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.

IR INTERVIEW: Broken Lizard Reveal the History of the Meow Gag, Beef With Jim Gaffigan and Taking the Piss out of Canada With Super Troopers 2!

L-R: Paul Soter (“Foster”), Steve Lemme (“Mac”), Erik Stolhanske (“Rabbit”), Jay Chandrasekhar (“Thorny” Writer/Director) and Kevin Heffernan (“Farva”). PHOTO CREDIT: Aram Bogoshian

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

I hate to be a bummer, but I’ve been going through a real rough patch lately due to the passing of my mom just before this past Christmas and then April fourth being the ten-year anniversary of my dad passing away.  So I’ve been in a pretty dark place for a while now. On the tenth anniversary of my dad’s passing I sat down to talk with Kevin Heffernan (Farva), Steve Lemme (Mac), Paul Soter (Foster) and Erik Stolhanske (Rabbit), who comprise four-fifths of the comedy troop Broken Lizard (You were missed, Jay Chandraskhar), about Super Troopers 2 and I came out feeling a lot better than I had thanks to their humorous stories and the fact that (thanks to a local appearance) were in their complete Vermont State Trooper costumes. (They were even kind enough to sign a liter of cola for me) I really couldn’t have asked for more than that.

We covered a lot of ground, from the origins of the iconic meow joke in the original film, to Kevin Heffernan’s beef with comedian Jim Gaffigan (who appears in both films), to how they go about crafting an R-Rated comedy in today’s social climate. It was a great chat and the new film is really funny, so be sure to check it out this weekend!

The following interview has been edited for content and clarity:

So what was it like being on a set together for the first time in a while?

Kevin Heffernan: We’ve known each other for so long and we’ve been doing it for many, many years. So it was kind of old hat. It was just a matter of growing the mustaches and putting the uniforms on and you’re right back into it.

Steve Lemme: We’ve done these characters before so it’s not like trying something new. It was like slipping back into a nice comfortable slipper.

Paul Soter: I think that’s part of what a lot of people like about the films, the easy familiarity from the fact that we’ve been buddies for almost thirty years. So, for us, it’s just hanging out with the buddies again.

Lemme: There’s a lot of B.S., like for instance just now, Paul was talking and Kevin was pouring his water, which you’ll probably hear on the microphones. It reminds me of a funny story. We had our first test screening back in March and Kevin had a great idea to bring his phone (to record audio of the audience) so we could hear where the laughs were during the movie and we could bring that in the editing room to line it up against the movie. I was sitting next to Kevin and I had my Nachos (all four start to laugh) and it takes a while to get through a plate of nachos. So for the first thirty minutes of the tape is just me CRUNCHING. (Laughter)

Soter: And then also you hear Heffernan, “What the fuck are you doing? Eating nachos while I’m recording,” and you (Lemme) were like, “I was hungry.” (Then Heffernan was like) “We just had dinner.” (Lemme) “But they were for free.” Suddenly they’re like this husband and wife bickering. Between that and the sound of the nachos, it was unusable audio.

Lemme: So making movies with your friends, that’s what happens.

When you’re slipping into a comfortable role, you guys have played these characters before, does that facilitate the process versus having to step into completely new characters and completely new roles and archetypes?

Soter: Yeah, because it’s always the hardest part of any movie. Like, coming up with ideas, we could do that all day. Writing jokes (is something) we do all day. Five guys with five different voices, you know? You read it on paper and if you haven’t distinguished those different voices… People read a script and it’s just a bunch of talk. But everybody had that voice established (already). 

Heffernan: You’re able to hit the ground running and you don’t have to worry about character so much. You just worry about the bits and the jokes.

Lemme: I think that contributed to the insanity of Farva in Super Troopers 2. Anytime we had an un-PC line or an obnoxious line, we gave it to Farva. And as a result, ALL he says is un-PC, obnoxious shit.

Heffernan: He’s a little bit unhinged.

Erik Stolhanske: Makes you wonder a little if he had a tumor.

Soter: (To Heffernan) Would you consider, if there’s a third one, do you want to push it even farther so that he’s just completely like…

Heffernan: No, we were talking about going in the other direction and I would be the romantic lead.

Soter: Oh, ok.

Heffernan: And I would get the girl.

Soter: You will have survived the tumor operation and it will be like Regarding Henry and you’ll be a quiet, thoughtful soul.

Lemme: By the way, that’s a terrific idea.

Soter: Ok, let’s all agree to sit on that one. You can’t use that.

We’ve got it recorded here if you need to find us.

Soter: It all depends on opening weekend.

You previously said that there were a lot of re-writes and with your improv background and having guys like Tyler Labine and Will Sasso, how much of the script makes it to what is seen on screen?

Heffernan: We definitely like to shoot the script, because we spend a lot of time crafting the jokes. We’ll improv in rehearsals and will put lines in that way, so it will hopefully be fresh. When you bring the new players in, they want to have fun and that’s a good thing.  Will Sasso is one of the great improvisers around and you can’t NOT improvise when he’s around.

That kind of lead to that scene, the Danny DeVito scene, which was not in the first thirty drafts of the script. We just put some filler in there for the scene and then we started hanging out with them and we did this Danny Devito riff where we were talking about this topic and after work we’d be riffing about it and they were like, “God, that’s so funny let’s put it in.” So we wrote the scene, like the day before and we shot it and we’re all like, “No way it’s gonna get in the movie.” It’s so weird and esoteric. And why are you spending time with the bad guys? Then we cut it in and were like, “nope that’s not even gonna make it.” Then, the first time we showed it to an audience and they laughed we were like, holy shit this is really funny.

Soter: Usually that’s the kind of riff that’s hilarious to us at the moment, when we’re stoned, and the next day you look at it and you’re like, “Yeeeah ok,” and you chalk it up to being high. In this case there was still that feeling of, was this something that was just funny to us in the moment?

Heffernan: The response has been amazing. People love that scene. I think that’s because it’s just a fun, weird, different kind of conversation. Not that it’s earth shattering in any way.

Lemme: Traditionally in our movies you don’t really get to go behind the curtain of your nemesis and this is just one of those things where you can take a break from us and get to know these guys a little.

Soter: One of the things that really helps is that our intention was always… In the first one the bad guys are just dicks and they really had no business being dicks to us, but in this case these are guys who from their point of view… These guys just show up and are claiming we’re all American  now and they’re going to lose their jobs. So it allows to have that balance of, yeah we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys but at the same time, I dunno, maybe we’re the bad guys and they’re the good guys? Canadian jokes can be followed up by American jokes and it keeps things light.

Lemme: Let’s just say we enjoyed taking the piss out of Canadians.

Heffernan: And us. We get as much as we give.

Thirty drafts is SO many. How did it come to thirty drafts?

Heffernan: Part of it was how long it took the movie to get made. Every time there was a chance that we got funding or whatever it was, there would be a flurry of activity and you do five or six drafts. Some of them were just joke drafts and some of them had full plots that ended up being too hard to shoot or (were) too expensive or there were too many characters. For multiple, multiple drafts we had a United States Homeland Security guy.

Lemme: Jim Bigwood.

Heffernan: And we had too many characters and we’d fold them in. A lot of them were just like, “Let’s punch this scene up,” so you’d have a new draft once you punched the scene up.

Lemme: Technical stuff, like the pull-overs for instance, we knew we wanted to do pull-overs but the nature of the pull-overs in the first one was like, we’re bored (and) this is how you meet people. We’re just peppering them throughout the movie. In this one we couldn’t really do that, because essentially we have to be on our best behavior. So the challenge is where are we going to put these pull-overs? Each draft has a different set of pull-overs and different locations and finally we just realized we were going to put them at the back of the movie (for good reason). Those were like ten drafts just trying to figure out how the pieces go.

Farva’s got an amazing Canadian counterpart in the film. How did that character come about?

Lemme:  He’s a funny character. Originally it was just a mention of that character. Then at some point we were like, we should see this guy.

Heffernan: Lonnie Laloush.

Soter: As we have come to find over the years, when we talk to people who love the first one, everyone is like, “I’ve got a Farva in my life.” We thought to make it just a little throwaway that of course in Canada they’re going to have one, too. We found ourselves too intrigued and were like, I gotta know what this guy looks like and what this guy sounds like and then you (motions to Kevin Heffernan) had met Paul Walter Hauser as he started to take off.  

Heffernan: Yeah. He’s the bodyguard in I, Tonya, Sean Eckhardt. It was fun. He was a young comic and had some credits and I had done an improv show with him and after it was done I said to these guys that I had found the guy who is going to be Canadian Farva. The guy is fucking great. So we sent him in to our casting director and he did the read for it and he got the part. The same casting director was casting I, Tonya and they needed this character. Because he did Super Troopers 2, they called him in and he got that part. We felt great that we helped get him along into bigger and better things.

Lemme: Also from his audition tape, we were like this guy is so fucking funny, we need to see a little more of him. So we decided that they should run into each other. And that was the evolution from a name on a page, to a scene, to a second scene.

Soter: That was the fun thing about bringing in guys. Everybody wanted to make those contributions, so the exchange between Lonnie Laloush and Farva was quick, but in those ten takes he had a different line and had prepped a different read and we got into the editing room and EVERYTHING was gold. How do you choose one of these ten things? He didn’t prep us, so we were trying not to laugh and he just kept pulling this shit out of his pocket, each thing funnier than the last.

Is there a reason you didn’t focus too much on what the main characters had been up to for the last fifteen years?

Heffernan: Yeah, we just didn’t want to get bogged down narratively. The whole idea was just to get to the laughs. I think we just kind of made a joke about it essentially in the opening scene, this idea that we got fired and went on America’s Got Talent and all of a sudden became a band and it kind of went from there. We talked about that a lot and there was so much time that we didn’t even know if the movie was going to get made, so that we kind of made a conscious effort to gloss over that and get us back where people want to see us, in these uniforms, and go from there.

Soter: For a long time we felt that we needed to establish exactly how many years had passed, exactly what we’d been doing, and went around and around and around because it was like,  if we talk about it in real time is that exposing how much longer it’s been? Then if we pick it up right after the first one left off, are we gonna look old and stupid, trying to be young again? At the end of the day I think… do we need to get hung up on it? Does the audience necessarily need to get hung up on the nitty gritty? Let’s just start and make it funny and let’s get everybody along for the ride.

How tough is it to craft an R-rated comedy now compared to when the first film came out? People have become a lot more sensitive, is there ever a concern that you’re going too far?

Heffernan: I think we just use the same bar that we’ve always used and that’s, does it make the other guys laugh? If you can make the other four guys laugh then you’ll probably get it in the movie. We didn’t get too caught up in, I don’t think we did, crossing any boundaries. The funny thing is, when we shot a couple years ago, there was a Stephen Hawking joke in there and now that he’s recently died we look like assholes. But we wrote it and shot it a couple years ago.

Lemme: We wrote… Well really, Rob Lowe came in with the Halifax explosion riff. That was all his idea and his riff. We showed this thing in Toronto on the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion. That came up and some of them gasped and we were like, “I guess, fuck it.”

Soter: Certainly there were times where we discussed that we might need some sensitivity to, “What are cops doing to innocent people?” So even something that’s a pull-over, we’d definitely talk about it. We tried to make some call-outs, like when the little kids (in the film) are on drugs or you have them on leashes… This is the kind of thing that could go viral. (We) tried to stay away from anything cruel or unwarranted.

Heffernan: I think our philosophy, in general, is to create a world where you’re likable guys and then people want to hang out with you in that world. So, it’s never like we go into it being mean or controversial or that kind of stuff.

I recently read a tweet in which Patton Oswalt referred to Ted Nugent as a beta and the first response I saw was someone saying it was sexist to refer to him as a beta. It just seems like frequently people are looking for new ways to be offended. It just seems like it could be tougher to make an R-rated comedy now with people finding ways to be offended constantly.

Heffernan: I guess we’ll find out that Monday after opening weekend if we crossed the line. I don’t know.

With this being in development for so long and with so many different storylines, why did you settle on this specific one?

Heffernan: It kind of mutated for a while. When we first came up with the idea, it was kind of a post-9/11 border reassessment type of thing. Then, it kind of shifted over the years to become more of a border war, kind of in the vein of how topical it is to maintain our borders. We were just able to shift it with the times a little bit. Things kind of mutated as time went on. You’d take things out thatn didn’t fit.

Stolhanske: But that main plotline was always involved.

Soter: You do wanna straddle that line on a sequel of familiarity to the first film with some kind of new landscape. It’s like Bad News Bears go to Japan. We’ve got to put them someplace new. In our case it was like, alright these guys are right on the border. So you bump these guys up just fifteen miles and you’re getting the best of both worlds. We’re still more or less in the same landscape and yet you get fish out of water comedy and conflicts. To us it didn’t seem like we were going too far into sequel-itis, but still creates a different dynamic.

I have to ask you guys about my favorite Super Troopers gag. The meow gag. Because when I think of Super Troopers, I’m sure I’m not the only person whose brain goes right to that joke. I’m so curious of the oral history of how you guys came up with that gag.

Lemme: It was late at night.

Heffernan: (Laughing)

Lemme: We were in the Travel Lodge on Pico in Santa Monica. The five of us were all jammed into just one room. It was late at night so we were partying a little bit, just hangning out. We were not writing the script and we started riffing on this magical clown-wizard.

Soter: A wizard. Who could turn your tongue into a cat’s tongue. And how funny that would be if your tongue was small and sandpapery and that was the riff for a while. Then somebody was like, “Yeah, yeah and instead of saying ‘now’ you’d say ‘meow.’” That illicited a new round of laughter and we were kind of yelling and screaming meow at each other in this hotel room to the point of getting noise complaints. To me, it just sort of distilled the essence of… our humor is like guys being idiots trying to make each other laugh. We had this construct of… We’ve been on so many road trips and were always in cars together. What if this was our life? What if this was your job? Driving around trying to make your life intersting and trying to make the other guys laugh. It’s so absurd.

Heffernan: The funny part was when we wrote that scene and then we went around to the studios trying to get money to make the movie and inevitably people would point to that scene and be like, “What the fuck is this?” Like, all these movie executives would be on the page  and be like, “What the fuck is this?” And we’re like, “It’s this thing, uhhh.” Nobody ever got it and it got us booted out of rooms. But we ended up doing it to the point that people love it. Then we had to figure out in this one how to call it back. We had this idea of the meow game is something people point to and maybe it’s iconic, but in these guys lives, these characters, it was just one game they played many years ago and they have a thousand of them and if they pulled over that same guy and he’s like, “That’s my game,” and they’re like, “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.” We kind of had a riff like that. It was the funny twist on the meow game.

Soter: Right. That idea that we’ve let out into the cultural atmosphere this bizarre little thing that gets repeated back to us all the time, but when we put ourselves in Mac and Foster’s shoes we were like, would they remember the meow game? The idea that this many years later someone could be like, “I saw you on the job fourteen years ago and you said something”. You might be like, “Why the fuck would I remember what I said fifteen years ago?” It felt like a meta way to re-approach the material.

Heffernan: And bring in Jim Gaffigan again, who is now much larger than he was.

Lemme: When we made the first Super Troopers, Jim Gaffigan was a guy who was doing commercials who came in to audition for the movie. He did a great job with the audition and four of us wanted to cast him in the role, but Kevin had a personal rivalry with him because they would always see each other at commercial auditions and Gaffigan won the part every single time.

(Laughter)

Soter: It always came down to those two.

Lemme: It’s an unspoken rule that we have veto power. If there’s one guy you got beef with, you can be like, “Nah, fuck that guy,” and Heffernan was exercising that. He said, “Nah, nah, not this guy. I hate this fucking guy.” But we were like, this audition is too good, this guy is money. So we put him in the role. On the day we were shooting the scene and we’re having a great time with Gaffigan and he’s telling dirty jokes and all the guys are gathered around. We’re like, this guy is awesome. And there’s Heffernan alone at the craft services table. But then, cut to: we’re making the (new) movie with Gaffigan now and now he shows up in his private jet, he was doing Wilbur Theatre shows (in Boston) so he flew himself on his own dime on a private jet and shot the scene for six hours and then flew out of there.

How hard is it finding that balance to the references you want from the first movie and putting them into the second movie?

Heffernan: I think it homogenated a little bit. I think that’s a criticism of a sequel, that you take the same joke and bring it back. Our philosophy was that if you’re going to bring a joke back, let’s put a little spin on it, a little twist on it, or some other reason to call it back, like the meow thing. Then it will make it funnier, like bringing back Lonnie Laloush to do the “who wants cream?” joke from the first movie to put a little spin on it. That was in our minds, of not going too far.

Soter: And to always have it be something that, if you hadn’t seen the first one, it wouldn’t take you out of the movie.

Stolhanske: A lot of people have asked how we could shoot in Canada and not have a maple syrup chugging scene. But it was that balance where you couldn’t bring back everything. So it was trying to find that fine line.

Was there anything that didn’t make the final cut?

Heffernan: It was more like cutting things back in scenes, like the liter of cola callback scene was like, how far do you go with the liter of cola joke. To pull back a little. People want to see them, they want to see those references so you have to find a way to do them cleverly so you’re not just doing the same joke over and over again.

Lemme: The fans will be like, “You gotta bring back the stoners and the border cops and the meow game and the repeater game and you need Johnny Chimpo, BUT don’t make the same fucking movie this time.”

 

Super Troopers 2 is out today nationwide, so make sure to incorporate it into your 4/20 plans. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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.

(Laughter)

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

Are we in the trust tree? I’m going to level with you, I’ve been hearing how bananas Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is for many years but I have never actually seen it. It was one of those things that I just kept putting off. Why watch a movie universally considered terrible when there are SO many great films I could be watching instead? But it was one of those things people kept telling me I needed to experience. After all the early buzz at SXSW I sort of conceded and read The Disaster Artist. The early word plus the trailer made me feel like I needed to prep for the upcoming James Franco film, which looks to proudly stand next to Ed Wood as a great film about bad filmmaking.

As I was reading the book I grappled with whether or not to view The Room before The Disaster Artist or if I should be going in cold to better enjoy the film. It seems as though the decision has kind of 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 amazing, with the first 15 people dressed as Tommy or Lisa receiving VIP seating and there will be 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!

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 12/8!

Full details below…

 


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.”

(Laughter)

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.

(Laughter)

JB: He’s a great Surgeon.

(Laughter)

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.

(Laughter)

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?

(Laughter)

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.

(Laughter)

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.

(Laughter)

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 www.skeltoncrewstudio.com

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.