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Five Questions with Frankie Go Boomi> Director Jordan Roberts

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On paper, Jordan Roberts’ frankie go boom certainly stands out as one of SXSW’s boldest offerings. From the film’s profanity-laden ‘official’ premise (quoted below) to its star-studded cast and strange teasers disseminated across the internet, Roberts is building quite a mythology for the project. Starring Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam and Bridesmaid’s Chris O’Dowd as warring brothers, and Lizzy Caplan as the girl caught in the middle, the film premieres tonight as part of SXSW’s Narrative Spotlight section.

Filmmaker: Let’s start with the film’s official description – “a flik by bruce about his little brother frank who’s a crybaby fuck who shudnt do lame-ass emberrissing shit if he doznt want people 2 see it on the internet.” That certainly stands out from the pack. How did you arrive at that description?

Roberts: There are two brothers in the film, with wildly different world views. That duality sort of drove every phase of the process, from script through editing; even music choices. And the two characters constantly jockeying for the dominant position in the film — and in Frank’s life — is wonderfully brought to life by Charlie Hunnam as the milder of the two, and Chris O’Dowd as the unhinged older brother, Bruce. But, oddly, when it came time to give the film a log-line for the festival, the raw, rude and grandiose subjectivity of Bruce’s POV came out of my fingertips as I typed. I eventually tried to backpedal (probably succumbing to my inner-Frank’s modesty.) I even called and asked SXSW to go with a more traditional log line, but there was a mix-up and they ended up running with the original, which made quite a splash. Moral: Trust your fucking gut.

Filmmaker: How did you come up with the film’s premise? What was the writing process like?

Roberts: When I set out to write it, I had three goals:

1) To make a broad comedy that was set in a truthful environment, emotionally. “A farce played in the real world” was our catch-phase.

2) A filthy comedy that had, at its core, a love story; and

3) A film that, one way or another, would pay homage — or steal from — my three favorite comedies: Flirting with Disaster, Borat, and Some Like it Hot. Eventually, I also realized, along with the above, I was writing about shame and humiliation. So that sort of became the overlay. It took a few years; I would always return to it between other gigs.

Filmmaker: Were Charlie and Chris friends before the movie? What was it about their chemistry that made you decide to cast them as brothers?

Roberts: They were not friends. But their styles — virtually everything about them — were so perfectly at odds. Charlie’s festering inner life; his ‘containment’; that amazing way he has of externalizing a very complex, but very internalized emotional life was a perfect foil for the boisterous, energetic lunacy of Chris O’Dowd. And Chris, though funny as hell, is also a mind-blowingly good actor; he’s actually my favorite comic actor; but I’m sure he’ll think I’m lying or blowing smoke up his ass or want to borrow money or something.

Filmmaker: You’ve got Ron Perlman here as a transgender woman, playing very much against type. How did he get involved with the project?

Roberts: Going to Ron was Hunnam’s idea.  They work together on Sons Of Anarchy. I didn’t EVER imagine he’d go for it. But Perlman saw both the humor and the heart of the thing at once. His performance still stuns me.

Filmmaker: Do you have a brother? If so, is he anything like Bruce?

Roberts: Here it gets complicated.  I did have a brother. Scott was a charming, rock-n-roll loving drug addict and forty-watt criminal. With a big fat heart. Scott never had Bruce’s cruel streak, or even his selfishness. But his addiction took him long ago. Oddly, my given name was Bruce. I had to change it when I joined SAG twenty years ago, as another actor had my name. So, in some ways, “Bruce” is as much me as Frank is. His crazed rabid ambition to be a filmmaker — no matter what — is certainly mine; as is his potty mouth. But O’Dowd said it best, when I suggested that perhaps Bruce didn’t care what others felt: “Are you crazy? Bruce wants love, man. Bruce is all about wanting love.” Which sounds a lot more like me than I’d like to admit.

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