Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a little chat I had with Ryan Reynolds and John August when they came through Austin to promote their film THE NINES, the directorial debut for August. I had a lot of fun with the chat and I hope you guys dig it. We dig a little bit into Reynold’s next movie ADVENTURELAND, directed by SUPERBAD’s Greg Motolla. We begin by talking about my nifty high tech digital recording device that recently replaced my old school micro-cassette recorder and then it just dissolves into anarchy from there. Enjoy, but beware of a rather large spoiler that I drop in the middle of the interview. I will mark it in advance, but it’s a doozy!
John August: That is high tech.
Quint: It’s pretty neat. I got it for COMIC CON and up until then I had been using a SONY micro-cassette recorder that I’ve had forever.
Ryan Reynolds: I know lots of people who get sentimental about those things, though. I’ve seen interviewers with their own generator to record…
Quint: Like where they have it around their neck like in ALMOST FAMOUS? It’s what’s safe, because I tried to get a digital recorder a while back, but it didn’t work right and it was small so it didn’t hold a lot of audio and so I’m like “It’s not for me, I’ll just stick with my tapes…”
[Ryan Points to the Tape Recorder]
Ryan Reynolds: Well, that right there is the Ferrari of recorders!
Quint: It’s neat.
John August: You like things that glow.
Ryan Reynolds: I love things that glow, I do.
[Kraken snaps a photo with a quick flash]
Quint: I hope you’re not epileptic.
Ryan Reynolds: Oh no no no, all the acid in my youth took care of that.
Quint: Well, I saw the flick at Sundance.
John August: A few months ago.
Quint: A long time ago.
Ryan Reynolds: So it’s nice and fresh on your mind.
Quint: It was about vampires, right?
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, exactly.
Quint: I really enjoyed it and the guy that I saw it with was completely opposite. I’ve noticed that a lot that a lot of people, like at Sundance and a lot of people that have seen it now, it’s like you don’t get too many people in the middle; you either get people that buy the concept or don’t.
Ryan Reynolds: It’s pretty polarizing.
Quint: So, I guess my first question is do you like that as filmmakers to be able to have a movie that you don’t have people just okay with it, it’s either people who really like it or who really don’t.
John August: I think, when you make a studio movie, everyone sort of has to like it and so you have to rub off all of those sharp edges, so that everyone likes it and gets it and feels really happy about the movie they saw as the end credits are rolling… There’s that sense of expectations of, from watching the trailer, you have to know exactly what the movie is and then you watch the movie and it’s exactly what you thought you were going to watch and I just wasn’t ever going to be THE NINES and so as we were making it, I knew that some people would just not dig it and basically you can sort of do the psychological autopsy after people see it and either it fits their brain or it doesn’t fit their brain and sometimes it just doesn’t lock in right and that’s okay.
Ryan Reynolds: I also don’t think it says anything necessarily about the person seeing it, either. Smart intelligent people may not like it and some smart intelligent people might love it.
John August: I know very smart people who can’t stand MULHOLLAND DRIVE and there are those movies where it’s like either you dig it or you don’t and that’s okay. I think there’s too much of this… Too many movies are too eager to please and I just didn’t want to do that. There were simplifications I could have made, but the simplifications would have made people who really love the movie love it a little bit less.
Quint: I think the most standard question, like I was trying to avoid asking this, because I’m sure this is the one thing that you get asked no matter what, but I’m always curious whenever writers jump into directing and what the reasoning is for that, so I just figured with this one you just didn’t want anyone else to do it or…
John August: Yeah, even as I was writing it, it really didn’t make sense for someone else to do it. I love writing for other directors and that’s mostly what I intend to do with my career, but this was a movie that was… There was this huge autobiographical element to it, there’s also a lot of improvisation, as the middle section is largely unscripted, so I just needed to be there and so it really wouldn’t make sense for me to be in video village telling the director what I thought needed to happen, I had to actually do it myself. I was ready and there were things I was curious to try and experiment with and as the screenwriter, sometimes I can put those experiments in there, but they very rarely make it through the whole process. Like the first CHARLIE’S ANGELS had, as scripted, this really amazing fight sequence which was all happening in split screen, so essentially Lucy Liu’s character and Crispin Glover’s character are on either sides of an iron fence and they both needed to get to the same place and so the action split, so you followed both of them and it became this big split screen fight and it was really, really cool and it just never happened and so I have all of these things and I really wanted to do that, so I was able to do some of the split screen stuff in THE NINES that I always had there, that I wanted to try.
Ryan Reynolds: Coincidentally, CHARLIE’S ANGELS was also an autobiographical story.
John August: People don’t realize that I am actually Dylan, that’s really my back story.
Quint: I take a little bit of crap for it, but it’s like I’m such a huge fan of CHARLIE’S ANGELS.
John August: I’m a huge fan of the first movie.
Quint: (laughs) The first movie. Me, too.
Ryan Reynolds: What aren’t you guys saying?
Quint: Read between the lines…
John August: Yeah.
Quint: I keep telling people that it’s like you have a movie where the bad guys are Tim Curry, Sam Rockwell, and Crispin Glover. Nothing else could have worked in that movie and it still would have been great.
John August: To me, the first CHARLIE’S ANGELS is like your somewhat annoying kid sister who wins the Olympics, you’re weirdly proud of your heroes and when are you proud of somebody in an action movie? That’s just such a strange feeling and I loved that they were really competent while they’re on the job and just giant girly dorks when they’re off the job and that was the intention of the whole movie.
Big ol’ spoiler for the next question… skip it if you don’t want to know something big from the flick!
Quint: (To Ryan) You probably don’t a chance too often to play God, so was that the attraction in doing the film?
Ryan Reynolds: It was certainly an attraction and a fear, I think this is one of those movies where I learned so much doing it. I really found that it’s intimidating doing a movie playing three different people, especially ones with some kind of Avatar. I found one thing that’s actually really important about this movie, if I’m concerned about how it’s going to be received in anyway, I felt like I could very easily blow it and it was just one of those movies where there was never any feeling that I needed to be liked or loved or funny or anything in the movie; it was just about really telling the story truly. In a studio film, like John said, there’s usually an intense investment in the outcome, people want to leave the theater grinning. That’s what everyone wants and in this there was none of that, so it really allowed me to grow in ways that I hadn’t really expected, but yeah it was… there was a lot of nervous anticipation before shooting the film, but as we got going it was a little bit easier. And to hearken back to what you asked John as a writer director, I couldn’t imagine shooting a film like this without him specifically, because it’s so complicated and it’s so nuanced and so unique as a screenplay and as a film that it would be very difficult to shoot with anybody else, but also just the autobiographical nature part. I had no idea how I was going to do part 2 until actually started shooting it and we didn’t shoot till the end. It was the last piece we shot and I’m thankful for that, but it was one of those things where I needed as much time with John to learn from him and learn about this experience that he had and what lead to this nervous breakdown.
End of huge-ass spoiler!!!
Quint: Did you guys shoot it one segment at a time?
John August: Yeah, each segment was done completely independently.
Quint: So it was like doing three shorts.
John August: Yeah, like doing three shorts back to back and so the crew of course didn’t actually understand that was what was happening, so some days Ryan would show up with completely different hair and it’s like “Well how’s this going to cut in?” They just wouldn’t get how it was all working, so we shot part 3 first, which is the 35mm, the big expensive thing, then we shot part one, which was super 16 and sort of had this very indie film feeling and then we shot the reality tv show stuff of part 1, which was just me, Ryan, and a camera for some of it.
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, like with a crew of five people. I would be like “I can’t believe we’re shooting a major motion picture… well a motion picture… with five people.” It was kind of neat.
Quint: I’ve always been a big fan of using different types of cameras and different film stocks to… because usually it’s a very subtle difference. I don’t think I would have connected that the first segment was super 16mm, but now that you saw that it makes perfect sense.
Ryan Reynolds: It was three separate shooting styles.
John August: In many ways it was three different crews to get that. We went from a pretty huge and normal size film crew on the 35mm down to a much smaller footprint for 16mm and five people for the video section.
Ryan Reynolds: We shot some of this movie on an airplane and nobody on the airplane knew we were shooting a movie. That’s how small our crew was.
John August: There’s a little tiny camera that Elle Fanning’s character is holding in part three, this little video camera, and it’s actually the camera that we physically shot part of the movie on… That’s the technology that we used to make it.
Quint: So what’s the release plan for the movie?
John August: We’re in New York and LA right now. Austin is our other expansion city and basically when we sell the movie like during Sundance, you know you’re doing New York and LA, so you can pull the national reviews and they let me pick one other city, so generally you would do like San Francisco or Chicago and I had talked to you (Ryan) about it, too and we both really liked Austin and wanted to show the movie there. I’ve been to the Austin Film Festival a bunch of times and it felt like the right town and the right vibe and like a town that could get it and.
Quint: Definitely a big movie lover town. There’s no audience like Austin audiences.
John August: And so we will see if we end up expanding and going to other cities, but I didn’t want to not play Austin, so I wanted to put that in the first wave just to make sure it would really happen.
Quint: Do you know where it’s playing? Is it playing at any of the Alamos?
John August: It’s playing at the Alamo (South Lamar).
Quint: You were there for AMITYVILLE, right?
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, and it was such a cool theater.
Quint: Did you go into the fly room?
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, I went into the fly room and I remember that… I was telling John about that the other day, because it was like we were all putting on a brave face, but we just got these early numbers… whatever these early numbers are tabulated where they’re like “this is what we project your film to do for the weekend” and the film was like… The early projections predicted it was like a massive failure on a grand scale and we were so depressed and we were like “it’s down… we did all this stuff…” We flew home and everybody was drunk and stunk and pissed off and as soon as we landed they were like “Oh, we were wrong! The movie’s an enormous hit.” I was like, “I’ve got to sober up and get on Craig Kilborn.” I did and I remember that was so terrible, but I love the Drafthouse. The problem is they serve a lot of booze there.
Quint: Well, it’s a lot of booze for somebody who has to go on national TV. That’s not a big problem for the average theater goer.
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah exactly. I’m sure there’s some slightly slanted reviews that come out of the Drafthouse.
Quint: Little beer goggled? So, the movie’s coming out… what do you guys have next? John, you have SHAZAM, right?
John August: I have SHAZAM that I’m doing and a couple of things that I owe people, so what’s weird is that my real job is writing movies for other people and so it just took a year of my life to do that and you commit to writing things and things get late, so I have a lot of work lined up for things I need to write for people, which I enjoy. This process just keeps going and I think that’s one thing I wasn’t quite anticipating, that it’s like “Oh Sundance, OK we’re done.”
Quint: “Yeah, sold it!”
John August: Then it’s like “Oh Venice, and we’re done…”
Ryan Reynolds: And “Oh Austin and…”
John August: But I enjoy it and if I didn’t love the movie, I’d find a way to back out of it, but I’m really happy.
Quint: Did you like the process? Do you want to direct more movies?
John August: Yeah, I really liked directing a lot and I was nervous about the marathon quality of it all, because as the writer I would just go off by myself and I write it – it takes as long as it takes and it’s all okay and directing is like sprinting every day for a month or six months to make a movie. I’ve been the writer on set for a lot of things and as a writer on set, if there’s problem I could fix the problem. If I see something at video village, I could tell the director “Let’s try this…” but if I don’t have a good idea, I could just shut the fuck up and as the director, I always needed to have an opinion and a next step and I was worried I wouldn’t have that, but I pretty much always did. I was never panicked.
Ryan Reynolds: If you don’t have an answer as a director, you make one up.
John August: Or I’d tell Ryan, “Could you do that, but less?”
Ryan Reynolds: “Less.” Believe it or not, great direction though! “Faster?” “Faster and more intense with a little more emotion! A little more… vagina…”
John August: I did create a movie that, while it was really complicated story-wise, the logistics of shooting it were really quite simple and you have three actors and lot of extras. There’s quite a few visual effects, but they were done very surgically, not like a house explosion.
Ryan Reynolds: And you were intensely well prepared. That speaks volumes to his work. He’s being modest, but he shot an entire movie in 21 days in New York and LA with three separate film styles. I think it was an enormous feat and I think it speaks to preparation and they say an actor prepares with what the director prepares. If you weren’t as prepared as you were, this would have been awful and wouldn’t have worked.
John August: And I got rid of departments that I really just didn’t want to deal with, so like an art department is great, but they tend to want to change everything and so I didn’t really have an art department and so we used what was there and made it work and we didn’t have a big transportation department. We got rid of all of the trucks just to keep the emotional footprint smaller.
Quint: So what are you up to next? You’re working on a movie with Greg Mottola, right?
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, I’m doing that right now actually. I just got back from Pittsburgh yesterday.
Quint: I met him back at COMIC CON and I love SUPERBAD…
Ryan Reynolds: I love that movie.
Quint: He seems like a really smart guy, very dry, but really fun.
Ryan Reynolds: Oh yeah, he’s excellent and yeah I’m doing ADVENTURE LAND until November and then just trying to figure out the spring with this impending strike talk.
Quint: There’s the writer’s strike as well, so what’s the feeling with you guys?
John August: I’m publicly on the record saying I don’t think there will be a strike. I don’t think there’s going to be a situation of unemployment necessarily, but the frustrating thing is you have to plan for that if that were to happen, so…
Quint: So everybody’s going crazy and trying to cover their ass?
John August: Deadlines have been a little bit tighter.
Ryan Reynolds: I think we could forgo a strike if we outsourced.
John August: That’d be nice.
Ryan Reynolds: Just go to Mexico.
John August: Buy all of our movies from India.
Quint: Have a Bollywood summer.
Ryan Reynolds: I agree.
Quint: They remake our movies anyway, so why not? I think that’s the contingency plan.
Ryan Reynolds: Absolutely. Now we’ll remake theirs as well.
John August: I hear the Mexican Ryan Reynolds is good.
Ryan Reynolds: I hear so too, he’s fantastic.
[There’s a knock on the door]
Ryan Reynolds: No thanks!
Quint: What’s your favorite dirty joke?
Ryan Reynolds: Oh crap, let me think here. I know a dirty joke, but I need to rephrase it, so it makes sense.
Quint: I’ve gotten goat fucking jokes from Elijah Wood, so you don’t have to worry about standards and practices with AICN.
Ryan Reynolds: Fuck him! Okay, we’ll think of something… fucking Elijah Wood. There’s this one that’s like the dirtiest joke ever… well, not the dirtiest joke ever, but it’s so sexist and I’ll come under fire for it from PETA.
John August: Yeah, because all of the female wolverines will be very offended.
Quint: You can preface it and say “I don’t believe this, but it’s funny. I do not endorse this…”
John August: Somehow that doesn’t actually make it through when it gets printed.
Ryan Reynolds: No, it doesn’t. It gets completely cut off.
John August: Also I really love it when I’ll say something and they’ll quote it to you.
Ryan Reynolds: Oh that happens all the time, like in our ADVOCATE interview.
Kraken: Shouldn’t John be telling a joke and feeding it to you, so you can say it again?
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, what the hell? Just whisper something in my ear and I’ll deliver it with a little pizzaz.
John August: But I’m not that Apatow school of “I’m writing new jokes…”
Ryan Reynolds: His jokes are in context to something, this is… out of context jokes are very difficult… I know one and I’m going to tell it, but I would like to preface it with a “I do not endorse sexism of any kind, but…” Okay, where I’m from is a part of… I’ll get so much shit if I say this… I can’t say this…
John August: Can you put it on to a third party?
Ryan Reynolds: (pause) What’s a Jersey girl and a turtle have in common?
Quint: That I don’t know.
Ryan Reynolds: Once they’re thrown on their back, they’re fucked.
Quint: It was good!
Ryan Reynolds: I do not personally believe this about women from New Jersey, I happen to think that they are fine upstanding women, even if they do ski in their jeans.
Quint: That’s what we call jokes.
Ryan Reynolds: Now I’m on fire.
Quint: Look at that, you’re on a roll, let’s go.
Kraken: Theses guys are going to go buy a dirty joke book now and memorize the top ten.
Ryan Reynolds: I’m going to move to Austin in the hopes that you and I run into each other.
Quint: Just be at the Alamo watching movies and you could be like “Hey!”
John August: Sort of like, matching his pace. “Oh, hey! Hey!”
Ryan Reynolds: I didn’t know you shopped at Whole Foods!
Quint: And by the way, did you hear about the gorilla that raped the lion?....”
Ryan Reynolds: That one reminds me of some other ones… (laughs)
Quint: I think that just about does it. Thank you guys.