One of the best movies in theaters right now, and one of our favorites of 2013 so far, is "The Kings Of Summer." Premiering at Sundance under its original title of "Toy's House," the comedy became one of the popular hits of the festival, and rightly so; it's a hilarious, smart and touching film helmed with considerable flair by debut feature director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, someone who's been on Playlist radars for a while thanks to his Sundance short "Successful Alcoholics," and his Comedy Central series "Mash Up."
With the film doing good business in limited release and making its way across the country, we got on the phone with Vogt-Roberts as his "whirlwind" press tour eased up, with the idea of running down a few of his favorite coming-of-age movies, which provided some of the inspiration behind "The Kings Of Summer." We did that, but our conversation took in much, much more beyond that. Take a look below, and let us know your own favorite coming-of-age movies in the comments section.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts: One: make no mistake, whatever philosophical or highbrow reasons I have for being a filmmaker, at the end of the day, I was one of those kids who saw "Star Wars" and a world suddenly existed in front of me, and that blew my mind open. It just felt limitless, and that led to me a lot of stop-motion movies in my basement with a bunch of action figures, But growing up in Detroit, Hollywood just felt forever away, it felt inconceivable.
But also, my Dad used to show me movies as a kid, like Ralph Bakshi animated movies, the appropriate ones and the inappropriate ones. And it wasn't always necessarily the good versions of things, it was like "Explorers" as opposed to "The Goonies." So I partially just fell in love with the discovery process. And as soon as I was old enough to go to the video store - and I think this is gonna be something that's going to be interesting as we move on in our society, because there was that joy in going to a video store and walking down the aisles and going "This looks interesting, I'm going to pull this out." I don't know if you get the same thing from Netflix. It's certainly much easier to get it, but I used to love walking to the video store with my buddies and working out what the hell we were going to watch that night.
Plus I loved going there, and trying to rent something, and it being gone, so your whole plan was fucked, and you had to think on your feet. And as you get older, finding the more obscure video stores that carry more foreign titles and artsier stuff. I just loved that exploration process, so the combination of seeing these worlds built in front of me, for lack of a less cheesy term, being transported to these places, and that coupled with the discovery process left a huge impression of me.
Ok, so let's kick off your favorite coming-of-age movies.
I did something slightly unorthodox, ideally they're all coming of age films, but they're also things that influenced my movie, but I also kind of paired them. So the first and most obvious pair is "Stand By Me" and "Goonies."
Those are movies to me that were obviously huge reference points when I was making this, and the fact that we're being compared to them in any capacity is not something I take lightly at all, and I'm not comfortable talking about that at all, because they're incredible, timeless films. We just did a double feature at the New Beverley, where one night we paired the movie with "Goonies," and the other with "Stand By Me," and that was just a cool life moment, being the reason those movies were back in theaters and people were watching them.
But both of those movies are just full to the brim with chemistry, the chemistry between those kids is just out of control. Making "Kings Of Summer," it wasn't good enough if one of the kids was great, they all had to be fantastic. In those movies, there isn't a blank at all. From the initial stages of me being involved in the movie, I always described it as a post-modern "Stand By Me." That was a generation of kids who could do that stuff, our generation can't, we're incapable wusses who'd never survive out there.
But the reason I bring those up is that they have the Amblin quality that a lot of people are comparing our movie to, but the main reason I love them is that they don't just nail the chemistry, and nail the world and the tone, but that era has a technical craft to it that I think is missing these days. They're shot like films and they feel like films, because first and foremost they're investing you in characters and stories, and everything else is icing. You're invested in this world, and whether it's adventurous or heartbreaking or heartwarming or whatever, that's all bonus.
They're both from a different era. Working in Hollywood, people are always like, "We want to find the next Goonies," but I don't think you could make "Goonies" anymore. I don't think you could get away with that Sloth relationship, I don't think studios would be comfortable with the fact that, at the end of the day, the Fratellis are trying to kill those kids. People sometimes tag us on our movie for our tone, which was something that was very intentional, and something I tried with "Successful Alcoholics," which was slaloming tone. But I think people would be surprised if they went back and looked at those movies, because they make some pretty sharp shifts, and I think for whatever reason, people are less likely to go with that.