The boys from The Kings of Summer talk about their experiences filming the indie hit
THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a new independent film from Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director of a few shorts and some television series (including FUNNY OR DIE PRESENTS… for HBO). The film is a coming of age story that encapsulates the adolescent transition of boys who are ready to be men and their growing need for independence and understanding.
The script (by former David Letterman writer/staffer Chris Galletta) is possibly the tightest and best written in years. Seriously. This is just phenomenal writing. This is also thanks to breakout performances from the film’s stars, who include Nick Offerman (PARKS & RECREATION), Megan Mullaly (WILL & GRACE), Alison Brie (MAD MEN), and of course the three gentlemen with whom we spoke: Nick Robinson (most recently from BOARDWALK EMPIRE), Gabriel Basso (who you might recognize from SUPER 8 or THE BIG C), and Moises Arias (who plays Bonzo in the upcoming ENDER’S GAME).
Flix 66 – Thanks guys for joining me today. I wanna say, really quickly, that my wife and I both really enjoyed the film. I watched the movie and then we sat down to watch the commentary together, and then I spent time showing her my favorite scenes later that night. So, it’s an honor and I really appreciate you taking the time to do this today. Nick, Moises, Gabe – You guys all got into the business fairly early – when did you know you wanted to be in movies?
Nick Robinson (Nick) – I don’t know if I ever knew I wanted “to be in movies”. I knew I wanted to be an actor. I grew up the weird kid who would like act shit out in front of the television or just act out the movie as I was watching it, just being different characters. But I started in theater when I was, I wanna say 9, at a community theater in Seattle and I just kept at it.
Gabriel Basso (Gabe) – I started when I was 13 or 14, I’m still not really sure what I want to do for the rest of my life but umm, it’s pretty amazing right now and I came to Los Angeles. I mean, its pretty awesome so as long as it’s still happening I’ll do it.
Moises Arias (Moises) – Well, uh, I moved out to Los Angeles when I was 10 years old, strictly for acting. I’m from Atlanta and I’m a lot taller than a lot of people perceive me as.
Nick – (laughs) It’s weird.
Moises – It was a problem when I was younger, I was really really small when I was younger and I guess I was really shy and all this s**t so Mom got me into an acting class see if being in front of people and becoming a second body to someone else or performing might get me out of that scare zone into a more comfort zone and it did and, uh, we just kinda tried out Los Angeles for, I think we came out here for maybe three months. And now it’s turned into 9 years. So, yeah, I mean I really enjoy it. It’s a passion I have. And being out here also inspires you for other things; me in particular, for photography and direction. Just a bunch of different things. Los Angeles is a really inspirational place and a lot of people don’t see that side of things.
Flix 66 – You were the one pointing out all of the mistakes during the commentary, correct?
Moises – (laughter from all three) Ha, yeah, that is me. I was intrigued by the direction and the cinematography. Because it was a very tight set, and it was very different than anything I’d done. I’d just come off a, off a set with a lot of wires and green screens and all that. Seeing the two sides of filmmaking, the more independent side and the big budget side really interested me. You could say that, during the commentary I was very observant.
Flix 66 – That’s what I meant, very observant.
Moises – Mmm-hmm.
Flix 66 – The movie made me feel incredibly nostalgic for my own friendships at that age and the freedom of some level of innocence. But as a parent I also thought, man, those parents are trying so hard, why are kids being such jerks? How did you walk that line between doing things that could potentially alienate your audience (but provide incredible laughs) and maintain the emotional connection?
Nick – First of all, I think Patrick had it way worse than Joe. But most of all, you always kind of perceive the things your parents do as kind of the most annoying, like, the most repulsive things ever. In your own world it’s just horrible, and you’re living with it every single day. So yeah, from an outside perspective, you know, maybe Frank Toy isn’t all that bad? He’s really just a mourning father who’s trying to get things done but in Joe’s eyes he’s a tyrant who is almost certainly responsible for his Mom’s death and you know, all the little things he does, all the little nagging and poking, they just drive him up the wall. So I think it’s just, you know, your own… when you’re actually living in it, when you’re actually a part of that family, everything just seems heightened.
Gabe – I don’t think we really had to work on all that hard on acting that way. Just cause, you know, we are fairly close to that age ourselves so it was more like just revisiting five or four years ago. Bumping shoulders with your parents is inevitable. Just growing up, I think we’re still doing that now and it was kind of easy just to step back and be like Whoa, you know? You realize your parents are trying but at the same time it’s almost impossible not to argue with them just because you’re developing your own opinions and your parents already have theirs. So, and neither one of you are willing to compromise, so I mean, conflict is inevitable as you saw in the film, and when you look at it rationally and say “oh, the parents are trying, why aren’t the kids doing this?” but then you look at from the kids perspective and you’re like “oh, I see”, you know, it’s just… it’s all a matter of just working through it together and looking at things through each other’s eyes and finding a common ground.
Flix 66 – Yeah, of course. Did you guys (Nick and Gabe) did you guys know each other before the movie?
Nick – No, we met during the chemistry reads, part of the audition process.
Flix 66 – Can you talk about the casting process – specifically how they got to you two? You definitely had the chemistry that made the film work.
Nick – Thank you. (Gabe laughs). I think it was a fairly regular audition process. You know, I got sent the script and then, like everyone who ever read the script by Chris Galletta, just a very, very funny dude. But, yeah, I was sent the script and I went in for a regular audition and I tried to just remember what I was like when I was 14, which was just, like Gabe said, wasn’t really that long ago. So I just tried to bring that as much as possible. And apparently somebody liked it so I got a call back and, uh, I believe the call back was the chemistry read. So we did the chemistry read, and then a few weeks after that, uh, I got the call to be in Ohio.
Flix 66 – How long did you guys shoot?
Nick – We shot this in twenty-six days, twenty – what is the actual number?
Gabe – Yeah, twenty-six.
Nick – Yeah, a pretty quick shoot.
Flix 66 – So there is the relationship that grounds the picture, but then we have a curveball, named Biaggio. Where in the world did Biaggio come from?
Moises – He’s an angel on earth (laughter in background). He’s very much Chris [Galletta], an extension of Chris and his younger self. I came in trying to act as someone with mental retardation or maybe Asperger’s, I mean, like a savant – incredibly smart but off. It started to work more and more as I worked with the other guys and was a lot of fun. People on set thought I was Chris’s brother.
Flix 66 – Can you each tell us about your favorite, or the most surprising, thing that happened on set?
Gabe – The pipe scene, definitely, because it was just the three of us with Jordan and Chris and we didn’t have any script, we were just coming up with things together. Really though just the entire process of filmmaking, I just loved the whole thing.
Moises – I agree with the pipe scene and the stuff where we got to do improve. That scene and montage, the entire thing was shot on our day off, and the pipe scene, the sound was from an iPhone.
Nick – The most surprising or, what, favorite? Well, there was that one day where we were in that valley and…
Gabe – The creek.
Nick – Yeah, and everything just kept going wrong. We had a, someone in the crew, who stepped on a hornet’s nest and we had to shut down the set. Then in the middle of that a huge tree in the center of the area where we were shooting, it just suddenly broke and fell. It was completely unplanned and the director of photography just happened to catch it on film, and it actually ended up being in the film.
Flix 66 – A pretty great, symbolic moment.
Nick – Yeah. It really works doesn’t it? And then there was (long pause)… Gabe, you know where I’m going to go.
Gabe – (silence) Oh.
Nick – There was also, we spent a lot of time shooting BB guns, you know, in the middle of nowhere in Ohio. We spent a lot of time shooting cans and things with these BB guns. Well, one day we’re up on this cliff and we were shooting down at this can, and so we made a bet that I could run and beat Gabe down before he could get the gun and shoot it at me. So I’m coming around the corner and suddenly I hear the gun go off and my arm, it just hurts and I’m bleeding. Complete luck.
Gabe – You mean my expert marksmanship?
Nick – Luck. So, I guess it was a surprise that I got so many scratches and scars. I think…
Gabe – I maintain it was my expert marksmanship.
(The guys all laugh)
Flix 66 – I know we’re almost out of time guys; I’d like to close with our signature question – What is your favorite movie of all time?
Moises – Oh man, no way. I can’t, let me go through some of my top 10. There’s APOCALYPSE NOW, and definitely RAGING BULL, and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Yeah, those would be three of them.
Gabe – Oh man, I don’t know if this one is three, but THE LORD OF THE RINGS, does that count as three? Hmmm… (pause) Oh, and KON TIKI, and GOODFELLAS.
Nick – I’m going to say THE GODFATHER, because Gabe said GOODFELLAS and GODFATHER is more cinematic.
Gabe – Nice backhanded compliment. (laughter)
Nick – Then I’d have to say this French movie called MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT (2008). And, man, there are so many good films floating around my head right now, I can’t even think. And APOCALYPSE NOW.
Flix 66 – Thanks guys. Again, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. It was an honor.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER will be released on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital outlets on September 24, 2013.