â€˜’Fanboys”, it’d seem, is the cinematic sister of an inquisitive cat, taking a beating no matter which fence it jumped, and ultimately racing through its nine lives. But unlike a moggie (who usually ends up humping the foot of a worn Tyre) the Kyle Newman-directed comedy will likely have the last laugh. Nothing’s going to stop this little-film-that-could from doing time with a cream screen.
Like a lot of us, director Newman first heard about â€˜’Fanboys” when Harry Knowles ran a script review of it on his website. Newman, a self-confessed Star Wars junkie (a vision of Newman, sitting beside a bunk, injecting into his veins just popped into my head), just had to be involved. Without even having to bribe writer Ernie Cline with a lifetime supply of Star Wars Pez, Newman was soon appointed captain of the writer’s rapidly-moving ship – and the rest, as they say, can be found in the references section of the Wikipedia page.
Three years after the film was completed, and twelve months after The Weinstein Company hired someone else to reshoot it (What’s that Casper says again? Oh yes, BOO!), Newman’s (well, it’s mostly his) “Fanboys” has been FORCE-d onto screens. Its latest blind date is with the rather attractive ACM in Melbourne, who are screening the terrific film from June 5thru until June 21.
Clint Morris caught up with Newman to talk about the film’s long journey from page to picture theater, as well as get his thoughts on the controversial â€˜’Star Wars” prequel trilogy, the future of the â€˜’Star Wars” universe, his love of Steven Brill (love.. loathe.. same thing, right?), and reminisce about â€˜’Revenge of the Nerds II : Nerds in Paradise”.
How did you get involved in ”Fanboys”?
Like most people – including yourself, I’m guessing – I read about it on Aint it Cool News in 1998. At the time I was at NYU. Matt (Perniciaro, the original producer) also read about it, and ended up tracking down Ernie Cline’s script.
But this didn’t happen as quickly as it sounds, did it?
No. Ernie was originally planning to shoot the movie for, like $20,000 – and in fact, he’d shot a day of footage. Then it fell apart. So he let it go. Three of four years later he was contacted by Matt. And that’s when I got involved. I updated it, and played around with the context of it a bit. It needed some rebuilding. Then Adam Goldberg came in and did some great work on the script.
And you’ve stuck with it for all these years…
It was like a passion project for us because we were all fans.
So did you guys just start knocking on doors and trying to find financing yourself?
We started to try and find independent financing, but soon enough, upon hearing the cast we’d managed to attach to it, people started coming to us. Kevin Spacey came onboard. And he had a relationship with the Weinstein Company, so he took it there. And they wanted to be involved.Â Actually, a lot of places – Dreamworks, FOX – were very interested, but none of them would pull the trigger until they George Lucas approved of what we were doing…
Ah, of course…
Anyway word came in that George was cool with it. The Weinstein’s then made us an offer, and we had 24-hours to get back to them… so we just went for it! We thought we’d have been crazy not to.
Just backtracking a bit, Dan (Fogler) couldn’t remember whether you had any money onboard when he became attached?
I don’t think so. People just wanted to be involved.
So Kristen Bell was an easy catch, too?
Well, I was friends with Kristen – I knew Kristen. She loved the project. It was more about whether we could work it in with [Veronica Mars]. But she was very keen.
So you already had most of your cast attached when the Weinstein’s took on the film. That can sometimes be a blessing and a curse. Were Bob and Harvey happy with the attached cast? Did they try and persuade you to dump anyone?
No, they were cool about everyone.
And looking at the cast list – Sam Huntington, Kristen Bell, Dan Fogler, Christopher Marquette, Ray Park – that’s not surprising. They’re all very cool, hip names. It’d be different if you’d had say Kirk Cameron lined up.
I remember, for example, [actors named removed] was onboard our film [name removed], Â had been since day one, but the financiers weren’t happy with him. So we had to make a decision whether we were going to let them discard our attached cast, as most would if someone’s willing to pay to make their movie, or stick to our guns.
I like [actors named removed]! That’s crazy.
I know! But talent doesn’t equal box-office. And I understand that. It’s just sad that some of those vets aren’t considered box-office draws anymore. Tommy Howell, Eric Roberts…
Though I think Eric will make a comeback.
I do too. If Mickey Rourke can do it, Eric can do it…
In my opinion, and as much as I love Rourke, Eric was always the more versatile actor of the two. He was the better of the two in â€˜’Pope of Greenwhich Village”. He was the bomb in â€˜’Runaway Train”. He’s just awesome.
Yeah. And I think he’ll be back. He’s great.
So it sounds like, since they were happy with your cast and so on, it was smooth sailing, initially, with the Weinstein’s?
For the most part, yeah. The only time we weren’t on the same page was when movies like Borat and Superbad came out and they realized they’d much rather be making a film like that.
But initially, all was fine, right?
Yeah. Everything was great.
When did you see your first cut of the film?
About eight weeks later. And The Weinstein’s loved it! It tested great. They said it was one of the best experiences they’ve ever had.
So when did they decide they wanted to – as many say – â€˜rip the heart out of the movie’?
It was right after Borat and Superbad. They wanted this to be more like that – since that seemed to be what kids liked at the time. I kind understand that but we were adamant that we knew the best. We knew what movie we were trying to make – and it wasn’t that.
And that was the end of the conversation, or…?
There was a long period where nothing happened. The film just sat. Then, at the end of last year, they decided to reshoot some of it. I was on my honeymoon so I couldn’t be involved in it.
And that’s when Steven Brill took the reigns as director?
Yeah. And none of the actors liked that experience very much. Or any of the crew. Or anybody in general – I know you didn’t. [Brill] had no respect for the movie he was making. And then he treated the actors in a way that just wasn’t cool. It was very upsetting. There’s some funny stuff on the DVD – a couple of the actors have some choice words about the experience.
I remember talking to one of the editor’s who’d been tasked with the job of trying to make the film into something more Superbad-ish, and he just didn’t seem to enjoy the experience it all. He too could tell that the movie worked best when that cancer subplot was left in.
I know a few people worked on it, yeah. Most people felt that way. That’s the version people liked the best.
Has George Lucas seen the film?
I don’t know if he’s actually seen it. Good question.
I’d say he would’ve. He’d have to be interested, surely?
I hope he has.
And just after you wrapped â€˜’Fanboys”, you were hired to direct a remake of â€˜’Revenge of the Nerds” for Fox2000. What happened there? Did the financing fall through or something?
Numerous things – the studio didn’t know what movie they wanted to make, and I didn’t want to make a film about stereotypical nerds.
So was it an in-name remake only?
Well, it was still about these kids on campus that are persecuted by the cooler kids who band together to form their own fraternity. But they aren’t like the nerds [from the original films], because a nerd is something different now. Unfortunately, that’s what the studio wanted – the old stereotype with the glasses and so on.
Wouldn’t work today, would it?
No. And also we couldn’t find a satisfactory location – in Atlanta – to shoot. That was not good. It really put a damper on things. Overall, it was just a film that was badly managed. It’s sad, because I have 40 minutes of the film cut together and I love it.
So you were a big fan of the original â€˜’Revenge of the Nerds” movies?
Oh I love the original movie.
I’ll even go so far as to say I love â€˜’Revenge of the Nerds II : Nerds in Paradise”!
I recall my wife walking in on me watching that at one stage – and spotted Courtney-Thorne Smith and was shocked that she’d even do it! â€˜What the hell is she doing in… what IS this!?’
[Laughs] They’re great movies!
Anthony Edwards is just brilliant in, well, the first movie (since he’s hardly in the second one).
And Carradine, too. Were any of these guys going to cameo in the remake?
No, not really. We had talked about a couple of them doing something but we were so preoccupied trying to find a location, and keep this thing on track, that it didn’t go much further than that.
Back to happier times. You’re happy with the cut of â€˜’Fanboys” now?
I’m extremely happy with it. They only gave me 36 hours to recut the entire film, so there are things wrong with it, but generally, I’m very happy with it.
What stuff of Brill’s is in the film?
Mainly, the revised Harry Knowles. They reshot it with a different actor (Ethan Suplee).
And the last line of the movie… â€˜What if it sucks?’Â Was that a jab at the prequels? Either way, it’s brilliant.
No, not at all – I love the prequels – it’s just a line that works for the film. â€˜What if?’ Yeah, it was just a line. What if, after all the hype, the film did suck? Not that it did. But what if it did? It’s the question we all asked ourselves. I personally loved [The Phantom Menace] – I think I saw it 11 times in the first week.
So you’re a fan of the prequels?
I love all the films. I love it as one big story.
I liked the prequels. And I gave them all good reviews – but I’ve got to admit it, they don’t do it for me like the originals did. I mean, the original trilogy is the original trilogy.
How far does this love of “Star Wars” go? What about â€˜’Caravan of Courage”? I remember going to see that at the cinema in the mid 80s.
They… are a little bit sub-par. Battle for Endor, the Holiday Special, the Droids cartoons. 84 to 88 was a slightly low point for Star Wars. Star Tours was about all they had. It wasn’t until Heir to the Empire came out in 1991 that things really picked up. It was an amazing jumpstart.
How cool would it be to be involved in the new live-action “Star Wars” series?
Oh my god, that would be a dream come true.
What have you heard about it?
I’ve heard some things, but nothing we can repeat. Mainly just the tone of it – it’s going to surprise people. It’s interesting where it fits in. It’s a different show from the Clone Wars.
And what about this â€˜’Fanboys” sequel? You were telling me about it earlier…you’d set it in Australia and have the main crew crashing the set of â€˜’Attack of the Clones”. Would you film it in Australia?
I would like that. That’s a road trip. Part of the movie would be shot there – the second half of the third act.
In order for the movie to happen, the Weinstein’s would have to agree to it?
Um… yeah. But you never know, there’s probably a way around it.
What are you working on now? â€˜’War Monkeys” with [IESB's] Robert Sanchez, right?
Well, I’m looking at that. I’m trying to get it in shape. It’s a great concept. It’s a comedy first, before it’s a horror. It’s like Shaun of the Dead or Army of Darkness crossed with Gremlins.
How did you get involved?
I knew Kevin Munroe (one of the producers, initially onboard to direct), and he’d asked me to get involved.
I’ve actually got about a million other projects – all in various stages.
Doesn’t sound like ”Fanboys” has hurt your career at all…
No. it’s definitely helped. It’s not going to hurt that’s for sure.
It’s not going to hurt because people love the film – and that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.
If you’d produced an out-and-out stinker than maybe we’d be having a different conversation, but as I said, this is a great film. My wife, as you know, isn’t even a â€˜’Star Wars” fan and she loved it. She’s still talking about the ewok humping Fogler’s leg!
[Laughs]. That’s great!
She’s not a science-fiction fan at all. In fact, the closest she’s coming to loving something of the genre is â€˜’Battlestar Galactica”.
That’s what Jaime [King, my wife] loves too. We actually just finished watching the last season. It’s taken me a while to catch up on stuff.
It’s friggin hilarious how Glen Larson is doing the Battlestar movie now.
Yeah. Nothing to do with the sci-fi series. It’s the feature film version of the old TV show.
That’s damn cool.
Is Jaime into â€˜’Twilight” too?
She’s into all those types of things. I think she liked the book better than the movie.
As long as you aren’t being compared to Jacob or Edward yet – my wife has already starting letting me know what I do wrong, and Jacob Black does right.
That’s too funny.
So you don’t really know what you’ll be doing in the next twelve months?
I’m keeping all my options open at the moment.
What about working with Jaime again?
Yeah, we’re developing a few things together actually. I’d love to work with her again. She’s a marvellous actress.
And you my friend, are a fantastic director. â€˜’Fanboys” is terrific. It’ll do well here, I’m sure.
Thanks Clint. I’ll let you know if I get over there.
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will hold the Australian Premiere of Fanboys, the long anticipated film celebrating fandom and the cult of the Star Wars franchise. ACMI will present a limited run season from Friday 5 June to Sunday 21 June. Fanboys is exclusive to ACMI in Victoria.
DIRECTOR Q&A SESSION ADDED!
Friday 5 June following the 9.00pm session
Director Kyle Newman will answer your questions from LA
Moderated by film journalist Thomas Caldwell
Attention Fanboys and Fangirls:
The first 20 individuals to come in Star Wars costume to the 9.00pm session on opening night, Friday 5 June, will get free admission for themselves into that session.
The first 5 individuals to come in Star Wars costume to the 7.15pm session on opening night, Friday 5 June, will receive a limited edition Fanboys poster.
Opening night will also feature some of your favourite Star Wars characters ready to pose for photos with you. Arrive 30 minutes before the 7.15pm or 9pm sessions on Friday 5 June to have your photo taken with Darth Vader or a Storm Trooper, courtesy of Melbourne’s The 501st Collective. BYO camera.