The Kings of Summer Come of Age
June 5, 2013
One of this summer's surprises for movie goers will certainly be
the film THE KINGS OF SUMMER, an offbeat, coming of age comedy from
first time director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. As a "film about kids made
for adults" the humor and warmth of KINGS is sure to draw in those
who remember STAND BY ME and THE BAD NEWS BEARS as similar type
landmarks, but like its main characters, this award-winning movie
blazes a new trail all its own.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER is about three teenage friends - Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the eccentric and unpredictable Biaggio (Moises Arias) - who, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. It premiered to rave reviews at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and the Dallas International Film Festival and Vogt-Roberts is still overwhelmed at its success.
"It's ridiculous and surreal and I'm still processing what's going on," he recently said in an interview with CineArts' Frank Gonzales, along with co-stars Arias and Basso. "The thing that's the most satisfying is that we did a lot of stuff with this movie that people didn't want us to do: it's about kids, but for adults; and tonally it's all over the place. To see a kid get bitten by a snake and still know it's funny and ok to laugh without breaking the movie's tone was a great thing for me as a director. But watching the audience follow the journey and react to it was even sweeter."
Vogt-Roberts needed a real family vibe to the set so casting was very important. "I legitimately believe in casting; that someone comes in as the role. You know right away. Rarely do you have to really convince yourself that someone is right for the part.
"The tricky thing about this is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. So it comes down to chemistry too. I loved Nick and Gabe at their screen tests, but would they work well together? So we did a bunch of mix and match tests to make sure the physicality was right."
But the uniqueness of one character determined a different set of rules for that casting process. "Moises was totally different," said Vogt-Roberts. "I cast him off tape. I had never met him before we started shooting, which is crazy to think about!"
Arias adds, "We did some improv classes to get to know each other, but I actually couldn't make all of them, just one."
"Which really worked out better because we really wanted him to be a bit off to the side," concurred Vogt-Roberts.
"And I was 100% the outsider," Arias continued, "so I don't think you would say 'what a great friendship Biaggio has with the rest of them' It's more like 'what is he doing there?'"
Vogt-Roberts used improv as a tool to not only get the actors to bond, but to also flesh out new ways to approach a scene. "I do a lot of improv on the set, but we were able to do that only because we started with a wonderful base, which was the script written by Chris Galletta. Improv is ultimately a way to better inform the characters and situation.
"With improv it's really easy to just go 'funny, funny, funny' but that's not what it is about. We could have riffed for days and had the craziest things come out of people's mouths, but if it's not servicing the story then it just takes you out of the narrative. There are scenes in the movie that are almost entirely improvised and they were organically built into the movie as we went along."
"The Spanish scene was an improvisation," Arias chimes in.
"Exactly! From day one Moises came on set saying 'dude, I'm Columbian'" Vogt-Roberts continued. "But if anything, the character of Biaggio should have been Italian, and he should have spoken something else. So I said 'do the scene in Spanish' and it was one of the first times I saw Moises trip up and think about it."
"Yeah, I had to text my mom to make sure the Spanish was right. There were a lot of words that didn't translate one hundred percent from English to Spanish," Arias remembers, "but I think it worked out well."
"It was totally one of those things that worked," Vogt-Roberts laughs. "He was speaking Spanish, the dad responded in English, and the last thing you say is in English. It was such a weird, raw point in the movie and it gets such a big laugh! It's one of my favorite moments: it's one shot, you don't see the dads face at all, and it's simple."
Read the rest of the interview by visiting the CinéArts Facebook page.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER opens June 7 at select Cinemark Theatres and continue to expand throughout the summer. For tickets, click here.