Splat: An Interview With the cast of 'Orange County'
Q: Were you nervous at all, this being your first lead role?
A: Yeah, there was a little bit of pressure, because if no one feels any sympathy for Shaun [the main character], there’s really not a movie. There’s always pressure whenever you’re doing anything, because you want it to be good, and you want to do the best job you can. And there was a little pressure because I’m in almost every scene of the movie, so that’s a lot of work.
Q: You come from a pretty functional family. How did you manage to create such a dysfunctional family dynamic?
A: You know, I didn’t really have to create it. That came from Jack [Black], Catherine [O’Hara] and John [Lithgow] and all of them, that was their job. My job was coping with it. My whole purpose was to work with what they gave me, with how they interpreted what Mike [White] had written and committed it to flesh and bone, and my job was just to work with that. All I had to do was react to them. So it was actually very simple, and very fun, because each character was so different. It was fun to be able to play with those different kinds of relationships. That’s one of the things that I really liked about the script—all the characters were different, and Shaun had a different way of approaching each one.
Q: How similar was your actual childhood to what you described in the movie?
A: Well, here’s the big difference. I was born in Northern California, which is really almost like a completely different state, in my opinion—completely different weather and all that stuff. But I don’t know if there were a lot of similarities between me and Shaun. Shaun did really good in school—I didn’t do very well in school at all. I was a pretty bad student. And when I went to college, I had no idea what college I wanted to go to, or what I wanted to study. I was just sort of like, “Well, I gotta go somewhere.”
Q: What was it like working with Jack Black?
A: I’m spoiled now. It was so much fun. I’m one of Jack’s biggest fans. I’ve been a huge fan of the [Tenacious] D for years, and God bless him, because I would sing him the D songs back to him, and somehow he didn’t get pissed. [laughter] I think he actually kind of liked it.
Q: How does working with a younger director affect the way things go on set?
A: It was great, because Jake [Kasdan] knows what the kids like. And plus, I had much more in common with him. I’ve known Jake for a while, so it was nice to have a friend back there. There was trust right away, there wasn’t a getting to know you period, and we were just like, “Let’s just do the best job that we can.”
Q: There’s a heavy influence on writing and storytelling in the film. Do you have any plans to get into the writing side of the business?
A: I keep a journal, but I’m really bad at writing. That’s probably not even proper English, so there’s a good example. I look back at some of the entries, and they’re really boring, filled with stuff like, “It was cool!” or “I had a good time!” So I’ll leave that to other people.
Q: What was it like working on the set with legendary comedians like Harold Ramis and Catherine O’Hara? Did you feel intimidated at all?
Jack Black: Well, I wasn’t intimidated by Harold Ramis by any stretch of the imagination. The man’s a rank amateur. [laughter] No, just joshing you, dude. Yeah, I was intimidated. I was more just stoked to be around them, and hanging around them. I was worried that I was annoying them with my questions, I’d be like, “Hey man, I really like that thing that happened in Stripes, just thought I’d tell ya.”
Q: Did your college experience have any affect on your role in the film?
JB: My college experience was brief. I went to UCLA for two years, and I was probably the worst student in the history of the school. I wouldn’t make it to a class if it was before noon. I was into doing theater, but not studying theater. I would just fall asleep immediately as soon as the class started.
Q: How much of [your character] Lance was on the page, and how much did you come up with yourself?
JB: I’m going to say 95.6% on the page. I always do a little changing of words that don’t sound right coming out of my mouth, but for the most part, that script was great. I loved that part so much, I wanted to just do it like it was. Mike White, he’s a tremendous writer. You see Chuck and Buck? The guy is awesome. He should get some prizes. He will get prizes.
Q: It looked like you got to do a lot of lounging in this movie. How did you prepare for that? Did you do a lot of napping?
JB: No. That’s fake lounging that I did there. It’s actually very high tension lounging. When the cameras roll, there’s just incredible tension. Even if you’re just sleeping, it’s really intense. You need a deep tissue massage right afterwards.
Q: You’re in your underwear throughout a big chunk of the film. What was that like, having to wear nothing but underwear for twelve hours
JB: When he’s at home, why would he wear anything more? But it was only when the cameras rolled, and then an immediate robe was thrown my way. But I didn’t mind. It was a little chilly.
Q: Was that the same pair the whole movie?
JB: There were two pairs. There was one and a stunt pair. No, I think those were the same ones. But they cleaned them every day, so don’t worry about that.
Q: What are some of your upcoming projects, on the screen or off the screen, that you’re really proud of?
JB: Well, I’m really proud of this one, I think it came out great. Besides that, I’m just looking forward to a break. I don’t really have anything on the horizon right now. I’m going to go out to the desert and recharge, because I’m kind of burnt creatively. I want to take a break, and come back like the Phoenix from the ashes.
Q: For this movie, was it helpful having worked with Mike White before?
JK: Yes. It was great. We met on Freaks and Geeks, so there was already a common ground in our sensibility. I love his voice, I love his writing, his sense of humor. I’m just a huge Mike White fan. I love Chuck and Buck, it was fantastic.
Q: What did you have in mind when you were casting this movie?
JK: Well, we knew we were going to have to do a big audition process. We read hundreds of kids, which is not as much fun as it sounds like. And I had just done a pilot for this show called “Undeclared” immediately before, so I had been casting for seven straight months by the time we started shooting Orange County.
Q: How did you end up with Colin Hanks and Schuyler Fisk?
JK: At the end of this massive search, I had those two kids, and I didn’t really have any backup. There was nobody else. I read hundreds of guys, and I had sort of been conscious of Colin, and thought he might be great. I just had this hunch. It’s very hard to find people that are that good looking and also funny—I guess good looking people aren’t funny, and funny people aren’t good looking! Schuyler, I just think she’s fantastic. Incredibly open, honest, soulful. She’s got that kind of vulnerability and honesty that you never see on her contemporaries. It’s very hard to find. And she’s beautiful. So yeah, I just love those kids.
Q: If you ever get stuck during shooting, would you ever think about what your father [director Lawrence Kasdan] would do?
JK: Yes, I think I would think that. I guess it mainly comes up when there’s a situation between people, or when there’s some kind of small conflict about something—then I would think about how my dad would handle this. And on this movie, with great directors like Garry Marshall and Harold Ramis on the set, you’re always in student mode. You hope you never stop being in student mode, and you gotta ask those questions, especially when you’re surrounded by great comedy directors.
Q: So why did you choose Orange County as the setting for your story?
Mike White: I just wanted to go somewhere that kind of embodied a popular culture wasteland, and it seemed like as good a place as any in my experience. [laughter] It seemed like it would be apt.
Q: The movie boasts a stellar cast. Did you have specific actors in mind when you wrote the roles?
MW: Well, not for the leads. Lily Tomlin is sort of the archetypal person for the role she plays. But in my head, I’ve learned that if you write for a certain actor, you’re just going to get your heart broken. So this was sort of like a weird wish fulfillment fantasy, where suddenly everybody who I could have ever wanted to do it said yes. So that was a cool part of it.
Q: Is your story as a writer similar to Shaun’s?
MW: Definitely. When you go into things, you want to be great, and hopefully you end up being decent. You always wonder if you can be what you want to be in the world that you’re in. Like writing a movie for MTV/Paramount. Can you express yourself, can you do something that’s meaningful, or do you have to run away to New York and be a starving playwright? Those are the kinds of things Shaun goes through. And in the end, the decision he makes is kind of the one that I made: you can stay where you are, and write the things that you want to write, because you don’t necessarily have to leave to be the person you want to be, or the writer you want to be.
Q: Who or what influences or inspires your writing?
MW: For me, I’m more inspired by books and literature than I am by other screenplays. If you surround yourself with great stuff, maybe it’ll rub off on you.
Q: As someone who’s done independent film, is it difficult working within the boundaries of a studio while keeping an individual voice?
MW: Yeah, it’s difficult. Like with anything else, it’s just figuring out how to get them to say yes to doing something that’s meaningful to you. It’s part of the game. And if you see it as a fun challenge, then it’s a little less daunting than if you see it as, “They’re ruining my vision.” And I definitely don’t feel like that with this movie. The sensibility is very sweet, almost sweeter than me, but I’m ultimately proud of it. But you’re definitely always negotiating that issue. And maybe one day when I make enough money, I’ll just go off and do my thing. But I do think you can learn from each situation and try to work it, and to me it’s part of the fun.
Q: You said the movie is sweeter than yourself. Do you think of yourself as kind of cynical?
MW: I don’t know if I’m cynical. I’m just odd. For me, you walk the balance. I don’t like really sentimental movies, but at the same time, I love a movie that can make me cry. Like the ending of this movie, the message that comes in at the end. I do like that kind of movie-going experience, where you see people as the flawed people that they are. When I saw the ending of the movie, I was totally moved, because it spoke to me. I don’t want everything I do to have this ultimate effect to disturb, although there’s a place for that too! [laughter]