down and speak with Susanna Fogel about her laugh-out-loud, rollercoaster of a film.

This interview has been edited for content and clarity.

Jay: Your last film, Life Partners, was a much smaller indie production than The Spy Who Dumped Me. How did you make such a large jump from that film to this one?

Susanna Fogel: I know that a large part of it was that I wrote the script. I think, had I not written it, It would have been really hard for me to get the support to do that, to make that leap? Not for gender reasons, but because it’s a big leap to make. While I was writing the script, it wasn’t initially obvious that it was even something that I thought I could make a bid to direct. But at a certain point, as the friendship became more and more central to the story, and the girls closeness and the specificity of being their age and being in a female friendship became more and more central, it seemed impossible that I could get a male action director to capture that. And it would just be easier for me to just learn how to direct an action sequence. That felt like more of a plausible curve than teaching a Michael Bay-type to care about these friends nuances and body image and stuff.

Jay: How difficult was casting this film? How important was getting the chemistry right between these two friends? Or did it not matter because it was already there on the page in your script?

SF: Kate was the first one to come onto the project and you’re basically playing matchmaker. You’re meeting two actresses and when you’re talking about people like Mila Kunis, you don’t really have a chance to test them out, do a bunch of meetings and introduce her to every candidate. So you just have to meet her, size her up, and guess that she’d have chemistry with another person you don’t know that well, other actors. But in the case of the two of them it was… I think when you write something that’s pretty specific or has a specific perspective, there’s a self selection to the actors that want to engage with you on it. If they think the script is funny, then presumably they have a shared sense of humor on some level. And if they want to work with me then they are kind of in it for the same reasons. So it just kind of felt like the process selected people that would have good chemistry.

Jay: Were they able to spend time together before shooting to build a rapport?

SF: There was very little, because they live on opposite sides of the country. Mila has a family and it’s hard to get a lot of rehearsal time with two busy women. But we had just a couple of days, so we had to quickly bond the two of them without it feeling too contrived. So what we did was, we read through the whole script in my apartment in Budapest together right when they showed up and just had these, I sound like a camp counselor, we had these ice breakers where I was talking about their friendships and what their memories are of people they know and then they just sort of had a bonding experience like two friends would have talking. It then sort of flowed from there. It also helped that they’re two women who have really good friendships in their lives and they care about that. They’re both very warm, down to earth people who are the least narcissistic people. They were both pretty receptive, easygoing, open and sharing. We didn’t have a lot of time. I think it also helped that we were in a foreign country that neither had ever been to. So we all were having fish out of water experiences there. That connected us.

Jay: One thing that stuck me while watching the film is how legit the action was. Typically in an action/comedy the comedy is always the focal point and the action is usually not an emphasis, but the action in this film plays like you’re watching an ACTION film.

RF: That’s very much what we wanted.

Jay: What was that learning curve like, learning to shoot something that you’d never done before?

RF: My action directing experience was limited to one scene in one episode of a Television show that will remain nameless. It was a very different thing. This was very… different. I think when I was writing the action I found that it felt very visual to me. I knew what I wanted it to feel like. But the big transition was that on the page there was a way that things sound and you can be kind of glib or flippant or you can be minimal in your description of an action sequence. And you can describe it with enough witticisms that it just seems like it works and keeps the read going. When you’re actually staging it, and figuring out what you’re actually looking at, then all of these other questions pop up. Like, how much gun violence are you going to have in a movie if you’re a liberal person who also likes action movies and have a conscience about that and what weapons are you going to use? Then figuring out what you’re going to be watching when you break it down to those super molecular things is a whole different catalog of different decisions. So, for that, I wanted to bring on a stunt coordinator who had done those legitimate action movies, so I hired the guy who did a lot of the Bond and Bourne stuff. He was a huge help. We talked through these things. His specialty is,”Tell me where this action film is set and I’ll tell you twelve ways a dude could kill another dude.” Like, his job is that. He’ll talk about these jobs where in the script it would say, an amazing foot chase ensues and he comes up with everything you see in a movie. So, in a way, he’s a writer himself. So we just talked a lot from very different perspectives. I’m coming from this very analytical, feminist perspective and he’s coming at it from the perspective of a very technical expertise. And a cleverness that is very specific to his more physical job. Just working with him I felt really safe and protected because he had so much experience and I could ask questions and we had a really great dialogue. Without his partnership, I don’t know what I would have done. I think I would have pointed to other movies and said, “I dunno, like that.” But with him, we broke it down to such bite sized decisions that it felt manageable.

Jay: It’s never overtly addressed in the film, but it feels like Kate’s character is supposed to be a lesbian in the film. Was the choice to never come out and say that your choice or was that something you were asked to not address?

RF: It was never really a mandate at all. It was really just that have romance for either of the girls felt like a necessity of plot. Mila had to get dumped for the story to take place, but then we really wanted to keep it as Bechdel Test passing as possible. It just sort of felt neither here nor there to go into her sexuality. It just felt like a thing that didn’t need to be there. And a thing that if could just keep it free of that… we didn’t want that conversation to dominate the movie. Just because everything with female protagonists becomes about their love lives.

Jay: Provided the film does well and there’s a sequel, I’d love to see one, but beyond that where are you looking to go?

RF: It’s funny because… specifically thinking about mentors or people whose careers I admire, it’s really the filmmakers who have done a lot of different things. It’s the Curtis Hansons and Ridley Scotts and David Finchers… Obviously I’ve mentioned three GREAT filmmakers, but it’s people who don’t do the same thing over and over again. It’s not that I need people to think that I have a range, it’s more that I want to constantly challenge myself. This was one of the most creatively rewarding and fun experiences I’ve ever had. It wasn’t harder in a way that made me feel like I couldn’t expand my repertoire in other ways. It’s interesting because the last thing you do, at least in a traditional Hollywood sense, the last thing you do people send you the exact same thing. What’s least interesting to me is doing what I just did. I went from indie dramedy to proving I could do a big comedy and now I feel like I would love to do something dramatic, whatever the size and whatever the budget.


The Spy Who Dumped Me opens in theaters today. Get out there and see it this weekend, it’s a fun and hilarious with some top-notch action.

Indie Revolver Talks to Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal About Gentrification and Their New Masterpiece BLINDSPOTTING

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

In Blindspotting, Collin (Daveed Diggs) must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), work as movers, and when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in.

Their other mutual love was Oakland. But the Oakland they’d grown up with, a place of equal parts defiant grit and revelatory grace, was changing so fast it made their heads spin. Hipsters had invaded the boulevards, healthy foods (and prices) had hit the bodegas, and business was booming … but what was being erased in the process?

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal about Blindspotting, one of the years best films, after a charged screening of the film in Boston back in April. The energy of these two artists was palpable as we spoke in a closed hotel bar the morning after.

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity.

IR: The theme of change while trying to maintain identity is at the heart of Blindspotting. Post incarcerated Collin feels like a guy who is struggling with his own personal gentrification in his relationship with Miles while the city they inhabit, Oakland, itself is also struggling with gentrification. The film doesn’t seem to take a stance on whether gentrification is good or bad which I found interesting. What is your opinion when it comes to gentrification?

Daveed Diggs: Gentrification is problematic when it either ignores or very intentionally covers up or destroys the community that already existed. The soul cycle place is not the problem. It’s the… I mean, you move into a new area where you’ve never been before and you sort of have a choice when you move there, are you going to interact with the community that’s already here or do the easier thing to do and what you’re often encouraged to do if you’re in a new groundswell of people moving into a brand new building with no history attached to it and where, generally speaking, it’s all new people in that building… The thing you’re encouraged to do is participate in a brand new life that popped up out of nowhere in this desert where this newly discovered frontier of places to live… So gentrification is tricky, right? Space is at a premium, everything is getting more expensive, we don’t have answers for how communities are supposed to deal with it and everybody is dealing with it differently. You see cities trying to, in every new building, make sure certain percentages have to be low income housing. There’s all that stuff that is happening, but it all gets complicated by what, because ultimately the flow of the money is going to dictate the policy. So, if new people move in with more money and therefore have more power to dictate policy and say we don’t want these people in this building or we’re moving out. The policy might change. It’s very complicated and layered and you’re right, in the film we’re trying not to take a stance, we’re trying to present the lesser seen effects of a changing landscape.

Rafael Casal: You have a neighborhood that’s had decades of tension between the community and police before an influx of new people come in. And then these new people show up and they have a different relationship with the police. The previously existing residents don’t inherit the new position that the police have with the new neighborhood. If anything, the old neighborhood feels more criminal, because now there’s this… You can identify the old and new by where they live and what they look like and who gets protection and safety are two very different populations of people. So, if anything, it creates tension between the old community, it feels even more violent because now, right on top of you, is a community that’s getting policed just fine and the original residents are getting the police called on them in spaces that used to feel like theirs.

IR: It definitely feels like you had those themes in there but you didn’t make a social commentary or political film. You wrote a personal story and that stuff is in there, but it’s a smaller individual story.

Daveed Diggs: That was the hope, right? We weren’t setting out to write a film about issues. We were just trying to tell these guys’ story.

IR: Everything is inherently political now.

Daveed Diggs: We’re also all dealing with these things all the time. Everybody is. You can’t not. This is world we live in. All we’re doing is telling this story of these two guys who we hope the audience cares about. But not ignoring the way the world works.

Rafael Casal: There’s no such thing as non-political art.

IR: Not now.

Rafael Casal: Not ever. You’re either supporting the status quo or you’re challenging it. That’s it. We didn’t set out to make something political, but we are aware that everything we make is political. A great story is a personal story that has a universal value. So instead of coming out all preachy, with politics on our sleeve and shit… We don’t really have to. All we have to do is… The great mechanism of empathy is if things are corrupt or wrong or worth investigating all you have to do is show them in the most human way. And then empathy broods. Everyone is rooting for Collin in the movie and no one is rooting for Collin in the world. Straight up. So the political act, to me, is just an audience of people rooting for Collin for once. That’s it. I love when people gasp in fear for him. I love hoping that that’s just collective whiteness gasping.

Daveed Diggs: It’s also blackness gasping. It’s humanity gasping. It is, hopefully, a moment where everyone in the theater is feeling the same thing. Which is wild, right? Because Collin’s fear is based in the fact that generally in the world that is not true. That’s why we can all look at that moment and go, “Oh shit, he’s fucked right now.”

IR: The film really works because it makes the audience ask those questions and does provoke thought and engaging an audience, which doesn’t happen enough these days. It doesn’t spoon-feed all the answers and challenges you to look at yourself and the world around you a little differently.

Daveed Diggs: Check your blind spots.

Great advice, check out Blindspotting in theaters now.

Jay Talks With Actor Paul Scheer and Screenwriter Michael H. Weber About The Disaster Artist!

12/06/17 – 12:00PM

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

With The Disaster Artist, James Franco transforms the tragicomic true story of aspiring filmmaker and infamous Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau—an artist whose passion was as sincere as his methods were questionable—into a celebration of friendship, artistic expression, and dreams pursued against insurmountable odds. Based on Greg Sestero’s best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy’s cult-classic disasterpiece The Room (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”), The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and welcome reminder that there is more than one way to become a legend—and no limit to what you can achieve when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with actor Paul Scheer and the co-screenwriter of The Disaster Artist, Michael H. Weber when they stopped by Boston to present the film. We get into some great topics such as Tommy Wiseau executing his singular vision better than Steven Spielberg, some big cameos that hit the cutting room floor and more.

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity:

Jay: Paul I know you covered The Room on an episode of your podcast, How Did This Get Made (I’m a big fan), but what was your familiarity with The Room prior to your work on The Disaster Artist?

Paul Scheer: I always say that The Room is like this ayahuasca-esque experience where you hear about it and you don’t know what it is, but then you’re kind of curious about it. And that’s kind of how I got brought into it. People would talk about it all the time, there was that billboard in L.A. and I watched it one night with a group of friends at a big… we like rented a house, and it was like one of those things like you’re sitting on the edge of your couch and you’re moving forward and you’re like, ” Wait, wait, what’s going on? The sex scene is playing again?” Our minds were blown. So much so that the next night we re-watched the movie again. It’s a move that keeps on giving, honestly. That was my first introduction to it. I think once you see The Room your next goal is to find someone who has not seen it and then introduce them to it.

When it came to our podcast, we wanted to do an episode about The Room, but it had been so often discussed, so we wanted to do it in an interesting way. We had a friend who reached out to us who said, “Hey would you like to have Greg (Sestero) on the show?” I was like, “Absolutely.” That’s where my love of The Room went deep, because he had not written the book at that point. I think maybe he has just sold a pitch for it. (He) just started telling these stories about these guys and I feel like that book became, which is an amazing book and a book that I listen to on audio cassette and I highly recommend because his voice is…

Jay: I have the book, but I did not know there was an audio book so I’m going to have to track that down.

Paul: It really is a treat. So (the podcast) led to that, which then led to this and it just keeps on going.

Michael H. Weber: Scott Neustadter, my writing partner and I, we would not have been able to write The Disaster Artist without the book. There’d be no movie otherwise. I am a lifelong New Yorker and my first trip to L.A. was probably in ’03 or ’04 and I remember driving around with Scott and it was also his first time there, and we saw the billboard and we were like, “What the fuck is that thing? Is it an immersive theater experience?” We didn’t call the number, of course. We were like, we don’t want to get murdered.

Scheer: That’s the thing about that billboard that I don’t think people realize, everyone knew that billboard. It was in a beautifully central location-

Weber: It worked!

Scheer: It worked. And there’s not many billboards up in L.A. where you’re like, “What is THAT?” And that managed to be this billboard.

Weber: In your lifetime, how many billboards do you remember anywhere?

Scheer: That was the one. On that level, Tommy (Wiseau) is a genius.

Weber: Really. For a guy that wore all the hats making his movie, the hacky warfare sort of marketing and publicity might have been the best of all.

Scheer: Yeah, it’s amazing. At the end of the day the person who is going to make the most money off of anything is Tommy. The DVD’s, the merch… If you see Disaster Artist you’re going to want to buy a “You’re Tearing Me Apart, Lisa” shirt and he’s got it already made and ready to go.

Weber: The book was sent to Scott and I by Franco and Rogen. We had never met those guys. We read the book and flipped for it.

Scheer: Was that just a cold call?

Jay: I was curious about that, too.

Weber: So one of our managers knew James Weaver, who works at Point Grey and basically is a producer that runs the company for Seth and Evan (Goldberg). I guess they were looking for writers who specialize in relationship stories rather than just… Look, they’ve worked with some brilliant writers, but who tend to have more of a comedy background than Scott and I do. So I think they were looking… They knew the comedy would come, which was great because Scott and I, we thought let’s, for the most part, write this like a drama, knowing it will be funny working with them. So that’s really how we approached it. Scott probably, I think he stopped after the third chapter and watched The Room. And I waited until after we wrote the first draft because the goal wasn’t just a movie that was fan service, it had to work for people who’ve never even heard of The Room. We like to strike a kind of balance when we approach any project, where usually one of us is more of an expert or inherently more interesting to one of us than the other. How do we get the other one more into it? That’s really how we came at it.

Scheer: I have a question, because I’ve heard you talk about this… What was your reaction to The Room after reading about it? That’s an interesting way in. It’s all laid bare and your mind is probably putting together a lot of things. Was that a trippy experience to kind of see it…

Weber: Yeah, the weird thing is I’d felt like I’d seen it, which I think is a tribute to the book. The book really is designed also so anyone can read it. You don’t have to be in the film industry and you don’t need to have seen The Room to read the book. It does such a great job of describing those moments of… like the flower shop and how certain scenes turned out the way they did. You know, at the end of the day the pull for Scott and I wasn’t, ha ha let’s make fun of this bad movie. It was, let’s tell the story of these two friends, because we related to it. We were two guys who met in New York working at a production company who did no want to be doing what we were doing at that production company. We wanted to be making movies. It seemed like everyone was telling us no. So that kind of friendship, forged in sharing a dream, you don’t need to see The Room for that.

Scheer: I always say that… By the way I acknowledge that we’re still on the first question. To me it’s like, the other thing like…There is… I don’t know if I’m articulating it well, but I will say there is no difference between Paul Thomas Anderson and James Franco and Tommy Wiseau in the sense that they are people who have visions and they want to create and tell a story. The execution is where the difference is. That instinct is, I think, the most relatable thing whether you’re in the business or not. I think especially if you’re in the business it’s like, yeah let’s build something. I come from the UCB, which is the Upright Citizens Brigade, and that was a very community based thing. Did I put up some of the worst shows ever? Yeah, I did. Robot TV, it was a show by robots for robots.

Weber: That sounds amazing.

Jay: Right?

Scheer: But there’s that thing where you have an idea and everyone is leading you on and like, yes that’s a good idea and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that’s relatable. That is the fabric of creation. You know? It’s not like you’re going to hit all of them out of the park.
Unless, of course, you’re Paul Thomas Anderson.

Jay: In your own opinions, what is the best entrance into The Disaster Artist? Is it seeing The Room before or after? I read the book after seeing the first trailer, then saw The Room, then saw The Disaster Artist.

Scheer: I will say the thing that I’ve been saying as we’ve been talking about this movie a lot. I think it works as a prequel OR a sequel. If you’ve seen The Room, like I did, and then saw this movie or read the script, it’s a great… It opens up your world. It’s a… I think it really works. But if you’ve never seen The Room… For example, my dad saw The Disaster Artist. He’s never going to see The Room, but I think he found so much joy in it that he might now want to see The Room because of it. Because he’s like, “Wait. That’s a real person?” I really think it works as a prequel or a sequel. I think there is no… I think that people are hesitant. “I don’t want to watch a bad movie.” For those people who are like that, go see The Disaster Artist first because you’ll be so intigued that you’re going to want to go see it. I think that’s a testament to these guys because the movie works independently of everything. You don’t need to know anything about it.

Weber: See, I think it’s a tribute to what Tommy made. The fact that we’re now having this discussion of how you approach The Room, he made a lasting piece of art that you can come at a bunch of different ways. You can argue about the technical qualities of various filmmaking elements within it, but clearly he made something lasting.

Scheer: In a world of bad movies, or in a world of movies that have questionable choices, he has reached the apex of that mountain unlike anyone else. I think you can be very hard pressed to come up with any other movie that is like this. If you tell me that Gary Busey is the gingerbread man, I can give you ten movies that are similar to that. It’s like, yeah schlocky, bullshitty… You know, how many mumblecore movies of coming to terms with being thirty-five in Ojai… There’s a million of them.

Weber: That’s my favorite genre.

Jay: Dinner party mumblecore films.

Scheer: Yes! So, in that world, yes, he’s created something so wonderfully unique and not able to be copied. Not even by Tommy. It’s this rare gem.

Jay: It’s almost like it’s one of those things where he came at it from such an honest and earnest place that anyone else who tries to do it is trying to do something ironically, which is not coming from the same place. Movies like Sharknado are purposely trying to generate cheesy. They know they’re being cheesy and they’re attempting to be cheesy and it’s not coming from a genuine place. Paul, you said that every choice Tommy made seems to be the apex of wrong.

Scheer: Yeah.

Jay: But he doesn’t know that at the time. He thinks he making the right choices to make a good film, which is not something you can really replicate. His bad movie is so great because he thinks he’s making all the right decisions.

Weber: Also, I’ll say Tommy has a more singular vision than Stephen Spielberg. Spielberg will work with the best DP’s who have thoughts. Those guys don’t get steamrolled. They have ideas and the collaborate with Spielberg. Yes, he’s the captain of the ship at the end of the day, but Tommy… It’s really his vision. He was not taking input from ANYONE ELSE at any level of making the movie. It’s really fully his vision and what he wanted it to be.

Scheer: I will continue this and say the scotchka is a perfect example of The Room. It’s like, that is something that does not exist, scotch and vodka.

Weber: It shouldn’t.

Scheer: It shouldn’t and anyone should understand that. But the fact that Scotchka is in the movie is a testament to Tommy’s… Someone should tell him that that’s not a thing.

Jay: What has been your most surreal Tommy interaction?

Weber: He’s only on set once. He negotiated his own contract and we had to shoot a scene opposite Franco. It wasn’t like we could do him opposite someone else, so there was going to have to be two guys who looked like that somewhere. He didn’t negotiate that we had to use the scene. As you know, I don’t want to spoil anything-

Scheer: But definitely stay until the very, very end. The bitter end.

Jay: It’s tremendous.

Weber: That day he was on set we had written three or four lines for this little nub of a scene and Tommy showed up and immediately said, “This is it?” And he sort of ignored what was written and did his own thing, which was so bizarre. I said, this is what it must have been like on set the day on Being John Malkovich where Malkovich went inside Malkovich, because I felt like I was inside Tommy inside Tommy. It was crazy.

Scheer: I have had the rare distinction of acting opposite of Tommy in Tommy and Greg’s follow-up to The Disaster Artist, because in their mind they consider The Room the first and The Disaster Artist second and their new film third, the ending of the trilogy of these films called Best Friends. So, I got to do a scene with Tommy in a morgue in downtown L.A. late one night.

Weber: Did he know you were in…Because Greg knows. Did Tommy know you from other things?

Scheer: Honestly, no. No. Tommy literally does not recognize me every time I see him.

Weber: Same, same.

Scheer: So I’ve seen him obviously when I did the movie with him, and I’ve seen him when we went to Toronto and I’ve seen him at the premiere and I’ve seen him at the junket. And Every time it seems like, “Hai.” And some times some of those interactions are only separated by hours.

Weber: It kind of explains the “Oh” in “Oh hi.”

Scheer: Yes.

Weber: Because he sort of is almost faking remembering people because he doesn’t remember most people.

Scheer: I would love, speaking of John Malkovich, I would love Being Tommy Wiseau because I don’t know what’s going on inside that brain and it’s fascinating.

Weber: It’s almost a lock that, speaking of Sharknado, that Tommy’s in the next one.

Scheer: Oh, my gosh, he has to. By the way, what was the thing? We were having dinner with them and we asked what he was thinking about and he was like, “You don’t want to know.” and we were like, what are you thinking? And he goes, “Naked girls on the beach.” That is Tommy. He’s just daydreaming about naked women on the beach.

Weber: That’s amazing.

Jay: You guys obviously had a well written script, but was there room for improvisation? I know the scenes from The Room that were shot were meticulously planned and filmed but was there room for improv beyond that in the other scenes? Beyond Tommy tossing his lines, of course.

Scheer: I don’t think there was much improv in the movie. I would say the biggest things that James did so well was do very long takes. You would have a lot of fat on either side of that scene, in a way, so everyone would be in the moment. It was almost like a scene in The Office. Everyone, even though you’re not on camera, you’re in the background and working. So that, I think, helped energize scenes. When we shot Tommy’s death scene, spoiler alert, he let that go on a long time. But it was fun to be in character around it. It wasn’t in the movie, but I think it added to an element of everyone being always on and it was good.

Weber: As a screenwriter James was the ideal director. He created that environment where he was the most protective of the script, and yet it also felt like he gave the actors room to explore within the confines of what the scene was about. So we made sure to get what was scripted and he sort of allowed people to roam a little and make some discoveries, which is what you want. That’s the sort of fine line you have to walk. It’s not always like that. I’ve worked with directors who the screenplay exists only to get them to production and it’s sort of like, “We don’t need that anymore, we’ll just figure it out when we’re there.” That was not Franco’s attitude.

Jay: Outside of Tommy and Greg, did anyone meet of spend time with their real-life counterparts?

Weber: Ari (Graynor) spoke with Juliette (Danielle) quite a bit.

Scheer: I know Robin Parrish reached out to June (Diane Raphael). Some of them are difficult, some of them are harder to track down.

Weber: Jackie Weaver might have talked to… I wonder if Jackie Weaver talked to Carolyn Minnott?

Jay: It seems like you guys have every comedic actor in The Disaster Artist. I have to assume it’s because of how much people love not only Franco and his circle, but because of their love of The Room. Are you aware of anyone who wanted to be in the film that wasn’t? Did you have friends reaching out to you asking to get them in there somewhere?

Scheer: (to Michael H. Weber) You’d probably know more about that. Was any scene cut with people in it?

Weber: There was obviously, June had some more scenes.

Scheer: I mean, people that were cut.

Weber: Yeah, there were people that were cut. Zach Braff had a brief thing that got cut.

Scheer: Oh, I remember that.

Weber: And Jim Parsons had a thing as Greg’s agent and was cut.

Scheer: Did you guys ever shoot the Puppet Master stuff?

Weber: We did. We played around with the Puppet Master and shot that.

Scheer: I feel like the DVD for this will be really great.

Weber: And the Puppet Master scenes, the guy who directed Puppet Master came back and played the director in The Disaster Artist.

Scheer: Oh, wow. I think the one thing too, about this movie is that the ensemble doesn’t stick out.

Jay: It’s not distracting.

Scheer: Yeah. When you see Megan Mullally pop up, you’re excited for Megan Mullally but you’re not, “Oh, Megan Mullally…” It doesn’t feel like-

Weber: -They’re really smart, the production was mapped out. The Room stuff, making (the scenes from) The Room was the first couple weeks of production, so our movie was so populated and then the back side of production was, the final two thirds of it, was mostly James and Dave and a little bit of Alison Brie. But for the most part the back two thirds of production was almost like a play with the two brothers that was really great.

Jay: Thanks a lot guys.

The Disaster Artist is now out in select cities and opens wide December 8th.

Jay Talks to Perks of Being a Wallflower Director Stephen Chbosky and Author R.J. Palacio About Their New Film Wonder

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman.  Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade.  As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and discuss Wonder with Screenwriter/Director Stephen Chbosky as well as the writer of the beloved source novel, R. J. Palacio, who also served as an executive producer on the film. Chbosky is no stranger adapting novels for the big screen, his last film was the well-received adaptation of his own coming of age novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower back in 2012. With Wonder he tackles another coming of age story, but one that is no less impactful than Perks.

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity.

As a writer you always worry about what someone will do when they adapt your work for another medium. Knowing that Stephen is a writer, did that ease any concerns going into this?

R.J. Palacio: It did, it really did. We had met for a really wonderful three-hour dinner before we started with the movie and it was really evident to me that Stephen, as an author, his intention was to be as faithful to the book as possible. And where he wasn’t able to be completely faithful to the book, he was faithful to the intent and spirit of the book. So, I had complete faith.

Where did the idea for Wonder come from?

RJP: I was inspired by, in fact in the book there’s a scene where Jack Will talks about the very first time he sees Auggie in his neighborhood, and that scene was based on a real life encounter that I had when I was with my two sons where we found ourselves in very close proximity to a girl who had a very severe cranial facial difference and my son reacted and I kind of… That just inspired me to think about what it must be like to face a world everyday that really doesn’t know how to face you back. To face a world that stares at you, that points at you, when you feel absolutely ordinary on the inside, but no one else sees you that way.

Stephen, what made you want to direct a film based on this story?

Stephen Chbosky: What inspired me was that I love the book. It was given to me right around the time my son Theodore was born. There was something about the timing of reading this beautiful story about a boy and his parents and his older sister. And here I had an older daughter and a new son. The symmetry, it really spoke to me and seeing all the struggles that the Pullman family went through. I felt like I related to what my own memory of being a child, for Auggie, but then his parents. So all the different points of view in the book, which I love, it really got me in the heart. Not only that, but I also recognized the quality of the book. I really think this is one of the most important books written in the last several decades. I love it. I think that it’s so artful, especially for this age range, and I was honored to be part of it.

How did you approach creating a story that appeals to both children and adults?

RJP: I’ve always thought a good story, is a good story. I think one of the worst things a writer can do is write down to a certain age group. And certainly I tried never to do that with Wonder. The only thing I did in terms of keeping my target audience in mind, was to write with shorter sentences, which I might usually express myself as a writer with. I get the way that kids read. Keep the sentences a little short, keep the chapters a little short. Otherwise, a good story is about propelling the narrative forward and keeping kids or adults excited about turning the page. That’s all I tried to do.

SC: It was easier for me, because I loved the book so much to just focus on the characters. My approach was, regardless of how you get into the story, whether you’re a parent or a kid or close to one age or the other, or you’re an educator, whatever it is, there would be some way in. I was just hoping that everyone would find the same exit. However it got you, that you could share this story about kindness or about empathy, or you could just enjoy a good laugh or a good cry, or optimism or hope. As R.J. said, a good story is a good story. I was really excited… I think we all go into the movie thinking, “Oh we’re going to see Auggie’s first day of school,” right? I was really proud that we had enough bandwidth to tell mom’s first day of school story. Just in that one little shot, that’s all you need, alone in the house. I’m really excited as a parent to know that there’s going to be millions of children who will see that and for one brief moment think, “Huh, what’s my mom do while I’m at school?” That’s really exciting. There’s something about just shining a really simple light on a simple truth and then let the audience make their own conclusions. That’s exciting every time.

How collaborative did you make the process of adapting the book? R.J. mentioned there were changes, was she a part of that process?

SC: One hundred percent. R.J. was more than an author to me. She was my secret weapon in everything. Being a fellow author, I know what I brought to Perks of Being a Wallflower as a filmmaker, but as an author I knew how valuable knowing all… I never got, for example when I was making Perks, no actor ever said to me, “My character would never say that.” It doesn’t exist because I create the whole world, so now I’m adapting it. R.J. was an invaluable resource and I honestly think she’s a brilliant writer. So, if I was stuck on a scene, or I was working on the screenplay, I would always ask her, “Hey, do you have a version of this scene?” I want to read it. I might only take one line from it, but that one line was all the difference. I’ll give you an exact example of her and my collaboration at work, Summer and Auggie are sitting at that table and she offers her hand and R.J. wrote the line, that “You’ll get the plague.” I never thought to put it in there and I love that line so much that I took it and I gave Summer the line, “Good.” That was it. It was a perfect marriage. But there were so many others. We talked about casting, we talked about cuts, we talked about everything. Because ultimately I knew that I would never make a successful version of the Wonder movie without her approval, her input and ultimately her blessing.

RJ: And there were moments when Stephen or the producers would ask my opinion and ultimately decided to go a different way. And that was fine because I always felt like I, and I said to them, that I don’t need to be the final voice in the room, I just want to be one of the voices. Just so you hear my opinion on something and it should have no more importance or weight than someone else’s voice. They were really good at respecting that and it was really a lot of fun for me. I would get call from Stephen out in California about little things. Like, “So what color sofa do you think the Pullman’s would have?”

SC: It’s important stuff.

RJP: Or, “What kind of laptop sleeve would Isabel have?” Or, “What would she be writing her dissertation about?” It was great for me because these were my characters that I got to then think, “Huh what would her dissertation be?” It was actually a fun way of extending the Wonder writing process.

You’ve now adapted your own novel as well as someone else’s. Which is easier for you?

SC: It’s pros and cons for each. I find the process of collaborating with another author a lot more fun because not all the pressure is on me. It’s slightly nerve-wracking sometimes because I don’t have all the answers. You know? If someone says was, “What would Isabel’s dissertation be about,” God, I don’t know. It’s terrible that I don’t know this. Luckily we had a great relationship. Out of all our disagreements, there’s only one we had that I thought could be dismissed, which was, “Don’t use Springsteen.” Shame. (Laughter) That’s it. Otherwise…

RJP: Whooa. It was the Christmas song. I love Springsteen.

SC: It was Santa Claus is Coming to Town. “I don’t know about that song, Stephen.” Well, I do and I like it.

If you get the rights for Springsteen you use it.

SC: Thank you, thank you.

RJP: Just not that song.

SC: New York Christmas, hmm…. East coast Christmas. Uhhh… Name another song, you can’t. Thank you, case closed.

In the book, Auggie’s facial difference isn’t explicitly described. How did it go from what you had in mind to the actual prosthetics?

SC: We got very fortunate, Arjen Tuiten, our makeup designer is a very brilliant guy. He did some work on Pan’s Labyrinth, he did some work on Maleficent and a bunch of other things. He’s trained by Rick Baker and is a brilliant guy. Part of being a director is being a pragmatist. Whatever I can imagine as a reader in this case, not an author, as a reader. There’s only so much as a nine-year-old actor can go through. There’s only so much you can do to a face. My guiding principal was I want the make-up to be real. I want the performance to be his. Sure, you could animate the face if you want to, but I knew it wouldn’t be as powerful. So we took the make-up to as extreme a place as we could go practically. Then we used CGI to clean up certain little things. That was it. I knew for the audience to respond to Auggie that it would have to be Jacob’s real eyes, his real voice, his real mouth and everything past that would feel fake.

RJP: In every single book that you love when you see it translated to a movie, there’s always that moment of, “That’s not exactly how I pictured the vampire Lestat looking.”

SC: Wow. Deep cut. (Laughter) Tom Cruise is passing on your next one.

RJP: Then you see it and they made it their own, but it’s different than what you imagined. And that happens anytime any book is turned into a movie. In wonder It’s especially important because really it’s all about the face. On the other hand, in the book, one of the reasons I didn’t go into too much detail… I described it a little bit, but one of the reasons was because it didn’t matter what he looked like, it’s just that he looked different. The movie gets that. Regardless of whether he’s an extreme version of a kid with a cranial facial difference or a moderate version, there’s lots of distinctions on the spectrum, the fact is that he looks different than other kids in the fifth grade. Any difference is enough, especially at that age, to make you the target, the easy target of the meaner kids in the class.

Did Stephen create what you had in your head?

RJP: My vision of Auggie was probably different.

SC: Yours was more extreme.

RJP: Yeah, mine was more extreme. But I was really happy when I saw it. Now it’s tough for me to see Auggie in my mind and not see Jacob.

Stephen, is it scary to hang the success of your film on a ten-year-old under heavy prosthetics?

SC: Well, he was nine. (Laughter) No. It’s not, because first of all, without Arjen… I was shown some other things early in the process that looked terrible. Not Arjen’s stuff. But before that there were other people did bids and I realized that it just wasn’t going to work at all. Once I saw his sculpt, he has this amazing contraption, a helmet and it attaches with glue to his eyes and you could click it and you can literally move his face around. Once he showed me how it could be done I had every confidence in the world. And Jacob is so good, he’s just such a once in a generation talent that I had no reservations. I really didn’t.

What is something that you think the book does to add to the experience and vice versa?

RJP: Two things. I’d say one is that the movie actually tells a couple stories that aren’t told in Wonder. We see more of the parents in the film. In Wonder (the book) we only see the parents from the kids point of view. So we only know what their lives are through the filter of their kids. So, they’re central to the story but they’re somewhat in the background. Whereas here we see them without the kids. We kind of get to know them a little bit better and Stephen wrote scenes that filled in those narratives on their own. So they are a little bit more complex (in the film).

The second thing is, what I think they did justice to in the movie… The book I’ve often described as being a meditation on kindness, because really the theme of the book is all about the importance of the impact of kindness. I would say on that note they really, really beautifully echoed that from the book. In their own way, they enhanced it. You leave the movie feeling good, really good. Certainly living in the times we are now, that’s really great. That’s a nice thing.

SC: My hope is that the movie will lead everybody back to the book. The book has two more points of view, Justin and Summer and they are both incredible. There was only so much room that we had, so I chose four (points of view) instead of six. And there are supplemental books and other things (that R.J.) has written. If you really want to do a deep dive it’s worth your time.

One of the great parts of the story is the struggle of the other family members and how their lives are impacted both positively and less positively by a kid like Auggie. I don’t think most people probably ever think about that.

RJP: A lot of the sweetest emails I’ve gotten have been from the parents of children with any kind of difference, who after reading the book they were reminded about their other children and the impact of having a kid with any kind of special needs… how that impacts all of the other kids and to remember that sometimes they just don’t have time. They’re going through so much with this one kid that the other kid’s kind of become self-sufficient and they have to remember that, no they’re not. They’re still our kids and they need us. That’s been really nice.

SC: The multiple points of view is one of the things I love most about the book. I thought it set it far and above any other book even around the subject. So I wanted to preserve that for the movie.

Wonder does it did really well, compared to a lot of other family films by showing the perspectives of all the other characters whenever possible.

SC: Yeah. I thought, how do you do tell a story about kindness or empathy without stopping and saying, this is what mom’s going through, this is what Via is going through. It leads to some really great things artistically and I loved doing it.

It reminds me too; (To R.J.) you were saying before about the emails that you get…  Something we haven’t talked about is… we had a lot of kids who had this condition visit us on set. It was very important to the actors on set and to me and the whole community of filmmakers. It’s very interesting because something I learned about kids and tried to give it to the movie is, if you have a kid with a cranial facial difference, everybody around them like their parents, wants to talk about that condition. Everybody wants to talk about that condition more than the kid. The kid wants to talk about baseball and Star Wars. That was a fascinating thing to watch, and I tried to, as much as I could with the different performances and the different points of view to remind us all the time that we are not our conditions, we are ourselves. That was something in the point of view that the process lead to that was very exciting.

R.J.,How do you feel about your book being used in classrooms?

RJP: You can’t foresee any of this. Certainly when you’re writing a book you’re hoping it gets published. Then if it gets published, you’re hoping one or two people will read it and that’s as far as I would go. So everything that’s happened afterwards has been, whether it’s the movie or the idea that it’s been adopted in so many classrooms across the country… and in Germany and the UK… and Ireland, I just found out has a whole curriculum in year six of the whole country is using Wonder as a year six sort of mandatory reading. That really threw me because I am a huge fan of Irish writers and if they like my book then I’m like, Woooow. No one writes like the Irish

SC: In sixth grade they give every kid a copy of Wonder?

RJP: Yeah.

SC: And a Guinness.


RJP: Just the idea that it’s kind of a rite of passage at a certain point, just like To Kill a Mockingbird is kind of a rite of passage for seventh grade in most of the country and the idea that Wonder might someday be that kind of, you’ve reached fifth grade or sixth grade and it’s sort of a schoolwide read… That’s kind of cool, knowing that long after I’m gone from this earth that this might still be the case.

SC: I think that there are very good chances.

RJP: I don’t know, but it’s nice to that if that’s what I become known for for the rest of my life… that’s not a bad thing.

SC: She gave you the very, very polite, very self-deprecating author answer. Here, I’ll give you the fan answer, which is yes the book is that good, yes it’s being taught in schools, deservedly so. Once I came on board to the movie and people asked me about it, I said to everybody: I believe for middle grade there are three books in American literature that are taught in school… There is To Kill a Mockingbird, there’s The Outsiders and there is Wonder. I think that’s the list, personally. I would even put it above The Outsiders, but that’s just me.

With things like Stranger Things and IT, kid focused stories seem to be back. Do you see yourself doing more kids films?

SC: Yeah. I do. Absolutely I do.

RJP: He’s so good with kids.

SC: I just finished my second novel on Friday. It revolves, not a hundred percent, but there’s definitely a kid element to that one as well. I love it. I love their enthusiasm, they’re SO excited to go to work.

RJP: And you speak kid.

SC: I’m very immature.

RJP: You should have seen him on set with the little kids. They just loved him. The way he would talk to them. He speaks kid. They loved him.

They say you should never work with kids or animals and you do both here.

SC: And make-up. I got all three.

RPJ: The dog was a little tough, right?

SC: Yeah, dogs, make-up and kids. it was all quite an experience, but I loved it. I have a philosophy with casting, I don’t just cast actors, I cast human beings. These kids were so nice and so grateful and enthusiastic to be there that it just made us all better.

The two child leads are very, very good.

RJP: They really are.

SC: Yeah and I remember saying to the casting folks, Deb and Tricia and Jen that I want the best kid cast since Stand by Me. That was my bar. I thought, whether we get there or not, lets aim for it. It’s always fun to aim really high. And I thought, man, did they deliver. it was amazing.

Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson had surprising chemistry, as well as the kids.

SC: A lot of that was, we had a read through of the family, we had a read through of the kids and that was it. Rehearsal was to go bowling. You know? Go have a pizza party. If you just catch kids being kids… Like the fireworks. I didn’t direct that. Kids know how to be in school, they sit there, they know how to pass notes and they know how to do those kinds of things. A lot of it was just trying to capture the spontaneity and let everybody, all the actors especially know, they literally could not make a mistake. My only rule was, know your lines. If you know your lines, then everything else will be free and fun. And it was. And that’s really important. To make it feel like summer camp, not like a job.

Was there anything that you shot and loved but ultimately decided that it didn’t fit with the rest of the film and you had to cut it? Or was there anything you wished you’d been able to shoot?

RJP: Maybe small details here and there that I can’t even think of now, but at the time might have seemed important. Stephen would always tell me, when I’d bring up those little details, “What about this line? I really liked that line” And he would say, ” I tried, it’s not fitting. Just trust me, just trust me.” It wasn’t until I actually saw the movie from beginning to end that I realized that he was absolutely right. In terms of telling a story, in terms of pacing the story, in terms of all these filmmaking things that of course I had never been part of a movie, I’d never seen a movie being filmed, so I didn’t have any context with which to judge, Stephen was right. Like, oh that’s why he made that scene more important, even though it’s not that important in the book. In the movie there is a certain pace to the narrative and the story unfolds in a cinematic way. Differently that it does in a book. And that’s a necessity of a translation of mediums and he knew that. I had to see it to get it.

SC: One of the things, it took me a couple of movies to realize this… to use a music analogy, a song is not all chorus. It’s really hard for something, like this story that’s so powerful, so emotional, restraint is the way that you have it. You don’t have an emotional film by indulging in the emotion. You have an emotional film by fighting the emotion. So sometimes I’d have to make decisions… Here’s a good example. There’s a beautiful scene in the book, one of my favorite chapters in the book actually, which is about Daisy. After Daisy dies there’s a beautiful scene in the book where Auggie talks to his mom about, will Daisy recognize me in heaven? It’s incredible. I filmed it. But it was just too much. We just went through this experience; the audience has to breath. So I changed it. I still wanted a parent moment so I changed it to Auggie walking up and comforts his father. Which, in the book is so beautiful, where he witnesses his father cry, which was so moving. Then I thought, I’ve seen that before, I’ve never seen the child… I’d never seen the baton being passed. I’m going to comfort you this time, dad. So that’s what I did.

Did you have any particular favorite scene?

SC: My favorite scene in the film is a very easy one for me to answer. The flashback to Via’s fourth birthday. Because that’s my daughter. I was in Vancouver filming, I missed her actual, honest to god, fourth birthday. It just so happens that she looks a lot like Izabela Vidocic, who played Via. And it also happens that there is a flashback that she talks about wishing for a brother. And I thought, oh wouldn’t that be great? I needed one little flashback to get to the end of the beautiful monologue in Our Town. In terms of the book? I couldn’t even pick. There’s so many great moments, so many surprising and unexpected moments, I couldn’t love it more. Yeah, it’s amazing.

What’s next?

RJP: I am working on a couple of books. One is a graphic novel and the other is a novel I’ve been working on that’s not Wonder related, which I put on hold to work on this graphic novel which is somewhat Wonder related. Tangential. It’s like my other stories, they’re not sequels, but they kind of live in the Wonder universe. They’re either characters that are mentioned in the book or whatever. This actually is a story that takes place during World War II, it’s the story of Julian’s grandmother.

SC: As I said, I just finished my second novel, (the first) in two decades Friday. So we’ll wait to see what my agents think.

Can you tell us anything about it?

SC: I can tell you this… It’s my tribute to my favorite American writer, Stephen King. I love his work and I’ve always wanted to tell a very epic, emotional horror story. And that’s what I did.


Wonder is open nationwide Friday 11/17/17. It really is a wonderful film to share with the whole family, with a lovely message. Take a look at the trailer below:

Prepare for Disaster and Join Me for a Very Special FREE Screening of The Room in Boston!!

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

I’m going to level with you, I’ve been hearing how bananas insane Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is for many years but I never actually felt the need to put it on. It was one of those things that I just kept finding a reason to put off over and over. Why watch a movie universally considered terrible when there are SO many great films I could be watching instead? But people kept telling me it was one of those things I needed to experience.

Then after all the early buzz at SXSW for James Franco’s love letter,  The Disaster Artist, chronicling the making of The Room I (sort of) conceded and read Greg Sestero’s book of the same name, which features his firsthand account in helping Wiseau create his bizarre magnum opus that has since gone on to gain a rabid cult following.

While reading the book I grappled with whether or not to view The Room before seeing The Disaster Artist, but it seems as though the decision has been made for me as yesterday I found out that A24 is screening The Room for FREE in Boston on 11/9!

The screening sounds like a blast, with the first 15 people dressed as Tommy or Lisa receiving VIP seating as well as additional prizes available for anyone in costume.

Take a look at the information below for additional details and be sure to download your free passes HERE!

Not in Boston? Check HERE to see if one of the free screenings will be in your neck of the woods.

Seating is first come first served, so be sure to suit up and arrive early. Join me in getting prepped for The Disaster Artist premiering on 12/1!

IR Interview: Jake Gyllenhaal & The Real Life Jeff Bauman Talk About Narcissism of Trailer Reaction Videos, Angering Family & ‘Stronger’

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

On April 15, 2015 Jeff Bauman tragically lost his legs as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing and then fought all obstacles to get back on his own two feet to become an inspiration for not only the city of Boston, but the entire country. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers one of his most powerful performances to date playing Jeff in David Gordon Green’s masterpiece chronicling Jeff’s heroic struggle, Stronger.

What follows below is an interview with both the real Jeff Bauman and his on screen counterpart, Jake Gyllenhaal from 9/12/17, the afternoon before the Boston premiere of their film.


Please note that this interview may be edited slightly for content and clarity.

Q: How much of Jeff’s story did you know before going into the film?

Jake Gyllenhaal: I really had only seen the photograph of Jeff initially before I had read the screenplay. So it was sort of in reverse order in this case. So really, it was just that image, which was a really a generalized image that was sent around via the media. I never thought that in a million years that our lives would intersect in the way that they have. Now you could probably ask me anything about the idiosyncrasies of his family and I’d probably have an answer, but at the time I just saw that image.


Q: So you and Jeff are pretty tight now?

JG: Yup. Unfortunately for him. That is true.

Jeff Bauman: I’m just happy you have a close friend.

JG: (Laughing) Yeah, I know. Whenever asked about my work and then my life, he always says that I have no life. Which is really… great. And no friends.

JB: One.

JG: Yeah, you’re right, I have one.


Q: How much time did you guys spend together before filming?

JG: I mean, we spent-

JB:-A year and a half. Right? Off and on. You were busy doing stuff and you’d come back to Boston and we’d chill and do things, hit comedy shows, go out to eat.

JG: Yeah. Pretty much, yeah. As we got closer to production we sort of set up camp here and we were here for about six months prior to filming. Since I was producing the movie as well, I was driving back and forth from New York. I live in New York. So I was going from New York to (Boston) every few days for about five months. In that period of time, as we were location scouting and we were doing all this other stuff… Casting and stuff like that, we’d go out to dinner, or we would hang out, or go out to Jeff’s house or whatever it would be. It would either be me and (Director) David Gordon Green going over to Jeff or Jeff coming to us, or me going out and seeing Jeff alone. But throughout all of it we always would text. And then, not to say he disappeared, but he disappeared in person when we were shooting. It was just sort of something that happened, but we would text all the time and then we came back into seeing each other more often after that.


Q: Was there any hesitation into turning this into a movie? Were you concerned with how people would see you or your family after this?

JB: I’m not really worried about people… how they see me, I guess. My family is tough. I’m not them. It’s like, where do I draw the line with their privacy? Where do we draw the line to keep the story truthful? I guess that’s probably the biggest challenge going into it. It’s like… Then how far can we go with it? Right now my mom’s kind of sore at me. She is, Ma Dukes is sore.

JG: She was psyched after the reviews came out. Then she was like, “I’m not so sore.”

JB: No, she’s so happy. She’s my mother, she wants me to be successful. But then she’s like, “My apartment is not that dirty.”


JB: “Can you tell Miranda… why is my place so… why is there stuff everywhere?” She’s like, kind of immaculate and very meticulous in what she has in her apartment. It’s like OCD-ish. So she was really upset about that.

JG: With all the mess of the movie and the complications of (Jeff’s) personality and his family, but the profound love of all of them was what we were trying to get at. We knew there was a love there. This guy wouldn’t be here right now without all that love… From the city, from his family, from his friends that they just unquestionably gave him. It was without question and without doubt. But they are not without their complications and neither is he and that was important for us to show. Along with all the complications that come as a result of his injuries.


Q: Have the rest of your family and friends seen the film yet?

JB: Yes, most of them. There’s a lot of people coming tonight that haven’t seen it, so I’m excited for that, but it’s a rough story. It hits home to everybody. During this whole process, I’m an isolated kind of person. That’s why it’s probably so hard for Jake to crack who I was. To figure it out took a long time, because I don’t really open up. I was going through a rough time inside my head as you guys saw in the film. I was in a rough spot.


Q: Has this process been therapeutic for you?

JB: Yeah, in a way. I do a lot of public speaking now and go around and tell my story. I’ve been fortunate to do that and that has been really therapeutic, getting my story out there to a group of people and talking about it. That’s pretty cool. Definitely the movie has been really interesting. Not everybody has a movie made about them and it’s super interesting to be a part of it and to see what goes into it. Then to see the finished product, it makes even me cry. It makes me think about what I went through and where I am now. It’s like, alright I’m here I’m right where I need to be, with my daughter. That’s amazing. The whole thing is pretty surreal for me.


Q: How do you even prepare, physically and mentally for something like this?

JG: (Deep breath) Well, I think there are a number of thi- In truth, I don’t think there’s any real preparation, because the experience Jeff had, (to Jeff) You often say it’s like being sucker punched in a way. There’s not preparation for that experience, you know? All I can say is that the process that Jeff went through, in rehabilitation and even recovery initially, I tried to learn as much as I could about it. I tried to understand exactly what it’s like, what the surgeries are like. I’m not one to just goes, OK, I learned that Dr. Kalish, his doctor, did his amputations and that was it. There were a lot of other surgeries and the details of that. And the painkillers and even that suture scene. That came from us saying that we need to show how painful this is. There’s a lot of that and I just think that where you get an understanding is not just with Jeff, but it’s from the periphery. It’s from everyone around him. It’s from the layers of people that helped. It’s from their experience with other people who have been through trauma. It kind of goes very deep. So there’s a lot of research. There are a lot of talks. Dr. Kalish is in the movie. Odessa, his nurse, is in the movie. Michelle, his Physical Therapist, is in the movie. All of these people are in the movie, not because we always thought that we’d put these people in the movie, but because David Gordon Green and I had a meeting with Dr. Kalish to understand all the stuff he had to do and what Jeff was going through, and in the middle of it David couldn’t cast an actor who could do the doctor part that well. They just kept acting like a doctor and he turned to me and was like, “Hey, what if Dr. Kalish played the doctor?” So we had Dr. Kalish audition for the doctor and he was HORRIBLE.


JB: He’s a great Surgeon.


JG: Yeah. He couldn’t say the lines, but then we were like what if he just talks to my character like he would to any patient, the way he talked to Jeff and the way he talked to Jeff’s parents when he had to talk to them and tell them the news. Sure enough we shot the scene and there’s Miranda (Richardson) and Clancy (Brown), playing Jeff’s parents and Dr. Kalish walks in the room, just as he would walk in the room to tell Jeff’s (real) parents the same thing. And they respond that way. It wasn’t written. And the same thing in that suture scene. He’s just telling me how it goes and the nurses are walking around and talking to me the way they would talk to me normally. All of those people ended up in the movie and it’s a result of trying to understand and prepare myself for the situation.


Q: How does the dynamic work for you with the director as an actor and as a producer?

JG: Like, how do I relate to the director as an actor or do you mean how do I participate? Are you asking what is it the fuck that I actually do? (Laughter) Is that what you’re asking me in a much more articulate way? Like, why are you here?


Q: We were all wondering. But there had to be additional responsibilities as a producer.

JB: I could see it. He was all over me like a fuckin boss.


JG: I know, I know. I have a lot of experience, I’ve been doing this for a while now. I’ve been an actor for a while now and I grew up in a family who happened to make films, so it’s a family business. And I love the other aspects of making movies besides acting. I’ve produced a couple of films but this is the first film that my company has produced. So there’s a lot at stake for me and (it’s) a really important story already, as is. But there’s other things at stake for me, you know? As a result I put my heart and my soul into it because this story needs to be told and not a lot of people would have made it and it was hard to get made. In terms of involvement, it was a 24/7 job. I didn’t have a day off for… a good year. As soon as we knew this film was going to get made me and my producing partner we scoffed at anybody who got a day off, because we certainly didn’t. I think the same thing with Todd Lieberman. The three of us and David Gordon Green… it hasn’t stopped and it doesn’t stop until this movie comes out and even then it won’t stop, you know? I was involved in almost every discussion every step of the way. This isn’t a vanity project for me. This is a project that has unluckily gotten my blood and sweat and tears and I’m a smelly guy. That’s just part of it but I love it. I love making movies.

JB: This isn’t a vanity project?


JG: No, but I think people think that with actors producing movies and stuff like that. I would say the person that sacrificed the most to get this movie made is Todd Lieberman, the man who bought the rights to the book and developed it and brought (screenwriter) John Pollono on and made those first early and very difficult choices when certain people didn’t believe in it. We joined up and when we joined up we realized that movies like this don’t get made that often because… it’s just a changing world. But we knew in our hearts that it was a move that people would see and it needed to be told.


Q: How do you take a local story that might have success here in Boston and turn that into global success?

JG: Every story is a local story. Do you know what I mean? I mean, I don’t think Thor is a local story.


JG: Unless you’re from Rock-in-ock or whatever the hell land he’s from, you know?

JB: You know what hit me? I was thinking that, but then we go to Toronto and twenty-eight hundred people stand and they clap. And so many have liked it and took something from it. I was thinking the same thing. How do we get out of Boston? I was scared about Toronto.

JG: I don’t think you guys realize what an inspiration you are. Maybe that’s what it is. I think maybe that’s the feeling and that’s a wonderful thing. I think there’s that thing in Boston, there’s a humility, but there’s also a strength and this small town nature, but it is global. His story is about anybody that is struggling, anybody who is in a  space and doesn’t feel like they can get out of it, anybody who has lost anything, you know? We are all struggling or know somebody that is struggling and Jeff said it on his Facebook page, It doesn’t have to make headlines to be hard. I think that’s the reason why this story is for anyone. It’s the reason why, at a certain point, that we have to go door to door. because this is the type of movie that we don’t have a lot of opportunity or budget to get it out there like a lot of movies. So, we are, we’re going door to door. I’m convinced that if I have to go to people’s houses and take them off the couch and drive them to the theater to see this story, I will do it.

JB: I will, too.

JG: We’re walking there together. Every time I tell his story… When this trailer came out it was so crazy. The response to this trailer all over the world… I was in Spain and people knew about that trailer. I went down a rabbit hole of watching trailer reactions. I can’t believe people film themselves watching trailers. It’s like amazing narcissism, but it’s like really incredible because I went down that crazy rabbit hole for like three hours.

This (one) girl I saw had thirty-eight followers on her YouTube page and she was like, “I have those wrist things on my wrist every once in a while and it’s because I have arthritis in my wrists and maybe you guys see those sometimes. Sometimes I have pain so bad that I don’t want to got outside, but something like this makes me realize that I can go outside.” That’s what Jeff brings out. You can get through to a better place than you thought you could. Even when you’re in the darkest place. I don’t see how that’s not everyone’s story.


Q: What was the first thing you said to Jake after seeing the film?

JG: I can tell you that, it was a text.

JB: Good job.


JG: Yeah you did, you wrote good job. I was like, “WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN?!”

JB: Yeah, I said good job and went to sleep. For three days.


Q: Thanks guys, congrats on the film.


Stronger opens nationwide Friday, September 22.

Check Out the New CHEW Poyo Mini-bust From Skelton Crew Right Here, Motherclucker!

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief

If you’ve never checked out the great stuff that Skelton Crew Studio has released in the past I suggest you make haste and head on over to their site immediately HERE. They’ve quietly been creating some of the coolest merchandise for properties like Hellboy, Mouseguard, Locke and Key, Joe Hill and Chew (among many others).

Speak of Chew, The talented folks over at SCS have created a pretty amazing mini-bust for Poyo, everyone’s favorite doomsday device/chicken fighter capable of wiping out entire armies. The nearly five inch tall mini-bust is super detailed, featuring all the cybernetic components you love, the metal crate used to drop him in wherever his brand of destruction is needed AND a Poyo fight ticket signed by Chew creators John Layman and Rob Guillory

Make sure you act fast, as this Poyo mini-bust will only be available until October 16 and then it’s gone forever!

Official Release:

Skelton Crew Studio Unveils Secret Agent Poyo Statue

From the pages of “CHEW” to collectors’ shelves comes one bad motherclucker


Litchfield, ME — Skelton Crew Studio, a comic book replica studio based in the wilds of Maine, has collaborated with “CHEW” creators John Layman and Rob Guillory to create a brand new mini-bust of fan favorite Poyo.

This officially licensed bust stands 4.75-inches tall and has been long awaited by fans since the original Poyo mini-bust sold out in 2014. Secret Agent Poyo is a brand new sculpt by Jamie Macfarlane featuring the rooster’s cybernetic components, as well as the metal crate used to drop Poyo into hot zones.

Skelton Crew Studio has worked with the “CHEW” creators since 2012 when it released the original pink 6-inch vinyl Chog. Every piece of “CHEW” merchandise released by the studio has sold out, so fans are encouraged to order early.

“This bionic badass bird is beautiful,” said studio head Israel Skelton. “The original Poyo is without a doubt one of the most popular pieces we’ve ever produced judging by the number of can’t-you-please-release-him-again emails we get every month, so we’re stoked to be able to offer him to fans again in this gorgeous variant.”

As a sweet fan bonus, every mini-bust will come with a Poyo fight ticket signed by Layman and Guillory.

Secret Agent Poyo is only available for one month, until Oct. 16, before he’s sold out and flown the coop for keeps.

“Skelton Crew has always brought an incomparable attention to detail to every piece of ‘CHEW’ merch they’ve produced, and we couldn’t be happier with the addition of Secret Agent Poyo to their catalogue,” said Guillory. “As always, they nailed it.”

Added Layman: “Teaming up with Skelton Crew is one of the best things that ever happened to ‘CHEW.’ They are great people, and their commitment to quality is unparalleled. I love all the stuff they’ve done for ‘CHEW,’ but I love this new Poyo statue. It’s one of the best things yet!”

Fans can find the Secret Agent Poyo mini-bust and other limited edition replicas at

About Skelton Crew Studio: Israel Skelton founded the studio in 2008 and it was behind IDW’s San Diego Comic Con exclusive Ghost Key for “Locke & Key” in 2009. In the last eight years, it has created officially licensed merchandise for best-selling and award-winning comic book series that include “CHEW,” “Hellboy,” “B.P.R.D.,” “Locke & Key,” “Mouse Guard,” “Head Lopper,” “Revival” and many more. The studio’s been featured on the A.V. Club’s Pop Culture Gift Guide, G4’s “Attack of the Show!”, MTV, Nerdist and dozens of other news and pop culture sites. Skelton has been sculpting and creating for more than 30 years.

J.J. Abrams Directing ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ – Release Date Changes to 12/20/19

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

It’s far from the most exciting news, but J.J. Abrams, the man responsible for introducing us to us Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, Constable Zuvio, the lovable BB-8 and the dastardly Supreme Leader Snoke is stepping back behind the camera once again for Star Wars Episode IX. Abrams steps in for recently departed director Colin Trevorrow. While I think this is a good choice, (especially if this means Abrams has a little more time to work all of the story kinks out) it’s certainly not what many were hoping for, i.e. a woman or person of color (which is a valid criticism). Abrams will work with Oscar winning writer, Chris Terrio (Argo), on the script for Episode IX. Hopefully with Abrams collaborating the script ends up more like Argo and less like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Abrams coming back in to the fold to complete the trilogy is exactly what Lucasfilm needs right now, a safe and known commodity whom they seem to trust. After all, he did deliver them the highest grossing film NOT directed by someone with the last name Cameron. After parting ways with Chris Lord and Phil Miller and now Trevorrow a few short months later, Lucasfilm is quickly developing a reputation as an unfriendly place for creatives, especially when you pair the (seemingly justifiable) firing of Josh Trank and sidelining Gareth Edwards in favor of Tony Gilroy to direct the re-shoots for Rogue One. Between Rian Johnson quietly putting the finishing touches on The Last Jedi, Ron Howard completing work on the Untitled Han Solo Film and Abrams now at work on Episode IX, they buy themselves quite a bit of time for the director controversy fires to die down.

I certainly had issues with The Force Awakens, it wasn’t a perfect film, it had warts and certain parts could certainly have been executed better, but ultimately it FELT like Star Wars in a way that the Prequel Trilogy never did. I’m honestly excited to see what Abrams is able to accomplish with this final film now that he and Johnson have set these characters on their respective paths.

Official Release:
J.J. Abrams, who launched a new era of Star Wars with The Force Awakens in 2015, is returning to complete the sequel trilogy as writer and director of Star Wars: Episode IX. Abrams will co-write the film with Chris Terrio. Star Wars: Episode IX will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan, Abrams, Bad Robot, and Lucasfilm.
“With The Force Awakens, J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy,” said Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.
Star Wars: Episode IX is scheduled for release on December 20, 2019.

Jay Talks to Writer/Director/Actor Zoe Lister-Jones About Her New Film Band Aid, All Female Crews and Why Comedic Actors Are Probably More Talented

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

In the new film Band Aid, writer/director/star Zoe Lister-Jones tackles the real-life issues that can plague even the best of relationships, from loss to dirty dishes being left in the sink and everything in between. When we’re first introduced to Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) it feels like we might have a front row seat to the end. They’re imploding quickly, with every little argument starting as a tributary connecting to a much bigger argument. The couple eventually embraces their shared love of playing music and rather than fight, they begin to take their peccadilloes and craft them into songs in order to heal their strained relationship. The result is a very funny and touching film, that gets everything right about the lows and highs of being in a real relationship.

I was able to sit down with Lister-Jones and her producer Natalia Anderson to discuss the film and we get into some fun areas, like the energy on an all-female set, why comedic actors tend to be the most versatile and my super neat handwriting. Band Aid expands to even more cities and theaters today!

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity.

Jay: What question are you already tired of answering? I probably have a page of them here.

Zoe Lister-Jones: (Looking at my notebook) Wow, you have such neat handwriting. Very impressive.

Jay: Don’t ask me to write anything in cursive. It’s all downhill from here.

Lister-Jones: I don’t want to make you take away questions. This is part of your job.

Jay: It’s fine. Which ones are you tired of?

Lister-Jones: I guess, probably, how did you come up with the story?

(At this point I took my pen and crossed off the first question on the page)

Lister-Jones: (Laughs)

Jay: Was the intention always that Band Aid would be your directorial debut?

Lister-Jones: When I first started writing it I did not know that I was going to direct it. The writing process was relatively quick; I wrote it in a few months. Then I started taking it to some producers and my (own) producer hat thought, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to get this made with me as the director,” because I was untested. I think as I went through that process I more and more understood that it was something that I really did want to direct and I didn’t really care if that meant that closed certain doors for me. I was willing to take the risk on myself (laughs).

Jay: Was there ever any concern balancing the tone of the film? There’s a lot of comedy along with a lot of drama AND the music aspect as well.

Lister-Jones: I wouldn’t say it was tough. It was intentional. I think the movies I respond to most are ones that can navigate both comedy and drama. I think that so much comedy is rooted in drama anyway. I think that there’s much more bleed over than people might expect. I think tonally I did have to ride that line as a director and make sure that we weren’t going too broad or too dark, but I also didn’t want to limit myself and be afraid to go too dark. I think I just wanted to portray Anna and Ben’s relationship authentically, which spans the gamut in terms of emotions.

Jay: I thought it struck a really nice balance between those heartfelt and the comedic. There were some moments that felt a broad but they felt earned.

Lister-Jones: Thanks.

Jay: It seems that comedic actors who take on dramatic roles tend to be much more successful at it than dramatic actors who take on comedic roles. What do you think the difference is?

Lister-Jones: I think comedy is really hard. I think that comedy requires timing, which I think is something that you born with. (laughs) Or at least something that you have to cultivate throughout a lifetime. It’s not something that you can turn on and off. I think that most comedians turned to comedy and cultivated a sense of timing in order to move through pain. I think that those two emotional subsets intersect much more often in comedians than necessarily a person who is a dramatic actor. Not to say that there aren’t dramatic actors who are good at comedy. I think it’s easier to… There’s like a school of acting in dramas where you can just kind of mumble and have a glazed over stare… (laughing) and people will buy it. In comedy you can’t, there’s no faking it. You’re either funny or you’re not. I think that comedies as a genre are much harder to make than dramas. Again, I think a drama has a lot more leeway to… I don’t know, live in non-spaces for huge swaths of time. I think comedy relies on story that’s much more muscular and performances that are much more muscular.

Jay: Did you approach Adam Pally and Fred Armisen because they had a musical background? I know Fred has one, I wasn’t sure about Adam. 

Lister-Jones: No. Adam, I went after him because I thought he was a really good actor and really funny. In the few times I met him we vibed and so I thought we would have good chemistry on screen. I foolishly, when I offered him the part I didn’t even know that he played guitar, which should have been a prerequisite. I just ended up lucking out that he could play guitar, and very well. Fred, I knew, played the drums. That was because Adam and I were not professional and legitimate musicians, although he’s very good. The drummer is obviously the backbone of a band. So, we really needed someone who knew what they were doing and Fred did.

Jay: How much did your own experience as an actor aid you as a director? As an actor were you observing and trying to pick things up from other directors while working on their sets?

Lister-Jones: Totally. I had written and produced and starred in three features before Band Aid and I think that was a great sort of boot camp, in terms of adding the director hat to the fray. I think that writing and producing have a lot of elements that intersect with the skillset required for a director. I think as an actor, yeah it’s an asset, because I was constantly interacting with directors and seeing what worked and what didn’t as an actor. That’s the key relationship, between director and an actor in order to shape a performance. So much of that is about the way that a director communicates to his or her actors. So I think that, yeah that definitely I was very much aware of in my career as an actor.

Jay: How tough is the transition moving from writing and acting to doing all of those other roles on a film set?

Lister-Jones: Surprisingly, it wasn’t that tough. I credit that to my producer (motioning to her left to the woman sitting next to her at the table) Natalia Anderson and my crew. I think the beauty of being a director is that, while you do need to have a singular vision, it is such a collaborative process. To me, that makes it all the more fulfilling. I felt so supported and encouraged and I just felt like the exact artistic community I had been seeking, where it didn’t feel like, “Oh no, I have all this weight on my shoulders.” I’ve got a little more weight on my shoulders, but it’s shared by so many people and all those people were sharing it with love. Not to get too woo woo, but there was a huge element of love on set.

Jay: How much of that was due to your all female crew?

Lister-Jones: I think a lot of it has to do with the female crew. I think that there was an electricity on set because we all knew we were doing something that hadn’t been done before and I think that that was exciting. I think that because so many of these female crew members are, for the most part, either the only woman on a set or one of a very few that there was something really exciting and inspiring about working in this specific community of women.

Jay: How did Adam and Fred react to being so vastly outnumbered for the first time?

Lister-Jones: They LOVED it. They loved it and both of them were like, “I want to do this on all of my future projects.” In fact, yesterday when I was with Adam he was like, “I don’t want to work with men ever again on crews.” Which I would never say and I do love working with many men. I think for Adam and Fred, Adam especially, he was the only man on set and that was like a dream come true to be surrounded by lovely, caring women. He, more than anybody… it was interesting to hear his reactions day by day. He was kind of like the experiment, he was the biggest experiment of all. He, as a producer, would go and visit his other sets on other productions and would come back and be like, “It’s so different on other sets, guys! I never realized it before but it’s such a different energy.” I think most actors when they’d come on set for the first time would immediately acknowledge the energetic shift that they were feeling. Then, when we wrapped it was really interesting because we had kind of been living in this utopia and our A.D. texted me and said, “I’m on my next project and we’re on a location scout and I’m the only woman.” It was kind of like, yeah I think there’s a lot of talk right now about how much is shifting. It’s pretty bleak still. I think that part of the energy of love and collaboration was fueled by the fact that we all really appreciated this opportunity.

Jay: How difficult is it to craft a performance when you’re the director and not getting someone else’s feedback?

Lister-Jones: I actually love it. (Laughing) Maybe that’s not a great thing to admit. My favorite directors are ones that generally leave me alone and then come in and shape things that are very specific and are generally after I’ve tried it a couple different ways. For me, a red flag when I’m working with a director is when they come in and give me direction before I’ve even spoken, or directors that micro manage. Especially in comedy, it’s the death of whatever comedic beat you’re trying to get. So, I loved being left alone and I think that as an actor, especially as a working actor, I’ve been auditioning for so long now that that process is so much about self-directing that you really do work that muscle of understanding how to break down a scene or an entire screenplay, in terms of your character’s emotional arcs. I did always have Natalia at monitor if I ever had a question, like, “Did that seem too big?” For the most part it really felt organic to the process. I know from my previous experiences as a producer and writer and being in the editing room a lot on my previous features to just give a lot of variations so that they have a lot to work with in post (production).  For me, I was just constantly doing that, just different shapes and sizes throughout, so that when I was finally able to watch my performance I wouldn’t be confident that I have a variety of things to pull from.

Jay: What was the toughest part of making this film that you didn’t see prior to starting?

Lister-Jones: Honestly, and I know this sounds like a lie, I never had a moment where I was like, “This is going to break me, this is really overwhelmingly tough.” I think that, again, is a credit to Natalia. I think that my crew was really protective of me because they knew how much I had on my shoulders as an actor. They were so kind to only come to me in a dire circumstance, but especially in scenes that were emotionally draining or challenging, they made me feel really protected. I’d say that’s a credit to my crew. I think that in choosing my crew, that was a really big part of my intention. What I had learned on other sets that had been really challenging in the past was when there was a clashing of egos and crew members getting aggressive or in the ways that crew members can react and conflict, especially as a child of divorce, that sends me into a tailspin. I just wanted to make sure the crew was always happy and that they were always getting along. I gave a sort of state of the union on the first day that was about what this project meant to me and what I wanted to impress upon the crew, not a mandate but energetically that this is a set that needs to be fueled by love and needs to be fueled by supporting everybody. If someone who is not in your department needs help, give them a hand. I think that made our days go quicker, but also that sense of support and comradery is worth its weight in gold.

Jay: Which do you find preferable, playing music live and getting an immediate reaction to your work or making a film that can take a very long time between the work on the day and people actually seeing and reacting?

Lister-Jones: Playing music in front of people is the scariest thing I’ve probably ever done. When I was in high school or college I was so drunk that I don’t think I ever remembered (laughing) quite how scary it was. But I also never played an instrument, I was always just signing. And even then I was just kind of talk signing. The stakes were low, but I learned bass for this film. That, for me, is the scariest part, playing bass live and being part of a rhythm section where you have to stay on a beat and sing in key. Those things scare me live. I did a lot of theater in New York, on Broadway and off Broadway before I moved out to L.A. I think that doing comedy in front of a live audience, not a taped live audience because those people are being forced to laugh, but on stage is one of the hardest things. Ever. To have that immediate response of whether or not you’ve landed a joke can either be so exhilarating or just crushing and it’s really hard to recover when you’ve put yourself out there with some big joke or take and it just lays flat. So I personally like to shape a performance until I think it’s perfect and then deliver it to an audience. We played live at Sundance and while both Adam and I were shitting our pants, it was really exhilarating.

Jay: Which of your performers surprised you the most?

Lister-Jones: I hadn’t seen Fred Armisen do anything that was dramatic. He’s never fully dramatic in the film but he does have some moments that are really grounded and I was really impressed with him in that regard. Obviously I knew that he was going to be funny as hell. Adam’s musicianship really impressed me. I didn’t expect it. He was very humble about it and it continues to impress me. And Jesse Williams, I have to say, was SO funny. He improvised so much. There was so much gold in there that we just couldn’t fit into the movie, but he’s hilarious.

Jay: What’s next?

Lister-Jones: I have a project that’s coming up in my next hiatus that I want to write, direct and star in. But I can’t talk about it just yet. Stay tuned.

Jay: Thank you for the time and best of luck with Band Aid.

Lister-Jones: Thank you so much. That was awesome.



IR Exclusive Interview: Ben Wheatley Talks Free Fire, Bad Boston Accents and What Could Come After Freakshift!

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

I had the pleasure of speaking with High Rise director Ben Wheatley the morning after he brought his newest film, Free Fire, to Boston. We had a great chat and I even managed to pry some details about some of the other films he’s got in the works PAST his next film, Freakshift starring Armie Hammer and (maybe) Alicia Vikander and a possible Wages of Fear remake.

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity.

Jay: I heard the screening went well last night?

Ben Wheatley: Yeah, man.

JAY: Were you worried bringing the film to Boston since the film is set here?

BW: Abso-fucking-lutely. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous about it. As they rightly said, it was actually screening in Cambridge, so it’s not the same.

JAY: Good point.

BW: And also, the film never mentions Boston so that was always my get out. I was always very cautious.

JAY: I never even noticed.

BW: Yeah, it’s all over the press and all over the press releases and bullshit, but from the beginning we went, “You know what? Movies are made in Boston by people from Boston and the accents get complained about. What chance have we got?”

JAY: The one thing I have to say, is some of the worst Boston accents come from actors who are from Boston. The ones in your film were better than what we get from a lot of actors who are from Boston.

BW: Well that’s good, fuck. The way I always thought about it was if an American came to the UK and made a film in Manchester and they brought a lot of Americans in to do the accents, we’d all be like “Fuck me.” But it’s a weird one, isn’t it? I knew that there was a history of people making crime films about Boston and it’s just like- I bet everyone was tired of that. So that’s why we specifically never mentioned it.

JAY: How did Free Fire come about?

BW: It had been bubbling around for a long time for me. It started for me in the 90’s where I’d read this report, this FBI field report, of a shootout they’d had in Miami between FBI agents and potential bank robbers. They were on their way to rob a bank and these cars all screamed in and they were caught up in this thing. The report just goes on forever and it’s very forensic and very detailed because they have to account for every bullet they fired when they do the report and it’s just a mess and horrible and terrifying and not like the movies at all. It just reads like this really grim short story of death, you know? I was like, “Damn, there’s something in this somewhere.” And I wanted to make something and then over time I kept thinking about it and there’s something in it in a procedural kind of gun battle that we haven’t really seen.

You get a little bit of stuff like the shootout at the O.K. Corral gets looked at quite a lot, and there’s some interesting versions of that. When you actually read about the history of the shootout at the O.K Corral, which is basically a massacre, they just get in their corner and shoot at each other. (Laughing) It’s not pretty at all.

Then I started reading all sorts of other stuff, like that combat shooting is a perishable skill and if you don’t do it all day long you go back to not being able to do it at all. And if you’re not like a Navy Seal in combat situations it becomes very hard to shoot straight. That bad rap that Stormtroopers get in Star Wars is not necessarily too far from the truth. It’s only kind of keyboard warriors and people who only ever fire at paper targets who are the ones that tell you, “Why can’t people shoot straight in movies?” It’s because people are mortally terrified and want to hide.

JAY: Add to that the adrenaline pumping as you’re trying to aim. You can’t keep your hand straight, let alone with a gun in it.

BW: Exactly. Certainly with a pistol, which as soon as you move slightly it’s like going all over the place. Like the .38’s they use in the film are police weapons for firing in close quarters, not long range. So, in movies when they do all that crazy shit, it’s totally unrealistic. Not that this film is a documentary, to be fair.

Then I was doing a lot of research on the troubles in Northern Ireland and I’d read this story about the movement of guns from the states back to Belfast, which was really interesting. They’d smuggle them on the QE2 and then the QE2 would take them to Belfast and they’d smuggle them off again and I was like, “Fuck, there’s something there.” I was talking to Cillian Murphy and we got along pretty well and he was going, “If you ever think of a role for me, don’t hesitate to ask.” It all kind of came into focus and I went, “Fuck, I’ll do a thing about Irish guys going to America to buy guns.”

It kind of felt right, it was my first American film and it’s a genre film and I’m coming, metaphorically and mentally to do it and it’s important to have a load of Europeans and Africans turning up in this movie and negotiating with American characters. It feels like kind of a halfway house to start making American movies.

JAY: Did the film change tonally from writing the script to making the film? They say you make three different films when you make a movie: the one you write, the one you shoot and the one that comes out of the editing room.

BW: There’s four movies really. The one you write and the one your wife re-writes. (Laughs) Then the one that you shoot and the one that your wife re-edits. I’d written a very grim version that was much more rolling around on the ground screaming and being horrible to each other. Then Amy (Jump) read it and was like, “Fuck, nobody’s going to want to watch this. It’s too much.”

JAY: My reason for asking is because when the film was announced there was this promo/teaser post that looks like something for a really dark Paul Schrader film from the 70’s.

BW: Yeah, that’s a different movie. Having seen Sharlto playing Kruger in Elysium he probably could have done the dark version and it was on the table at the beginning. But Luke (Evans) went off to do some random art film about talking candlesticks. I don’t know what happened to that. I don’t think it was ever released. (Laughing)

JAY: It doesn’t sound like anything that anyone would pay to see.

BW: And Olivia Wilde went off to do Vinyl. So that was that. Nothing Machiavelli about it. That is the finance/teaser poster that got out. It’s a great poster, it’s a Jay Shaw poster. He did the current one with the finger in the gun. Jay Shaw is great.

So there was a darker version of it. Then Amy wrote this much funnier version of it. She put all the really filthy stuff in it, like the Stevo thing where he tells Harry that he came so hard in his cousin’s mouth. I’m reading it and I’m like, “Oh, Fuck.”

JAY: Do you ever just look at her and wonder where that all comes from?

BW: Yeah, (laughing) well everyone does.

With low budget films you don’t really get much time to rehearse, or any. We had one day’s rehearsal just to make sure the guns shot and the gunfight would work where we walked it through.

And with Sharlto it kind of changed a little bit as we were doing it. There was a point where he said, ” I can do the really hard, nasty South African character or I can be a bit shitter.” I was like, “Oh there’s something really funny about you not being able to shoot straight.” And he was like, “Ok.” It’s really down to when he fires and shoots the mirror off of the van, that was the beginning of the end for that character. And Amy was there every day as well, because we shot near our house, so we did a thing that we’ll never do again because it was too stressful, but she was re-writing on set. We’d have a day shoot and she’d be a day ahead. So she’d be writing the next day but we’d be looking at the rushes and incorporating stuff into it. It’s not like it was like Apocalypse Now where it was all over the place. It was enough where you could kind of tweak stuff. The problem with improv bits is as good as they are on set, they don’t usually fit within the film and they just get cut. Everyone’s sitting there like, “Oh this is amazing!” and then you get into the editing room and it ends up coming out.

JAY: Gunfights are logistically already tough to shoot and since your film is one huge gunfight does that make improvisation tougher than if it was in the course of a regular scene? Or is it possible for that spontaneity to work in that kind atmosphere?

BW: It’s a little of both. There’s all types of improvisation. You can’t just get up and walk around, making shit up and firing wherever you want. You can’t do any of that. But certainly just the asides can be done. At the beginning of the film it was much looser with how the blocking was and a bit more loosey goosey. Certainly around the van when they were all arguing, you can’t tell them precisely what to do anyway since there’s eleven of them and they’re all moving around really quick. But as soon as they’re all shot they can’t move around anyway, so that becomes more manageable.

JAY: Obviously with all the weapons the cast had to be prepared and trained with all the guns they’d be using?

BW: Barely. Because they’re not meant to be any good at it. You don’t want to send them off for any kind of special forces training.

JAY: It’s better if they don’t know how to hold it properly.

BW: Yeah. Brie was saying she’d never held a gun before the film. And I’d imagined that her character had probably done target shooting, but had obviously never been in a shootout. Why would she have been? That’s crazy unless she was Gloria or something. So that was fine. They all just got safety training, going over it for literally five minutes with the armorer. He was like, “Here’s the guns, this is how you load them, this is how you fire them. OK, good.” Armie already knew that stuff inside and out from doing all the action stuff and so did Sharlto, so that kind of made sense for their characters, as well. Even Cillian and Michael Smiley’s characters, it’s not like the IRA did much training, they did a bit and there was some Libyan training and stuff, but it wasn’t like they were trained soldiers. It’s a different thing, you know? It’s a different skill set.

JAY: Which one of them surprised you the most?

BW: Armie was surprising, I’d just had a completely different idea of who he’d be as a person. He was not that person. He was really fucking cool and lovely and funny. Sam Riley. Again it was like, I’d liked his films but he wasn’t in the front of my mind for that character. I talked to him for about three minutes on Skype and I was like, “Fuck this guy’s great.” He’s like a young John Hurt. He’s fantastic. And that character, taking that character and making him so… Because on the page I was so worried about that character, that there wasn’t enough there. but he’s just like, “BANG.” This is the power of a great performance.

JAY: Which character changed the most compared to what you’d envisioned based on the actor coming in? Obviously, you had a different idea for Sharlto’s character originally.

BW: Yeah, that was really written for him to be South African. That really helped. And also the Babou Ceesay character, we didn’t write any ethnic stuff in there, so when he came in it was like, “OK, that makes a certain type of dynamic now that we’re going to have to address and work out.” Yeah, I mean I think I’d learned a bit off of High Rise where I’d cast Sienna Guillory and her part in that. I was a bit embarrassed, she’s a great actress and she’s done loads of stuff, but she had like four lines in High Rise and I was like, “Fuck, really? She’s so good.” But when the film was finished she feels really massive because her performance is so intense.

I was really happy with all the characters and that there was a balance in the movie and you feel sad about when characters die. Even someone like Noah Taylor’s character, which… it should be an extra, that character, in the other version of this movie and yet he gets a full life, even down to his love of art.

JAY: Which one of them would you most want on your side if a gunfight was to break out?

BW: Armie Hammer, probably. If we’re talking about the characters, he’s the only one with any training. I like that he just hides straight away because he knows what’s about to go down. There’s no showboating or running around and Rambo’ing about. It’s you hide and you back away if you want to survive something like that.

JAY: A common complaint for directors indie directors is that they can’t get the funding to make the films they want to make, yet you’re making movies at a Woody Allen-like pace these last six years. What do you attribute that to?

BW: Budget.

JAY: Keeping it low?

BW: Totally. The seven-hundred grand to a million, that’s ok. It’s obvious that you’re gonna get the money back. This? This is like the alright area… I guess this is like a… because the British pound has become so weak it’s kind of hard to calculate … like eight million dollars or something like that. The seven or eight-million-dollar level is good because it makes sense in the indie world. But if you’re at the top end of it, my god I don’t know how anything gets made. I suppose the indie world tops out at twenty million and that’s really hard to get that financing together. That’s when it becomes start/stop, start/stop over years. Or you do studio stuff and the studio stuff again is an investment of time, two or three years for it about to go and they have ten projects and they decide which one is gonna go. I used to be like, “Oh, I’m making loads of films, why do people take seven years.” Now I know, so I don’t feel so clever about that anymore.

JAY: How tempting is getting involved in a big studio film? Do you take those meetings?

BW: I always have taken those meetings, but it’s more the investment of time that’s the thing. I’ve always got something I’m going on to, so it really means turning over that film to take a studio thing that may or may not happen. It’s such an amount of time, it’s a real gamble if you’re currently making stuff.

We haven’t made a film last year, so we’re slowing down, Amy and I, a little bit. Because Free Fire and High Rise were back to back and that was a bit much. So we just spent the last two years writing and prepping for the next couple of movies. So, I don’t know, I think it’s something I’d like to do but it’s not necessarily in my hands as much as you might imagine.

JAY: What would it take to get Ben Wheatley on the set of a hundred-million-dollar movie?

BW: (Deep exhale)

JAY: Is that even something you’d want?

BW: I’m writing the Hard Boiled adaptation for Warner Brothers so that’s what that would be. Well, I don’t think it would be a hundred, it would probably seventy to eighty or something like that. The money’s not important… The actual budget size is a different thing from how much money you make, so that doesn’t make any difference. And then it’s just grief. It doesn’t get easier, the more money there is. It just becomes more pressure. So the sweet spot is probably, I don’t know, three million or four million, where there’s less people worried about it. Then if it breaks out, people are like, “Wow!” If it doesn’t then it probably made the money back.

Jay: What would be your dream project if money wasn’t an issue and you could take anything you’ve ever wanted to make and just make it?

BW: I dunno. I mean… it’s tricky. Because that’s kind of… you mean like a property and turning that into a film?

Jay: Could be a property or a script that you’ve had sitting in a drawer somewhere that you’ve thought you’d never be able to get made.

BW: Alright, I do know. I wrote a Gauntlet adaptation for Warner’s that’s pretty good.

Jay: Gauntlet, like the game?

BW: Yeah, the video game. And I have some other fancy stuff which I wouldn’t mind doing. Which you can’t do… you’d have to do massive. Because I wanted to do something that was like… I really like those… the thing I really like about those movies is when they go on a mission and they go into tunnels and they have traps and they have to deal with traps and shit and they steal stuff. That’s the best bit of the movie and you have to deal with a whole load of fucking riding on horses over mountains or something and you know, some other bullshit at the end of it. But the bit in the middle where they’re doing that is the best bit. I wanted to make a movie like that. So yeah, there’s something there. I wrote another one called Upon a Time Once which is about a magical kingdom turned upside down. That would be… I don’t know… a few movies down the line.

Jay: Freakshift is next?

BW: Yeah. In August hopefully.

Jay: And you have Armie Hammer coming back?

BW: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jay: And Alicia-

BW: Vikander. According to the internet.

Jay: Not according to you though?

BW: You know…

Jay: Attached, but not signed?

BW: Yeah or something… I don’t want to say she’s definitely doing it and then get my fingers snapped by angry agents. Yeah, no, it all looks good. That will be action… it will be a similar vibe to Free Fire in a way, but more monster-y.

Jay: I like that. Then after that?

BW: I don’t know, it’s Wages of Fear, which is on the bricks or its Criminal Behavior which is another one. It’s about an FBI for criminals. So if you’re a drug dealer and you get a load of shit stolen, you can’t go to the police so you’d go to these guys who investigate and track down guys and punish them with extreme prejudice to get your money back. I basically wanted to do a Big Sleep-style detective thing but from a really harsh perspective.

Jay: That sounds great. We’re getting the signal to end.

BW: They’re pulling the plug.

Jay: Thank you for the time and best of luck with the film!

BW: Cheers. Thank you.


Unfortunately, that is it. I had a great time talking with Ben Wheatley, I feel like we could have continued that conversation for days. I think we were just getting to some really good stuff.

Make sure you get out and see Free Fire this weekend. It’s a blast.


Jay Talks to Todd Solondz About Dark Characters, Philip Seymour Hoffman & How His Newest Film Was Kind of Inspired by Benji

Todd Solondz

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

It’s probably a tired analogy, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to say it, but films are like food to me. Some are elegant meals crafted by artisan chefs in five star kitchens. Others are fast food binges, empty calories that I eat quickly and easily forget (and sometimes cause extreme indigestion).

Todd Solondz films are an exotic delicacy for me. A Todd Solondz film isn’t a snack. I have to be in exactly the right mental state for a Todd Solondz film. I’m not in that place often, but when I am the payoff is usually worth the wait. His films challenge, both emotionally and mentally and can sometimes be tough to watch.

His newest film, Wiener Dog, cobbles together four stories that are tied together by the titular canine. When he told me below that the film was inspired by Au Hasard Balthazar and Benji, it all made perfect sense. Au Hasard Balthazar, for those unfamiliar, is a 1966 Robert Bresson film that centers on a mistreated donkey and the people around him. It’s an interesting and surprisingly sweet film, but through a Todd Solondz lens.

I was worried leading up to my sit down with Todd Solondz, knowing him only by the films that have challenged and sometimes terrified me. Of course, in meeting him I found him to be a terrific, thoughtful and engaging gentleman. This conversation ranks among my favorites and I found myself wishing for more than the twenty minutes we had scheduled.

I hope you enjoy it.

Jay: Where did the idea for Wiener Dog come from?

Todd Solondz: I wanted to make a dog movie. I had thought about Au Hasard Balthazar and then I thought about Benji and somewhere on the spectrum between those two I thought this movie could lie. I remember watching Bresson’s movie again recently and I think the narratives there are very oblique, a little wobbly even. And that gave me a certain freedom to concoct these four stories the way I did.

Jay: Characters from your previous films tend to pop up in different films. Is this something you plan prior to writing anything or is it a part of the writing process and they sometimes surprise you when they appear?

T.S. Well, both. I never wanted simply to kill Dawn Wiener, as I had in Palindromes. I wanted to give her another possible trajectory. That’s one of the prerogatives and pleasures of being a filmmaker or a fiction writer, you can create different life trajectories for your characters, something that we can’t do, those of us who live in real life. So my movies have played with this notion, having actors come back to reprise or having other actors come to reprise. I get not only the pleasure of creating other lives, but other lives other lives. I think a lot this has crystallized in a scene where Ellen Burstyn looks at all the different possibilities or directions that her life could have taken. So this is something that I’ve played with in my movies a lot.

Jay: Was there ever any consideration about bringing back Heather (Mattarazzo) or Brenden (Sexton III) for the roles that they played in Welcome to the Dollhouse?

T.S. No. Well, Heather had told me years ago, because there was a couple times I thought I would bring her back, that she didn’t want kind of an Antoine Doinel sort of career. She didn’t want to reprise the character, she didn’t want to be identified so strongly with that character. So that kind of freed me to have other actors come in and see what they could bring.

Jay: You’re films often contain characters that explore the dark underbelly of humanity, but rather than paint them as strictly two dimensional, you’ve made fully fleshed out human beings that are more than just their darkness. How do those characters evolve during the writing process? For instance, when writing Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker’s role) in Happiness, do you set out to write a character that’s a pedophile or is it something that happens organically as part of the writing process?

T.S. Nothing’s quite so clear to me when I’m writing. I find who this person is over the course of writing. The idea, even with Dylan Baker’s character, I don’t think I even knew that I was going to create a child molester when I started having him talk. These things just evolve over the course of the process.

Jay: Is there a lot of writing in order to find a character and then having to go back and rewrite to start them off in a place that makes sense to that trajectory?

T.S. I write it and see what happens. I try to see where this story wants to take me and then when it gets to the end I go back and then I can more analytically try to restructure the work and rethink how I’m going to set things up. I write a draft and then I see how I feel about it at that point.

Jay: Do you research when writing your characters or do you just try to come from on honest place with them?

T.S. Well, it depends. Sometimes I have to do a certain amount of research. Sometimes I’ve already read a bunch of material that might be relevant. Sometimes I don’t need to. It just depends.

Jay: I hadn’t watched Welcome to the Dollhouse in a VERY long time, so I watched it again and was surprised and a little shocked by it’s honesty. In viewing it with modern eyes I have to say there were things in there that now gave me pause, things that seem like they might not fly due to how society has changed with increased sensitivity and political correctness. Do you think it’s possible to make and release that film now? 

T.S. I don’t know. There are always taboos and culture’s always in flux and shifting what’s acceptable and what’s not and so forth. I think the writer or filmmaker is responsive to that reality and tries always to bring an authenticity to their characters and story. Should Dawn go and meet this boy after he threatened to rape her? No, but does it make sense, do I believe she would do that? Yes. It’s not about agreeing with these characters, my movies are not prescriptive. But they’re exploring some of the ironies, the pathos, the comedy and so forth of the way we connect with each other.

Jay: Do you ever watch your films with audiences and watch the audience react in a way that you didn’t intend. Maybe a scene that you thought was a straight piece of comedy gets a nervous laugh, or something like that?

T.S. There are all kinds of audiences and all kinds of laughter. I think I said before I made Storytelling, my movies aren’t for everyone, especially people who like them. I said that because I can’t control the way an audience is going to respond but sometimes the laughter is, and I think we’re all sensitive to the different kinds of laughter that we hear, laughter that we can respond to, that can make us laugh and then there’s other kinds of laughter that we want to separate ourselves from that in some way makes us feel complicit in a way we don’t want to feel. I remember years ago I had a screening of Happiness in Telluride and a young man, he must have been college age, he came up to me and he said he LOVED the movie and he said, “That scene where the kid got raped, that was hilarious.” And I knew when I heard that that this was going to be difficult.

Jay: At any and every part of the filmmaking process are you considering an audience or are you just considering what your own sensibilities are for the film you’re making?

T.S. Well I have to be true to who I am and I have to figure out a way that can connect with my audience. So that’s a line I’m always navigating. In simple terms I have to please myself and please others. But I can’t please others at the expense of pleasing myself. There has to be a kind of push and pull to come together so that so it doesn’t become some solipsistic exercise.

Jay: Have you ever written something that you look at and think, “I may have to soften this a bit to make it palatable for an audience?”

T.S. I think I’m always pulling my punches. I’m always softening things to make it more accessible with every movie. Real life is much harsher than anything I put out there. You just have to open the paper any day of the week. There’s all sorts of atrocities and all sorts of terrible things that people say and do that can make you just throw up your hands. So I try to find that balance. Look, I can’t please everyone and I don’t try to please everyone. But I try to be true to the material and hope that those with an open mind can have access to what I’m trying to speak about.

Jay: Is there a topic that even you wouldn’t touch?

T.S. Well, if there’s a topic I don’t really know much about I’d have to do a lot of research, but nothing comes to mind as, “Oh, you can never make a movie about this.”

Jay: Have you ever had trouble casting an actor that you really wanted for a role based on the material? I ask because I’m curious whether an actor would look at playing a character that is flawed or difficult to identify with, and not want to take the role based on being associated with that specific character or if they’re more attracted to the role by virtue of the fact that it gives them a challenge and isn’t the typical sort of part they’d have the opportunity to play?

T.S. So you’re asking if there are actors who shy away from my material?

Jay: Yes. Or certain roles in your films.

T.S. Because of the types of associations they are fearful will burden them in their career?

Jay: Exactly.

T.S. I’m sure that happens and some people with some parts Nobody wanted. Nobody wanted to play Dylan Baker’s part (in Happiness). Nobody with a career, that’s for sure. There was a lot of pressure to get a name actor, but nobody with a name would touch it. On the other hand, the Phil Hoffman part, and he was unknown at the time, everybody wanted to play that. Everybody said, “That’s me” and would fly in and read for me. Why one is so attractive and one why another part is not, is always kind of a conundrum. But I’ve always managed to find actors who I think are right.

Jay: What was it like working with Phil? You said his part in Happiness garnered a lot of interest. Was there something special that jumped out to you about him?

T.S. I didn’t like him at his first audition so much. I mean, I liked him enough to call him back. And I figured out in the callback how I could get what I wanted from him, which I didn’t figure out at the first audition. I loved working with him. He really put himself out there in a way that showed that he knew he was making a leap of faith in me as his director that he would feel good about this character because there’s a lot of sordidness, shame and so forth. He was certainly prepared. I didn’t have to worry about lines with him, whereas there are many actors that it has been an issue.

Jay: Is there any thought about what you’d like to do for your next film?

T.S. Yeah, I have a couple things I’d like to do, but I don’t know where the money will come from yet.

Jay: Are there scripts already?

T.S. Yeah, Yeah. I’ve got finished stuff. I just don’t have… We’re working on it.

Jay: Thank you so much, Todd. I hope the success of Wiener Dog is able to make it all happen.


Check out Todd Solondz’s latest film, Wiener Dog, in theaters Friday, June 24th.

Jay Talks ‘Sing Street’ With Stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Mark McKenna


by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief

It’s not often that a film comes out of nowhere and surprises me, typically I walk in knowing too much about a film, but I was genuinely surprised by Sing Street. I walked into the film having never seen a trailer or even read a plot synopsis. I went in completely pure, which never happens. It just wasn’t on my radar in any way. I hadn’t even planned to see the film until I was contacted to see if I’d like to speak to John Carney for an interview. I knew John Carney as the director of Once, a film that I had fallen head over heels in love with upon it’s initial release, but I didn’t realize he had a new film coming out so soon.

Sing Street takes place in 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents’ relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he’s not part of a band…yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he’s promised – calling himself “Cosmo” and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Inspired by writer/director John Carney’s life and love for music, Sing Street shows us a world where music has the power to take us away from the turmoil of everyday life and transform us into something greater.

Sing Street stands proudly alongside Once, Carney’s other film set in Ireland. It’s rare that I sit in a theater with a big dumb smile across my face for two hours, but this is that kind of rare film. Carney caught lightening in the bottle with Once and miraculously he’s managed to do it a second time. Get out there this weekend and see it and I promise you’ll be running out to pick up the soundtrack immediately after.

I’ll be giving the film a proper review separately, but until then read on for my interview with two of the stars, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Mark McKenna. A couple of highlights to our talk include me floating my theory that Glen Hansard’s character in Once is actually the same character from this film and asking if Carney intentionally made them resemble Paul McCartney and John Lennon. They are an interesting couple guys who I could have chatted with for far longer than our allotted time. Also, at the bottom of the article you’ll find a video of the two performing after the Boston screening, special thanks to Boston Independent Film Festival for the footage.


Indie Revolver: You guys go through a lot of different looks as your sound evolves throughout the film. Which was your favorite and which was your least favorite?

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo: There’s so many. It’s hard to pick. I liked all the ones where I was looking kind of cool but I loved all the scenes with the band looking terrible, like in Riddle of the Model or when Conor comes in with his blond bits of hair. Those were so funny. In terms of cool looks, I love the look at the end when I’m signing Girls, the kind of Angus Young look and the dress. I liked that. I thought that was kind of cool.

IR: Mark, what was your favorite and least favorite look of the film?

Mark McKenna: My favorite look would have to be the blue velvet suit. My least favorite look would have to be the blue velvet suit. (laughter). Eamon goes through a lot of ridiculous looks. It’s not even experimental, my just has poor taste.

FWP: The double denim was awesome.

MM: The double denim was awesome.

FWP: The most important piece of Eamon’s fashion was the rabbit.

IR: Was the strange rabbit fascination your bit that you brought to the role?

MM: No, no that was in the script.

IR: Most films have a pretty straightforward audition process. Was the process for Sing Steet different due to the fact that they needed to also assemble musicians for a band as well as actors for the performances? Were they looking for musicians over actors?

FWP: I was a musician who didn’t act (laughs). I was just a musician when I walked into that audition and I came out an actor. John (Carney) cast me in that film and I’d never acted before. I’d done a few stage things, I was a boy soprano when I was younger, so I did a few operas. I was so driven with music I never had time to think about anything else. Then I got Sing Street and I started really adding to the whole acting thing.

MM: Professionally, I was neither. (laughter) I was more a musician but when I was sixteen, no seventeen, my friend convinced me to go to this drama class with him. After that, I thought maybe I would try acting. About a year later, I ended up going to the Sing Street audition and ended up getting it. When I was younger I decided I wanted to make my life about music and do nothing else but then I got the one thing that could be considered music’s husband or wife.

FWP: They both go hand in hand. We both landed the most perfect roles we could have possibly landed. It was just like the most awesome thing ever.

IR: Was John auditioning people together to see how they worked or played music together?

FWP: He auditioned Karl (Rice, who played Garry) and Conor (Hamilton, who played Larry) together. He showed me that audition tape just after they auditioned. Karl Rice plays Garry with the bass.

MM: I’m not sure if it’s clear but the drummer and the bassist are supposed to be brothers.

FWP: They’re brothers. And the drummer is Conor Hamilton. They were auditioned together because they were supposed to play off of each other in the original script. But obviously the film changes so much. (Pointing to Mark) I think our chemistry must have been good because John ended up putting so many more scenes with me and Mark. The original relationship was between Conor and Darren (The red haired Ben Carolan) rather than Conor and Eamon. That relationship kind of developed through editing and then we did reshoots and added on a few scenes. The key scene where we’re sitting in Phoenix Park and a few writing scenes in the bedroom were part of reshoots. I think John played it by ear as the film was going on. He’s great about making it up as he goes along.

MM: He’ll see something during filming and his mind just goes off and he’s like, “I must change this.”

Sing-Street 2

IR: When the film opens and we see Conor for the first time I thought, he looks a lot like a young Paul McCartney and then a little while later it struck me that Eamon resembled young John Lennon. Was this at all intentional or am I just projecting? The dynamic between the two characters lends itself to my theory as well.

FWP: That is something I see as well. I also see Bono and The Edge as well. But that relationship is the first one that develops in bands, I think. That’s where it all kicks off, between the two. And with Lennon and McCartney… There was a bit of that. I don’t think John intentionally did that at that start. But thanks for saying I look like Paul McCartney.

IR: John has previously said the film is semi-autobiographical about his time attending the real Synge Street. Is there any pressure playing the part knowing that you are playing the person who is directing you? Were you even aware of it while you were filming?

FWP: I wasn’t really aware of it at the time. Well, I wasn’t aware if it at all at the time. Pressure keeps coming up and I can see why when you see the film and hear the stories. “Boy that must have been a lot of pressure on the guys.” But there’s been no pressure throughout this whole film. It’s just been a fun experience. We didn’t even feel it being on set. The first day for me was in the kitchen with Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen and Jack Reynor and Kelly Thornton and I was a little bit overwhelmed. Still it was just really enjoyable. I didn’t quite realize the pressure on me because I don’t think I realized the scale of the film. It just never came up on set, the autobiographical thing.

MM: Eamon is a real person. There was never a “This is what Eamon used to do,” or “Eamon was like this when he was younger.” John just told me a few funny stories about Eamon. He never said to me, “This is how Eamon would act, this is how Eamon would do that.”  I would just go on set and be a teenager.

FWP: Now that I think back on it, there was that relationship between the brothers that means a lot to John. But it was also a very personal thing for me, as well. I have two older brothers who I’m really close to as well and who are also doing music full time. There’s that kind of relationship. So, I suppose it’s done now. At the time there wasn’t any pressure, now it’s just done.

MM: By the time you realize there is pressure, it’s all done.

FWP: Yeah, yeah.

IR: Considering the time period and the fact that you’re both very young, did John give you stuff to get into the mindset of being a teen coming of age in this time period?

FWP: He gave us lots of music videos. I think music videos kind of sum up the 80’s.

MM: There’s kind of this thing in the 80’s, the early 80’s at least, where the music videos for most songs are just the band on stage performing. Then later on, the artistic videos or whatever you want to call them… A lot of all the Queen videos like Loverboy that came out in the late 70’s or early 80’s… The video for that was just them on stage performing.

FWP: It’s really interesting. He was throwing loads of stuff at us. There was The Politics of Dancing by Re-Flex, which is quite a funny on to look at. There’s just so many videos from that era that look homemade, you know? There’s loads of great ones, as well. There are loads of madness. Our House is brilliant. I love that music video. There’s Hall and Oates, they have loads of good ones as well.

IR: So music and videos, did John give you any movies to watch?

FWP: I watched a few things. I watched loads of stuff about troubled kids and stuff about kids trying to rebel. I think that was our early stages and then the whole thing kind of changed. Originally the script was a little more hard core and a bit rougher and little bit like Begin Again or Once. A bit more grown up and kids dealing with grown up issues. It sort of still is that but it’s more family and more fun.

MM: I’ve always been a massive fan of John Hughes films. I love the soundtrack to those film. One day when we were on set, John was like, “Just think of this like a John Hughes film.” I was like, “Yessss.” I love those films.

IR: As musicians how did this film and all the music John exposed you to affect you?

FWP: All good. Obviously the more music you discover the better. I’m just thinking songwriting, the more types of music you play, the better that becomes. You have a bit wider range and you learn from it all. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t get Sing Street. I assume I would have discovered the 80’s, just maybe a bit later. I might have gone through a few others phases first.

IR: Was there anything you guys encountered during filming from that time period that you didn’t understand?

FWP: There were loads of phrases. I don’t know if they’re still in the film.

MM: There’s one phrase. “Check it,” was used a lot. It wasn’t something we didn’t understand, it was more like we couldn’t believe they used to say it. Especially 15 year old white boys in the Christian school. (laughter) There’s one scene where, the audio was too ridiculous, where we all walk into school and we all have the blazers on, and Ferdia is walking off and Ngig walks up and I put my fist up and John tells me to say “Check it” or “Word out.” So I say “Word out” and the audio just got taken out. (Laughter)

IR: I was hoping the film would continue on so we could have seen how Hip Hop would have influenced Conor and Sing Street’s look and sound.

John (Carney) was originally supposed to be here and I really wanted to float my crazy half serious theory to John about how I think there’s a case to be made that Sing Street is a prequel to Once and that Conor is actually Glen Hansard’s unnamed character as a kid. Glen’s character in Once has a girlfriend in London and the timelines would kind of jive.

FWP: There’s loads of weird things and I don’t know if John did those intentionally… I think he might have because there’s loads of funny things like that that I think might be in the back of John’s mind. I don’t know if he…

MM: It’s going to turn out to be like a Quentin Tarantino-esque kind of world with all his films. Begin Again can be him when he turns out to be a washed up musician turned producer.

IR: When you see him next you should pitch my theory to him since he’s not here.

FWP: You know, sometimes we talk like, what if that end sequence is all in Conor’s head and Raphina doesn’t turn up at the gig?

MM: I don’t know if you noticed this but there’s a bit of symbolism at the end.

IR: How so?

FWP: Are talking about how Raphina and Conor follow the boat?

MM: Yeah, yeah. The ferry is like the big brother after his own big brother lets him go off.

IR: I haven’t been able to get these songs out of my head since I saw the film. Is there a possibility for a Sing Street tour?

MM: We hope so.

FWP: It’s all up to Mark. No, it’s not. We’re not trying to push anything. We’re just going to go with the flow. Mark and I are playing away and doing it for the fun of it because we love it and it’s really good to have a press tour for the film and to play music at the same time. That’s one of my favorite parts, when we get up and play songs afterwards.

MM: Especially when it goes well. We had one performance where the mics just weren’t working. You couldn’t hear certain things and after we were like, that’s just terrible.

FWP: I think we should do some stuff. It just depends how things play out. Even if we just play a few gigs for the crack. It’s funny, because we have a fan base all of a sudden with the film (laughs). I don’t think we’d make it a big Sing Street thing. It would just be me and Mark.

IR: Were you guys a part of the songwriting process or were the songs fully realized when you came in?

MM: They wrote them before we were cast.

FWP: Well, they some of them before we were cast. It’s funny because Gary Clark was writing bits of the songs in the studio as we were recording them, but I didn’t get involved. I don’t know what would have happened if we had been in charge of songwriting for the film. It would have been an absolute flub. We had Gary Clark doing it who was Danny Wilson, who had a number one hit in the 80’s. So we had the most perfect guy writing music for the film.

IR: So what’s next for you guys?

FWP: I mean we’re just taking it easy. Aren’t we, Mark? We’re so busy with Sing Street that we don’t even have time to think about that.

IR: Thanks guys.

Jay Speaks With Kim Barker About Her Real Life Stories That Inspired Tina Fey’s ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’

New York, NY - 3/1/16 - Tina Fey and Author Kim Barker attend the after party at Tavern on the Green for the World Premiere of Paramount Pictures "WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT". The film stars Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton and Christopher Abbott. It opens in theaters March 4th, 2016. PHOTO by: Dave Allocca/Starpix..

Tina Fey and Author Kim Barker PHOTO by: Dave Allocca/Starpix

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief

“They sent me the script in February of 2014. I didn’t read it because I don’t have control over this, so why am I going to waste my time over things I have no control over? I just tried to be as Zen as possible about this whole process.” Kim Barker tells me during a recent stop on her press tour for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the newest vehicle for 30 Rock and SNL veteran Tina Fey, based on her real life adventures as a journalist in the Middle East from 2002-2007. “It’s a different story but it tells the same story that my book did, in a way. Although, now it’s much more focused on me.”

The idea for a darkly humorous take on her time in the Middle East during conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan had been something that she had considered for some time prior to putting pen to paper. “I told people that I’m going to write a darkly comic book about being in Pakistan and people here were like, ‘That doesn’t sound funny at all.’ People over there were like, ‘I totally get what you’re doing.’ I decided to try write a book that I felt like would get people to read about Pakistan and Afghanistan, in that it’s funny, it’s got an American protagonist and by the end of it I think you’ll have a primer on Pakistan and Afghanistan and also on the importance of journalism which is a theme in the book. It was cathartic for me. I wrote it super quickly.”

Barker’s book was released in March 2011 to solid reviews. Chief among them, a stellar review from New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani. “She loved it, it was one of her top ten of the year, but in there she had a line that said I had created a Tina Fey character. Within two weeks of this, Tina had read the book and had pushed Lorne (Michaels) the-taliban-shuffle-book-coverand Paramount to option the book on her behalf for her to star in and produce. It’s sort of been driven by her the entire way and by Lorne as well.” Specifically, the line in the New York Times review that caught Fey’s eye was, “She depicts herself as a sort of Tina Fey character, who unexpectedly finds herself addicted to the adrenaline rush of war.”

Writer Robert Carlock, longtime friend of Fey from her SNL days and showrunner for her hit TV show 30 Rock came on to write the script, not an easy task considering the intricacies of Barker’s story. Barker recalls, “He was pretty honest with me at the very beginning, he said there’s no guarantee it gets made, this is kind of a hard sell. He told me, ‘Look we want to honor your story and what you wrote, but we’re going to have to change things for Hollywood.’ He met with a lot of people, he didn’t just meet with me. He met with friends of mine, people in the military, other journalists, a lot of TV journalists who had been over there. He overlaid some of those stories on top of mine. “

There are a great many departures in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot when compared to Barker’s source material, besides the change from the book’s original title, The Taliban Shuffle. “There’s more explosions, I’m a TV journalist (in the film) much to print journalism’s chagrin,” Barker muses. “But frankly it works.”

Some other big changes to the source material include the portrayal of her boyfriend. In the film’s trailer we see Fey being two-timed by Josh Charles, but the reality is that he moved to India to be with her and things didn’t end up working out. “I guess I would say I’m not thrilled with how they portrayed my boyfriend cheating on me back home.” She laughs and admits, “I still have to tell him.”

When asked about whether she sees any problem with Margot Robbie’s character, Tanya Vanderpoel going from strong female friend to a quasi-enemy at the end of the film, Barker has a more sensible opinion than to rashly brand it anti-feminist (something Fey has been accused of in the past), “I think it’s a device. You need to use foils in movies, I get that. It’s a pretty strong female movie. Both of them going after careers, you know? In a way that you don’t necessarily see in a lot of movies. Margot is going after her career, she’s not going after her man. You know what I mean? You don’t see that. I think that women are a lot more complex than they’re necessarily given credit for in Hollywood. This movie shows that. I thought that they both did such a great job. Who knows if the friendship would have worked out? It’s not like she got the job, she just got a London post. I thought it made a pretty effective thing, the reveal that comes afterward.”

“I didn’t see the movie until a couple weeks ago and it was terrifying to watch it for the first time,” she jokes. “It’s so weird. You just had to look at the people involved. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock are smart, funny people. It’s SNL and it’s an unusual SNL movie. Really unusual. I just had to walk away from it and hope that they would not make Tina look bad. It could have been Anchorman in Afghanistan. That was my fear. I loved Anchorman, I thought it was a brilliant movie. But it’s brilliant in that sort of stupid-funny way. That would just be mortifying.”

It’s a scary thing to imagine your deeply personal experiences being adapted for a film with some rather large changes and not having control of that process, but Barker seems to take it all in stride. “When I watched it for the WTF_1-Sht_Payofffirst time I was watching it like a print journalist. ‘True. Not true. True. Twisted. Don’t know where that came from. Not that brave.’ I’m comparing things back and forth, but then half way through it I sank into it, thinking this is actually a movie. It looks like Afghanistan, it looks just like Kabul. That was amazing to me. How did she feel about Tina Fey’s portrayal? “I think it’s her best performance and I’m not just saying that because it’s a character based on me. Barker Chuckles, “I had said to Dean Baquet, the editor of the Times where I’ve worked for the last two years now, ‘What if the biopic about my life sucks?’ and he was just like, ‘Pretty good story.’”

The next logical question, now that her first book has been adapted into a big budget Hollywood film is what comes next? Will there be another book?

“There is a plan for another book. It’ll be nonfiction. I’m not exactly sure what it’s gonna be yet. I spent a lot of time hanging out with these guys that are recovering drug addicts this year, so I’ve thought about doing a book on that. I would want to do it like a dark comic, how the other one percent live and following hustlers in New York. Some people think I grew up so weird, because I did grow up pretty weird. So maybe doing a series of short true stories about my family growing up with hippies in Montana. Something like David Sedaris.”

Hopefully Tina Fey smells a franchise opportunity.


Jay Sits Down With Director Robert Eggers and Star Anya Taylor-Joy to Discuss ‘The Witch’

The Witch Director Robert Eggers and Star Anya Taylor-Joy at the Salem review Screening 2.18.16

The Witch Director Robert Eggers with star Anya Taylor-Joy at the Salem advance screening 2.18.16

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief

The day before The Witch was finally unleashed in darken theaters for everyone to see I had the opportunity to sit down with the film’s Writer/Director Robert Eggers and the film’s star, Anya Taylor-Joy to discuss their experiences making one of the scariest films to come out in recent years.

Q: You’ve said a lot of it is based on folktales. Where did you find the material that you’re referencing?

Robert Eggers: It was worded in a way that was intentionally romantic, like in keeping with the rest of the film. I wasn’t in rare archives with parchment paper with white gloves on. You can get most of the primary source materials that I was working with on Google Books. In fact, the sources that were more rarified that I was using were more about creating the agricultural lifestyle and had more to do with animal husbandry and building the farmstead accurately. They’re out there. I started by going to the library and anything early New England related I took out. Of course there’s many contemporary historians who have compiled great selections of primary source “stuff” and they’ve edited them. Then I would say, it seems like a lot of stuff is coming from this source so I’m just going to get that and I would get that and get into it really deeply.

Q: You’ve said it’s like a pre-Disney fairytale. By that, you mean you went to the source material, the Grimm Brothers and tried to evoke that world?

RE: Yeah, very much. What’s very interesting for me is in the early modern period the real world and the fairytale world really were the same thing. There’s a few skeptics, but very, very few of the elite intelligencia. There’s not a question of do you believe in witches. A witch is a witch, a tree is a tree, a rock is a rock, like this is what’s going on. So, it’s really fascinating to read the accounts of real witchcraft, witches on trial and so on and so forth. These read like fairytales. There’s an Elizabethan witch who was accused of giving a child a poison apple and I’m like, this is perfect. I think in talking about genre there’s been a lot of discussion of is this really a horror movie? Which, I don’t really care what you call it, if you’re into it that’s good enough for me. I think the genre that it’s closest to are these early, early fairytales. Pre Grimm, because they were doing some Victorian sanitation of their own, the evil stepmother, not always but very often is the biological mother. These early fairytales, one of the things I love about them so much and I’m not unique in this thought, is that I see them as this unconscious examinations of complex family dynamics which I was trying to turn up to 11.

Q: I have a question about how all the pieces of the film came together, performance, cinematography, music, the story behind it. Where did the evolution spark and start rolling and what was the last element that made everything click into place?

RE: It’s all connected, you know? It took four years to get the film financed so I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do. By the time I had the final draft I understood what I wanted things to look like, what I wanted the photography to be like and even the music to a great degree. I wanted the music to be seventeenth century string instruments and percussion and Mark Korven said you need voices, which obviously makes such a huge impact in the film. I think that that was the last missing ingredient that was unexpected and not planned as any part of my original vision of the film in four years of creating this.

Q: Was there ever any reticence in your first feature being a genre film?

RE: Only in that I’m a snobby bastard, but no. I tried to make a lot of weird movies that I still think are in vaguely fantasy, dark horror, gothic… But no one wanted to make those films. No one would make those films so I was deliberately trying to make something that you could fit inside of a genre more easily because it seemed in the climate, this climate as an American filmmaker, a first time director that there was no way to get a film financed. BUT I’m happy, I love Edgar Allen Poe and I love dark Japanese plays about old women who are demons that kill priests. It’s ALL good.

Q: What was it like working with all the animals?

RE: In my years working with other people’s stuff and the couple short films I did, it seems to me that there are two ways, well three… CG animals which is a life away. Then there’s working really closely with your trainers to be really specific and create a controlled environment where nothing can go wrong, the kind of thing where you need a second unit in order to make that work. The hare and the raven were done that way. Then other animals you kind of have to go with the flow. (To Anya) You can talk about Charlie.

Anya Taylor-Joy: Ok, Charlie. The goat.

RE: Black Phillip.

ATJ: Black Philip. He had two modes. Charlie and I got along great. We really dug each other. He basically wanted to just lie in the sun and have his belly rubbed and we would hang out and it was all good. He hated Ralph Ineson (He played the father, William) on sight. They just hated each other mutually. It was so weird because he’d be so calm and chill, which is not what we wanted for the movie, and then he would see Ralph and literally it would be like horns down it was go time. Ralph had to lose a lot of weight for the movie and he had to really grapple with the goat. He ended up in the ER three times because Charlie just gored him. The fact that we got that performance is really a testament to our editor Lou Ford (Louise Ford) who is just amazing. Charlie was a fun playmate but not terribly great to work with.

RE: Yeah. The only diva on set.

ATJ: The only diva on set.

Q: The cast was predominately young. What was it like working with young actors? They gave such amazing performances.

RE: It was great. I like working with kids. People say don’t work with kids. Some kids are bastards, but so are some adults. The thing that made working with kids difficult is their hours are really short. So with our budget and everything it was hard. Really it was about keeping them safe and protected. They couldn’t really know what this film was. They had a Disney-fied version of what the story was. With them it was more puppetry and dance choreography and games to elicit these things. Harvey, who plays Caleb, in that possession scene couldn’t know the subtext of what he was saying and the movements he was performing.

ATJ: A lot people can’t comprehend that shooting the movie, there was so much love there. (To Robert) We created this, and created makes it sound like we did it on purpose, which maybe you did. For us it felt so natural. We all just really, really clicked. We loved each other and supported each other. So with the kids it was play pretend, it was fun every day. None of us are method, thank god, because that would have been awful. We went into work every day with complete kindness and love and support for each other and we went to some pretty dark places, but it was wonderful. I know the kids had a really, really good time.

Q: This was your first time acting. What was it like when you read the script for the first time? Did you know where that character was going? Were you surprised by the end?

ATJ: Goodness, I had a really big life moment for myself as a person at the end of the movie. We wrapped and obviously we were all really tired and I just got so incredibly depressed and I couldn’t understand why. I realized… I knew I was going to see these people again, we really like each other. But it was because I hadn’t realized that characters are real for me and they’re a big emotional part of who I am. I hadn’t realized at the beginning and during filming that Thomasin was a real person for me and she was a friend of mine. It was really sad that I wasn’t going to be able to get to see her again, if you know what I mean. So that was really surprising. It was just like, oh crap she’s real. That’s who she is for me. At the beginning of the film I was so desperate for Rob’s vision to come to life as he’d seen it in his brain. Rob was really, really great about that. (To Rob) I don’t know if you remember this but I used to pester you all the time. “But is it right?! Is it specific? I will fly myself and bring the right person to do this! This has to be perfect!” And Rob would be like, “Yes, I created her but you’re bringing her to life and she will be an amalgamation of that. She’ll be a collaboration.” That was just so incredibly wonderful to work with and it’s informed everything I’ve done since then.

RE: Anya’s Thomasin is different than how I originally saw Thomasin. I realized I was looking for the wrong girl when Anya auditioned. I was actually like, “No, that is Thomasin.” I hadn’t realized I had been mistaken because I saw her in a different kind of awkward than Anya is and much more homely. I realized when Anya came in, wow she could never be a Puritan. I believe her as timeless and I believe her milking goats and I believe her in this world but she would not cut it as a Puritan.  So that was very exciting and it brought a lot to the role that was unexpected.

ATJ: I initially thought I was never going to get this role in a million years because it was written as plain. I was like, I’m pretty weird looking. I don’t buy plain from me. It was wonderful because the first day on set Rob gave me a script and he had changed the description to match me and I was like, “Yes! Let’s do this. Let’s kill it.”

Q: The film has gotten the Satanic Church’s seal of approval and I’m wondering if you have a reaction to that?

RE: It’s nice to have fans.

Q: (To Anya) what about you? You’re the face of a Satanic Church approved film.

ATJ: It’s nice to have fans.

Q: Ok, we can leave it at that.

RE: Sorry.

ATJ: Sorry.

Q: Is there pressure to follow-up a film that’s had this much critical acclaim and buzz since it came out at Sundance?

RE: Yes. In the four years of trying to make this, well it’s been six years since I started writing it… You have to believe in yourself even though you know you are… like… This is getting a little personal, but in any case, yeah of course. I’ve been working on the next thing for a little over a year now and definitely there is a pressure.

Q: What is the next thing?

RE: A medieval epic.

Q: (To Anya) How about you? This is the first thing you’ve done, is there pressure to follow it up?

ATJ: I will never think I’m a good actor. And that is cool because I love to act and it’s not something I could live without. I would act if nobody ever watched anything I did. It’s unfortunate, I just need to do it. If people continue to think that the stuff that I do is good, that’s cool. I just want to keep working. That’s what it’s about for me. It’s about the actual act of acting, rather than what people think about it.

Q: I’m sure there were a lot of difficult moments, but is there a specific scene or moment that was very difficult as an actor?

ATJ: Oh yeah, I have a very overactive imagination and I also have a lot of empathy for my characters. I really feel for them and I need to tell the story right. A lot of those difficult scenes were kind of cathartic to go there. The scene with Kate (Dickie, who played Anya Taylor-joy’s mother) was not. It was something we were both concerned about. We both knew that it was going to be incredibly difficult for the both of us, at the very beginning we just sat down and were like, “Ok, we know we’re going to have to do this. How are we going to handle it? How are we going to cope with it?” We just decided to really go for it and go for each other and reassure each other that like, “Hey, I want you to really attack me because I’m going to do the same to you.” I was insane. They kept yelling cut and Kate and I would just continue sobbing and just sit there like these hysterical women. It was crazy, but by the end of that day we sat down and gave each other a high five and we were like, “Yeah, cool. We did that.”

RE: It was pretty scary watching that and the crew was pretty astonished.

Q: You mentioned The Shining being a big influence but also Carl Dreyer. Was Day of Wrath a big influence for you?

RE: Yeah. I wasn’t necessarily trying to do a riff on Day of Wrath or anything, but in some ways it’s kind of the opposite of Day of Wrath. And I love Dreyer.

Q: You mentioned at the screening last night that the film was almost edited “in camera” and not a lot made the cutting room floor. Was a lot of the editing done in the script before you shot?

RE: My editor actually emailed me last night and she was like, “You’re using ‘cut in camera’ wrong.” We didn’t shoot chronologically and we weren’t shooting on film. So the definition of “cut in camera”… no. What I mean to say is there wasn’t any additional coverage or anything. Every shot, every angle is there. And also, even more than that. The blueprint that Jarin (Blaschke, cinematographer) and I were creating was such that the rhythm and the order of the shots… Unless it was a situation where we deliberately set up an exchange that was shot/reverse shot, you kind of needed to edit it in that exact order. If it wasn’t in that exact order, it wouldn’t work. Even if you think, “Oh, we’ll start with a wide shot, then we’ll move to a close up,” like you would. No. Actually if we designed it to start with a close up, it needs to start with a close up. That’s kind of what I mean.

I would say that we struggled whether or not to keep the family in the plantation. That was something that would have been costly to have them in the English settlement on our budget. During the test screening period there was like, “Yes Plantation,” “No Plantation”… It just bounced back and forth for a very long time. The only other thing that was really quite different is that there was more William and Caleb in the woods and less Thomasin on the farm in the early part of the film. We brought in more Thomasin.

Q: You’ve spoken about how difficult it was to secure the money for your first film. Other than that what was the most difficult aspect of the process?

RE: I mean really, yeah, the goat.

ATJ: Nature?

RE: Yeah, nature. We were so remote where we were shooting and ALL of the money was on screen. For our budgetary level ALL the money was on screen. The infrastructure was just not there and then, because we were so remote there was no cell service or wifi. Even where we had cell service and wifi in the town, it was terrible. We were constantly having to tie the schedule in knots to keep the shoot gloomy. We’ve brought everyone out of the house, we’re doing everything, we’re setting up and we’re ready to go and all of a sudden we see the sun coming out. The children’s hours are almost over, the goat is running amuck attacking Ralph, the dolly is sinking into the mud… Almost every morning I was in tears while making my coffee, before I had to pull myself together and come on set. It was not easy.

ATJ: We willed this film into existence. ROB willed this film into existence.

Q: Thank you.

ATJ: Thank you guys, so much.

RE: Thank you.

The Witch is in theaters now. Get out there and support a great film if you haven’t already done so.

Jay Speaks With Will Poulter About The Revenant and Almost Playing Pennywise in IT


by: Jay Carlson: Editor-in-chief

I recently sat down with Will Poulter to discuss his time making Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Most know Poulter from his comedic turn as Kenny in We’re the Millers but make no mistake, there’s much more to this actor than his boyish looks.

Poulter opens up and discusses his experience in making The Revenant as well as his brush with almost playing Pennywise in Cary Fukunaga’s planned version of Stephen King’s IT.

Below is a roundtable interview that took place on December third in Boston:


I saw your movie last night.

Will Poulter: What did you think?

It was brutal.

WP: It’s an intense watch, for sure. The running time is like two hours thirty-seven (minutes). Did it feel that long?

It felt long in a good way.

WP: Right.

Some films are two and a half hours and they feel like they just fly by. This one, paced the way it was felt really good at that length.

WP: Great.

It fit the scale of the film and the story that we were watching.

WP: That’s cool.

How did this part come to you?

WP: I read the script about five months prior to the shooting the movie, or at least the start of the rehersal. There was a lot of excitement around it for obvious reasons with Leo and Tom attached and Alejandro set to direct. As far as I know the script had been around for several years but hadn’t been made because it was such a big undertaking and the task of making it was so difficult. Few people who were talented and crazy enough to attempt it. So it had been around for a while, but I didn’t know that at the time that I’d read it. What I was struck by immediately was how emotionally engaging it was, just on the page. Even just from reading it I found the kind of intensity you were talking about. It was visceral on paper and I think there were no doubts in my mind that I wanted to be involved. I thought with someone like Alejandro involved and this cast, it could only get better from here. I certainly wanted to be involved so I sent in a tape. My tape was ok, I wasn’t necessarily that happy with it but I was lucky enough to get a meeting with Alejandro in London. We kind of just met up for a chat and I was struck by how intelligent, compassionate and interesting a man that he is. I immediately wanted to work with him. When I was offered the role a few days later, I couldn’t believe it. I was, of course, very excited and couldn’t wait to get started.

What was it like filming in such remote, inhospitable places?

WP: I think we were actually lucky to shoot it in such a way, in such inhospitable conditions, because it reduced the acting challenge in a way. There was less to act because on most occasions we really are cold, we really are tired, the terrain really is tough, all that gear really is heavy. All of that helped us, I think, with the performance side of things. It was also really cool to have the environment be so natural and not fabricated. I didn’t have to interact with any CGI ever. I’m trying to think… Other than pointing out that there were cubs, post bear attack I didn’t interact with any CGI whatsoever. That’s a really rare opportunity, I think, these days. It was like being a part of a filmmaking process of a bygone era. The film stylings of old where you shoot in all one location with all natural light and all real weather elements. I think that was totally necessary because I don’t think you have the intense experience we’re talking about if we’d been in a studio with a green screen and a wind blower. It just wouldn’t have been the same.

You mentioned shooting with natural light what is that process like compared to shooting with lights? Was there more time between shots? How was the time passed?

WP: It really does redefine the filmmaking process for everyone. Rather than using electricity to light each individual frame and separate and compartmentalize a scene as these different moments which you could provide attention to and do over and over again and make adjustments, we were operating in a small window of time when we would actually be shooting so it meant rehearsing all day long up until this point where we perform, almost like a live piece of theater. Every single movement from what way you’re standing in the scene to the angle of your head turn, the timing of you picking up a prop, the intonation of your voice while saying a certain line… Every single thing has to be meticulously planned because there was no, “We’ll get that from another angle” or “We’re going to cut that together with another bit” or “We can adjust the light so you can stand there.” The light was the sun or the moon. So there was no adjusting that. WE had to adjust to nature in that respect. And shooting on a 14 millimeter lens, which we were shooting on most of the time, is so unforgiving. It just sees so much. You had to allow the camera to become part of your process you had to make the camera an extension of you and everything you did had to coordinate and sync up with what the camera was doing. That can make you very conscientious and can remove you from the emotional parameters of the scene. It can have you feeling like you’re on the outside of the main objective. So it was about carefully choreographing everything and making sure you had all the physical and technical elements down and then sort of trying to forget that the camera was there and slightly working backwards in a way for the sake of being emotionally engaged in the scene. It was a very, very interesting challenge, the hardest thing about shooting this film, I think.

Did you guys shoot the film chronologically?

WP: For the most part, yes. While the weather participated with us, yes. And then the weather started to play a few tricks and it became harder to do that. Yes, for the most part we did.

Do you think you’d want to act in other movies where you’re in these remote locations? Did you enjoy doing that or was it just really hard?

WP: No, I did. I did. I found it a really great experience. Don’t get me wrong, after eight months it’s tough and it takes its toll. But I did, for the simple reason that it makes the process easier in a way. From an acting perspective, as much as the approach is difficult initially, at least from an emotional perspective… it feels real and there’s less to invent. It’s such a great opportunity, it’s a treat to be able to work in those kind of real environments. At times when the camera was wider, you’re in these huge, expansive areas of wilderness and you can’t even see the camera, but you’re just free to act. That’s awesome. That’s so cool. For as many times as it (the camera) was this close, it was miles away. It was great.

Was there any kind of preparation for you guys before you went out there?

WP: There was some kind of initial weight loss stuff and that kind of developed throughout filming. Me and Tom (Hardy) in particular, because of the length we were out there, we had to lose quite a lot of weight. There was some boot camping and trapper camp where they familiarized us with weapons and some of the tools we would use as basic survival. That was fun. Really the best preparation was in the rehearsals we did with the camera, which came months before we started shooting.

Did the way that the film was shot add more pressure to the actors? Because, using natural lighting you might have to shoot at a certain time of day and if people kept messing up their lines or their timing you might have to wait until another day for the lighting to be right again.

WP: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it did add a certain amount of pressure. I think we did come up against a couple of scenarios where we had such a limited window of time. You’re on take two or three and you’ve probably only got one or two more and if we don’t get it we’re coming back tomorrow or shit, we’re coming back on Monday after the weekend. Those pressures were there. For the most part, I think there was only one day that we had to come back and finish something off. Maybe that’s me being really forgetful. There’s one really big scene that sticks out for that reason. But it did add a certain amount of pressure, but it gave us a focus. It gave us a kind of fuel and a target to aim at. Even if the target was small.

Did Alejandro win his Oscar for Birdman while you guys were shooting?

WP: Yes.

What was that like when he got back on set?

WP: It didn’t change anything. It didn’t change anything in him. Or at least publicly or in anything that he expressed. It really just meant a long weekend for us and that was pretty much it. He came back to work an Oscar winner, but we already knew how talented he was and how great Birdman was. It was really great to see him achieve and get what he deserved. He was still entirely focused in The Revenant. Alejandro has worked SO hard over the last few years between Birdman and this, and the two overlapping. The promotion for that film and shooting this and now the promotion of this and I don’t know but he’s probably got his next project being penned away as well. So he’s a force of nature. Pun intednded.

How did working with Alejandro differ with your past experiences with other directors?

WP: I suppose, aside from his unique way of shooting and new technical challenges that came from working with Alejandro… I learned something quite valuable from him. He taught me to accept what feels instinctively natural a little more than I did. I guess I’m quite instinctive as an actor, I rely on instinct more than anything else. I’d vomit out all these thoughts I had and he would tell me to relax and accept them all. Bridger at times had a lot going on emotionally and a lot of psychological complexes developing. There’s so much going on but Alejandro kind of taught me to just accept that and play that confusion, play that turmoil and not overanalyze.

Did you do any historical research of the time period to prepare for it? We forget how brutal and dirty and violent that time period was.

WP: Yeah, we did. We were lucky we had some great historical experts and advisors on set who really knew their stuff from that period and what it was to be a trapper. Obviously to work with them was great. It was nice to return to an old-school form of research, like rather than watching YouTube and listening to recordings, it was like reading books and having conversations. The research was fairly old-school. That was cool, it was refreshing.

What was it like portraying a story and character that was inspired by true events? How much research did you do for this story and the character you played?

WP: I think it’s an interesting challenge when what you’re portraying is rooted in fact and you are representing real guys. You want to do justice to the story. But I also had huge faith in (screenwriter) Mark Smith’s adaptation and what Alejandro had done with the script in conjunction with that. I think they really elevated what’s in the book, with all due respect. They created a very, very interesting story from that. I think you have to trust the adaptation to an extent. I read the book after the shooting of the film and I’m glad I did because occasionally when you have two sources like that and they have things that conflict, you can confuse yourself. Even subconsciously you can begin to develop a level of uncertainty about who your character is. For example, in the book one of the last things Bridger does when he leaves Glass is that he takes his knife. So in the book, Bridger’s last act towards Glass is to take his last form of protection away. In the film, the last thing that Bridger does is give him his canteen or water which is a symbol of life. It couldn’t be more of a paradox. That, to me, really does epitomize how different Bridger’s relationship with Glass is in the book to how it is in the film. In the film Bridger is kind of an understudy/unofficial son. At least in Bridger’s eyes, Glass is sort of a father figure and a role model. I wouldn’t want to change that. I’m glad that’s the way the script directed that dynamic.

You seem to be making an effort to choose different kinds of roles, which is interesting to see someone going moving so easily between comedy and drama.

WP: Cool, thanks.

What is that like for you, moving from one type of role to a very different one that requires a different discipline?

WP: I think… Thank you, I appreciate that. I guess that’s why I do it. Because I hope it’s interesting to people. I assume it gets kind of boring or not as interesting to see someone play it close to home all the time, meaning to not stretch themselves or not choose roles that make you less recognizable from the previous role. Personally, that’s what keeps the challenge interesting to me. I hope it’s what challenges audiences and keeps them engaged. Role to role I don’t care whether it’s comedy, drama, gigantic film, tiny film, so long as the scripts are the same quality and it’s believable and I can contribute to that performance then I’m down.

How big a disappointment was it to have Cary Fukunaga’s IT fall apart?

WP: Huge, man. It’s a huge disappointment. I was very excited to work with Cary and work with New Line again.

A lot of people, myself included, were excited to see that and to see what you’d do with the role of Pennywise.

WP: Yeah. Yeah. And I actually really have a lot of respect for Cary and New Line taking a (chance) on me, because I don’t think I was the obvious choice and I think it was kind of brave of them to cast someone young in that role. Apart from the fact I have size 13 feet, I was probably not the obvious choice. Who knows what’s going to happen with that, but I just hope I get to work with Cary, and New Line again. Whether it’s in the form of Pennywise, I’m not sure.

How daunting was the prospect of taking on a role that another actor made iconic? People automatically have Tim Curry’s portrayal in their minds because of how good he was in the role.

WP: Big shoes to fill. Yeah. I suppose it is daunting. I hadn’t thought about it like that initially. Obviously when someone makes a character so much their own, you’re quite nervous. Also when it comes to playing evil clowns Jack Nicholson did a pretty good job. Heath Ledger did the best job anyone has ever done playing a villain. I know Jared Leto plays the Joker in Suicide Squad. So all of that added a sense of pressure. I would still like to do it, I just feel like that since Cary is no longer involved it’s just a different project at this stage.

I would have loved to see what you would have done with the role.

WP: Thank you, man. Thank you. I would have loved to have done it.

Thanks for the time.


The Revenant is open in select cities and will open wide on Friday 1/8.

Jay Sits Down With ‘Room’ Writer Emma Donoghue to Discuss its Unconventional Trip to the Big Screen


by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief

Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is one of the films I was most looking forward to after buzz began after its first festival screenings. The film doesn’t disappoint, with mind blowing performances by Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay anchoring an amazing script by Emma Donoghue, who has masterfully adapted her source novel for the big screen.

The journey that the novel took to the big screen is not the path usually taken though.

EMMA DONOGHUE: I wrote the novel and it occurred to me fairly immediately, as soon as I’d sold the novel that it could make a good film. So I thought I’d just fire away and write the script, or rather my first draft before the book is published. Because that way nobody would be looking over my shoulder, nobody would be telling me what to do. “

Indie Revolver: So that was important to you, having your own voice as part of that process?

ED: Yeah. At least to give it a try. If somebody had come along and said they were going to hire a legendary screenwriter, I might well have been seduced by that. But I thought I might as well have a bash.

IR: How did the novel for Room come about?

ED: My kids were four and a half and one and I’s heard about one of these kidnapping cases. There had been so few kidnapping cases that involved the birth of a child. The case that triggered it for me was the Fritzl case in Austria.

All that Room took from that (case) was giving birth to a child in a locked room. I made it different from and less hideous than that case, or any of the real cases, frankly. Because I didn’t want this to be the story of additional horrors piled on a child. What I was interested in was, what if you didn’t have the world but you had the love of one parent? You know, but enough food and air and so on. It’s a study of the lack of freedom, rather than extra horrors. But really the story never would have struck a chord with me if I hadn’t had small kids. It was really having kids that made me think of this. As soon as I had kids my head was full of the kinds of thoughts of the existential angst of parenting. Like, how much would you sacrifice for your kid? How much do you resent the loss of your individualized self? And responsibility was pretty new to me, I’m the youngest of eight and I’m a writer. Not a very responsible job, you know? When we had a baby was the first time I ever found myself thinking, “Oh my god, it’s my job to stay awake and look after this baby.”

IR: How involved were you with the production of the film?

ED: I would say more involved than the writer usually is. Because I owned the book I was able to get a very good deal which involved me a lot. For instance, the rights were not actually sold until just before filming. Until that point we had what was called an attachment, it’s pretty unusual. So we all worked with nobody getting paid and we worked together for several years to develop it. I think that made the film company keep me in the loop. Of course what it really depends on is a good working relationship. If you don’t have a good working relationship, they’ll find ways to keep you at a distance. It was very chummy.

IR: Since it was your project and you were so involved and the process was unconventional, how involved were you in picking a director?

ED: That was really my main power, to not say yes until the right director came along. I didn’t want to sell it to a producer because I couldn’t tell who would direct it. I was just so concerned to protect this story from either turning it sentimental or schlocky. So I really felt like I had to hold out for the right director. I know that’s an unusual way to proceed but when Lenny Abrahamson wrote to me I was just blown away by how closely his vision and mine corresponded. He was just not afraid of all the unusual aspects of the book. You know, the two half structure or the child being in every scene or the way it proceeds chronologically with no flashbacks or tricks.

Lenny and I began to work on the script very closely. And again, that was a great experience because there wasn’t lots of people in the way. It was just him and me swapping emails and swapping drafts back and forth. So I think I had a real sweet time in making this film, which is very unusual for a writer. I keep saying to myself, “It’s never going to be like this again.”

IR: Is that a concern? The film is rightfully getting attention, specifically the writing. So I’m sure you’re being approached for other projects, some that aren’t based on your own work. Does that interest you? Would you be open to adapting someone else’s work? Or writing your own original scripts?

ED: Yeah! Yes. All of these things intrigue me. I’ve definitely been approached and it’s really exciting to have a whole new form of writing open up to me. Because, of course, novels you can just write on your own, whereas film there’s no point in sitting home and writing scripts that will never be made. You have to write films in the context of other people who actually want to make them with you. It’s very exciting in my mid-forties to find myself suddenly having this whole other form of writing open.

IR: You have a whole new sandbox open to you now.

ED: Exactly!

IR: There’s been a lot of people who haven’t been able to make that jump. You see a lot of writers who are used to being able to work in that long form of writing novels, which is very different than a script, unable to do that.

ED: And not just that it’s long form, but that you’re totally in charge… I mean the autonomy of fiction. And I love that. Especially as films take so long to get put together. I would have been tearing my hair out with anxiety over the past few years if I hadn’t been quietly working away at my novels.

IR: Obviously the filmmaking process is a bit more collaborative and a novel you’re in control of everything. What aspects appeal to you from each of those disciplines? What parts do you not like?

ED:  Good question. With novels I really like that there are no rules. At different points in history there have been. When Charlotte Bronte tried to sell her first novel they told her it wasn’t long enough, you needed to volumes. Whereas nowadays you can go to a publisher with a really brilliant novella or linked stories or some three thousand page novel and if it’s good enough they’ll publish it. So it’s a very flexible form. Editors of adult fiction, they never tell you what to do, they simply give suggestions, they don’t bully you. So it’s enormously freeing, you can really do what you like in fiction. And readers are quite tolerant, readers approach it at their own pace. They may choose to sit down and read it over one night or a little bit at a time. You have to bare that in mind, for instance you can’t assume they’ll remember every tiny detail because they might be reading it over a period of weeks. Basically, time is not an issue in a novel. You’re relaxed about that.

Plays and films are both time based mediums, so you have to be aware your audience are literally sitting there on their butts. So you can’t make it too draggy but you also can’t make it too short or they’ll feel cheated as well. So there are more rules when it comes to structuring both plays and films.

IR: Did you encounter any obstacles, with regard to the material, in which the studio wanted things changed or requests made that you didn’t want to make?

ED: Oh sure. You see it’s not an equal relationship, it’s not like you and the director are co-making this movie. Just as a novel has to have a writer, a film has to have a director. Their individual vision has to govern all the decisions. It felt like lots of us were putting in input, my input was the earliest since I wrote the book but I didn’t think that gave me the right to dictate anything. Then the designer is putting in so much, the editor is making suggestions, the costume people, the actors…There’s all this input but it’s up to the director to make those judgment calls. So in that context it felt like I was very much part of the discussion and I felt like I had a lot of input, but I never owned the film the way I would a book. That really takes the pressure off you as well. I’m not half as nervous about the film going out into the world as when a novel of mine goes out into the world.

IR: Sure, and I suppose since you were able to choose the director, that he was an extension of you and your original material.

ED: I trust his taste. I remember thinking, “Ok, he may not always agree with me, but he’s going to make a great film. It’ll be his film and it’ll be a great film.” From his previous films I could tell he was never going to head down a bad road.

IR: The book and the film share a lot but there were some significant changes along the way. Were these changes that you made yourself, knowing that film is a different medium and you were adapting that material to a very different one?

ED: A lot of them, yeah. Some were suggested by other people, but I think most of them I saw, in the second half of the film that I had to streamline characters. In my first script I immediately took away Ma’s brother and his family and lots of little episodic encounters. That was the main thing I did. But I made some changes that turned out not to be necessary. In the first draft of my script I gave Jack short hair because I thought mainstream cinema audiences are going to be too freaked out by a long haired boy. And Lenny said to me, “No, no. Let’s go back to the book. I liked the long hair.”

Interestingly enough I realized in watching the editing process that at that point you’re almost talking about shaping a piece of music. Like there were individual lines that I would have liked if they stayed in. There’s one line in the TV interview where she’s asked about the breast feeding and she responds sardonically saying, “In this whole story, this is the bit that’s bothering you? The breastfeeding?” So as an individual line, I would have liked that to stay, but in fact the way Lenny and the editor were cutting that scene, it ended up way shorter but still very powerful. To argue for any one line would have felt irrelevant because it’s not about content at this point, it’s about rhythm. One thing that had to go was, in the book, she had a still birth before Jack and that provides a lovely kind of tragic background to her very joyful parenting of Jack. But in the film that kind of a storyline given another tragic piece of backstory felt regressive, you know? Again, because film is a time based medium, you’re moving on, you’re moving on, so there’s far less opportunity for tangents or cul-de-sacs.

IR: How involved were you in the casting?

ED: I was in on all of the discussions, but I didn’t throw my weight around. Especially as I live in Canada and as soon as we knew we were going to make it in Canada, we had to cast it mostly Canadian. We did a lot of swapping lists of actors and so on.

IR: What an amazing two leads you ended up with. The film’s success really laid on their shoulders. You had to buy that relationship completely. And you totally do. There isn’t a disingenuous moment between the two of them. They complement each other so well in each scene they share.

ED: This film spent its money very smartly. It doesn’t look particularly expensive but the time was spent on the shoot being long enough. It was forty-nine days of mostly five day weeks and not late nights, so no one got too exhausted. It was on a humane child schedule. And also we got the set ready three weeks early so Brie and Jacob could go in there and play in that space for three weeks. They made most of the crafts you see in there, for instance.

IR: That’s a great touch.

ED: Because with a kid you can’t just make them turn on the chemistry, it’s not like that. You have to give them time to get to know each other. They had such a lovely rapport. And Brie gave him a lot of really gentle coaching, not getting him to express the emotions, but was more like, “Oh put your left leg slightly to the side again. Let’s tuck that curl back behind your ear.”

IR: Was there ever any concern about the tone of the film with a young actor on set? Or even how much he was aware of?

ED: Not really because he never needed to see anything traumatic. Scenes where he’s in the wardrobe and things were going on… Scenes were filmed when he was off having his math class or something. Even the breast feeding, that was never explicit. So he didn’t have to do anything that really embarrassed him. He was a little nervous about the prospect of being in the bath together, but of course they were wearing flesh colored body suits. He got really relaxed around Brie, I wouldn’t say he was distressed by any of it. Kids are always so wonderfully in the moment. A scene like when they’re reunited when she comes running out of the room to the police car… Brie was totally wound up and upset by that and as soon the cameras turned off Jacob was like, “What are you still upset about? We’re not acting anymore.” I think he was an enormous calming influence on her.

IR: What’s been the most gratifying part of the process for you?

ED: I found Working with Lenny to be superb. I feel like I really learned screenwriting at his feet. It was really satisfying too, because when I worked with theater directors, it’s just been for a few weeks. This has been a really sustained working relationship. He’s just so smart and highly entertaining. And as fellow Dubliners we clicked very well. It’s funny, writers always expect that the film industry will “fuck them over” and it just never happened (to me). I think I had a uniquely privileged experience.

IR: It sounds like you had the best possible journey through it, at least.

ED: I know.

IR: Thank you so much.

ED: My pleasure.


Jay Discusses ‘He Named Me Malala’ With Academy Award Winning Director Davis Guggenheim


Davis Guggenheim

by: Jay Carlson

Academy Award winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim sat down to discuss his newest film, He Named Me Malala. The film centers on the important story of Malala Yousafzai,, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.  The then 15-year-old was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world. She miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally.


Question: What brought you to the story of Malala?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: These producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, were hunting down the life rights. The book was sort of pre-published and they had read some early chapters. They had acquired the life rights of Malala and her father and they were so blown away after meeting her in person that on the plane ride back to L.A. they were like, this can’t be a feature, it should be a documentary. And so they called me.

Then when they asked me I was like give me a few days and so I read, I was just reading more about her. I only knew a little bit. Like most people I knew that she was shot on her school bus. If that was it, it may not have been enough but I became very interested in this idea of this father/daughter relationship. I have two daughters and it made me wonder, what was the chemistry between these two people? What was it that made them so interesting? So that pulled me in.

Q: How did Malala and her family respond to having the cameras on them?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: They were very into it. (Originally) They were unknown people in the Swat Valley, where the whole thing happened. It was a beautiful place, a very peaceful place until the Taliban came in. They felt at that time to tell their story was a necessity, to bring help. In the movie she Malala 2starts blogging for the BBC, she starts speaking out publicly. So for them telling their story is part of their mission…. Which is refreshing. Often you start to bring out a camera and people run away from you. You can’t pretend that if you bring in a camera crew that people that people are just going to totally ignore it and act normally all the time. That being said, they were very open and very comfortable. The trick is that if you’re there long enough, people end up acting the way they’re going to act. People tend to be tense and self-conscious for a bit then they become themselves.

Q: Before you brought the cameras out you had lengthy interviews with the family. What was the experience like in those three hour conversations and if they differed with later interactions?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: In a fundamental way. People change when you bring a camera in a room. But people want to communicate they want to connect. Doing these very simple one on one interviews, you and me just talking, with no one else around. It can be different when you’re talking and someone is holding a pole over your head. I just sat in Malala’s office, just me and her and talked for three hours. She came out saying, “I’ve given so many interviews but I’ve never told anyone this.” There’s a spirit of intimacy in those conversations and there’s a spirit of wandering. Meaning you’re not deciding where the conversation is going. It’s like doing an interview without any notes.  I recommend it if you haven’t done it.  To make a connection and follow where it goes. Sometimes that’s hard if you have a story to write. Sometimes you want to cover the five beats you need to cover. If you’re really listening to the answer, sometimes that answer leads you to the next place. Instead of skipping along the surface and covering five different things, it takes one thing and it goes deeper.

Q: Were there any documentary films that you had in mind when you were going through the process as inspirational pieces?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: There was a film, Waltz with Bashir, which was an animated Israeli film. VERY different, very different.  But it was a documentary with a lot of animation. I studied it. They had built an animation company, so I was interested in how they did it. Weirdly, I’ve never told anyone this, I looked at the film Grizzly Man. I looked at a lot of movies. I studied how that movie goes back and forth between a lighter tone and heavier tone and how it intercuts that. This is like… I’ve never made a movie like this before, very difficult story structure. It doesn’t really hold up as a comparison to another movie. For good or bad.

Q: There’s a moment in the film where we see a montage of talking heads talking about their hesitancy to have Malala thrust as this figurehead for all of the Middle East. What do you think the objections are in these communities to her being this Westernized figure?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Well there are a lot of people who love her and think she’s amazing. Then there are people… I don’t want to give too much voice to the negativity but in simple terms people think… her poorly informed critics think she’s a tool of the West. I think people in the region say, why doesn’t she just come home? If she loves her country so much why doesn’t she just come home? And it’s very clear in the movie that it’s not safe for her to go home yet.

Q: Did you have any personal safety concerns since your subject was a target of the Taliban?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: I think she’s safe. What’s beautiful about her is that she doesn’t live in fear. Her mission is really important to her. She worries and is scared for sixty-six million other girls who don’t have school. On her eighteenth birthday she asked if she could go back to the refugee camp that we were at. She connects very closely to those girls who are experiencing what she went through.

Q: What about as a result of the film in general? Were you concerned that there would be any sort of response from members of the Taliban?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Not really. I suspect they won’t like the film, but I didn’t make it for them. Whenever I make a film I think of a very specific audience… I mean I want the film to be for everyone, but I really thought of a teenage girl in Japan or in New Jersey or in India, I thought what would this young girl think of? How would they watch this movie?

Q: What was your hope for a Western audience to take away from this? Aside from just education. What do you think a teenage girl from New Jersey has to learn from Malala?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: I have two daughters that go to a safe school, but I think there are a lot of things that keep them from feeling confident and speaking out. I think there’s a lot to learn from Malala because she was an ordinary girl who was brave enough to speak out for what she believed. And I know from myself that there are many things that bother me and disturb me and I say nothing.Malala 4 So I think that there’s a lesson in this for everyone. If she can do it, if she can risk her life to do it, I can do it. I can speak. How important that is and how that simple value is forgotten. That simple act. Malala and her father talk about how it was their duty to speak out. I think a lot of us shirk that duty.

Q: A lot of documentary filmmakers say that they’ll usually go into a project having one film in mind and by the time they’re done with it it’s a completely different film.

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: That’s a good question.

Q: What was that process like for you with this film?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: I think if you start with a film in mind and you make that film, it won’t be very good because the process of documentary is discovering your story as you go, especially if you’re shooting new material. Things are going to happen that you never imagined. I never imagined the moment of Malala and her brother’s arm wrestling or her older brother saying he was the favorite child of the mother, things like that. Also the more fundamental deep questions that come up. When you make a movie you go on a journey and that’s a journey of discovery. My father who made great documentaries said, “Let the story reveal itself to you.” That was such a great lesson. If you’re open as you make it, you’ll find things you never imagined.

Q: You mentioned you were inspired by Malala and her family and their relationships and how they interact. Was there anything that surprised you about the family and the way that they interact together?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: I think it’s easy to think that she’s a superhero. Sometimes you see these extraordinary people and you think, I know I can’t throw a football like Tom Brady, I can’t sing like Beyoncé, I could never be Malala.

She was born that way. I think that’s the surprising thing for me, she was an ordinary girl. Her life could have gone another way very easily. Part of it is the love of her father and her mother, but also it was her deciding to make a choice that made her extraordinary. That’s what’s so interesting, I think we all have that potential in us.

Q: The film opens with an animated interlude about the story of the original Malala, who she is named after. Where did the idea of using the animated segments come from and what do you think it communicates?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Necessity is the mother of invention, right? I find, as you said, that you don’t know where the movie is going to go. Sometimes your biggest problems become the inspiration for interesting, creative ideas. Malala told me the story of Maiwand, which happened like a hundred years ago, or the story of her mother selling her books for candy, which she did in a place with no cameras. Those pieces are fundamental to the story. So how do I do that? Do I do reenactments with guys in helmets or an actor playing her mother, selling her books for candy? The thought of not putting those elements in the movie wasn’t a choice, in my opinion. Some documentaries get kind of hamstringed by those things and the filmmaker says, “I don’t have those things, I’m not going to put them in the movie.” I had done some animation in other movies, but smaller things. So I decided to build an animation company in my studio in Venice. I had a team of animator’s hand drawing these images. It was pretty fun… and hard.  Really hard. The other part about it is the way Malala and her father were telling these stories, it had a kind of romantic longing. Almost a storybook feel. Sometimes that’s what I go for. Not just literally what they’re saying but what the feeling is. This battle could be told from the told from a half Jewish half Episcopalian guy from L.A. with long hair but I decided to animate it from the point of view of a young girl. If you’re saying, “I was named after this character.” What would that be like? So we kept redrawing and redrawing and I wanted it to feel like she’s imagining this girl climbing a mountain. It’s a storybook mountain.

Q: Did Malala have any input into how the animation looked?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: A little bit. Early on I showed them and said, “I’m going to do this.” And they were like, “What? I don’t understand.” But when I showed them they said, “Oh this is very beautiful.” They were great. They just sort of trusted me to tell their story and they loved it.

Q: There’s obviously moments you capture in a documentary, moments, shots that you didn’t plan. Were there ever any moments where the cameras weren’t on that you kick yourself for something that you may have missed?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Always. We were there when she didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize because everyone thought that she was going to win that year. Then we weren’t there when she did win the following year. She was at school and her teacher came in and told her in class that she’d won the Nobel Peace Prize. That would have been cool capture. No one thought that she was going to win then and we couldn’t be at the school anyway. That’s one of many.

Q: One of the things Malala doesn’t talk about very much is her personal suffering. I was wondering about how you tried to talk to her about it. When asked directly she didn’t want to answer.

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: You see I kept asking her that question. She clearly didn’t want to go there.

Q: Besides Malala’s suffering was there anything else that anyone else in the family was hesitant to discuss?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: A lot of people ask about the mother, why she isn’t as present in the film. Malala 3People read a lot into that. It’s actually a simple answer, Custom. Her custom from this part of the
world, being on camera is a bit immodest. Not from religion, but from tradition. In the beginning she didn’t really want to be a part of it, but towards the end she really wanted to be a part of it.

Q: When you’re making a documentary have you ever gotten to a point when you start to worry that there isn’t enough “meat on the bone” for what you were hoping to capture? If so, how does your process change based on that?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Oh yeah. I’m always doubting, I’m always worrying. I still… I watched the movie two nights ago and I thought, “Why did I do that? Why didn’t I do this?” I’m never quite satisfied.

Q: It’s a high wire act compared to narrative features.


Q: With a narrative feature you have a script page, you shoot your coverage and you’re done. With a documentary, you’re just out there and you’re trying to make sure you capture enough of those special moments. Then you’re finding the film in the editing room.

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Narrative people have it easy. They have a script. Good ones make the script better. At the very least it’s a map of where you’re going. In documentaries you don’t have that map, you don’t have a script. The first day you have your script is the last day of editing. It’s like, “Ok, that’s what it was.” Finding it is really hard. REALLY hard.  Especially a movie like this that intercuts different times, it’s like a massive puzzle. It’s a puzzle that took a year and a half to solve. We were editing for a year and a half.

Q: What questions are people asking and is there something that they’re not asking that you wanted to get across?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Sometimes the fundamental themes that are buried in the movie you feel but don’t necessarily acknowledge. And sometimes it should just stay that way. I think at the core of the movie it builds to this choice. I’m not the first person to say this but great characters are defined by the choices they make. When you’re forced to commit one way or the other. Am I in or am I out? To me the movie builds towards a choice of a girl… To speak out and risk her life and her father to let her do it and what are the things that led to that choice? To me, that’s really essential because you read about her as a girl who was shot on a school bus. That’s a victim story. But I don’t think (the film) is a victim story. I think this is about her making a choice, which inspires me. That’s what defines her. Her choice to speak out.

Q: It’s right there in the title, HE named me Malala. You mentioned at the beginning that it was a father/daughter story. When did that emerge? At what point when speaking with the family did you realize that he was such a key player?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Right when I started reading about her. I thought, “Oh, this is interesting.” Maybe because I have two daughters. As a filmmaker the more I’m drawn in a certain direction… I could easily have made a geopolitical film that talks about Afghanistan and Pakistan and the history of that region. What are the forces that were there to create the Taliban and what’s America’s involvement? But I was really interested in this father/daughter story. The bigger mystery (to me) was this father/daughter… what were the ingredients to this relationship?

Q: Was there anything that you found surprising about their dynamic that you hadn’t realized before you went into it?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Everything. You go in with an open mind, but you go in with questions. Is he a puppet master? Is she just a puppet? That’s certainly not the case, in my opinion. Did naming her influence how she acted? What is the nature of destiny? Did she choose this life? Something about the title provokes those questions. I want the title to provoke those questions.

Q: What is your hope with the film coming out?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: The dreamy version of it, and I love to dream, is it’s more than just a movie it’s a movement. There are sixty-six million girls who are out of school and Malala feels very deeply connected to them and wants to help them. She always talks about how each one of those girls have a story just like hers. The hope is that people see this film and connect to that and maybe speak out. Maybe the Malala fund raises the money to build some schools. Maybe it influences world leaders and changes policy.

Q: What you think Malala’s future will look like after the film?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: Can’t wait to find out. Sky’s the limit. She’s such an amazing person. She has all the potential in the world.

Q: What’s next for you?

DAVIS GUGGENHEIM: I’m going to take a sabbatical and be a dad. I’ve been on too many airplanes and not a present dad so I’m going to make dinner every night and bring my kids to school. Work less. I don’t have another project. Unemployed currently.

Q: Thanks, Davis.

He Named Me Malala opens nationwide today. It’s a remarkable and inspiring story that everyone should make the effort to see.

Jay Sits Down With Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and Writer Jesse Andrews to Talk ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’

Me and Earl

by: Jay Carlson

I was fortunate enough to speak with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon as well as writer of the source novel and screenplay Jesse Andrews when they passed through Boston recently. Gomez-Rejon might not be a name you know yet but he’s certainly on the come lately after the Sundance success of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. He’s had an interesting trajectory up to this Alfonso Gomez Rejonpoint, with one of his earliest credits as an intern on the excellent Alexandre Rockwell indie film In the Soup starring Steve Buscemi and Seymour Cassel. From there, he moved on to work as a PA on projects such as Casino with Martin Scorsese and 21 Grams with Alejandro González Iñárritu. All the hard work finally got him gigs directing second unit footage on movies like Babel and Argo and finally settling in as a director with American Horror Story and remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon: Working for Scorsese shifted everything. The people you’re exposed to, that knowledge of film history… All of a sudden you’re watching these films with him and he just sets the bar. The three years of PA’ing before (directing) prepare you to keep that job. Going back and talking about this is so weird, you know? I was so young, it was so surreal. As surreal as being at Sundance and there is Scorsese and you’re with him, you know? And you’re just watch like a ninja. You’re just quiet and taking everything in and if he needs something, you’re there with whatever he needed.

Jesse Andrews: (To AGR) You drove him around, right?

AGR: On weekends.

JA: You’re not great with directions. (laughing)

AGR:  I’m good with lefts and rights. (laughing) His teamster would be working nights on Casino. Friday he’d take off after dropping Scorsese off and then I would drive him home Saturday morning and keep the car for that weekend for whatever Marty wanted. That means driving home Saturday morning because usually teamsters with night shoots (Mimes someone leaning and sleeping)… So I’m on set, I’m working 16, 18 hours or whatever. (And I have) to get Marty home and you’re driving home at eight in the morning and you’re doing this (mimes droopy head bob behind the wheel). It was so hard… And then you get lost. That’s the worst part. I drove in to an ally one time and he’s like, “What is this, a rubout?”

I was driving Alejandro (González Iñárritu) on 21 Grams… Benecio, Alejandro, Sean Penn, Naomi Watts… All the assistants drove the actors. It was also a fairly small movie. There I am in Memphis and what do I know about Memphis? And I’m working 20 or 21 hour days and I was on seven days a week, to the point that I physically didn’t think I could finish the job. It was that taxing on me physically because there was no down time. Sometimes he’d be 45 minutes late to the set because I would literally stop and say, “Alejando, I don’t know where I am.” I’d put it in production reports and get yelled at by producers. I’d be like, “Don’t have me drive the director then!” (laughing)

Another time on 21 Grams Alejandro says that he wants me to take his family, his parents who have flown in from Mexico City, his wife and kids and take them all to Graceland. I got lost. (laughs) I’m not kidding. I end up at a dead end with a highway over me and the family is there and Graceland closes! So then I have to drive them all back.

Now I can sense that if someone’s driving me and took a wrong turn… I know what they’re feeling and I’m like, “Don’t worry about it, I know. Don’t worry about it. It’s going to be ok!”

The success of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has been a whirlwind for Writer Jesse Andrews. Me Jesse Andrewsand Earl is Andrews’ first published novel but he’s been at it for a bit.

JA: When I started writing this book I had already written two books that hadn’t gotten published and were never going to be published so I had no certainty that this wasn’t going to be another of those books. Maybe I’m just doing that for the rest of my life, and that’s fine. I just became much more wedded to process over the outcome.

Indie Revolver: How much of Me and Earl was drawn from your own experiences?

JA: This is not literally my story. I didn’t have a classmate who went through this. Where it comes from is that when I set out to write this book my grandfather was terminally ill. He wasn’t going to be around much longer and I was just thinking a lot about grief, about how incomplete and frustrating any exchanges with someone who is going through something like that… you know someone who is not going to be here that much longer. You never say the thing you wished you had said. You never do the thing you wished you had done. You’ll always recriminate yourself because it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t complete. I saw my mom going through this, too, her father was dying. I knew if I could take that and make something funny out of it and hopeful too, but not unreal. If I could find something in there… that would be something and that was my goal. I had no confidence that I was necessarily going to get there.

IR: So did you set out to adapt your own book? Was that part of the deal when you sold the rights?

JA: I didn’t build that in. It didn’t even really occur to me that that was something that I could do. I just wrote a book… I was ecstatic just to have a book published. Then the selling of the film rights was this very abstract unreal thing to me until my agent put the manuscript in front of this guy Dan Fogelman.

In an interview with Dan Fogelman a couple months ago about his first directorial effort, Danny Collins he spoke a little about his experience on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Dan Fogelman: I just did this movie that was in Sundance, it’s my most recent thing and it just won all of Sundance. It won the whole thing. I produced it, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It’s exceptional, the movie is exceptional. This director is so talented. He’s going to be my generation’s next important director. I think 25 years from now he’s (going to be) my generations Scorsese. I think he’s that good. I didn’t write the script, the novelist (Jesse Andrews) adapted his own book and I taught him how to write the screenplay. We worked through the script together over the course of years and I put a lot into it. The director then took it and made his own version of it. It was such a cool process watching this. The first time I saw it I was like “Whoa.” He took it an elevated it and did it all differently and it’s artistic and cool and I Love that. It’s really something else.

JA: (Regarding Dan Fogelman) He’s a beast. He’s just like this pure beautiful human being and incredibly talented. It was kind of his idea and also my agent’s idea to, if they could, give me the first crack at adapting it. (Producers) Indian Paintbrush was crazy enough to take us on. I think the project became much more appealing once it had Dan packaged in with it, but the arrangement was that he would guide me through the writing process and really make himself available in a way that I think is unusual for a producer/writer relationship. So I got to learn from this total master of his craft. I just tried not to screw it up. (Fogelman’s part in getting the film to the screen) wasn’t a small part. This film wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for him. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to write it without someone like him and there’s only one person like him, it’s him and I got to hang out with him. So it’s amazing.

IR: Alfonso, what brought you to the film?

AGR: My dad had passed away and I was having trouble trying to understand it. Then I got this beautiful gift by Jesse that allowed me that opportunity deal with it and give it a shape and do it through this beautiful, weird sense of humor. That’s why I felt very connected to it. I thought the script dealt with (illness and grief) beautifully and elegantly and age appropriate, whatever that means because it was age appropriate for me.

IR: It’s a bold move to jump into making a film about illness and dying when you’re going through something like that personally. I would have been trying to make anything but something dealing with illness and dying.

AGR: I had been doing that for four years. Until you finally have to deal with it. The only way I could express it was through images and movies and doing what I think I was meant to do, I don’t know. This gave me that opportunity.

IR: Going through that stuff is so relatable. It’s Universal. The film really broke my heart. My son just found out one of his best friends has Leukemia this week and he has a friend that kind of reminds me of Earl. Seeing this film really hit home.

AGR: Hopefully it’s not a downer because the script handled it with such grace and so much humor and that was very important to me.

IR: It didn’t break my heart in a bad way. It’s just such an affecting, well-made film and you really cared for each of those characters.

AGR: It was comforting to me, making the film. Hopefully people feel that. It captured adolescence and I saw myself in Greg before the Bernthal scene and after the Bernthal scene.

IR: How great was Bernthal in this, by the way?

AGR: Isn’t he?

JA: He was great. He’s incredible. He’s a great ad-libber, too. He was one of the few who every take was different and it was good shit. Him and Molly Shannon did some amazing ad-libbing.

IR: Jesse, you’ve written a novel and now a screenplay, what’s the plan going forward? Screenplays? Books? A little of both?

JA: Yeah, both. It’s really creatively fulfilling to get to leverage each one against the other, going from one world to the other and back. They’re so different. The economy and discipline in writing a screenplay… you don’t have a lot of space and you have to choose your words very carefully and that’s energizing but then after a while you want to really stretch out and to go to a book is great. You can just babble for a really long time, relatively speaking. When I write dialogue in a book I like to put in a lot of umms and ahhs and repetition and really try to give a naturalistic feeling to make it sound like kids talk. You can’t really do that in a movie. There are other ways to make it feel real or hyper real but not through that. Not through space. So I’ve done both actually since this. I’ve done a couple adaptations of other books, I wrote my own script and then I wrote my second young adult book first draft which just got bought by Abrams and I’m about to go into revisions. Hopefully it comes out spring of 2016.

IR: Alfonso, What’s next? You’re casting a movie now? (News had broken days before that Collateral Beauty would be Gomez-Rejon’s next film and had landed Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara)

AGR: Possibly. Yeah, that was leaked to the press. It’s not real yet. I’d rather not talk about it because it might be something else. There’s like three things that could potentially go and that is one of them. If the script comes together then that would go quickly (probably) in the winter but it could be something else. I don’t know who leaked that probably some bullshit producer who wants it to be real. It’s uncomfortable when that happens. So there’s a lot of stuff, who knows what it’s going to be? I know we’ll have food on the table for at least a year.

JA: Eight months.

AGR: (laughing) Eight months, tops. As opposed to the years prior. There’s a lot of opportunities now.

IR: How has the success of Me and Earl changed your lives?

JA: More opportunities. I spend a lot more time now hitting refresh on the twitter search for mentions of this movie. I’m a young adult author technically and I have less than two thousand followers which is mortifying. It’s so embarrassing that my media presence is appallingly nothing. For me it’s a huge amount of work to agonize over a tweet and it gets two favorites then it disappears into the abyss. But yeah, better opportunities. I got to a point where I had made peace with the idea that I would never get here, or even approaching here and now stuff is happening.

AGR: My life changed, I think both of our lives changed after that screening at the Eccles Theater. As a filmmaker now.. people are listening because they’re able to see something that is closer to your own voice and they’re liking it and now they have some trust in you as a director. That as a filmmaker is wonderful. When all you want to do is make movies and you need millions of dollars it’s tough to be able to talk and speak through your movies, so now it’s an opportunity to do more of that and that’s nice.

IR: Thanks guys. I really loved your film

AGR: Jay, thanks a lot.

JA: Thanks, Jay.

I had a wonderful time speaking to Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and Jesse Andrews. Stay tuned for part two of our Me and Earl and the Dying Girl interviews with Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler.

I highly encourage you to get out to see the film tomorrow, June 12th in select cities with a bigger rollout in the weeks following. To see exactly when the film is hitting your neck of the woods click HERE.

IR Talks With Nick Kroll About Vices, the Greatness of Bobby Cannavale and his new Film ‘Adult Beginners’

by: Jay Carlson

The following is the transcript from a roundtable interview I took part in with Nick Kroll this week. Normally, I don’t post the full transcript but I really enjoyed the natural flow of the conversation and think it stands up well to a full read.

Be aware there are minor spoilers about Kroll’s new film, Adult Beginners. So, if you’d prefer to go in fresh, read it after checking out the film.

Speak of the film, it’s available today in select theaters and on VOD. Find out how you can see it near you by clicking HERE.

Adult Beginners has an excellent cast consisting of Kroll, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale.You’ll also notice a lot of great cameos from Joel McHale, Jason Mantzoukas, Bobby Moynihan, Mike Birbiglia and more.

The film centers on a young, hipster entrepreneur (Nick Kroll) who crashes and burns on the eve of his company’s big launch. With his entire life in disarray, he leaves Manhattan to move in with his estranged pregnant sister (Rose Byrne), brother-in-law (Bobby Cannavale) and three year-old nephew in the suburbs — only to become their manny.  Faced with real responsibility, he may finally have to grow up — but not without some bad behavior first.


Q: Let’s start at the beginning, the inception of the story. So you come up with the story idea and then, do you seek out the writers that end up writing the script? And if so, how do you choose who writes the script for the film?

Nick Kroll: I just started reading a bunch of people and I really wanted to have at least one female voice in the writing process just because so much of the story was based on Rose being a young mother figuring out how to work and be a mom. It just seemed like it would be really helpful because my imagination is somewhat limited. So I read it to a bunch of different people and met with Liz (Flahive) and Jeff (Cox) who wrote the movie. They are an actual husband and wife and when they wrote the script, when I met them, they had a two year old son and by the time we started shooting the movie they had just had another kid. They were really just keyed in to that slightly tired, overwhelmed parents trying to work and figure out how to navigate all those things. I was really excited to have people like that be able to, you know, have real life experience to make it feel more realistic.

Q: Most comedic actors have a good dramatic performance in them, but the same is not usually the case in the other direction. What makes comedic actors able to draw into drama?

Kroll: Well we’re.. Comedic actors are just more talented (laughter) You know, it’s just… I only half mean that. No, I think its… I do think sometimes it’s harder… You can either learn or learn to have access to whatever emotions you need to have a dramatic performance, but sometimes comedy is… there’s some intangible, innate quality to it, as I would say there are for dramatic performances, there are only certain amount of people who can pull some of the more intense dramatic performances off. I think it is easier to go comedic to dramatic than vice versa.

Q: Rose Byrne’s kind of having an amazing couple years recently with her comedic performances. How was it working with her? You guys had a nice chemistry together.

Kroll: Thank you. Yeah, it was great. She was the first person we went to to play my sister. Obviously I wanted to cast that sister role first because it’s the most central to the movie working or not. There’s a lot of very talented comedic actresses out there. She is just so adept at both (comedic and dramatic) that we were very fortunate that she wanted to do it. I think she identified with the siblings relationship. She’s the youngest of four, as well. I think she just connected with that element to the script. I think that there was something that felt very familiar to her, without putting words in her mouth, as she seems to have explained it. So we just got really lucky and she also happens to be super fucking cool, which is nice. She was just game, you know? We put her in a freezing cold pool for two days, with no heater. The heater in the pool broke and she just didn’t complain about anything, not that she would. She just was a pleasure to work with and also so funny… and agile as a performer.

Q: Does coming from an improv background effect the way you approach a scene with people who don’t have that improv background or are primarily comedic?

Kroll: It depends, you know? Like Rose and Bobby (Cannavale) don’t come from an improv background but both of them could improvise. I think there are people who… I don’t theoretically come from a drama background. I think it’s just creating an environment where people are able to do what they’re comfortable with and respond honestly in a scene. There was definitely improvising throughout the movie but we also worked hard on making the script and the jokes or the dramatic moments land as much as we could. But in a lot of the scenes there’s moments of it and in certain scenes it’s heavier. Like, me and Bobby Moynihan’s scene in the convenience store… Bobby and I both came out of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and so that (scene) had more improv, In Joel McHale’s stuff, there’s some really fun improvised stuff in there. But then also in the parent’s Skype scene with Celia Weston and Jeff DeMunn with me and Rose (that) ended up being quite improvised, but also there’s stuff that’s improvised in there that’s not comedic at all. It’s more underlying story stuff of like, their father remarried real quick to some kooky woman and they’re not so psyched about it. So there’s stuff that slips out that isn’t a joke but was improvised. So, I think the nice thing about having the ability to improvise is that things feel fresh. I didn’t want to lean on it on this project. Like, if something wasn’t working, then just change the line. The goal was to really give it the respect it deserved.

Q: Overall, in general, how was filming this film different from the other productions you’ve been in thus far?

Kroll: Well, I’ve never produced a film, a feature. So that, in itself was a new experience. I’ve now been able to produce some TV stuff and shorts and web stuff and the like, but I haven’t been the lead of a movie before. So figuring out how to track that stuff, of just being aware I’m not just in one scene where I play, like a monster. (laughter) Where you don’t have to worry about anything but what you’re doing in that one scene. So you’re like, “Ok, does this work if I do this? Does that make sense ten pages later?” Those were new things for me to navigate. And then all of this stuff, which I’ve done for my show, but this is still… It’s a different thing, the movie version of it. Part of the reason I wanted to do the movie was to just learn how to do it. You just have to do everything for the first time at some point. So this was the story I wanted to tell and also just learn how to make a movie. Mark Duplass, my co-star from The League, helped me navigate the whole process, having gone through it himself a bunch of times.

Q: Everybody in the film seems to have a vice to help them deal with their life. Are there any vices that you use or you have that help you deal with things that happen in your life?

Kroll: Oh yeah, constantly. I mean I have multiple, one of them is coming in now. (To the waiter at the door) They can bring the coffee in. (to the group) Sorry guys. I think my phone is the weirdest vice I have, that I think we all have now. It’s a quadrant for me: Food, pot, booze and phone. Phone right now seems to be the most dangerous. (laughter).

Q: I’d like to talk about Rose Byrne a bit. Do you get a discount on Bobby Cannavale when you cast Rose Byrne first? (The two have been in a relationship since 2012)

Kroll: You know, ironically went to Rose first because we just needed to figure out who that sister was. When we sat down to talk about the part she was like, “I hope this isn’t weird (but)the guy playing the part of my husband in the movie feels like it was written for my boyfriend. He would be perfect.” I said, “Who is your boyfriend?” And she said, “Bobby Cannavale.” I was like, “We literally did write the part for him.” (laughter) I’ve known him socially and Liz Flahive, one of the writers, was an EP on Nurse Jackie, which he did a season of, and they know each other from the theater world. He was always just that template for us of a real man who would be much more masculine and intimidating to the kind of guy that my character is. But also, who had a sweet, thoughtful, tender part of him. With that kind of character Bobby sort of fit that bill perfectly. He’s such a good actor and I really got to learn a lot working with him. The emotional stuff with Rose, it’s not easier to do but you’re like, “Ok, their mom died, let’s see that play out.” You know, you kind of know exactly what you need. He’s super bummed, his mom died. (laughter) He didn’t fucking take care of her properly. But when I’m fighting with Bobby, and it’s like, “I think I saw you cheat on my sister. I don’t have a leg to stand on. I’ve cheated on my girlfriends in the past.” There’s that gray area that, being able to work with a guy like Bobby, who is a natural and puts a lot of thought into why he’s saying what he’s saying… It was really fun for me to have the exercise of doing that with him.

Q: You have Joel McHale, you have Mike Birbiglia, is there anyone you wanted to get for the film that you weren’t able to?

Kroll: Ummm… I’m trying to think if that would offend anyone. (laughter) I mean… (pouring sugar into his coffee) What if I just put like six Sweet and Low’s in the coffee while I casually kept talking… (laughter) It’s tough… Does anyone ever answer that question? I feel like nobody could ever be like, “Well, for the part of Rose we really wanted…”

Q: But for like scheduling reasons…

Kroll: Oh, sure. There were definitely people who were in and were out. It was so many, honestly. We had such a low budget, there were so many time constraints, we just had no flexibility. We definitely had people who were like, “I’d love to do it, can you shoot it in February?” It was like, “No.” It’s so many of my personal friends, people that I had relationships with, that I could call in a favor with. Like (Jason) Mantzoukas, who is obviously a good buddy of mine and I’ve worked with a ton and was very helpful throughout the process of me formulating the movie. He flew in and gave us a day. Josh Charles was shooting The Good Wife and came in and shot… Like, I remember sitting in a stairwell with him and he was like, “I’m leaving the show. My character is going to be done on the show.” He was in the middle of shooting the last couple episodes of that. It was (during) a snowstorm and it was his day off. A movie on this scale… Like, Joel flying in on the last day of shooting, we shot all that party stuff in his (the character’s) apartment. I was so grateful that he did it and I was so burnt (out) at that point and we were shooting this big huge party scene. There was a lot of keeping everyone entertained and he’s a natural host and leader and just carried the weight of the last day or two where I was a little too spent. It was a lot of calling in a lot of favors.

Q: I feel like people respond to the “do over” story. Where people reach a point in their life and need to go forward from that point and reset. Why do you think that’s so interesting?

Kroll: I think it’s partly like, for whatever reason, people like to watch those stories in movies… I guess this is just what your question is and (I’m) rephrasing it back to you. (laughter) There is something about that Hero’s journey or whatever, where you see someone start and fail and come up short and persevere in the end. I’m not exactly sure why people are so attracted to that story. Then I think, in this particular case in (our) movie, it’s inherently sort of an American desire to build your own business, to strive to be the front man for an industry. Jake wants to be “the guy” and he wants to have this new product and be at the center of it with the glitz and glamour of being the new tech guy. Then watching him very quickly lose that, you’re gratified to see a prick get his comeuppance. But then you’re still theoretically rooting for that person to learn their lesson or succeed. I think it’s a double gratification of not wanting to see that douchebag succeed.

Q: What part of wearing so many hats on the production did you enjoy the most and what did you enjoy the least?

Kroll: I’d say it’s weirdly the same thing, which is control. I love being involved at every stage of it and being able to sculpt it and have an opinion, a real opinion of every aspect of the movie… of who got hired and what direction we took it in tonally, what kind of jokes we told, what kind of story we wanted to tell. Then tonally within scenes, being able to be like, “I think this is a more comedic moment,” or whatever. I feel like most sets you work on, there is some version of that conversation. On this I obviously really have the ability to do that and that’s the most fun but it also is the most difficult, which is to figure out how to navigate wearing different hats at different moments. Sometimes just needing to be like, “I just need to be an actor in this scene. I can’t worry about the fact that it’s snowing and we’re going to lose our location for tomorrow and that means we’re going to have to push which means we’re going to lose our actress” and all those things… and then it’s like, “Ok, action.” You have to be able to… it’s the upside and downside of not just being an actor for hire or a writer or producer. You’re just trying to navigate all of them, but I kinda like that. I think they’re fun challenges within that kind of thing.

Q: I know the story for the film kind of originated off of your personal nannying experiences. How have your personal experiences influenced the way you played Jake?

Kroll: Well, I am the youngest of four. I have two older sisters and an older brother. So, I felt connected to being that youngest brother who, I think, sometimes got away with stuff or who didn’t do much of the heavy lifting within the family. Like maybe I could be convinced to do a couple dishes. Meanwhile my sisters were helping make dinner. So I think I identify with that, or (with) Jake trying to make this Mind’s Eye and wanting to be the hotshot. Shit, I went and tried to make a movie. The difference being that I have a good relationship with my siblings. We just had the premiere in New York last night and they were all there. So, with Jake and Justine’s family, there is a good amount of discord… they’ve lost their mother and their father’s moved away and they’re estranged from one another… My actual family is… every family has its ups and downs and I think that’s what I found interesting. The story is interesting and I think that’s what drew Rose and Bobby and Ross Katz, our director, and everybody to it was like, “Oh, I have a sibling, I see what that’s like. I remember thinking what a prick my brother was.”

Q: So how many times have you begun again in your career?

Kroll: I feel like doing what we do, pursuing creative endeavors, (your constantly) putting yourself out there. There’s kind of constant rejection. Hopefully you also get yes’ along the way. It feels like you’re constantly resetting and constantly getting levels of rejection. Like doing this movie, I’m incredibly proud of the fact we made a movie. That, in and of itself, is a great accomplishment. But it’s all good until you read a review that’s like, “It’s thin,” and you’re like, “Oh, Fuck. God damn it.” And (snaps fingers) it’s like you’re resetting right there. It’s a different level of reset than the guy whose life has genuinely fallen apart. I don’t know, I just feel like I have constant… I get to have constant victories but also constant defeats. How thick is your skin? How capable and willing are you to just persevere through? It’s not like Jake learns to be a bigger animal in the tech world. He resets and is like, I need to reset how I am with my sister and her family (and) I need to reset the kind of person that I am a little bit. I think we’re always trying to restart and reengage and pick yourself up.

Q: You’re kind of at a startover point right now. The movie is coming out The League and The Kroll Show are over, so what are you looking to do next?

Kroll: You know, just roundtable interviews (laughter)

Q: Feature length Gigolo movie with Peter Gallagher?

Kroll: God, that would be amazing. Fucking Gallagher in there. He’s the best. That was just…

Q: How did you get him?

Kroll: We just called, we just reached out. You know what it was? His kids were just fans of the show. He is a badass, it was fun. He’s such a cool dude. I just hope to keep getting to do different stuff because every time I do something new, whatever it was I was doing becomes interesting again. The more variety I have, the more I’m excited to the stuff I had been doing and keep trying new things.

Indie Revolver Talks to Ex Machina Director Alex Garland About Auteurs, Star Wars and a New 28 Days Later Film!

by: Jay Carlson

Indie Revolver recently had the opportunity to sit down with writer/director Alex Garland to discuss his newest film, Ex Machina. You might know Garland through his previous work as a comic artist or novelist (He wrote the novel that was adapted for the Danny Boyle film, The Beach). More than likely you know Alex Garland for the movies he’s written. Most notably Garland is responsible for reanimating the zombie genre (along with the Resident Evil video games) with his script for Danny Boyle’s 2002 film 28 Days Later. He also wrote the amazing action film Dredd, as well as Danny Boyle’s Sci-Fi film, Sunshine.

With Ex Machina Alex Garland created a dark, complex, science fiction masterpiece, but don’t call him an auteur, “I’m not really interested auteur-ship.” Garland continues his thought, “Woody Allen? That could be another story. I’ve got no idea. He might be an auteur. I’m not saying that auteurs don’t exist; I’m just talking about my own experience.”

Garland embraces the idea that every member of his crew is an integral cog to the creative process. “What I’m doing is filmmaking, but it’s not that I am the filmmaker. It’s that I am one of a group of people who are filmmaking. That would include a DOP (Director of Photography), a production designer and the director and writer and producer and you could just keep going down the list of all the HOD.’s (Head of Department) who are really bringing distinct things to the movie. I would be taking too much credit on this film if I appropriated that. It would also be being unreasonable to the H.o.D’s on the previous film if I then allocated it. So I’m just trying to get (rid of) this pyramid structure thing ‘cause I don’t realty buy it. I’ve never really observed it and I don’t really care about it. The best thing about film for me is the collaboration, this group of people working together. “

“You must know if you’ve been observing how films are made, directors don’t always do the thing we allege they do. I mean, you must, because it’s impossible. And also, why do productions fight so hard for DOP’s? That line that you often get in reviews is the way directors mount the camera or the performance that the director got out of the actor. Why would we fight to get these people if it’s the director who is dragging this stuff out of them, or micromanaging the whole thing? I’ve never seen that. And because I’ve never seen it, I wouldn’t know how to do it anyway. The collaboration is the big deal to me.”

“This for me is the truest example of how films actually get made. In my experience… There’s a whole thing in Dredd where there’s this drug… it’s kind of a drug movie in one respect. It’s based around this drug called Slo-Mo, with some nice imagery attached to it. There’s a scene, one of the most beautiful bits of imagery on the film and actually a scene that helped us define the other bits of drug imagery that appeared where Ma-Ma, the character played by Lena Heady gets stoned in the bath. She gets wasted and she puts her hand in the water and she pulls it up and these droplets kind of become iridescent and it’s lovely. A beautiful piece of imagery… Beautiful bit of photography. That shot largely exists because Michelle Day, who is a name that never appears on the cards, although in this film I did put her on the cards (Day is credited as the Set Decorator for Ex Machina) but normally she’d be buried in the roll up, said “I think Ma-Ma should have a bath right in the middle of her room and she should get stoned in the bath because that would be the best place to get stoned. She could lie on the bed but wouldn’t it be great if she was in the bath? And then, when she’s getting stoned she could play with the water and it would look really beautiful.” Me and the DOP and a bunch of other people go, “That’s a great idea, let’s do that.” We have a conversation with Lena. “Are you prepared to have a bath?” You know, because an actress might not want to do that or whatever. But basically the shot that Michelle predicts becomes something that informs a huge number of the other shots that wouldn’t exist if she hadn’t said that. Now, nobody watching the film could have any way of attributing that thing to her because we don’t present film that way. We present it as.. Typically there’s a film and then there’s a name in brackets and that’s the director’s name. But also it’s too complex. There’s no way to extrapolate from the credits who did what or when they did it or how it happened. Now, that’s one example of Michelle and one of the reason’s I dragged her out of the roller and put her in the cards. To try and acknowledge (her), because she does this like fucking fifty times a movie. I’ve worked with her now on, I think, five films and so I don’t want to sound to preachy or go on a thing about it but I’m getting pissed off by this director thing, I’m bored of it. I’m really bored of it. It doesn’t seem accurate to me and I would rather talk about Michelle and  a bunch of other people. A lot of the beauty that exists in this film, I can say exists because it’s not mine. There’s Rob Hardy, this DOP is fantastic. He’s such a clever, intuitive, gifted DOP. If you look at his other films, it’s still there. It’s nothing I did.”

Garland continued to heap praise on his crew when asked to elaborate that collaborative effort in Ex Machina. “Grips and focus pullers… Focus pullers can do a shot three times and then just think to themselves, “I’m just going to throw it over there just to see what happens.” And that turns out to be the best and most intuitive thing to do. Almost everything is the consequence of a group of people having a conversation. Ideas often can’t even get traced back to one person… Do you know what I mean? The only dishonest thing you can say is, especially on a film like this, is that it’s all the director. That’s the bit of bullshit, you could say.”

When the point is made that, even though the director might get an undue amount of credit for a successful film, they also shoulder a lot of the blame if a film is a failure, Garland concedes a bit. “I guess. But all that would be is another representation of something which might be broadly inaccurate. I have to say, of course because I haven’t worked on films that I haven’t worked on. Maybe what I’m saying is only true in my line of sight. I just suspect it isn’t because I’ve worked with enough crews to get the vibe, you know I’ve been doing it for fifteen years. Again, say Woody Allen is an auteur. I really won’t disagree, I’m sure it’s true. It’s just the blanket application that we tend to do that I’m disagreeing with. I’m trying to be reasonable rather than unreasonable. “

It’s no secret that two-thirds of Garlands main cast consist of actors taking part in what could be the biggest film year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Garland sheds a little light on the Star Wars casting process of his two leads “They got that gig, like after… I think we were at least three-quarters of the way through post production. Films are often cast surprisingly soon to when they go into prep. As I remember, both those guys signed on two weeks before it was announced. Two and a half weeks? Something like that. I guess there might have been a conversation six months before but for other reasons I don’t think there were because of the process.”

When asked if there were any thoughts about holding Ex Machina back in order to cash in on the Star Wars sweepstakes, Garland says, “I just.. No. The conversations I had about a film like this is, is there a weekend anywhere where we can come out without getting obliterated? (Laughter) But that is true. This film, the reason it’s coming out this time of year is because there’s the awards corridor and then you get a bunch of these adult drama… we’re never going to live… like we’d be dead in seconds in that space. Then there’s the tent poles. You know, May to summer or whatever?”

Don’t expect to see Garland stepping behind the camera of a Star Wars film though. When asked whether or not he’d be interested in stepping into a sandbox like that he surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) had the following to say, “I did (work in a sandbox like that) in a small sort of British way with Dredd, I think. That’s a preexisting comic, 2000 AD. But what you mean is am I going to chuck my hat in the Star Wars ring? It actually isn’t (something that he would be interested in). There are various reasons, but I would not be suited for that. My sensibilities are wrong. I’ve been doing this long enough… Look at my track record. There’s something… at a certain point you have to go, “There’s a pattern here.” SunshineDredd and Never Let Me Go. Years ago we had a hit with this movie, 28 Days Later. I don’t want to sound self-deprecating, I’m really pleased with how everything has worked out but there’s something in there would not lead you to suggest that what I should be doing is running a 150 million dollar film.”

When asked about the possibility of another film in the 28 Days Later series, of which Garland wrote the screenplay and served as a producer on its sequel 28 Weeks Later, he had the following to say “There is. We’re talking about it at the moment. We spent a long… The thing about 28 Days (Later), the first one, was that it had kind of an aggression to it and it had sort of a subversive element to it. And the sequel ideas that kept getting brought up, floated or discussed amongst us were kind of tame and they were franchise kind of ideas. Then we sort of came up with something with a bit more bite. And so we’re going to give it a crack. But it’s very early days. Very early days.”

Ex Machina is out now in select theaters. I can’t recommend this film more highly. It truly is an exceptional film.

Jay Chats With ‘My Week With Marilyn’ Director Simon Curtis to Discuss His Newest Film ‘Woman in Gold’



by: Jay Carlson

Indie Revolver recently sat down with My Week with Marilyn director, Simon Curtis, to discuss his newest film, Woman in Gold.

Curtis discusses the expectations of making another film after the success of My Week with Marilyn, “It’s funny because at the time of My Week with Marilyn, I was always thinking that review wasn’t good and this, that and the other. But now people talk about it as this great success in retrospective. But, you know, I felt very lucky to make that film and very lucky to make that film with who I made it with. So I was thinking I’ve got to be as passionate about something else to make another film. Because, you know, you go on such a complex, intense journey making a film. I just didn’t want to make any old thing. This story, The Woman in Gold, I felt very passionate about. It was a story that meant a lot to me personally and I was very excited to go on the journey.”

Woman in Gold is the remarkable true story of one woman’s journey to reclaim her heritage and seek justice for what happened to her family. Sixty years after she fled Vienna during World War II, an elderly Jewish woman, Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), starts her journey to retrieve family possessions seized by the Nazis, among them Klimt’s famous painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Together with her inexperienced but plucky young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), she embarks upon a major battle which takes them all the way to the heart of the Austrian establishment and the U.S. Supreme Court, and forces her to confront difficult truths about the past along the way.

Curtis might seem like a new kid on the block but he’s been at it for quite a while, beginning his career in the theater working with the likes of Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle and Max Stafford-Clark in British theater. “They were theater experiences, so you’d learn to work with actors, basically. And listen to actors and find the language to talk to actors. And also to learn to shut your mouth sometimes as a director. You know? I think that some directors talk all the time and that just gets in the way. So, you learn not to say too much. Someone like Helen, she knows what she’s doing but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want a dialogue, but she doesn’t want to be lectured between every take either. The good thing about being an assistant director is that you get to see other directors at work. Directors don’t tend to see other directors at work. And so that was good. But obviously theater was a great background in teaching me to work with actors.”

From there Curtis moved into a very successful career working in British television. “The kind of TV I was lucky enough to make isn’t a million miles from making a film. You know, it’s like, stuff that’s showing on WGBH Masterpiece (Theater). Working with great British actors essentially, and in BIG projects. Like if you did David Copperfield with Ian McKellen and Maggie Smith and Daniel Radcliffe and it’s three hours long. That isn’t a million miles, in fact, arguably it’s a bigger thing to do than making a movie.”

Coming up this way gave Curtis a unique experience behind the scenes. “I was a producer at the BBC and I watched a lot of other directors working on films. Sam Mendes and Stephen Daldry, all those kind of people, you know, we all grew up together in the theater and television at the BBC and so on. I probably know more (of) other director’s than any other director around, for that reason.”

One thing that Curtis seems to have a knack for is pulling together impressive casts. His last two films have featured the likes of recent Academy Award winner, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Tatiana Maslany, Helen Mirren and Daniel Bruhl. Any film would be lucky to have one of these actors. “I gave a schoolboy his first job as David Copperfield and that was Daniel Radcliffe at age ten. I pride myself with being very ambitious with my casting and trying to get great people in all the smaller parts. You know, to have Charles Dance from Game of Thrones or Elizabeth (McGovern) from Downton Abby or Jonathan Pryce in one of the smaller parts. And in this film, Katie Holmes and Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black, who is going to be a mammoth star. And also the great German actors, Daniel Brühl and Tom Schilling, they’re some of Germany’s best actors and so they were fantastic to work with. You know, I’ve been very lucky with the people I worked with both at the beginning of their careers and in the case of Dame Judi and Dame Maggie and Dame Helen. You know, these legendary people.”

Along with the cast in front of the camera, Curtis also seeks out the best crew to work with behind the scenes, as well. “The first thing you learn as a director is to get the best collaborators.” Among the talented collaborators on Woman in Gold is composer Hans Zimmer and The Wolverine Director of Photography Ross Emery. “I was very ambitious with the collaborators, and they were all fantastic on this film. That was a big part of it.”

With a film that deftly maneuvers through a nearly hundred year journey, there were surely elements that couldn’t make a two hour feature film. “I mean, there’s so much we couldn’t tell. I think that Maria’s wedding was the last big Jewish social event in Vienna before, so we wanted to get that sense, that dance.. that it was the end of an era. That was important. And actually, the escape (out of Nazi occupied Vienna) was even more complicated than that. But we had to work out, we could only afford THAT many minutes to tell that story before we derailed the film. The joke I have , it’s only half a joke, is that my last film was My Week with Marilyn and this one is my century with Maria. You know it’s a massive undertaking. Frankly Klimt and Adele was a movie. Adele herself, was a movie. Maria and her husband arriving in California, building a life. But we decided the film was this odd couple, these two people who take on this campaign and we wanted to flashback to the past to reinforce that this wasn’t just any old painting. This was a painting that Maria’s uncle commissioned Gustav Klimt to paint of her aunt and it was a painting that was on the wall of the family home. That family was, sort of, the epitome of that whole community that was shattered overnight when the Nazi’s arrived.”

When asked if he felt any pressure dealing with such an important and powerful story, Curtis says, “Yeah, I think if you’ve taken on impersonating Marilyn Monroe for the world (laughter) nothing is ever as frightening as that. But this story is, the emotional truth of it, is very important and the complexity. I didn’t want it to be a simple.. You know, I think so many films are so simplistic. Not all of them, obviously, but a lot are. I wanted this to have the complexity that I felt this story had.”

Curtis elaborates on the logistics of what it was like to shoot a film with such an expansive story and scope. “We were filming in three countries, two languages.. three time periods. We had German actors speaking English, we had English actors speaking German and we had English speaking actors with Austrian accents. It was like a nightmare over there, actually. There was one day when we were doing scenes on the soundstage, doing quite a little comedy scene, interior of the car with Helen holding up a chocolate donut and it was almost played like an L.A. sitcom. We finished that scene and I walked to the next scene and it was Klimt painting Adele in this erotically charged film in German at the beginning of the century and I thought, “How could this be? This is the same movie.” But again, that’s so stimulating, too.”

Even though the film’s heroine Maria Altmann, portrayed by Helen Mirren passed away in 2011, Curtis still had the film’s hero, her lawyer, Randol Shoenberg, played by Ryan Reynolds, available to him. “Randy was very involved. In fact, I was doing press with him last week in Washington, and his acknowledgement that the film feels accurate is terribly important to me. And part of that is he was very helpful in helping shape the script and so on. So that means a lot, because as you say, it’s such a big story, and it’s such a complicated legal procedure and all that. The fact that it lands as authentic is terribly important. He’d never claim to be a filmmaker. So he would read the script and say, “No, that isn’t quite right. What about this?” It was more that sort of level. We showed it to him early on and one of the proudest moments of my life was at the Berlin premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, he was just in floods of tears, moved by the whole thing. In a good way, I hope. But, he was on set a couple of times. He actually appears in the film in a where’s Wally kind of way, the eagle eyed viewer will be able to see him.”

Ultimately, Curtis has high hopes the film will make audiences take notice of the film’s powerful message. “At a time where there aren’t many people living who remember the second World War and one of the themes is, we mustn’t forget, we must remember what happened. It’s landed at a time where anti-Semitism, certainly in Europe, is in the air all over again. It seems a very timely reminder of the perils of anti-Semitism, or indeed the perils of picking on anybody because of their race or religion. I hope that people will be provoked by it and think about how close they are to the terrible events of World War II and how those things mustn’t be forgotten. The film is (also) a love letter to American immigration policy. These people were able to recreate and live great lives in the United States.”

Speaking to what the future might hold for him, Curtis leaves the door open to possibly revisiting his beginnings in the theater. “The timing (would have to be) right and the right play and so on. I’m always interested in that.”

Reflecting back on the Woman in Gold, the director says, “I think that there’s something about (it). This film works and could connect with people all over the world and that’s a very powerful thing. Also, there’s something about sitting there, which I’ve only done in the last week, or so, and seeing it in its finished glory on a screen that is.. you have to pinch yourself over having anything to do with it, honestly. It’s (been) a special experience.”

Woman in Gold opens in select theaters on April 1.

Jay Sits Down With Writer/Director/Star of ‘The Oath’ Ike Barinholtz to Discuss His Film, Our Current Political Climate and How Acting Prepared Him to be a Director

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief

A controversial White House policy turns family member against family member in The Oath, a savagely funny dark comedy about surviving life and Thanksgiving in the age of political tribalism. When Chris (Ike Barinholtz), a high-strung 24-hour progressive news junkie, and his more levelheaded wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) learn that citizens are being asked to sign a loyalty oath to the President, their reaction is disbelief, followed by idealistic refusal. But as the post-Thanksgiving deadline to sign approaches, the combination of sparring relatives, Chris’s growing agitation and the unexpected arrival of two government agents (John Cho and Billy Magnussen) sends an already tense family gathering completely off the rails. As timely as it is outrageous, The Oath is a gleefully wicked sharp-witted reinvention of the traditional holiday comedy for our divisive political times.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with actor, writer and now director, Ike Barinholtz after a screening of The Oath in Boston.

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity:

IKE BARINHOLTZ: Were you at the screening with your wife last night?


IB: Yes, yes, yes. Nice.

JC: She pulled the, ‘I don’t know if I if i want to go over there and bother him for a picture…’ And I was like we’re gonna get halfway down the hallway only to turn back around because you DO want to get a picture.

IB: People are like, ‘Do you mind?…’ And I’m like, ‘NO I love it. I love taking pictures with people.’

JC: So where else have you shown the film so far?

IB: Oh boy, All over Texas. Austin, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta San Francisco, LA, Chicago, DC, Philly and here.

JC: A lot of liberal areas?

IB: Well I mean… Metro Houston, I was pretty blown away by blue it is. But I will say we had a lot of folks in Texas who came up to me after the movie and… These days in Texas you know exactly if they’re liberal or not because they have a liberal button. If they have a Beto button? They’re FOR SURE liberal but a lot of people don’t, so the reactions have been pretty, pretty darn exciting for us. It’s really great to see people, not just like my friends and family or liberals, but people that work for like governor Greg Abbott were like, ‘I really liked it. I thought the conservative characters were over the top but I’d like that you make fun of liberals, too.’ So far it’s been a great reaction from a pretty diverse crowd.

JC: That’s good. I read on on your Wikipedia, which I hate pulling information off of, that you had initially wanted to be a politician.

IB: I did. I did. I grew up in Chicago and my dad was kind of involved with some local politicians. I loved the election love going to the polling place and I love talking to the polling workers and the free food and on a kind of bigger level I love watching these candidates talk to their constituents, or hopeful constituents and I was very enamored of that whole world and I just always like I just was kind of a weirdo about it. I had these like… I can’t describe them. They were like, imagine like a playing card but like 8×10 and they were like pictures of each president and they had all their facts and how they died and stuff. I would read those all the time. So I was always enamored by the arena and I had intentions of going into it, but once I came here and I kind of… I was fighting because I was like, I like movies and being a politician, you have to be, you know, a genius and you have to really work hard and be disciplined. We now know that’s not necessarily the case.

I just, had this rough year at BU and I just decided, this isn’t my path that I thought was the one I was going to be on. I don’t think that’s the one I kind of went back home and I saw some improv shows. And I kind of like oh, I can do that. I can try to make people laugh on stage and be sweaty and so I really kind of just immersed myself in that and that was very shortly afterwards I realized this is what I’m supposed to do.

JC: Are you closing the door on future political aspirations?

IB: I will say, I had a couple staffers in DC come up to me and were like, ‘If you ever want to run…’ I don’t believe in closed doors but I don’t think in the immediate future that’s on the horizon.

JC: So the film sort of plays as a black comedy, but it also it feels like an actual horror movie.


JC: And it’s interesting that you set it during Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving already IS a horror movie. Especially the last couple of years. Was the intention that this is already such a such a tenuous time for families-

IB: Pretty much so. I really got the impetus for the movie after the Thanksgiving after the election. My wife, my mom and my brother and I had this big fight about it. It was pretty nasty. The next day, I was talking to my wife and I was like this is crazy, we all voted for the same person. And yet we were fighting. And I started talking to friends of mine and reading all the stories on Twitter and whatnot and I was like, Oh my God. The holiday table in America is DONE as we know it, it really is. And you know, I love Thanksgiving, there’s not a lot of Thanksgiving movies out there, but I just knew that I could shoot a movie in a house in a week, you know what I mean? One that took place over the weekend that feeling of stress the families kind of fraying on you but I knew I wanted it to be bigger. And I knew I wanted to kind of… kind of the tone of it I wanted to match the tone, the emotion, the cascade and the roller coaster that I was feeling every day when you go on Twitter and you see like a funny video of like a monkey smoking a cigarette and you’re laughing and then you go to the next video and it’s like a guy screaming at a Mexican woman to get out of the country and you’re like WHAT THE FUCK and get as angry as you can. I always knew it was not going to be a pure comedy and I knew I didn’t want to direct a movie that was just a very super serious thriller, yet. So I knew I was going to do this kind of weird balancing act. But I started assembling the story in my head and before you know it, and I had the way.

JC: You’ve just written in the past, you wrote Central Intelligence.

IB: Yeah.

JC: Was there any thought that this might not be your first film, that you might just write it and let somebody else to direct? Or was it always the intention that you were going to use it as a vehicle for yourself?

IB: It’s the latter. You know, when I wrote Central Intelligence, back in 2008, I think, I was just like a baby screenwriter. We were just so thrilled that someone gave us money for words we wrote. But as I started doing the Mindy Project, Mindy really encouraged me to direct and she allowed me to direct some episodes and I really liked it, but I always felt, even when I was directing that show, there’s a filter, right? There’s like, if you’re just an actor it’s like three filters. There’s the writer, the director and the editor. And if even if you’re directing a TV show and you’re calling the shots ultimately it’s still through the filter of the creator or the show runner. So, I knew I wanted to do a movie that I can write, direct and then start in. I went down the road a little bit on this one idea, but then once I had this, and this idea started crystallizing, I knew that this was going to be the one. And there was really honestly no moment where I was like, maybe I should let someone else star in it. Certainly not, I should let someone else direct, especially because the tone was so unique, and again, you know, kind of genre bending or whatever. And so I knew that if I could get someone to get behind me, this would definitely be my first one.

JC: I look at this and I look at, movies like Get Out and others as sort of products of the election in 2016.

IB: Definitely.

JC: And we all sort of told ourselves, the ones who are unhappy with the results of that election, that well, at least we’ll probably get some good art out of this, right? Obviously, with The Oath, it’s a pretty direct correlation. Do you think that these films are the art to come out of today’s political landscape?

IB: I do. I do, I’m a big fan, my favorite decade from the seventies. And it’s no coincidence that that came out of the kind of turbulence in the sixties, Vietnam and Kent State and whatnot. And I do think out of troubling times, you do get some great art. Get Out with certainly the first one that, even though I think it was made before Trumps presidency, he was still in the arena and racism was back and bigger than ever. This year there’s been, Sorry to Bother You and Blindspotting and The Hate U Give, which I heard is amazing. But I do think you will start seeing stories that are more reflective because it’s a strange and dark time that we’re living in. And I think that some of those things will start to permeate kind of the mainstream films, too. I think Black Panther is a lot more resonant now than it would come out three or four years ago. My hope is that artists and creators do kind of, I mean, there’s always room for escapist stuff, and period piece stuff, but it seems like a missed opportunity to me to not have a good batch of stories kind of directly reflective of what we’re seeing in society right now.

JC: How much did your working as an actor, both in TV and film prepare you for directing?

IB: A lot. I mean, it was really, most of that was like the practical side of it. Like, I know some great directors who are visual geniuses that have absolutely no idea how to talk to actors. I know some directors who are great with actors, but pretend like they know everything, and their shots look like shit. So I right away I was like, I’m going in real humble, real quick. And just in terms small things, I know it sounds petty perhaps, but as an actor, you get annoyed when you’re in your room and you’re studying lines, and they bring us to set, and then they’re like, ‘Eh We’re not quite ready for you.’ It’s just small things like that. And then also in terms of trying to keep the cast close by, by having them kind of hang out in this one room to run lines and stuff, it’s probably, as opposed to calling them out from their honey wagons to come out one at a time… That probably bought me, you know, 15 hours of extra action and shooting time. So most of the stuff is really stuff I was using practically. It wasn’t like philosophy or kind of macro stuff. It was more like, ‘Oh, this will help me directly make it better right now?’

JC: You have a lot of experience performing on stage in front of an audience. I recognize that as an actor, it’s not really up to you what ends up in a film, or how it turns out, you’re there to do your job. But as a director, how different is that experience from performing live, where you’re just out on your own, you don’t know necessarily how something is going to land. You obviously have a crew and cast around you that can tell you jokes are funny. But ultimately, you don’t know how it’s going to play with an audience. And you’re spending all of that time and all of that energy on producing something that you’re not sure how it’s going to go until it’s finally in front of an audience. At least with improv, you have an immediate reaction, you know, whether or not you’re doing well or not.

IB: Sure. And also it’s so temporary. If an improv show was bad, okay, whatever let’s have a beer, who cares? Terrifying. And there’s these different marking points along the way, where if you kind of clear this hurdle, right? The first one is writing the script. Do people like the script? Well right away, the people closest to me read it and were like, ‘This is you, this is really your point of view.’ And then finding a producer who was fully behind me like the QC guys were, which was great. And then you’re shooting, it feels good, it feels exciting, but until you see the editors assembly… my editor, Jack Price showed it to me and we were all like (exhales) because we had a lot of work ahead of us. But we knew on a fundamental, tonal and structural level it was working. But then again, like he said, until people see it… And we didn’t, we didn’t test this, because the movie is what it is. It’s not like we tested and they were like, I don’t like the oath part. We weren’t going to reshoot anything.

But we did have a night where we invited about 125 friends to a theater in LA. And we just asked them to answer a few questions. And the response was, ‘It’s a very strong and it was a very unique movie, we’ve never seen this before and it was frustrating in the right way.’ And you know, there’s still more hurdles now. I’m still waiting for, critics to come out and really kind of, you know, tear it apart. Then and then you have, do people show up? Is this something that quietly, you know, because I don’t really give a shit about money, but I know that people that are sending me here do and I want to make them happy. So there are all these kind of marking points. And I think, you know, the place I’m at now, I think going on this tour around the country has put me in such a good place because even if the movie like totally tanks and gets terrible reviews around the board, at least I know that people have a connection to it and they find it relatable and entertaining. I’ve heard a lot of, ‘Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for telling my story.’ So I’m in a good place now, but it’s been a stressful year.

JC: When you’re when you’re making a movie, you’re sort of making three movies, right? The movie you write, which is different than the movie you shoot which is different from the movie you find in the editing room. Were there parts to that process or even stuff that you filmed that got cut that you wish could have made it in but just didn’t fit with what you were doing? Or was it just the guys kind of planned out exactly what was going to be in there?

IB: We made some cuts after we showed some friends. First of all, I don’t like when movies go on very long. I like movies to be around 90 minutes, two hours of its a historical drama or something. But there was three or four scenes that we cut that were just… they weren’t load bearing. Some of them are mildly more character informing and situational informing. Some of them I personally loved. There’s this really funny scene I cut where Tiffany (Haddish) and I have sex. And it’s like, a very awkward sex scene, because I’m so stressed out and my mom banks on the door. I would love for that to be the movie, but at the end of the day, you just have to you have to kill your babies.

JC: So, what’s next? More directing?

IB: I want to keep doing this. I hope people see this so I can can do another one. I got a couple things. Me, and I normally write with my partner Dave Stassen, he’s the guy who wrote the Central Intelligence with me, and we have another kind of, big two hander, broadsheet comedy that we’re kind of down the road now on. And then I have another one that would be kind of a solo effort that will probably be from the same producers that I think is kind of spiritual sequel to (The Oath) in a sense it’s it’s about real life. If this is kind of all about like how politics and the current news cycles disrupt the family this one kind of explores the pitfalls of interacting with strangers on social media. If I can do a movie every year like Blockers, which is like a big fun, cute, sweet movie that people really connect with and then tell a story that really only exists in my head, I will be a very happy man.

JC: Thank you so much.

IB: Dude, thank you. I really appreciate you coming down and talking to me.


Not only is Ike Barinholtz THE sweetest and kindest person I’ve ever interviewed, but The Oath is hilarious and uncomfortable and fun and challenging and just a hell of a ride. The film is playing in select theaters and opens wide on Friday, so check your local listings for showtimes.