Shakefire sat down with the cast of the coming-of-age comedy The Kings of Summer to talk about the the film and what it was like working on set. The Kings of Summer stars Nick Robinson as Joe, a 15 year old who's tired of being controlled by his father and decides to leave home to live in the woods with his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the weird outcast Biaggio (Moises Arias).
Shakefire: How did you first become involved with the project?
Moises Arias: For me, I was on another project and normally I don’t read for anything when I’m work, but they send me the sides and they made me laugh my ass off. I did the audition and read the script and it was just a genius script written by Chris Galletta. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity so after wrapping the other film I went to Ohio and got involved and met Jordan there and met these guys. Actually, no I met these guys in Los Angeles during a little improv training that Jordan put us through. But yeah, that was my process.
Gabriel Basso: Yeah, originally I read the script and fell in love with it. I wanted to be part of the project ever since I finished the script and I ended up going in. Then I just flew out to Ohio and started shooting it.
Nick Robinson: My story’s very similar to Gabe’s. I read the script and loved it. It really captured what it is to be 15, in that weird place between adulthood and childhood. I went in a did a regular audition, didn’t hear anything for a long time, and then got a call and went in a did some chemistry reads with Gabe and Erin Moriarty, who plays Kelly, and then got a call and said, “alright, in like three weeks we’re filming in Ohio. Get ready.”
SF: What’s with the improv class?
MA: Well, we’re working with some of the funniest people on the planet. Nick Offerman was one of the funniest people I’ve ever encountered. Megan Mullally is…
NR: Marc Evan Jackson.
GB: Mary Lynn Rajskub.
MA: Jordan knows a lot of improvisers and brought them in for a lot of cameos so he wanted us on our toes. It was really for us to develop some chemistry. I don’t think Biaggio really needs it. He’s in his own world; he loves everyone. It was just a genius idea for Jordan. He was just watching his back as likes to do long takes and rift and all that. A lot of the film was improvised.
SF: So what was it like working with people like Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Alison Brie?
NR: Yeah, at first. Nick Offerman is Nick Offerman, like he is Ron Swanson in real life. But once you get to know the guys he’s a total teddy bear. It was amazing. I learned more on set than I did in any improv class just by watching them work. They’re utter professionals to the end and very, very talented, and very funny.
SF: It looked like you guys had a blast making this movie. Was it as much fun as it looked?
MA: It was probably some of the most fun I’ve had shooting a film. One, obviously, of the most difficult in terms of us going over hours and breaking a bunch of labor laws, haha. Other than that, we were all there for the love of the craft. We believed in the script, believed what it could be. What made the movie was Jordan’s ability to take b-roll and just make it coincide with the actual script. Like the big pipe scene was improvised. We just went into the woods. He took the DP, the director, the writer, and us three guys into the woods and just started fucking around with sticks and jumping off stuff. It just led to me getting on this pipe and doing incredible tribal dances and screams.
NR: Accompanied by our beats.
GB: Yeah, yeah, give us some credit there.
MA: Buy yeah, definitely one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had as an actor.
SF: How was wearing a boot for the entire film?
GB: Yeah, it really inhibited my movement. It was extremely gross by the end of it. It got really sweaty, muddy, and probably every other disgusting adjective you could think probably could be used to describe the boot. Half the stuff I did was probably impossible for a kid whose foot was actually injured. But for me it was just difficult trying to keep my balance. The bottom of that thing was just flat plastic so when these guys were running on slippery rocks I was actually trying to keep up with them without breaking my face.
SF: Due to the improv nature of the film, were there any particular scenes that were difficult to shoot just because you all were improvising the entire time?
NR: All the scenes were difficult because they were flipping hilarious. I couldn’t keep a straight face.
GB: That dinner scene, though, the one where I’m attempting to eat while Marc and Megan are being genius. It was so tough to get through, honestly. They’re just so funny. They would sit there and every other second would be a brilliant joke and I’d have to eat my burger to attempt from not laughing.
SF: Was there any kind of survival training you guys had to go through?
GB: Rick Fike.
NR: Yeah, The School of Rick Fike, our stunt coordinator. He’s like a Special Forces guy.
GB: Yeah, he kills people.
NR: No, we didn’t have any formal training. It was all kinda on the spot. We did not build the house. I have no carpentry skills.
MA: We through hammers.
NR: We through hammers at the house. That was about it.
GB: Yeah, we helped destroy it. That’s it.
NR: As far as rabbit skinning, they just handed me a book the day of, the survival book of where to cut and everything. And I had had kinda a rough idea. I used to watch Bear Grylls and Surviviorman. But yeah, no formal training.
SF: You’ve all worked on major blockbusters before. How does that compare when filming these smaller, indie films?
MA: I was on Ender’s Game when I received this script and going from big budget, we shot at NASA, to go to a film like this you really have to believe in the script and believe in what it could be. I’ve done a lot of independent movies and to be honest, none of them have had such an incredible script to begin with and that’s the main thing with getting someone attached to something. Have a great script, and Chris did a fantastic job with it. It was very different, like I said, the long ass hours. You just really have to be prepared to…we would work on our days off just to get everything. We shot the whole thing in something like 22, 23 days where normally, you know, Ender’s Game it took four months. It was a lot of work. If one of us didn’t like each other it would have been brutal. It’s just a lot of things you have to take into consideration. I think Nick had one of the toughest schedules. I had a lot of days off but Nick had a crazy, crazy schedule.
NR: You just have to want to be there, is what it comes down to. It’s not about the money obviously. There was no money. You just have to, like Moises said, believe in the script, believe in the people attached. Everyone’s there for a reason. At the end of the day it’s great, a lot more creative freedom really than if you had a big studio breathing down your neck.
GB: Mostly on independent films what helps me is when I look at it, the crew is there every day working six more hours than you are. They have to put everything up and take everything down, and they weren’t complaining, at least to us. When you look at that and see the passion they have and Jordan’s been working on this ever since we wrapped, like even know he’s in San Francisco at the ranch or whatever doing things. There’s so much passion in this project that you really have to take a step back and say, “I signed on to this and now I have to give it everything I have to make it worth everyone’s wild."