Interview: Cast of Sex Drive, Part I
Fri, 17 Oct 2008 13:32:12
Josh Zuckerman Videos
If the referential components of Sex Drive could be expressed as a mathematical equation, it might look something like this: American Pie’s race to lose virginity + Road Trip + Amish Rumspringa documentary Devil's Playground = Crude teen comedy for the Facebook generation. Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is a wallflower who’s fashioned a studly alternate identity for himself online, thus giving him the confidence to flirt with a bikini-clad blonde who goes by the name “Miss Tasty.” Encouraged by his Casanova of a best friend, Lance (Clark Duke), Ian sets off on a cross-country trip to track down the cyber hottie and earn his sexual stripes. Complicating the perverted plan is Ian’s bully of an older brother (James Marsden), whose car the duo steals in order to leave town, and best female bud Felicia (Amanda Crew), who tags along on the journey and rouses crush-worthy emotions in the shy teen.
ARTISTdirect had the opportunity to speak with the cast and filmmakers of Sex Drive about ‘80s movies, the rise of the “average” guy, and palling around off set. Part One of our conversation includes sit-downs with Marsden, Zuckerman, Crew, director Sean Anders, and producer and co-writer John Morris.
What made you want to do something that’s wackier than the Prince in Enchanted?
My wife read the script before I did. I was watching T.V. and I couldn’t watch what I was watching because she kept laughing as she was reading it. I’m like, “What are you reading?” She [said], “I’m reading that movie, Sex Drive and it’s really funny and it’s really written well.” I said, “What’s the character like?” She’s like, “Just an asshole older brother, but I think you’d actually be really funny in it.” So I read it, and it reminded me of the movies I grew up watching and that informed my adolescence.
What references for Sex Drive did you have in your mind as far as movies go?
Weird Science was one. [My family ]never could afford to actually buy movies; it was always the ones that were on cable [we watched], like Fraternity Vacation, Summer School, Sixteen Candles, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Last American Virgin. Those ‘80s “trying to get laid” movies.
Do you have an older brother or were you an older brother?
I was in-between. All three of us were about a year-and-a-half apart, so we spent our whole childhood beating each other up and fighting. There was a real competitiveness to the three of us for identity and for friends and things like that. We were pretty physical with each other growing up. I wasn’t the bully, really, I was sort of the Justice. I was like the Sherriff. The peacemaker, you know? [Jokingly] But I could get dirty if I needed to. [Neither] of them was like this character.
What kind of dynamic did you establish with the younger actors on set. One moment you’re beating them up, but the next, I’m sure, there was camaraderie.
This movie, particularly, was a party. It was two weeks of work for me; I did my thing and left. But while we were there it was a fun job. It was amazing we got any work done. A lot of the stuff that’s in the movie was just us messing around [on set]. With Josh, not that I got all method-y, I think I might have scared Josh a little bit. I didn’t purposely try to not talk to him, but I thought, the less connection and buddy-ness we get, the more it’s going to help our dynamic in the movie. I adore him, but I sort of kept him on his toes…keeping him in check [laughs].
Did you contribute to the look of the character?
There’s a feel about the movie, at least when I read it, that felt ‘80s-ish. Maybe that’s because that’s when [the aforementioned] movies were coming out. I was reading it going, “This guy probably wears a lot of workout clothes and kind of shows off his muscles and spends a little too long with his hair.” That character that almost is gay, he bleaches his hair, but he does it thinking he looks really tough. He wears an earring, but it’s in the left ear not in the right ear; the left means you’re straight and you’re tough because you can get your ear pierced. It was all these ‘80s things, [like] the braided belt tied in the knot, acid washed jeans. When I talked to Sean the first time over the phone, I immediately went into all the physical descriptions of what I thought would be fun for [the character]. I really was inspired by this guy, transforming myself into this wacko.
Director Sean Anders and Producer/Co-writer John Morris
How did you guys familiarize yourself with the online realm that teenagers are so tapped into?
Sean Anders: We joked about creating teenaged online personas and seeing how many parents we would get trying to kill us. That whole texting phenomenon—I’ve heard grownups complain that kids are texting all the time. When I was in high school, [adults] were dying to get us to read and write anything. [Laughs] That whole world of being able to be something that either you're not, or you’re not totally—even if you’re being really up front about your Facebook page…you [choose] that picture that makes you look kind of cool. It’s just like dating; you leave out the bad stuff. We liked that as a jumping off point. But at the end of the day, that’s just a framework that gets us into this greater story.
Can you describe what the collaborative writing process is like for the two of you?
SA: Really, really glamorous [laughs]. It’s John and I sitting, usually over a pizza, kind of not saying anything for about a half an hour and then going, “Hey! What if they go to a trailer park? What happens there?”
John Morris: It’s as boring as you can imagine.
SA: The more time that you sit in the room together and discuss it, the more gems come up. A lot of it is just, “Okay, we’re going to get together for six hours today.” One thing I could mention we do: we do go and watch all kinds of movies—not just movies in the genre. When we’re out of ideas we’ll watch movies and write down all the story beats. We’ll say, “Oh, that’s interesting there. That guy left and then we forgot about him, and then he came back…” That’s something that helps kick start you.
How did you decide upon casting key roles for this film?
SA: We decided going in that we were going to go for funny people that were legitimately funny. A lot of times we had to fight to get those people in the movie, but the beauty of that is, when you have genuinely funny people, like Clark Duke or Seth Green, you can let them go. We would get what’s on the page first. We would get a few takes of that, then we would open it up and really let those guys play. We would all mess around. Everybody was having such a good time and, being let off the leash the whole time, you get to places you just don’t get to otherwise.
It seems like casting Clark’s character must have been difficult, because he has to be a stud and a geek simultaneously.
SA: You’re right on the money with that. The character was originally written as a tall, chiseled, blonde [guy]. We were auditioning these guys and we thought, “These guys just seem like jerks.” We were already fans of Clark and Michael long before that. I was showing an episode of Clark and Michael to a friend of mine who hadn’t seen it, and as I was showing it to him I thought, “Duh! That’s Lance right there.” We called him and he came in two days later. He came in expecting to read for the Ian part and we said, “No, no, no. We want you to play Lance.” He said, “Really? Cool!”
What do you guys think about the chemistry that Josh and Amanda have, and what made you think that they seemed more like friends than a couple?
SA: We would always hear about stuff that they were doing on days that they weren’t working. We would be shooting something with James Marsden, and Josh and Clark and Amanda would be at the beach doing something really fun. The fact that they all, in real life, had a really good time together, helped them to be more believable as friends. I think Amanda was the heart of that in a really interesting way. We had been reading girls in Hollywood for Felicia, some of them fairly “name-y.” We had some really good choices, and then we got this video, this DVD from Canada. She had just put herself on tape in a hotel room in Manitoba. We saw that DVD and we said, “Oh my God, this is our girl.” And the reason why was because she had that “I can hang with the guys” vibe. When we met her, she was that way. She swears like a sailor, she can totally hang with the guys.
Where did you get the Amish Rumspringa thing from?
SA: There’s a documentary called Devil’s Playground about Rumspringa, and it’s just one of the craziest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s so disturbing and funny and bizarre. Some people have said the movie and go, “Oh, come on.” But if you see Devil’s Playground and what really goes on, it’s not a stretch at all.
They don’t have Fall Out Boy play, though.
They probably will now [laughs]. But whatever crazy party you think you had in high school, you got nothing on the Amish. I’m totally serious. They have money and no parental supervision and the police don’t go anywhere near them. They can do anything they want.
It’s like a rave, but everybody knows where it is.
Yeah, and other English [kids] will come from miles around to attend these Amish parties because they’re just blowouts. And nobody knows about it!
How long is it? One night?
It’s kind of an open-ended thing, the way I understand it. Almost as soon as they go on Rumspringa, they start to get pressure from their families to come back to the church and get married. One of the saddest things in that documentary is, they were talking to a guy who had been on Rumspringa and was now Amish again for a couple of years. They asked him what he missed, which we actually use in the movie…the guy just said, “I really miss music.” I just thought, “Oh. Imagine going out and hearing Led Zeppelin for the first time then never being able to listen to it again.” I’ve tried to be on a diet; there’s no way that these guys, all of them, just say, “Nope! Never doing any of that ever again!” You know they sneak off or drive [away] or something. They must!
A lot of teen comedies that are coming out now focus on the anti-hero, the “average guy.” Was that at the forefront of your mind when you were writing it?
SA: I think that just speaks to who it’s written by [laughs]. You write what you know! Those are the characters I root for, because I was that guy. I’ve had that experience of being in love with the girl that just sees you as the friend.
Josh Zuckerman and Amanda Crew
What are some of your favorite road trip or coming-of-age movies? Josh Zuckerman: Can I say Harold and Maude? That’s my instinct. Just a wonderful movie. I love the relationships [in it]. For me, a big part of any film is to get involved. You have to believe the relationships and how compelling they are and the needs of the respective characters. That’s what works for me in Harold and Maude, and that’s what we aim for with this film: the relationships above all, to make them believable and to make them flow.
Amanda Crew: This isn’t a movie, it’s a T.V. show that I just recently [watched]. Have you ever seen My So Called Life? I had never seen it before; it was kind of before my time. My friend has the DVD and I watched all 19 episodes in two days…it is so great.
Josh, James said that he constantly tried to keep you on your toes. How did that affect you while shooting?
JZ: He was definitely toying with me. I could never be sure if he was serious or if he was just toying with me. We had a good rapport. He was nice to me; it wasn’t like he was standoffish or anything. It was mostly like he wanted to engage; he wanted to play, whether it was just as friends or the big brother-little brother relationship. I think that contributed a lot to the way our characters react [to one another] in the movie.
How uncomfortable was the donut costume, and how long did you ever have to stay in it?
JZ: It [depended]. Sometimes [I] was really hot in it because [I] was inside, and sometimes [I’d] be comfortable and everyone else would be cold, because it kept the heat in. But the way it got to [me] every once and a while was in the shoulders, getting [my] head through the hole in the eye. People would have to pry open the gate to get some air flow in.
AC: Didn’t you fall a couple of times?
JZ: I did.
AC: We’d all see him on the ground and for a few minutes we’d just have to laugh before we’d help him up. How could you not laugh?
What did you guys do off set? Was there time to hang out?
AC: We were lucky that the hotel was on the beach, so there was a lot of lounging by the pool and hanging out there with the other resort peeps.
JZ: I was totally psyched about the ocean there because it was so warm. I would just walk up and down it and jump the waves…Sometimes even before my call [time] if I had time I would go out and jump the waves and whatnot. And your skin feels so great [laughs].
What is on the DVD that you guys know about?
AC: There’s going to be a lot of stuff on the DVD.
JZ: I think that the studio and Sean Anders and John Morris went the extra mile in terms of planning the Unrated DVD. I think it will be unlike any Unrated DVD that this world has ever seen.
JZ: Porn stars play a role.
AC: We were all given our own cameras, too, while we were shooting. There’s going to be some of that footage on the DVD.
“We had such a great cast. Everyone was so cool, so funny, crude.”
It seems like your relationship off set informed the one on set, too.
AC: We had such a great cast. Everyone was so cool, so funny, crude. No divas at all. You have people like James Marsden and Seth Green coming on [board] and you’re worried, “Are they going be all diva-ish and standoffish?” Not at all.
JZ: We were also fortunate that we had a bit of time before because the film got pushed [back]. We had a bit of a rehearsal process to get to know each other. That informed the relationships in the film because we got to know each others’ energies and how we work. I think that’s why we work so great right now [laughs]. It’s just exuberant.
Did either of you take a road trip as a teen, with friends?
AC: I drove from Vancouver to Los Angeles. I drove with my friend and my dog, who was having an anxiety attack the entire time. He just doesn’t like to be in cars.
Are you like your character in the film at all?
AC: [To Josh] What would you say?
JZ: Like your character? I would say Felicia is a sliver of Amanda Crew. [Laughs] You’re really putting me on the spot here! She’s just very cool…[she] gets along with guys, she gets along with girls and every group.
AC: As far as me, Josh, and Clark, I definitely feel like there’s a strong piece of each of us in our characters.