Most interviews are a little nerve-racking. If you do enough of them, the butterflies in the tummy tend to only pop up on special occasions, but you’re always just a tad on edge because there’s a lot of uncertainty. What if the interview subjects are tired? What if the questions you’ve thought up and think are pretty good turn out to be the same crap they’ve heard a hundred times that day?
That uncertainty doubles when you’re talking to kids. Anything can happen! They could give you one sentence answers or they can go the opposite way and go crazy but not really answer anything. I’ve experienced both over my time doing this and I’m pleased to say the cast of Good Boys struck a nice balance between being little professionals and also still kids that are excited to talk about the fun time they had.
It was an odd experience, though, because in front of me there were the three stars of the movie, Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams as well as writer Lee Eisenberg and writer/director Gene Stupnitsky and behind me there were easily a dozen moms, dads and extended families of the kids I was talking to. So, I had an audience.
Thankfully, I loved the oddly sweet, but super raunchy and foul-mouthed movie we were there to talk about and it was clear the filmmaking team were proud of it too, which made this interview easy. The film follows three tweens who go on a journey of discovery that somehow involves drugs, pissed off teenage girls, frat bros, sex toys of all shapes and sizes, and just about every bad word in the English language. It has all that, but somehow ends up being a sincere and heartfelt examination of friendship and what growing apart can feel like.
In the below chat we cover lots of ground, from finding the right tone for the film, how they talked the parents into letting their kids take part in a movie like this, how the kids fostered a true friendship both on and off screen and, naturally, who’s best at Fortnite. Enjoy!
What’s really interesting about Good Boys is that when you take a raunchy teen comedy but skew the cast younger it becomes something very different. There’s an innocence that comes with it despite the foul language and crazy situations. Can you tell me a little bit about how you found that tone while developing the project?
Gene Stupnitsky: We got really excited about this time in your life. We talked a lot about firsts. It’s your first kiss, the first sip of beer, the first time you leave home without your parents knowing…
Who could forget the first time you lock a cop in a gas station?
Gene Stupnitsky: Exactly! I do think there are so many movies that are coming of age stories, like American Pie and Superbad, that show what it’s like going from high school to college and we were excited about telling a story about these kids that were unknowingly at a crossroads in their friendship as they’re starting to pull apart, but also wanting to hold on to each other.
Much has been made about the conversations you’ve had to have with the kids about the R-rated stuff they have to say. I’m interested in that, but I’m more interested in what your conversations with their parents were like when they saw the kinds of things their kids were going to be doing and saying in this movie.
Lee Eisenberg: That’s what we call a producer problem. (Laughs) We met Jacob’s parents first. We met them on Skype and they were just so cool and into it. They got it and were not at all thrown by it. Same with Keith and Brady’s parents. They were very cool and understood what it was. We tried to be as respectful as we could in the process of making the movie. No children were harmed in the making of this film.
Jacob Tremblay: Not at all.
Brady Noon: Only a few.
Gene Stupnitsky: During the casting process there were kids we wanted to audition and their parents said “This is not material I want my kids to be in.” It was almost self-selecting in a sense. The people who were auditioning knew what it was. They knew the types of movies Seth (Rogen) and Evan (Goldberg) make and that we’ve worked on, so I don’t think there were a ton of surprises. There were some, but not a ton.
For the kids, I’m sure you all learned a lot while making the movie. Was there anything you learned during this process that you maybe didn’t know before you started shooting?
Jacob Tremblay: It was my first comedy movie and I definitely learned a lot about comedy. I actually learned that it’s harder to keep in laughter than it is to cry. For me.
Brady Noon: I learned a lot from these guys here. I remember one in particular. Jacob actually taught me a lot about improv. I wasn’t that great at improv and Jacob and Keith both directed me on when it was best to use improv and what’s funny to put in there at the right time. I took away a lot from them.
Keith L. Williams: For me, this was like an improv class, basically. I learned how to feed off of other people. With acting and comedy you have to listen on what that person says for you to come up with something else. They say you shouldn’t wait for your line. You have to stay in it.
What’s really great about your group is you each have clearly defined characters, which means in every scene or crazy situation you find yourself in you have characters that you know will react in different ways. Did you work together to make sure your characters were always consistent throughout that?
Keith L. Williams: We just had to make sure that we all had good chemistry with each other. We had a sleepover. We just had to stay together, I guess, and learn how to feed off of each other, basically.
Brady Noon: I thought a lot of how our characters would be consistent is you had to stick to a routine of work. We had a lot of help pointing us in the right direction in what they wanted from our characters individually, from Lee and Gene and the other producers. So, yeah, I think we were all pretty consistent with our characters.
Jacob Tremblay: Yeah, it was fun to really become best friends doing this whole movie together. It was a great time.
You guys bonding together off-screen has got to be really crucial to making your characters really feel like best friends. I remember I talked with the kids from IT and they said all the time they spent hanging out together translated to the screen.
Gene Stupnitsky: A lot of swimming.
Lee Eisenberg: Yeah, a lot of swimming, a lot of Fortnite.
Brady Noon: Yeah, a LOT of Fortnite.
Are you guys good at Fortnite?
Jacob Tremblay: No, not me.
Keith L. Williams: I’m not horrible. I’m decent.
Gene Stupnitsky: I’m good.
I played Fortnite before they added the Battle Royale stuff.
Jacob Tremblay: So you must be good then!
Oh, absolutely not.
Jacob Tremblay: I started playing in Season 3.
When I started playing you weren’t supposed to go kill other people. You were just supposed to chop down trees and build stuff and buy pinatas.
Gene Stupnitsky: There was no killing in the original Fortnite?
Jacob Tremblay: They had two versions, a campaign and online Battle Royale.
I was really good at multiplayer when I was young, but what happens when you get older is your reflexes start sucking.
Brady Noon: How many wins do you have?
I never got a Chicken Dinner in Fortnite, but I got one in PubG and then stopped playing after that because I knew it was only going to get worse from there.
Jacob Tremblay: I have five in Fortnite.
Keith L. Williams: I have one.
Brady Noon: I have, like, 140.
Gene Stupnitsky: These guys were playing it all the time, so I downloaded it once and I couldn’t figure out how to do anything and then, like, acid rain came and I was just running into walls. I couldn’t figure out how to pull out my weapons and was hitting every button on the keyboard.
Keith L. Williams: Acid rain?
Brady Noon: (laughs) That’s the storm. I’m not allowed to play during the week anymore because I was playing too much and it turned into an addiction. No, I’m kidding, but I’m actually not allowed to play during the week because I have to focus on school and acting and everything, so I play on the weekends.
Going back to the movie, I’d like to talk a little about the logistics of making a movie where your entire lead cast are kids. There’s not a whole lot of the movie that you guys aren’t in. I know that you can’t work the same kind of hours you would with a cast of adults. What challenges and benefits were there to making a movie with actual kids instead of adults playing kids?
Gene Stupnitsky: No, these are adults playing kids.
Lee Eisenberg: We had them for a certain amount of time and that was it. In retrospect I wish we would have made this movie in China because we could have gotten some longer days…
Brady Noon: (Laughs) We would have worked, like, 18 hours.
Lee Eisenberg: We had never really worked with kids. It was so refreshing to work with people this young who were having so much fun doing it.
Gene Stupnitsky: We had never even spoken to kids before this movie.
Lee Eisenberg: Nope. Never even met a kid.
Brady Noon: They don’t like kids.
Jacob Tremblay: Yeah, they were born adults.
Gene Stupnitsky: No, but the hours thing is a real challenge because we had the same amount of days to shoot it that we did with Bad Teacher, but for Bad Teacher we could shoot 12 hours a day and for this one we could only shoot 9 hours a day.
One of the benefits of having a cast of tweens going through this kind of teen formula is you get to take some tropes and turn them on their heads. Like when there’s a falling out between the friends they’re all crying as they’re breaking up the group. Little things like that really gave this film its own unique feeling.
Lee Eisenberg: We love when we can do stuff like that. That they just start crying is funny to us and you can’t really do that in a normal movie…
Jacob Tremblay: And kids getting hurt is funny to you, too, and I don’t know what that’s about.
Gene Stupnitsky: (Laughs) I think it’s about how you take things that are familiar and put a spin on it that makes it specific for this. So, having a kid like Thor (Brady Noon’s character) who isn’t doing what he wants, which is singing, and wants to get into the 6th grade musical… Stakes are relative in a movie, but as long as the stakes matter to the character they’ll matter to the audience. Every movie doesn’t need to have the world about to explode.
Lee Eisenberg: And at this age everything is everything. You friendship means so much. The hormones are starting and everything is operatic almost.
Two of the standout scenes for me involve a musical moment and an injury, which lets Keith play with a prosthetic arm. Brady, do you want to tell me a little about the musical moment?
Brady Noon: Yeah, we did a lot of choreography rehearsal. I kinda knew how to sing prior so they put me in the booth and I sang. We all sang. We did Walking On Sunshine so we had to learn the choreography and learn the song for that. I would just listen to our choreographer, Paul Becker, and he was great.
Keith L. Williams: The prosthetic arm was really cool.
Gene Stupnitsky: It was really heavy, wasn’t it?
Keith L. Williams: It really was. It was really hard to go through that with the prosethetic arm hanging there all day. I had to have my arm behind my back and it was super uncomfortable.
Brady Noon: I can’t even count how many times Keith shaked his own prosthetic hand. He was always doing “How are you doing? Hi, arm. I’m Keith!”
Keith L. Williams: And I would always swing it around and one time I accidentally hit Jonathan (the camera operator) in the privates, so…
And Jacob, you have that really crazy paintball scene.
Jacob Tremblay: That was so much fun. I watched The Matrix to get ready for that scene.
Good Boys hits theaters tomorrow.
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