Chris Gethard: Career Suicide

Chris Gethard is a multi-talented comedian and actor (Don’t Think Twice, “Broad City”) who’s worked extensively in NYC’s improv scene at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater as well as having his own successful public access show, aptly titled “The Chris Gethard Show”. This weekend Gethard premiered a much more personal type of special on HBO with Chris Gethard: Career Suicide. In this touching, and darkly hilarious special, Chris uses comedy to detail his lifelong struggles with depression and anxiety including his brushes with suicide. The show held a special screening and talk-back at New York’s Tribeca Film Fest, featuring Chris, fellow comedian Pete Holmes (HBO’s “Crashing”), and moderator Ira Glass (NPR’s “This American Life”). I spoke with them on the red carpet about the development of the show and using comedy to cope with more difficult issues.

Besides hosting NPR’s “This American Life” podcast (which Gethard has appeared on), Ira Glass produced Don’t Think Twice.

Lauren Damon: Working with Chris on Don’t Think Twice, did you see the development of his show at all?

Ira Glass

Ira Glass: I mean, it’s funny, Don’t Think Twice…Chris is such an amazing actor. He’s so for-real in Don’t Think Twice, and that character does have a lot of overlap with who he is in real life. And who he is in this special. My main thing with the special is I’ve seen him develop it. I saw like a super early version in the basement in Union Hall, and then saw when it was up on stage. So I’m really curious how it translates to video.

LD: With the heavier themes, I feel like we have a need for that in comedy because things seem sort of dire in general…

Glass: It’s true…But I feel like the whole trend in comedy has been comedians getting super real about stuff that’s going on, you know. And I feel like when you look at the people…who are doing the most work right now, it’s like Louis CK and Tig Notaro and Mike Birbiglia, Aziz [Ansari]…You know that’s people talking about stuff that’s pretty real. Which I like because I like a real story. I think when somebody can tell a story that’s super funny but also is really a real thing, and emotional, it’s just like what could be more entertaining? That’s everything a person could want.

LD: That’s basically the best episodes of “This American Life”…

Glass: On a good day, yeah. On a good day. The formula on “This American Life” is we want it to be really funny, with a lot of plot at the beginning, then it will get kind of sad and sort of wistful at the end, then like throw a little music under it, you’re done!

In Don’t Think Twice, Gethard played Bill, a comedian coping with a hospitalized father on top of dealing with general anxieties of where he fits into his shifting improv group.

LD: In Don’t Think Twice, your character did a lot of the heavy emotional lifting, was your show already developing kind of around that time?

Chris Gethard: It’s funny because [Don’t Think Twice director] Mike Birbiglia was the one who kind of threw down the gauntlet and said ‘You should do a show about this side of yourself.’ I would talk about it to a degree in my work, but he was the one who was like ‘You got something here, go for it.’ So the experience of Don’t Think Twice and this show kind of went hand in hand. I was opening for Mike on the road, he developed the film on the road [and] during that process is when he really said ‘You should really go for it, I promise you, give it a shot.’ Really the first time I attempted the show was in an effort to sort of prove Birbiglia wrong and say like I don’t know if people are going to laugh at this. But I have learned never to doubt Mike. And those things really did dovetail nicely and springboard off of each other.

Chris Gethard

LD: How did Mike respond to it?

Gethard: Oh he’s been so supportive and I think he was–he also, as far as these off Broadway shows that are kind of comedy but that go serious, I think he really has helped pioneer that in the past few years. So I think he was very proud and flattered. I always give him a lot of credit as far as walking in his footsteps. So I think he was very psyched that I went for it. i think he also had a little bit of glee that his instincts were correct and mine were not. So thank god for that.

Pete Holmes had his own hilarious HBO comedy special (Faces and Sounds) as well as starring in their series, “Crashing”

LD: How do you know Chris?

Pete Holmes: It’s funny, I thought more people would ask, but here we are at the end of the line and you’re only the second person to ask, so it’s still fresh! It’s still a fresh answer. I was a fan of Chris, I would see him at UCB –actually not far from here, right around the corner. And then I took improv classes at UCB and Chris was actually my level 3 teacher because I had heard that he was so wonderful. And he was. I actually think Chris likes to downplay what a wonderful improv teacher he is because obviously he loves to perform more. But it’s almost a shame that we can’t clone him, because he’s such a great improv teacher.

LD: Your stand-up is a lot more silly and irreverent in contrast to the work Chris is doing in this special and I love that there’s space for both

Holmes: That’s nice, there is space for both! And I really love this show. It’s not the sort of stand-up I do but I also on my podcast [“You Made it Weird”] love to get very deep and weird and uncomfortable so I love seeing it in the live version with the laughs.

Pete Holmes

LD: On “You Made it Weird”, have you had any especially surprising guests?

Holmes: That happens all the time actually. For example The Lucas Brothers, the twin guys from 21 Jump Street movie…I [didn’t] know them that well either and they’re kind of low energy [in the film] and then they came on and were like the most high-energy, introspective, eloquent amazing guests. And you know, I didn’t really know them that well. So one of the things that I love about the podcast is that happens over and over. Your expectations just get completely blown out of the water.

The better answer would be Aaron Rogers, the quarterback for the Greenbay Packers…I didn’t know him either, but here comes a quarterback. And J.J. Redick who’s a basketball player just did it. And whenever these athletes come on and just kill it just as hard as the comedians, it makes me happy.

LD: With Chris being your teacher and then you had an HBO special and series first, is that kind of funny to you?

Pete Holmes: [laughs] I beat my teacher! It’s so funny, Chris and I had another thing where I did a talk show for Conan–he talked to me about this on his episode of my podcast. [Chris] was like when they gave you the talk show after Conan–which lasted about a year–he was like they were talking to me about [doing it] Like we’ve been competing in ways we didn’t even know! So I’m happy that now we’ve both landed at HBO, it’s not one or the other, but we can both be here. [laughs]

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide is now available on HBO, HBO Now & HBOGo

TFF 2017: Executive Producers of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

“The Handmaid’s Tale”, Hulu’s stunning adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel held its premiere screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival as part of their Tribeca TV series. The series follows Elisabeth Moss’s “Offred,” one of many handmaids forced to serve a man in a dystopic American society where a wave of infertility has caused women to be stripped of their rights and utilized strictly for reproduction. The series debuted its first three episodes on Hulu on April 26th, with new episodes available every Wednesday. I spoke with the executive producer and showrunner of this brutal and hopefully not too prescient series.

What kind of freedom did you find adapting this novel into a streaming series rather than a regular tv or film?

Executive Producer Warren Littlefield

Executive Producer, Warren Littlefield: Well look, it’s not network television. Margaret Atwood’s vision, that she created in her book 32 years ago, was a dark dystopian world. And Bruce Miller adapted that and it’s a powerful, dark and very disturbing world and our partners at Hulu did not limit us in what we were able to do. In language, in action and physicality, in sexuality, in brutality. We were able to deliver the message that we wanted to deliver. I think it’s a thriller, I think it’s entertaining but it’s pretty damn powerful, so fasten your seatbelt.

Showrunner and writer, Bruce Miller: I haven’t worked in film very much at all. Almost all my work has been in tv which is much more fun because you could have stories that go on forever. But working in a streaming service, you get the great benefit of not having to have a show that’s forty-two minutes and twenty-two seconds long, but it can be longer or shorter. Which, more than you know, throws the audience off. They don’t know what’s gonna happen when you don’t know how much is left! It could end five minutes from now or fifteen minutes from now and that makes all the difference.

Were you very familiar with the novel before you worked on it?

Miller: There’s a novel?! [Laughs] Yeah I read the book when I was in college, in a ‘New Fiction’ class–which shows you how long ago I was in college. I loved it and I read it a whole bunch of times, completely on my own just as–I was interested in it. So I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of turning it into a television show. And then when I started to get more into writing tv and my career took off, I probably looked at it more in that way. But when I heard they were making a tv show, I was excited because I would get to watch it! Not because I was going to be making it. And then over the years, the show didn’t come out and there were reasons and this and that and you know, I ended up, despite my gender, getting the job. And it was wonderful after having been so familiar with the book but also having been familiar with it in a lot of different time periods. Because it kind of was perennially relevant. Every time I read it seemed like ‘wow this is just the time!’ to read it.

Especially this election year, where it seemed like assailing women’s rights was just a common trend…

Miller: It’s a hobby!

At which point when you were filming, did you realize what a hot topic you were handling?

Showrunner Bruce Miller

Miller: I wrote the first few episodes before the election season started and then we were writing all the way through the debates and the election. And then we were shooting you know, in the middle…when Trump was elected president, we were shooting then. It was interesting, we were in Canada, so we had a little bit of a different perspective…But that was all very interesting. I don’t know–I’m sure subconsciously or unconsciously it changes the way you shoot things. But we were just trying to be gutsy. You know when you’re working from a book that showed so much bravery to write in the first place, you don’t want to be the wimp that turns it into a safe tv show. You want to be as bold as Margaret Atwood was. And so it just reinforced that idea that we should continue to be bold because its an important story we’re telling. But really, in a lot of ways like I said, I’m a writer, I’m in the question business, not the answer business. I’m just trying to put interesting questions out there, that doesn’t really change. I mean I certainly saw the relevance and certainly we went from saying ‘oh my gosh’ to ‘we better not screw this up!’ But I don’t know that anybody changed their story tact. I think we just became a lot more comfortable with what we had decided to do.

Littlefield: I think like the character of Offred, who is a fighter, that was our intention. We always felt a lot of pressure to live up to Margaret’s vision because it’s such a strong vision. And I think when we woke up in November in the middle of production, we were like ‘we better not screw this up!’ like…oh my god. But I think we were kind of fueled by [saying] ‘Alright, this is what we need to do.’ And I think the audience will be as well.

Streaming shows often come with binge-viewing, how do you feel about that approach?

Littlefield: Well, I kind of love what we’re doing. Hulu is presenting on the 26th of April, the first three hours, so you engage in a big way. And then each week, they’ll roll out an additional one. And so, I think that that also is really good because you want time. You may want to watch it again and it’s best I think in smaller doses, because it’s complex. I mean the world of television allows you to do complex characters and a complex narrative and we embrace it.

Can you discuss casting Elisabeth Moss in the main role?

Miller: Elisabeth Moss is astonishing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers forever. She has just such a range of skills and I can’t imagine anybody else in this role. She was who I wanted to be in this role from the beginning. She has main circuit cable connecting her heart to her face that doesn’t have an off switch. So whatever she feels bubbles up. But it’s a really interesting role to play because she’s got all this stuff showing on her face that she doesn’t want anybody else in the room to see, but she wants you to see. The best thing about Liz is she likes to be challenged so I got to write stuff that I never would have written for anybody else because everything I wrote that was harder and harder and harder, she loved it! So we got to really push the boundaries of the skills of an actor.

Series star Elisabeth Moss was understandably pressed for time on the carpet, but offered this comment on acting out the defiance displayed by her character Offred:

Elisabeth Moss

“It was important to me, I mean that’s her whole story you know? That she’s so beaten down and torn apart, and has everything taken from her and just will not give up. And she’s so stubborn. And I think it goes up and down throughout the season, to me that defiance that I think we would all find in ourselves if we had to.”

The Handmaid’s Tale continues to add new episodes to Hulu every Wednesday and was already renewed for a second season in 2018.

“Genius” Red Carpet at Tribeca Film Festival

Tonight marks the premiere of the National Geographic Channel’s first ever scripted series, Genius. From director Ron Howard, Genius follows the life of Albert Einstein as portrayed in his youth by English actor Johnny Flynn and later in life by Geoffrey Rush. The first episode screened this week at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of their Tribeca TV series. The pilot seamlessly time jumped between Flynn energetically fighting to become a physicist in his own right without the rigidity of his early school and the elder Einstein beginning to encounter the rise of Nazis later in life.

I got the chance to speak with some of the actors from the series at this red carpet New York screening about their characters and how working on the series changed how they see Albert Einstein.


English actress Samantha Colley portrays Mileva Maric, a physicist and Einstein’s first wife.

Lauren Damon: How much research did you put into playing Mileva?

Samantha Colley: Quite a lot. What I focused on was their personal letters–so the personal letters between Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein but also Mileva Maric and her best friend Helene Savic. When you google Mileva Maric you see these kind of black and white pictures of someone very [Colley stiffens her back] sitting erect on a chair. It’s kind of impenetrable and she seems very severe and harsh. But actually her letters reveal her to be very vulnerable, and loving and soft and riddled with self-doubt but deeply loyal. But it was the letters I focused on.

LD: How important do you think it is that you portray a female scientist, considering the general need for more women in STEM fields?

Colley: It’s enormously important! I mean Mileva Maric is an example of one of many many many women who have been snubbed by the scientific world and their works not being properly credited. There’s a school of thought that Mileva Maric was instrumental in some of Albert Einstein’s fundamental works and never cited. So using her as an example and shedding light on her is enormously important. And I hope it does inspire girls today to go ‘yeah that’s not going to happen to me, I’m not going to let that happen.’

LD: You share your scenes primarily with Johnny Flynn, how was he to work with?

Colley: Amazing. He was one of the most generous actors I’ve ever worked with and we had a real sense of play and trust early on and it was wonderful.

Richard Topol plays fellow scientist Fritz Haber, a man instrumental in the weaponization of poisonous gas in World War I.

LD: So you play Fritz Haber–dubbed the “Father of Chemical warfare”, a pretty daunting title, how much research did you do?

Richard Topol: I did as much as I could about what we know about him and I mean I had a lot of conversations with the writers and the directors and the producers about why would somebody do that? Right? …Like if you imagined living in a country that was at war with the countries all around it and you’re running out of ammunition. And if you ran out of ammunition, your country would be taken over, what would you do?

So to me, it was like he came up with an idea and his pitch was the same pitch that Einstein, you know that the Manhattan project and everybody who invented the atomic bomb came up with which is like ‘Look, we invent this thing, we show people how scary it is, use it once, it’ll never have to be used again.’ So that’s the way I thought about it that made it less daunting to me.

LD: Did you have any misconceptions about Einstein that working on this dispelled?

Topol: I didn’t really have any strong conceptions about him so they weren’t really dispelled. But I was like oh, I was excited to know that this guy was like a kid who never wanted to grow up. So I learned some fun things about him…Also I learned he had a really complicated personal life that I had no idea. And I think that’s one of the interesting things about the show: We know about his genius, we don’t know a lot about the personal and political problems that he had to face.


Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser appears in the premiere as an officious member of the US State Department 

LD: How much more did you learn about Einstein in working on this series?

Vincent Kartheiser: I mean I think you’ll hear from a lot of these people, he was a lot more of a scoundrel than anyone ever really–at least that I know–knew. And he was just kind of…he had this ability to lock out all things around him and just focus on the work. So you know, his kid could be slapping him on the leg and his wife could be hollering at him, and the dinner could be burning and he would just focus on the equation. And I think that’s really interesting in today’s world where there’s millions of distractions for all of us and we’re all constantly trying to figure out how to deal with it. He never had to battle with that. He was just always able to focus.

LD: How was working opposite Geoffrey Rush?

Kartheiser: It was wonderful. He’s such a giving actor, and he’s phenomenal. I mean, you’d be having a conversation and he’d be like [calmly] talking about the role, talking about the scene and then they’d go ACTION! And he’d just snap right into it. Just always exploring, always finding new things during the scene, and lots of fun.

LD: Were you also playing a scientist?

Kartheiser: No no, I was playing a person who works for the state department trying to clear his Visa so he could get into the United States…His visa wasn’t something that was just rushed through. I mean relative to today. These special visas…that have been in the news, you know that is these kind of people. Albert Einstein was someone who came in on a visa because of his talent, and his ability to teach, and his ability to give back to our community here in the states. So it’s a good example of how these kind of programs and the visa system works.

Genius begins tonight at 9 on the National Geographic Channel

Louis Theroux on “My Scientology Movie”

British documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux is no stranger to controversial subjects. In his wide-ranging tv career, the unflappable Theroux has immersed himself in subcultures ranging from US TV infomercials to Neo-Nazis and the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. For his first feature film documentary, Theroux acted on a years-long fascination with the Church of Scientology. When the notoriously secretive Church wouldn’t admit Theroux to film their practices directly, the documentary took a much more unique approach. Theroux, director John Dower and crew turned instead to former Scientologists to share their experiences within the church and decided to film re-enactments of their stories. Their filming, including casting their own version of Church leader David Miscavige in the form of actor Andrew Perez, quickly drew the attention of the church. The crew finds itself being tailed, filmed and even confronted on public property. The resulting documentary is at once an entertaining examination of the alleged inner workings of the church as well as a realtime account of the lengths the church goes to to defend itself. The film made its debut at last spring’s Tribeca Film Festival where I sat down with Theroux as well as John Dower and Andrew Perez to discuss their impressions of the church and how the doc came together.

Lauren Damon: Before you started making the film, how much did you know, or thought you knew about Scientology?

Louis Theroux: I think I thought I knew quite a lot—

John Dower: You do know a lot.

Louis: Yeah, I mean but then to be honest with you, I’d first been interested in Scientology you know, more than 20 years ago. And then in 2002 or thereabouts, I made my first approach and took a tour of the celebrity center and basically was in negotiation to make a tv doc that way. That fizzled out. And then about ten years after that, our producer Simon Chinn came to me and said ‘Hey what about a theatrical doc? You know, we could do it on Scientology’ And by then—it was around then that the first book, Janet Reitman’s book,  Inside Scientology came out, I read that…I mean the fact is that you could really make a full time job of kind of reading the stuff that comes out on Scientology. The challenge in a way is to not kind of sink into the quagmire…there’s so many threads that you can follow, you know what I mean?

John: You know there’s stories from the past that could be made to whole films themselves.

Louis: You could make a film about just what [ex-Church leader and My Scientology Movie star] Marty Rathbun did in the 80s.

John: The Lisa McPherson Story…

Louis: The Lisa McPherson story. Or you could do one of Clearwater in the 70s and 80s or Bob Minton. About how he went from being a critic to being a Scientology supporter. Or at least agnostic. I mean it’s a lot of individual…and then there’s whole family stories. Not just Lisa McPherson but other ones…There’s a lot. The challenge is not kind of lack of material. It’s a sort of an overabundance.

LD: And that’s also just before you even get to researching what the beliefs are which is also so involved.

Louis: That’s right.

LD: And then Andrew, what had been your experience?

John Dower, Louis Theroux and Andrew Perez

Andrew Perez: I knew just I’d heard some stories of experiences just sort of on the top—the intro levels of communications and courses. I knew that it was on the surface, or to beginners it was a kind of self-actualization, a kind of self-help, kind of therapeutic…I mean going through past trauma and weeding out sensory things that you associate with that. And seeing The Master. So I did have a kind of a good intuition about the introduction to it and why it makes some people get into it. And also the fact that there was also a sort of deep sea of mystery after that intro couple courses or whatever.

Louis: It’s really interesting because—you know when you read Dianetics, like the kernel of what Scientology is is basically just a kind of take on Pavlov’s dog, isn’t it? It’s just about sort of sensory associations.

Andrew: Yeah.

Louis: And when you read Dianetics, it’s got a volcano and it’s like “This is the most amazing book I’ve ever read in my life!” it’s all “Rome fell because of not having a science of the mind!”…Then you find out it’s all about you stubbed your toe and an ambulance went by and now every time you hear an ambulance, you get a sore toe. And you’re like “That’s IT?!” That’s the modern science of mental health? How could anyone think that that was the answer to life’s mysteries?

LD: Then going back, when you considered doing it as a tv series, what do you think it was that made it warrant making a feature movie?

Louis: That’s a good question. And in a way that’s maybe something John would be better at answering.

John: This is my first feature. Yeah, there are…little nuts and bolts, like I think you need a great musical score for instance. And I do think the music in this film is amazing. The composer Dan Jones did an extraordinary score in this film and it needs a sense of scale. If you want people to play eight or nine quid or fifteen bucks, you know they need to feel like they’re getting something with a sense of scale. And I think Scientology has that built into it anyway. And it needs to be entertaining, it needs to feel like you know, it’s…You can ask Michael Moore, he says about his films he wants them to be like date movies. That people will go on dates. You know, it’s a big deal to go to the cinema these days. And I’d like to think that that’s in our film. I’d like to think that it’s entertaining. It’s got to be, it’s a movie.

Louis: For me, I think also it has to do with like in my tv stuff, it is fundamentally journalism and so I have agency but in terms of my place in the film and how I kind of change and push through the journey through the tv shows, but in this one I really do actually really kind of take the story—take the bull by the horns in a sense. So you’ve got—I’m much more of a protagonist which I think is important for the film to work….You know I’m the guy ‘on a mission’ in a sense.

LD: Had it ever crossed your mind to try and surreptitiously join the church?

Louis: Yeah we talked about it—

John: That was floated at one point.

Louis: Obviously when you’re brainstorming, you don’t—everything’s about ‘let’s talk about…well what’re the merits? What’re the ethics of doing this? How would it feel?’ I think quite quickly we concluded that it didn’t feel right.

John: Bad faith…for something like this.

Louis: Plus you wouldn’t even get to see very much. You know without actually having access to someone inside the SeaOrg and even then it might takes months to really get deep inside…Actually while we were making it, I did go along to the Los Feliz mission to just see what happens when you go in the front door. And just show up and say ‘What is this all about?’ To me it was interesting because I’m fascinated by Scientology but imagining if we’d been filming, it would not have been very interesting. It’s just there is a sort of hard-sell that they do at the church.

Marty Rathbun and Theroux filming an auditing re-enactment

LD: How long were you shooting your re-enactments before you were aware you were being tailed?

Louis: Marty said that ‘This car has turned up before’, do you remember that?

John: I think we were probably being tailed when we didn’t realize. There was a couple of times—that car, that white Toyota pickup truck that’s in that scene—one of our PA’s Shane said ‘I’ve seen that at the hotel before.’ You know, a good few days before. Maybe even on a previous trip. So we were probably being tailed but we didn’t realize.

Louis: The first time Marty tippled that we had been tailed, though I don’t think I believed him at the time, was the day we did the drills at the studio.

John: Oh yeah, he dashed around the corner, didn’t he?

Louis: Yeah, I mean that was the same day as two people turned up filming us who were journalists. I don’t know if they actually were Scientologists but on the same day Marty said ‘This car is suspicious.’

LD: So like a couple weeks in?

Louis: Well no, it was a while, we were filming more than a year. About two months in.

John: So how did they know that we put out a casting for David Miscavige?

Louis: I mean that casting went out on the wire, didn’t it?

John: I guess so.

Louis: So it wasn’t a secret.

Andrew: But yeah that’s one thing that we’ve said was that they knew that you’d done the casting for a young David Miscavige with Marty in the room.

John: With Marty, that was the kicker. So I wonder did they follow Marty the first day he arrived—

Louis: Maybe.

John: So maybe they were following us from the—

Louis: Anytime Marty came into LA, there’s a chance they might have known about it.

LD: Andrew, when you saw that casting how did you react to it? How did you feel knowing you were kind of playing half yourself and half re-enactments?

Andrew: I just came in, I knew they were doing re-enactments, it said like a BBC documentary on Scientology and I just—I knew that they were kind of shooting outside as I was entering, so I was aware of that and I just focused on playing the role. And I didn’t know where it was all going. It was kind of fun…They would go back to England and then they would come back and have some more material for me and it was kind of a workshop at first. Mike Rinder would show up, Marty was normally there. So I was learning through Marty. They were shooting the rehearsals. There’s a lot that you don’t see that was just the process of….So we were in a blackbox theater listening, watching Marty lead some auditing kind of sessions. Then we did that day at the Mack Sennett Studios, a full day of communication TR training and things. But yeah, I knew that there would be some stuff of just me being me…but I just wanted to focus on the role.

LD: Now do you guys have any idea of where all that footage that they shot of you goes?

Louis: I think it goes into an editing suite somewhere probably in Hemet, California and I think they will be piecing it together into some kind of online video.

John: I suspect they’re waiting for the film to be here. It’s already been seen in the UK—been to festivals in the UK, I think they’re more interested about…I have no idea.

Louis: I think they’re waiting to see what happens with our film and if our film reaches a certain kind of having a profile, that they will release their counterpunch.

John: It would be great if—obviously it would never happen but—I imagine theirs is going to be a shorter film given they only filmed us on two or three occasions…It would be great if, you know how they used to have shorts before the main feature? It would be nice to have theirs.

LD: Is the church as prevalent in the UK as it is here?

Louis: No. It exists and it has high profile kind of missions in locations—orgs, they call them— on Tottenham Court Road and by Paddington…but in terms of their actual number of followers, I think it’s really small.

John: No, it’s quite telling that there’s a road in London—Tottenham Court Road— and they have an Org on Tottenham Court Road and actually there was a time when it was very, in 90s even, I worked in the company around the corner and there were always people sitting outside, always people trying to get you to do a personality test but it’s just dead now. There’s like one person at the front desk, which is quite telling in and of itself.

My Scientology Movie is in select theaters, OnDemand and available to stream on Amazon and iTunes starting March 10th. For more information visit MyScientologyMovie.com.

Kodi Smit-McPhee and John Maclean Have An In-depth Talk About ‘Slow West’

Last month John Maclean’s Slow West had its New York debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film has since been available from DirecTV but the visually striking drama (read our 4-star review here) can be enjoyed on the big screen in its theatrical release as of May 15th. I sat down with director Maclean and star Kodi Smit-Mcphee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, next year’s X-Men Apocalypse) one rainy afternoon during the fest at New York’s Bowery Hotel to discuss more in depth the creation of the Michael Fassbender western.

Lauren Damon: John you actually got a degree in art and painting, did that inform your visual development of the film?
John Maclean: I think practically 100% of it in a way. Because it’s all connected and when I was making–when I was at art school I was doing a lot of collage which is pretty close to montage. And when you do look at really early early cinema, they’re so closed linked, you know. There’s cinema and films, paintings, then you have surrealists making films and Dali making films.
Kodi Smit McPhee: I love his films, so cool.
John: Yeah and Buñuel, do you know Buñuel’s stuff?
Kodi: No
John: Luis Buñuel
Kodi: No, I’ve been looking for more surrealism…
John: Oh he’s the ultimate. I’ll give you some names.
Kodi: Please. I didn’t even know you’re a painter. That’s amazing.
John: I studied six years at art school, painting.
Kodi: Really? I’m getting right back into it now. Oh my god, I love it. I’m thinking of maybe doing surrealism in graphic design, I like that.
John: Yeah, I mean especially surrealism.

Lauren: Yeah, that’s definitely evident in having, you have scenes horses attached by a clothes line to dry their clothes in the wind, or Kodi’s character alone in the desert landscape–did you sketch anything out?
John: Oh, I sketched every single shot, yeah. So it took me about four weeks to storyboard it but yeah, heavily storyboarded.

Lauren: Kodi, just prior to this you were in Jake Paltrow’s Young One’s where your character sketched a lot too…
Kodi: Actually ironically in a lot of movies, I just realized…
John: Weren’t you drawing in Planet of the Apes?
Kodi: Yeah. Planet of the Apes, [All the Wilderness], The Road…
Lauren: Is that something you do on your own anyway?
Kodi: I did when I was younger and I only realize now that like my ego–
John: Did you actually draw in Planet of the Apes or did some production designer give you half a drawing to fill in? [laughs]
Kodi: [laughs] No, they gave me half of like an amazing masterpiece to help, and I’m like ‘Alright, so I’m just going to do my seven-year old rest of it.’ But yeah, I loved drawing when I was little and painting but then I just stopped because I thought that I was just doing the same as other people but I’m not, at all, you know?
Lauren: No, it’s always going to be different.
Kodi: You end up owning it once you master the craft. And then once you master the craft, which only your passion can get you through, you can then talk however you want in the arts.

Lauren: Going back to that image of the horses, how was it working with all the livestock in the film?
John: [Laughs] That was actually–that was a scene where the people on the film, I can’t remember what they’re called, are they called bond people? …The people on the film that sort of question stuff that maybe can’t be done were very concerned about that scene [Laughs] But that was one of the easiest.
Kodi: The clothes line, yep.
John: That was actually pretty straight forward.
Kodi: Yeah
John: I think some of the harder scenes were just like eight horses in a row, standing still. So yeah, there was no problems with the horses but there was problems with some of the riders. [laughs]
Kodi: It’s pretty interesting and funny when you’re trying to do just like a dramatic, still moment and the horse is like just moving around–
John: Or a silent moment and just [horse noises]

Lauren: Did you have previous experience acting on horseback?
Kodi: Luckily, I did. I did Romeo and Juliet in Italy a little before this and I was trained by a jockey so I was pretty set for it–
Lauren: So you’re ready to go fast if you wanted?
Kodi: Yeah I love horses and you can actually build a really unique relationship with a horse if you’re not scared of it. So yeah…I think my horse’s name was Zeke, it was beautiful.

Lauren: I noticed when I interviewed Ben Mendelsohn regarding Silas leaving his gang that he seemed bit defensive of Payne, was this the remnants of anyone on set staying in character?
Kodi: We only had Ben for a tiny amount of time.
John: Yeah Ben was only around for three or four days of the whole shoot.
Kodi: If anything, he was just so cooperative just to try and get it done right.
John: I mean Ben had a really tough scene on the first day which was around the camp fire which, when I wrote the script I hadn’t realized that it was dialogue, silence, dialogue, silence, and there was nothing for him to be able to remember…Usually someone says something, you know someone else says something and it triggers you to remember your lines for the reaction. But there was no…Silas was just like [there].
Kodi: Yeah.
John: So it was basically like a massive monologue, so it was really really tough for him. And then after that was…all that in the field so that was much more fun.

Lauren: So he wasn’t ‘Payne’ on set?
John: No, because I never felt that it was that kind of film or it sort of merited that. Because it was, you know even between takes, it felt like the kind of film where the performances were supposed be kind of quite natural and very just action based so you know it very much just yeah…So it kind of felt like that wasn’t really needed. I think when you’re going into filming hand held digital for hours, someone being slowly destroyed in their mind and all that, you need to go in and out. I think the only time, I think Caren [Pistorious as Jay’s love interest, Rose], when she was at the ending–that I wouldn’t want to spoil–it was quite emotional for her, that scene.
Kodi: Yeah I was saying when it comes to the scenes within the story, you want to stay there. But when it’s obviously just like things like communication, I mean if anything it’s great to leap back into being cool with each other and communicating and kind of talking out the scene before you get back into it.

Lauren: When you read the script, did Jay’s love for Rose bring you back to any crush you’d had in your life?
Kodi: Actually I hadn’t had a lot…I mean now I have a beautiful girlfriend, but that’s only because I do relate to Jay in the way that I only want true love and I kind of see through the veil of all the bullshit in the world. And I was just kind of waiting for that, waiting for the right time and respected that. Yeah but nothing at the point of when I read the script, did it remind me of anything. But I love love. So yeah.

Lauren: Do you think growing up while making films kind of sheltered you from some of that sort of ‘bullshit’?
Kodi: Yes. Yes, absolutely. I mean it could have gone two ways and it could have actually thrown me into the bullshit if anything. It’s my journey, I believe, not just a coincidence that I was taken around the world and shown different cultures and yeah, just shown the state of the world. And it really planted a seed for an inquisitive mind.

Lauren: And you’re from Australia, but are you based in Hollywood now?
Kodi: I’m based in yeah, Studio City, kind still away from the bullshit [laughs]. It kind feels like a suburb type area so I feel pretty comfortable there. I’m there because of work, but I never work there. It doesn’t work out like that [laughs]. It’s cool.

Lauren: Was it nice for this film shooting in New Zealand, kind of closer to Australia?
Kodi: Yes, it was so beautiful and I was so stoked to be going back to New Zealand. I went there for two weeks when I was younger with my dad and I was, even really young, I knew I loved it so much. Everyone says that it’s one of the places in the world that mother nature’s still extremely present and that’s so true when you’re there. It’s just like another world, so beautiful.

Lauren: Were you familiar with Ben or his work as another Australian actor?
Kodi: Oh! Ironically, my father is an actor–he’s the one that got me into it when I was eight–and I lived in a place called Adelaide for, well before I was born, Ben Mendelsohn and my father actually did their first movie together.Well, my dad’s first movie. So it was just kind of weird to connect the dots like that. Makes a cycle.

Lauren: Did you dad visit this set?
Kodi: Yeah! He came to set and they saw each other and yeah, it was just cool to be in the middle of that, for sure. I felt a great connection and I told him, you know, I told him yesterday that even though we’re all the same sorts on the inside, he’s a huge inspiration to me, yeah, he’s a really cool person.

Lauren: Do you have any siblings?
Kodi: I have a sister who’s also an actress but configures more of her energy towards she wants to be a pop star…
John: How old is she?
Kodi: She’s twenty two and it’s been her dream since a child, so she’s really just embraced it. I completely respect her for that. And then I have a nine year old brother who is in Australia right now with my mum. And yeah, he’s a really cool kid [laughs].

Lauren: John, this being your first feature film, were there any assumptions you’d had that flew out the window as you moved from shorts to this?
John: I think just the mountain that I was about to climb. And I think if I’d almost known it, that I would have questioned doing it. You know, but you sort of break it down. So you don’t look too far ahead, you just look towards the week. So you’ve got the pre-production, and then you deal with that and then you’ve got the first day of shooting and you deal with that. Then you get into the rhythm of shooting and you deal with that. And then you finish and then you start editing, and then you do the music and the grading…So just the whole thing just is such–I’m kind of glad I did it when I’m a little bit older and a little bit more kind of…You know I speak to film students that want to make feature films and they’re like twenty and stuff…
Kodi: So eager.
John: Eager, yeah.
Kodi: I feel like I’m just waiting and there’s nothing I want to jump into yet.
John: Yeah, I think you need to…you need to just make short films, you need to read, you need to write, to learn and live. I mean some people–obviously you’ve got your Scorsese’s doing it when they’re six and stuff but I mean, for me it was just much more ‘Ok, this is the right time’ and it felt very comfortable and easy.

Lauren: Do you have a favorite part in all this process?
John: Shooting’s the best bit for me. Unfortunately shooting’s the shortest bit as well. You’re only really doing seven weeks of the shoot and the before bit is years and the after bit’s years. But really the buzz of being on set and the collaboration of being on set and the kind of routine of it, I just absolutely love.

Lauren: In an attempt to be a Michael Fassbender completionist, I couldn’t seem to find [their short film] Pitch Black Heist though.
John: No, I know. We’re going to try and get it out. It’s on the internet in Britain but it’s blocked in America, I know.
Kodi: Why’s that?
John: Because Film4 have got a licensing thing about it..It might come on DVD.
[writer’s note: Thank you, YouTube]

Lauren: Kodi, have you got ambitions to branch out in writing or directing?
Kodi: I definitely have ambitions but I think with wisdom comes the best recipe. So I’m literally just being the sponge that I already automatically am with this–not, immature mind–but this mind that’s still learning. And I just take advantage of it and yeah, taking it all as it comes. I know one day over there [pointing to John’s seat] I’ll have the great tools to express that.

Lauren: What do you think you picked up the most in working on Slow West?
Kodi: I–man, the most important thing for me in art is just like, I don’t know that new…like when someone does that thing that you love, that you want to do, it’s so inspiring. Because when it’s done right and it’s enjoyable and I don’t know. It really is what it is to anyone I guess. I can’t put words on it, I really can’t.

Lauren: Actually going back to John saying you had ‘The Mountain’ of your film earlier, I have to point out that you had The Hound from Game of Thrones in there, how long was Rory McCann shooting with you and how did he come to join your cast?
Kodi: He’s awesome.
John: He was absolutely amazing.
Kodi: He has the nicest heart in the biggest cage.
John: Yeah. And a great talent. He was in a bit of Scotland. We shot for a week in Scotland and he was there and then he came down to New Zealand and we had him for maybe one or two weeks in New Zealand, but it was great to have him around. He, I think Michael Fassbender suggested him because I was trying to figure out someone for the dad…
Kodi: Originally it was Rory for Jay.
John: [Laughs] Oh yeah Rory for Jay. Originally it was Michael for Jay [laughs]…Yeah, Michael suggested him and it was like [snaps fingers] wow.

Lauren: Had Michael worked with him before?
John: No, I think Michael had seen him in something that wasn’t Game of Thrones.
Lauren: Hot Fuzz? With his one line in that movie?
John: [Laughs] Yeah, again and again. But yeah, I loved working with him.

Lauren: And then how did you cast Caren?
John: Caren just it was tapes that were sent to me. She hadn’t done much, if any features. Her profile was pretty low and they were sending me a lot more experienced names and stuff and she was just–her tape was just better than anyone else’s.

Lauren: Kodi, did you speak much with her regarding your characters’ relationship in the movies?
Kodi: Beforehand? Yeah, I think it kind of stops at a point when you understand what’s happening. And that is just the whole heart in the wrong place idea. Which happens a lot in the world. But in this instance, it’s quite the colossal event. Because he has the ability to follow that vulnerable passion. So yeah, I think that kind of unfolds itself and then you get to put the ingredients in after you understand it.

Lauren: Without going to much into spoilers, but this is a western so it of course it has a shootout in there, how was it filming that? And had you experience with weapons?
John: That was the funnest bit of the whole shoot for me. Because you really–It was towards the end of the shoot and we’re kind of running out of time so we’re ramping up the shot lists and it was really quite exciting actually. We got the guy that was doing all the firearms stuff, he basically was Peter Jackson’s guy for, since the beginning. So he’d done all the Meet the Feebles and all that kind of stuff so he was really amazing. He was really amazing with shooting stuff and he turned up with this huge high-powered air thing for a lot of the exploding everything. So everything was just shot. So we just shot the hell out of the place.

Lauren: Did you get in much gunplay?
Kodi: There was a little bit and I obviously had to be like safely trained how to use it correctly and stuff like that. But I didn’t really use it much in the movie and we wanted it to–when I did use it–look like I had never used it. So I kind of used that! [laughs]

Lauren: Coming up you’ve got playing Nightcrawler in X-Men [Apocalypse], are you entering into any sort of stunts training for that?
Kodi: I think, I mean I’m probably not allowed to say this, but I read the script and I don’t think there’s much physicality for my character as of now. Probably due to his laziness in teleportation [laughs] Which I love! So I’m not going to complain about that.
John: You’re working on your tail though? [laughs]
Kodi: I’m working on my tail stunts, trying to flick it into people’s eyes.
John: Trying to grow it as well…
Kodi: [Laughs] Yeah trying to grow it out right now. It’s like [‘this big’ hand demo]
Lauren: There should be a protein shake for that.
Kodi: Tail Protein Shake! That’s great.

Lauren: Do you have a favorite super hero of your own?
Kodi: The coolest thing is that I really never was into superheroes or comics or anything and I didn’t think as an actor of my physicality would have a chance to play one. But then after I just kind of started researching life and stuff like that, you see weird coincidences in life that you soon realize aren’t coincidences and this character is—his real super power I believe is he’s a great person. Or whatever he is, mutant. And he’s in love with faith and god and he expresses love to his other superheroes who are going through hard times and essentially I think his—Fassbender says in interviews that that’s what’s so intriguing about X-men or even Star Wars. Its idea, it’s got this mask on it but what’s under it is relative emotions so yeah I really can’t wait to get into that. It’s so , again.
Lauren: Yeah, like Kurt, Jay in Slow West does have that spiritual angle to him
Kodi: Yep and intellectual and has the seed to want to know about the universe and that is also a seed in and of itself that ends up just making you go back to yourself.

Lauren: Talking of the ideas in larger films, Slow West has a lot of small, very intense intimate scenes, for instance Silas just trying to calm down a woman holding a gun, what’s the inspiration for these?
John: I think it’s just there’s things like that and the washing line scene, when you’re thinking up what’s happening next, it kind of one thing leads to another and it seems like the only practical solution. So the only practical solution for Silas in that situation is to try and get Jay to calm down by saying breathe. And the only way for him to say that to Jay and bring him out is to pretend he’s saying it to the girl…
Kodi: I don’t mean to go so deep but when you have a mind like mine, and you’re reading a script and you see how cause and effect and laws literally work—Like, if you’re at one with truth, then everything just falls into natural light. You don’t have to pull anything from anywhere, it just naturally happens.
John: It’s a lot of practicality, like if you’re clothes are wet and you have to ride somewhere, then you make a washing line, you know? So you kind of—hopefully it was just all coming out of…pI think that’s how, it’s like not having to think of anything too surreal or witty, but just think more practical things and then you will happen to be, by nature, witty or surreal.

Lauren: I can’t help but notice that when it comes to Jay, he seems like an intelligent character and for him to trust Silas’s intentions when he offers help seems just sort of willfully naive.
Kodi: Yeah, I mean I think maybe not even because…it’s like a theory I have that you can rev your engine so much in first gear, but it’s not going to get to the second gear until it’s the right time…So I think that’s where he’s at. And that’s where nature works. It’s like no matter what, you can know as much as you want but if you’re acting from where you are, it’s only going to have equal effect. So yeah, I think it doesn’t matter how really smart he was, he’s always going to be immature in some way.
John: Yeah I mean I just thought that Jay was the kind of person that sussed Silas out from the first moment he saw someone that was lost and lonely. And he had such a perceptive view on when certain characteristics of people, or certain—but because of that detail, and because of that perception missed the huge big picture that [Silas is] a bounty hunter [laughs]. So you know, it’s like…he nailed Silas immediately with the lonely thing but missed out on the whole ‘I’m leading him to the bounty’.

Lauren: And finally, what’re you working on next?
John: Seeds of ideas that will start developing in the next few months into something. So yeah, I’ve a bit sort of enjoying the traveling and space before starting to write again.

Lake Bell chats about “Man Up” along with director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris at Tribeca Film Festival

Man Up, the hilarious new comedy from director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris, made its NY debut at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival with the creators and star Lake Bell in a cheerful mood on the red carpet. They along with producers Nira Park and Rachel Prior spoke with me about working on the film.

The film focuses on the awkward Nancy (Bell) accidentally swiping some else’s blind date, Jack (Simon Pegg) and the wild night they have out in London. True to the spirit of Man Up’s main character Nancy, writer Tess Morris was unabashedly honest about how she felt about the premiere, laughing and saying, “First time I’m going to see it with a paying audience–so I’m really excited and also I feel sick!”

Lauren Damon: How did you come up with some of the phrases and strategies that Nancy throws out in this film? The tactical puke? The blowjob paradox?
Tess Morris: Because they’re all actual things in my life! Actually, The Blowjob Paradox is my friend Austin. I have to credit him. That was his theory that I stole. Never be friends with a writer because they’ll just use everything of yours. Tactical puke? Because I’m the least sporty person in the world. So the idea of me actually having to do a tactical puke is sort of like half the joke. But yeah, I just base a lot of stuff on–I have a notebook with me everywhere I go and I just nick everyone else’s…

LD: Like Nancy carrying a notebook.
Morris: Oh yeah! Yeah, she’s very much myself.

LD: Did you write Jack with Simon Pegg in mind?
Morris: No I didn’t, I actually wrote it on spec, but he came on board it quite early and just changed the whole process for me. Because obviously once he was playing Jack, I could just have even more fun with him. And he brought so much to it, obviously. As did Lake. So yeah, that was a very exciting moment when he agreed to do it.
LD: I appreciated how none of your other female characters are mean, how the other date isn’t grotesque or competitive.
Morris: Oh yeah, like she gets her–I just sort felt like it was really important that she didn’t come across as like some young shallow kind of gal. Like she’s really excited for them because she’s a good soul. And I don’t like mean movies, you know? What’s the point?

LD: Can you name some of your favorite romantic comedies?
Morris: Oh yeah! I love Moonstruck. I think it’s underrated a lot. And I obviously love When Harry Met Sally and I also, most recently, Silver Linings Playbook and Crazy, Stupid, Love and Enough Said actually. I really liked Enough Said a lot. I think there’s been a slight resurgance recently.

 

Producers Nira Park and Rachel Prior had worked with star Simon Pegg throughout his entire “Cornetto Trilogy” with Edgar Wright and even earliar than that on UK sitcom “Spaced.”

LD: Can you speak about your relationship with Simon Pegg since you’ve worked with him dating back to spaced?
Nira Park: Eighteen years, seventeen years…we met on Spaced actually so I’d done something small with Channel 4 with Edgar before Spaced, then Spaced was starting up and Channel 4 actually asked me if I’d just do a couple of days a week initially to just kind of help them get it together. And I remember being really nervous when I met Simon and Jessica [Hynes] and I’m a bit older than them and they said they were terrified of me for the whole of the first series but I was actually quite scared of them! And–cause he’s just so bright and so brilliant and so funny–so yeah, I did a couple of days a week at first and then we all got on so well that kind of within a few weeks they were like ‘will you produce it??’ So okay.

 

LD:How did you get connected to this particular script?
Park: Well this script came about, we were just saying, because Rachel [Prior]–well we were all completely obsessed with Bridesmaids because we premiered Paul at SXSW and Bridesmaids was the surprise screening at midnight after Paul’s screening and it wasn’t finished at that point and actually [producer] James [Biddle] and Rachel weren’t there but I came back to London and was like ‘Oh my god, I’ve seen this film! It’s amazing! I wanna make this film!’ and we were just like ‘Why are there no more female writers in the UK who are writing this kind of thing??’ And then literally a couple of weeks later, this script, no one in the UK really writes on spec in the same way–it’s not the same as in the States–and this script just arrived through the letter box written by Tess and she’d kind of written it for Big Talk in the hope that we’d like it. Because she liked the films, the other films. And it was like everything we’d been hoping for! So at that point, we picked it up and we developed it for like a year and a half, we attached Simon kind of six months into the development.

 

LD:When did Lake come in?
Rachel Prior: When Lake came in it was just as we got to the point where we had a script that we were happy with and we were about to sort of start putting together and actually with BBC films and StudioCanal to actually start going into production. And we saw a couple of trailers for In A World and it was like there’s this–we had knew Lake from “Children’s Hospital” but there was something in In a World where we were like ‘Oh my god, she could play Nancy’ It’s obvious she was great at accents. And then we read an interview with her where she had said she studied drama in the UK for four years so we were like ‘Can she do a British accent?’ And she can.
Park: A brilliant one.
Rachel: Some Brits when we tested the film had no idea that she was American!

 

Lake Bell’s previous film, In a World featured her playing none other than a dialect coach with a great ear for accents.

LD:Was it gratifying going from In A World where the subject matter was doing dialects to this full feature where you’re using your British accent?
Lake Bell: It definitely was. You know accents and dialects are very much an obsession of mine. That is very authentic to In a World. So this was definitely on my actor bucket list of things to do was to play a fully realized British character, so yes. It absolutely satiated a desire to play a British character.

 

LD: How familiar were you with Simon Pegg before you paired up here?
Bell: You know I had known Simon’s work and certainly upon first meeting him I noticed we had a good sort of comedic chemistry and you know was excited to kind of go down this journey with him because I thought ‘Yeah, this if is gonna work.’ Especially with Tess Morris’s words which are so brilliantly…I really do attribute the brilliant repartee to her script.

 

Finally, director Ben Palmer comes from having done the feature film of UK TV teen comedy Inbetweeners.

LD: Your previous feature was The Inbetweeners, with just this manic teenage male energy, how was it switching to having a strong female lead?
Ben Palmer: It’s how I respond to a script, to be honest. And so the Inbetweeners was a really big part of my life and when I got sent Man Up, I almost felt they probably had sent it to the wrong person. Because I never thought that I’d be doing a British romantic comedy. But there was something–within the first couple of pages of reading Tess’s script, there’s something in that dialogue that stuck with me. And in a way, it has sort of that sharpness and that speed and the naturalism, I suppose. Those characters are so well drawn that I was a sucker for it, basically. And there’s and edge and there’s a truthfulness and it’s anarchic in its own way. There’s swears, there’s all that sort of stuff that excites me, I suppose. Although it is a romantic comedy, there is a crossover to the Inbetweeners. And it’s nice just to keep shaking it up and do a different thing.

LD: The film takes place over the course of one night, but has so many locations, what was that shoot like?
Palmer
: I loved that hook, that it happened over sort of 24 hours, in one night really. So within that…the challenge is to try and liven it up and move it around and the fluidity and the speed that they’re hammering through this city. It’s trying to find locations, not the easy locations to shoot in, but to go well ‘this is where this would happen.’ And so with that, when you’re doing a low budget film, there’s problems there. Because you can’t close down whole blocks, so you’ve gotta sort of work around general public in a way. But that’s how you achieve something that feels real and honest.

LD: Bowling features heavily in Nancy and Jack’s date, was there a best bowler on the set?
Ben: (Laughs) Simon. Simon’s a pretty good bowler. I’d say he’d edged it.

Man Up opens in UK cinemas on May 29th, while Saban Entertainment has recently acquired US distribution rights. You can read my review from Tribeca here.

2015 Tribeca Film Festival Red Carpet Interviews

The 14th annual Tribeca Film Fest was held from April 15th to 26th in lower Manhattan. Media Mikes had the opportunity to speak to many of the creative minds behind the films making their premieres over the course of the Fest. You can read my coverage by clicking on any of the posters below and check back to see more additions:

About the Tribeca Film Festival:

The Tribeca Film Festival helps filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience, enabling the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promote New York City as a major filmmaking center. It is well known for being a diverse international film festival that supports emerging and established directors.

Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Center, to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of the lower Manhattan district through an annual celebration of film, music, and culture, the Festival brings the industry and community together around storytelling.

The Tribeca Film Festival has screened more than 1,600 films from more than 80 countries since its first edition in 2002. Since inception, it has attracted an international audience of more than 4.9 million attendees, and has generated an estimated $900 million in economic activity for New York City.

Director Jeppe Rønde and star Hannah Murray talk about “Bridgend” at Tribeca Film Festival

Jeppe Rønde’s harrowing new drama Bridgend made its debut during the Tribeca Film Festival this past week with both the director and star Hannah Murray (“Game of Thrones”) in attendance. Bridgend is based on the true story of a massive series of teen suicides that occurred in a small town in Wales. The suicides received media coverage at a point where seventy-nine young people had taken their lives between 2007 and 2012. In the film, teenager Sarah (Murray) moves to Brigend with her police officer father and quickly finds herself running with the pack of local teens who’ve recently lost some of their peers to suicide. They are a wild bunch who borderline worship the deceased and memorialize them in an anonymous online chat. All the while Sarah’s father, like the rest of the community, seeks to find what is causing this horrible phenomenon.

This mystery intrigued director Rønde who spent time in the actual community and eventually shot the film there on location. Rønde and Murray both spoke to me on the red carpet about how important it was to dramatize the town’s story in a respectful manner.

Lauren Damon: You spent time in the actual community of Bridgend, what was that like and did you go there with the goal of developing a film about it?
Jeppe Rønde
: I went there with the–a goal is a strong word–but I went there to try and find out what is this about? And why is this tragedy happening? Which is of course may be a mystery, because it doesn’t make sense. Why do so many youngsters kill themselves? So I was trying to figure out how can this happen? And how can it keep on going?

LD: Was Hannah’s character influenced by a particular story that you found there?
JR: Not particular, but I wrote the whole script through all the characters that I met there. Many of them. And I mixed them into, you know, one character. So you couldn’t do like a one-to-one, ‘oh this is that character’, because I would never be able to do that. Because that would be morally incorrect. So I built it on the reality I met but also making it a fiction which was important to me. Because it cannot be too close to the real people living there…

LD: How did you find filming in the actual location?
JR: Actually to film on the location was very important to me. Because you feel the presence of what is there. The geography is specific. There’s a fog coming, you know every day it rains a lot. And it can feel depressing. And at the same time it is extremely beautiful. And it was easy for me to get the actors into this state of mind that I wanted them to be in.

LD: How much preparation went into your work with the DP to get this very ominous atmosphere?
JR:
Of course we wanted to push forward a feeling of something that would be this collective subconsciousness. Something that’s within us that’s a darkness. So we wanted to put that also into the shot.

LD: What would you want audiences to take away from the ending of the film?
JR: I hope that they will take away from the ending that this is something that is beyond understanding of who we are as human beings. That there’s something in us that we don’t know what it is…that if we do look into it carefully, then we can maybe choose one or the other. Because it is an open ending.

LD: Is this still going on? All the suicide statistics associated with the town seem to come from 2007 and 2012.
JR: Because that’s the only figures that you can find officially. But unfortunately yes, it is still happening. From what I heard and no one really knows, but the media was shut down in 2010. So it’s difficult to say, but you would have to ask the authorities there.

 

Hannah Murray, who currently plays Gilly on “Game of Thrones” had a breakout role in the UK teen TV drama “Skins” but saw the role of Sarah as a wholly different teen.

LD: What was your initial reaction to the script?
Hannah Murray: I’d never done something that was based on you know, based loosely on true events. I felt a huge sense of responsibility and I didn’t really want to get involved unless I thought things were going to be done sensitivly and respectfully. And when I had been offered the part I had a meeting with Jeppe to ask him why he wanted to make this film because I was worried about someone, I don’t know, wanting to do it in a kind of half-hearted way or taking advantage. So when I understood how long he’d taken to research it and how dedicated he was to the subject matter, and how involved he’d become with the community, I thought ‘Oh, you’re going to do this right and you’re going to do this honestly and bravely and compassionately.’ So that made me decide that it was something that it was worth jumping into.

LD: How was it shooting in that location?
HM: I don’t think we could have made the movie anywhere else. When you go there, you feel something very unique about that place and it’s beautiful. It’s incredibly beautiful but in a very bleak way. And there’s something kind of almost mystical and strange about it. I loved being there but it was, yeah you do feel a sort of sense of darkness in the air. Maybe that was because of the story we were telling though, I’m sure.

LD: You have this background coming from “Skins” of acting in the midst of a bunch of wild teens, did you feel a little like you were tapping into that again?
HM: I mean I feel like they’re incredibly different projects in sort of every way. Skins shows a dark side of teenage life but it also shows an incredibly fun and comedic side of teenage life. And in this, I mean, one of my friends saw this movie and described it as a gangster movie. Which I think is a really really interesting way of looking at it. And I think there’s a kind of, there’s a level of tribalism in this world that is so much more severe than anything that related to my teen experience. Whereas “Skins” I could kind of go like ‘Oh yeah, it was fun, we went to parties.” It was very different.

LD: How was it different on set with between the days you had you just acting with the pack of young actors versus the more intimate, intense scenes of just your character and her father?
HM: I mean that was one of the most amazing things about the project was all the different people I was working with were so different in terms of experience they’d had and the types of things they’d brought to these characters. So yeah, I remember every day we had the gang there it was just like this injection of energy and they were so exciting and would throw all these amazing lines that they’d improvised…And they would talk a thousand words a minute. And when I was working with Steve [Waddington] I felt like a child and when I was working with the kids I felt more like an adult because I felt sort of more responsible for them. And then I also had the love story with Josh O’Connor, which was a whole other element to play out…but I love everyone who worked on the film. It was such an amazing group of people.

LD: Finally, congratulations of continuing with Game of Thrones–especially this season’s opener being their highest rated–
HM: Oh was it?
LD: Apparently
HM: Oh that’s great!

LD: Why do you think the audience just keeps growing for it?
HM: I think it’s a REALLY good TV show. I think people put an incredible amount of hard work into it. The production values are really high and I just think David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] and George [RR Martin] are geniuses. I just think they’re so smart…And George created this amazing world in the books and these incredible characters and then the way David and Dan have adapted it is beyond. I think they’re so so smart.

LD: And how many times a day does Kit Harrington have to hear he knows nothing?
HM: He gets told quite a few times. Not by our crew, but I’ve seen people come up to him in the street and that’s allllways the thing they want to say to him.

LD: How about you, do you get fan recognition out and about?
HM: Um, a bit. Less so than I think some of the others. I think because I’m–well, now I have red hair, but I’m normally blond in real life whereas I have dark hair in the show so I can kind of be a little bit more under the radar. But I still, I’m surprised how many people still spot me. I think because there are so many fans of the show.

Martin McCann, Olwen Fouere and Mia Goth talk about “The Survivalist” at Tribeca Film Festival

Stephen Fingleton’s post apocalypse drama, The Survivalist held its NY premiere at the Tribeca Film Fest on Thursday April 16th with the stars and director in attendance. Martin McCann takes center stage in the film as the survivalist who has a small farm in the woods and a strict solitary routine to keep himself alive.

Lauren Damon: Was it daunting for you to receive a script where your character spends so much time in silence?
Martin McCann: No no, I just think when you’ve got a silent script, you’ve got more of an opportunity to appear a better than you actually are. Because most actors mess things up when they’ve got lines! [laughs]

The Survivalist’s routine is broken by the appearance of mother-daughter travellers, Milja and Kathryn, played by Olwen Fouere and Mia Goth.

LD: Did you two have a backstory worked out for this pair of characters?
Mia Goth: Well you know, you never actually find that out in the movie either so you sort of, you know–which was a lot of fun–you get to create your own idea of what that character was and who she was as we lead up to where we meet her in our story. And I think I kind of just got the sense that she was just a normal girl, an ordinary girl, thrown into like extraordinary circumstances. And she, I don’t know, just shows great bravery and resiiliance and that was one of the things that I found most compelling and [made] me wanting to be involved in this. I thought it was very empowering.   
Olwen Fouere: We sort of did, yeah. We sort of did together and seperately. You know, I think what I thought was important was that we would each have a very strong internal life. So we would have individually worked towards that…And I think that it was also important that there was sort of a distance between the two of them as well, you know, because one of the points of the film is how it overthrows societal norms and the whole idea of family values, which of course is a whole idea that’s falling apart now anyway.

LD: The Survivalist adds to a long string of recent bleak post-apocalyptic views of the future on film, what do you think the appeal of that genre is?
McCann: Sometimes the truth hurts. And even though it’s a science fiction idea, you know post-apocalyptic and in the future, the inevitability of the life we’re living is that resources will run out. So I think there’s a weird sort of effect that that has.
Fouere: Well I think perhaps the world is starting to question the fact that with the explosive of our population, of the human race, and that the human race is becoming the greatest virus on the face of the Earth. So I think maybe people are beginning to realize that and you know, I think that’s what happens at a critical time is people start to envision what might happen. What the future might hold and how you might address things.

You can read my review of The Survivalist here.

RiffTrax Live! discuss “The Room” on the Tribeca Red Carpet

RiffTrax Live! took the stage at the Tribeca Film Festival for their first ever New York show on April 17th. The crew consisted of the talent behind classic TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. Although MST3K went off the air officially in 1999, their particular brand of humor, consisting of running commentary on classic terrible B-movies got a new life in the form of RiffTrax. With RiffTrax, the guys have shed their MST3K alter-egos (Bill as Crow T Robot, Kevin as Tom Servo and Mike as…Mike) and have broadened their scope to include live shows and downloadable tracks riffing on mainstream studio films. For their Tribeca audience, the guys presented Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 “disasterpiece” The Room. I caught up with the trio on their red carpet. In true RiffTrax fashion while Mike posed in front of photographers, Kevin and Bill stalled off ­to the side to riff on his technique before all heading over for a hilarious chat about what they do:

Lauren Damon: So…why The Room?

Mike Lawrence: Have you seen it?
LD: Yep
Mike: Yeah. I mean it’s the weirdest movie ever, it has to be done.
Bill Corbett: It is the Citizen Kane of bad movies.

 

LD: Have you guys ever met Tommy Wiseau, does he know what you’re up to?
Mike: Oh yes.
Bill: Yeah, he has to agree to this, believe it or not.

 

LD: Does he think the movie is good?
Kevin Murphy: I think he was confused at first. He didn’t know exactly—He thought we were stealing his film at first—
Bill: He thought we were stealing his soul!
Kevin: But then he realized we were just having fun with it and he already knows people have fun with the film.
Bill: Yeah
Kevin: He’s accepted it and he’s embraced it so—
Bill: He decided to call it a comedy.
Mike: He’s a good sport about it.
Kevin: He’s a very good sport about it.

 

LD: And you’ll be doing this again live?
Kevin: We’re doing it live, May 6th, Rifftrax.com for all the information
Bill: Across the land!

 

LD: And you’ll have new material on this same film every time?
Bill: Yeah, this will probably change, yeah. This is very different from the one we recorded before, yeah, it’ll change a lot.

 

LD: Can you also talk about how with Rifftrax you switched from Mystery Science 3000 riffing on B-movies to now these downloadable tracks for mainstream movies?
Mike: Well we’ve never had a chance to do them, since we can’t get the rights to them, and the technology allowed it was just like there’s a whole bunch of movies out there that are opened up by doing it that way.
Kevin: It helped us to get some of these big, more recent films for our live shows. Like we’re doing Sharknado 2 in July. Yeah and then what’s that big blockbuster? Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny. [laughing]
Bill: George Lucas’s, I believe?
Kevin: [laughing] I think so, yes, in December.

 

LD: I enjoy downloading your tracks on my favorite movies. I have all your Marvel universe ones, because I’ve seen them a ton of times and I like to get a ‘new take’ on them.
Kevin: Yeah [all laughing] I’m glad we can provide that for you!
Bill: If we can do NOTHING else, it’s talk about the Hulk’s schlong.

 

LD: Do you miss your Mystery Science Theatre 3000 alter-egos, your robots?
Bill: I miss being Mike. I played Mike, you realize that don’t you?
Kevin: It’s amazing.
Mike: Make up. Hours in the chair.
Kevin: And Mike was Crow but he wasn’t a puppet, it was make up. It was just all make up. No, I had the opportunity to bring one of the show puppets home after the show was over and I said I don’t want that thing around my house. It would be like Anthony Hopkins in Magic [in presumably a demon puppet voice] “Chop your head off Kevin, CHOP YOUR HEAD OFF!”
Bill: KEVIN! KEEEEEVIN!

 

 

When you started MST3K almost 30 years ago did you ever think you’d be doing anything similar all this time later?
Kevin: No
Bill: I thought I’d work as like a bus boy or a porter or be, I don’t know on the Bowery.
Mike: I was sure I’d be back at TGIFridays. I still remember all the codes for extra broccoli.
Bill: Something to fall back on.
Kevin: We kinda were in job transitions and it seemed like fun so we did it and boom, we’re still here.
Bill: Well At this point we have no other discernible skill set. So we kind of have to do it.
Kevin: Yeah we kind of boned ourselves here!

 

LD: Do you go to see ‘real movies’? Are you in MS3TK mode, how  are you about people talking during films?
All: Oh yeah.
Bill: By all means, oh yeah. I hate people who talk in the movie theater! I’m really a prig and a tight-ass when it comes to that.
Kevin: “SHUSH!!” It’s true.

 

LD: Do you think, with rights issues, there will ever be a return to the MS3TK characters or that format?
Kevin: Really not up to us because we’re not really controlling—or owners of the company in any way. So…
Bill: I think they will be resurrected on the last days of EARTH. Like…the living and the dead…
Kevin: All the immortal souls.
Bill: Definitely that!

 

LD: Because it continues to have such life with dvds…
Kevin: Well, wait for the rapture, we’ll see what happens!
Bill: And this movie [The Room] will be the thing that kicks off the rapture.
Mike: Luckily you don’t have to wait very long at all.

Fortunately, the presentation at Tribeca did not bring about the rapture–although I can’t make any promises for the May 6th nationwide broadcast–but it was a hell of a good time. Not only were audiences treated to The Room, but the gang pre-gamed with a black and white children’s safety film, “Live and Learn” that featured more lessons than you can shake a dangerous pointed stick at. My face hurt from laughing and the crowd gave the trio a standing O.

 

Tickets for the May 6th broadcast of Rifftrax Live: The Room are available via Fathom Events

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Misery Loves Comedy”

Director: Kevin Pollak
Starring: Jimmy Fallon, Freddie Prinze Jr, Judd Apatow, Christopher Guest
Runtime: 94 minutes
Heretic Films

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

Watching Kevin Pollak’s new documentary, which held its NY premiere at the Tribeca Film Fest last night, I had a newfound appreciation for Jerry Seinfeld’s web series ‘Comedians in Cars getting Coffee’. On that short series, now in its 5th season, Seinfeld tools around in a carefully selected retro vehicle with a guest comedian shooting the breeze on life and comedy, eventually parking at a cafe to wrap up their conversation with a meal. At roughly twenty minutes an episode that series exerts more visual flair while getting more to the heart of each of its individual guests than the star-studded but tedious, ninety minute Misery Loves Comedy.

In one and two shot setups, Pollak’s interviewees–numbering over fifty and spanning generations and countries–are encouraged to speak of their influences, their best and worst sets and the ostensible thesis, must one be miserable to succeed in comedy? That question, is just one of a dozen or so title-carded themes upon which the editors of the doc loosely tether what must have been days of content into some sort of order. The trouble with this structure is it is exhausting, lacking any sort of commentary or interaction from filmmakers, or even performance footage of standup.

The amount of star power is blinding, but the excitement is tempered when you realize all of its subjects will be exclusively in isolation. This format has been increasingly bested recently by webcasts like Marc Maron’s WTF, Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist, and yes the aforementioned Seinfeld series. While there are a number of laugh out loud anecdotes from the likes of Jim Jefferies, Stephen Merchant and Christopher Guest, the quantity over quality approach of this film lacks the depth suggested by its title.

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Man Up”

Director: Ben Palmer
Starring: Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, Rory Kinnear, Olivia Williams
Runtime: 80 minutes
Big Talk Productions, StudioCanal

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Have you ever been watching a romantic comedy and right as your arguing couple is about to explain What’s Going On(?!) they just…don’t? For some reason explaining a simple misunderstanding like adults just doesn’t happen? Ever wish those lovers would man up, quit moping around and keep the movie going already? Blissfully Ben Palmer’s refreshing Man Up does just that. It takes what could have been a very contrived setup and spins it into a fantastically wild night out in London with stars Lake Bell and Simon Pegg.

Socially awkward Nancy (Bell) is on a train to her parents’ 40th Anniversary party looking a bit worse for wear after a failed arranged date the previous night. Lonely and tired, she’s confronted by the perky Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond, the expolsive Carina of Guardians of the Galaxy) who foists a fad self help book onto Nancy. As it turns out the book was meant to signal Jessica’s blind date Jack (Pegg) at their Waterloo Station meeting point but before she can replace her copy, he spots Nancy instead. In the spirit of Nancy taking more chances and in the face of the Simon Pegg Charm Offensivetm, she decides to go ahead and be “Jessica” for the evening. It’s quite the setup but Nancy and Jack’s immediate chemistry had me rooting for them despite the inevitable truth coming out. Through a contagiously fun night of drinking and bowling it becomes apparent that the older Nancy was really more suited to the just-divorced Jack than 24-year-old Jessica.

There’s a wonderful balance in Palmer’s film between over the top humor and raw emotional moments from these two damaged lovebirds and Bell and Pegg are more than capable of selling both extremes. A skill that’s cleverly emphasized by Palmer giving Jack an emotional breakdown during a cheesy club dance. When the not-Jessica reveal finally comes to the forefront, sure they leads handle it for the bizarre decision that it was but they really sort of barrel through it to present a united front against Jack’s exe appearing (Olivia Williams) in the midst of it all. Bigger fish to fry and all that. In this instance and more Palmer, working from a script by Tess Morris, keeps the pace speedy throughout and offers some written gems like “the tactical puke” that had the audience cracking up.

Compliments too must be paid to Morris for avoiding writing in any shrewish females–not the exes, Nancy’s family, even that spunky Jessica, not an evil caricature among them. I wish I didn’t have to put a special shoutout in this regard but the rarity of women helping other women in romcoms, especially where love triangles are concerned, is usually a major drawback of the genre. And if Man Up culminates in a Grand Romantic Gesture as the genre also demands then it damn well did everything else right to earn it.

Man Up premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 19th 2015 and has additional screenings through the festival’s end on April 26th.

Tribeca Film Festival Review “The Survivalist”

Director: Stephen Fingleton
Starring: Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouéré
Runtime: 105 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

There is an admirable practicality at the heart of Stephen Fingleton’s post-apocalyptic film, The Survivalist. With small cast, no musical score and only a patch of woodland as a setting, Fingleton delivers a no-nonsense drama as lean as its protagonist.

For better or worse, Fingleton wastes no time with exposition as to what has happened to humanity. He opts instead to show a simple line graph charting the descent of human population. It is with only this information we are introduced to Martin McCann’s unnamed Survivalist. He lives a solitary existence on a makeshift farm in the Irish woods. His daily routine is not glamorous, more than once he uses his own bodily fluids to fertilize his crops, but it is successful. For one at least.

The Survivalist’s way of life is disrupted by the appeared if the elderly Kathryn (Olwen Fouéré) and her daughter Milja (Mia Goth). When the women’s initial attempts at trading the man no-longer-valuables in exchange for some food, he reluctantly lets them in. There Milja very matter-of-factly offers her body instead. All the while, the Survivalist keeps them at gunpoint.

No matter how comfortable the three get around each other, the threat of running out of supplies hangs over them all and this is where Fingleton wrings out the most dramatic tension. While Kathryn chastises Milja for becoming sentimental about the man, Milja is gradually realizing her mother might not be the optimal partner for survival. What’s great about the situation Fingleton has set up is it doesn’t take sides. Milja has just as much right to decide who her safest life raft is as the survivalist does carrying two shot gun shells on his person at all times.

In the title role, McCann brings to mind alternately a deer in headlights and a predatory bird. He is captivating to watch and a good anchor to this taut thriller.

The Survivalist held its New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Fest last night with additional public screenings at TFF scheduled through April 25th.

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Slow West”

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorious, Rory McCann
Directed By: John Maclean
Running Time: 84 mins
A24/DirecTV

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

There’s a surprising streak of gallows humor coursing through Slow West, available now on DirecTV and having its NY premiere at Tribeca this week. The terrain is merciless and bloody but plenty meet their doom with a darkly ironic twist. Coupled with stunning visuals and a plethora of perfectly cast outlaws, John Maclean’s tale of star crossed lovers in the old west is an unexpectedly quirky entry into the genre.

We meet Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), an upper class young Scotsman riding through the deep Colorado woods on a mission to find his lost love, Rose (Caren Pistorious). Jay is way out of his depths, bearing with him too much luggage and the old west equivalent of a Frommer’s guide. He narrowly avoids being shot when a lone bounty hunter named Silas intervenes on his behalf. “You need chaperoning,” the rugged Silas says, “and I’m a chaperone.” Naturally Silas has his own agenda regarding Rose, but Jay pegs Silas as a lonely man in need of company and accepts his help.

Naïve Jay is an interesting romantic lead insofar as his flashbacks to his time with Rose in Scotland reveal him to have been ye olde friend-zoned. It puts a nice tragicomic edge on his mission and earnest dealings with Silas. It’s also entertaining to watch the wide-eyed McPhee wear down the gruff Fassbender. The addition of Silas to Jay’s mission comes with its own baggage in the form of Ben Mendelsohn’s Payne. Payne, in an outrageous large furry coat, leads Silas’s old gang each of them looking every inch the old-timey outlaw. They bring with them absinthe and their own absurd tales from the road where Maclean is not afraid to cull some laughs from deadly stories even as Payne’s gang looms ominously over our leads.

Ultimately of course finding Rose is going to come down to a good old fashion shoot out as the west demands. Like the rest of the film, its gorgeously shot (New Zealand subbing for Colorado) and gives all the players a chance to shine before the bullets begin to really fly. It’s a satisfying climax to top off this brief offbeat journey through the west.

 

 

 

“Intramural” Takes the Field at Tribeca Film Festival

I think you may have been hard pressed this past week at the Tribeca Film Fest to find a more entertaining red carpet than that of Andrew Disney’s sports comedy, Intramural. Packed with comedic talent, the film enjoyably marries the comedic sensibilities of 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer with the game plans of sports movies almost too numerous to list. Much of the cast and creators gathered on the carpet to discuss the inspiration behind the film and their characters.

Lauren Damon: Can you talk about movies that inspired Intramural?

Director, Andrew Disney: I think comedy-wise, Wet Hot American Summer, Hot Rod–which I think is so underrated—a bit of Happy Gilmore and Teen Wolf, I watched a lot of Teen Wolf–

LD: And from that you did manage to incorporate a little supernatural into your players–

Disney: Right! Right, which I love in Teen Wolf, they just accept it in that world.

Nick Kocher plays Grant, former Panthers team player, back on the field to coach the team to victory after an accident paralyzed him from the balls down.

LD: Your character goes through a dramatic transformation into the coach, did you draw the DNA from other classic sports movie coaches to create him?

Nick Kocher: Did I ‘draw the DNA’? [laughs] I love that! Yeah, I mean the character’s like somewhat similar to the Rip Torn character in Dodgeball in that he’s in a wheelchair but then my character’s also like 22 in the movie so like the fact that he becomes this–I think it’s more I drew inspiration from a guy who would draw inspiration from these coaches. He just watches these movies all day long and you know wants to be this person so literally becomes this character given the opportunity.

LD: You think these movies were most of his childhood?

Kocher: I think Grant hasn’t really had that much attention paid to him and then he gets a lot of attention paid to him when he makes this game winning  catch and realizes this is all he wants to do with his life…is just live out these weird sports fantasies and like get attention that way. That was sort of–I love that you’re asking me these in depth questions about this character!

LD: I enjoyed the movie!

Kocher: No, that’s amazing!

LD: Finally, is Coach Grant aware that there are two sports commentators [SNL’s Jay Pharoah and DC Pierson, recently of the Apple guy in The Winter Soldier] talking about his game?

Kocher: [laughs] No! I don’t think they can hear it. I think they’re aware there’s two like stoner guys who come to each game and they’re like ‘oh what’re those guys talking about? I dunno!’ but the stakes are just as high for all of them.

 

Beck Bennett, who is currently enjoying his first season on “Saturday Night Live”, plays the evil Dick Downs, captain of the opposing team.

LD: What famous film rivals inspired Dick?

Bennett: A lot of things that Ben Stiller does, he was always an influence. Like his character in Heavyweights and also in Dodgeball. Will Ferrell in Zoolander, that’s not a sports movie, but those types of bad guys. Also Bradley Whitford in…

LD: Happy Gilmore?

Bennett: Happy Gilmore.

LD: Oh, not Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison–uh oh, Adam Sandler mix up. I think we’ve committed an SNL crime!

Bennett: You lead me astray! I didn’t say it! You said it!

LD: I’m calling Lorne Michaels!

Bennett: [laughs] So yeah, those are some of the great comedy bad guys.

 

Backing up Dick Downs is the lackey whose actually a nice guy, Ace, played by Kirk C. Johnson.

LD: Do you have any favorite sports movie rivals?

Johnson: Yeah, for sure. Like Necessary Roughness, have you ever seen that? Yeah, they spit in each other’s mouths before to get each other pumped up. They hit each other on the shoulders and spit at eachother, that. And then like the actual real ones, like Remember the Titans, Rocky and Little Giants. Little Giants is very influential for me.
Kate McKinnon, also of SNL, plays the Vicky who Mckinnon described as “just a girlfriend who just really loves her man but just doesn’t know how to do it quite right.” I asked if she felt out of the sports action of the movie:

McKinnon: I didn’t feel left out not getting to do the sports scenes because I am a horrible athlete and it was Texas in July and I would have died. So no, I didn’t feel left out. I feel that I was spared from a terrible thing.

Creating a sports movie, I asked the cast whether there were any actual football going on off screen. Gabriel Luna, who plays Vinnie, first gave us the details of on-set games:

Luna: No, we played a lot of Cornhole which is a beanbag you throw in a platform. We did a lot of that. A lot of competitive drinking. A game that Nick and Brian [McElhaney] invented called Running Flipcup Charades. Which you may have seen on the Much Ado About Nothing extra features. They played it on a bus, which blows my mind, I don’t know if that’s even possible but apparently they did.

Disney: Cornhole? Yeah I played a lot of cornhole. I wasn’t as much in the competitions, I usually try–when I make a film, I try to abstain from alcohol which is hard but I think it’s good for a director. Like Cool Runnings how like that guy is always in his room studying while…well anyway! I don’t why I’m talking about Cool Runnings, I could talk about cool runnings forever!

Nick Kocher, who detailed the entire rules for Running Flipcup charades for me added:

Kocher: There’s lots of injuries. Brian broke his toe…Also I can say playing Running Flipcup Charades, people were playing much more intensely than they did the actual film sports film. People gave much more of their all to the drinking games.

Finally, seeing as so many of the creators mentioned [Walt] Disney sports movies as influencing them (McKinnon also cited The Mighty Ducks as a favorite), I couldn’t help but wonder if they could see Andrew Disney’s name bringing in the Miracle or Invincible-watching crowd:

Disney: I love Disney sports films! I mean I love like Cool Runnings and grew up watching every Disney sports film…

Johnson: [laughs] I hope! I hope that this says “DISNEY’S INTRAMURAL” that’d be great, yeah. We should make like a mock logo that looks exactly like it, it’d be perfect.

Kocher: GOD WILLING we get confused with the Disney sports film because then it’ll make a lot of money!

You can check out our 4-star review of Intramural, here, and view the trailer below: