/Film Interview: Nick Offerman Talks ‘The Kings of Summer,’ Humor on the Internet, ‘The Lego Movie’
There’s a lot to like in the coming of age comedy The Kings of Summer, which opens on May 31. The Stand By Me meets Superbad story of three boys who run away from home to make their own house in the woods creates an entertaining and relatable microcosm of teenage life thanks to the script by Chris Galletta. Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Aries each do wonderful work as the three main characters and Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ direction brings it all together with a timeless, exciting tone.
But the true highlights are the supporting performances by some of TV’s most recognizable faces. Paramount among those is Nick Offerman. Best known for his role on Parks and Recreation, the actor steals every scene as the man most responsible for the boys running away from home. His performance is heartbreaking, laugh out loud hilarious and totally unforgettable. So while Megan Mullally, Alison Brie and Mary Lynn Rajskub all excel in their small roles, Offerman is the stand out.
We were lucky enough to speak to Offerman about The Kings of Summer and he told us about his love affair with smaller films, how the Internet is hurting comedy, and a bit about The Lego Movie. Read it below.
/Film: Hello Nick, how are you?
Nick Offerman: I’m good. How are you doing?
Good, good. So I really enjoyed the movie. How did you first hear about this project? It seems like a smaller movie and you’re a pretty in demand actor.
Well, this side of film has been sort of my bread and butter since I got to Los Angeles really. It was even a film of this size that brought me to LA. Back in 1995 I did a movie called Going All The Way with some young up and comers like Ben Affleck, Rachel Weisz, Jeremy Davies, and Rose McGowan. So this film in particular, the director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts is at UTA and we share an agent there named Jake Asner and so they were getting ready to cast the film. Jake, bless his heart, thought I was perfect for this part with my combination of intimidating glares and giggly sense of humor. He sent it over to me and I just fell in love with it. This size of film is really my favorite thing to work on. I come from Chicago theater where I had a little company called The Defiant Theater and little indie movies really remind me of that upbringing that I had in Chicago theater where you can see everybody making the art together the whole time and that’s something I find really charming and attractive.
Did you explain that to some of your younger costars, like Nick Robinson? Your chemistry in this is really good and it’s one of his first starring roles.
Yeah. I don’t know that these kids needed me to explain much of anything to them. They are more mature at eighteen than I probably will be at forty-eight. I’m forty-two now. I was just astonished with their talent and their poise as well as their ability to roll with it. We had a lot of incredibly funny comedy performers in the movie. Down to like every one liner, Jordan brought in the most incredible comedians from LA and these youngsters just rolled with everybody’s incredibly facile punches, you know? We all did our fare share of cracking up, because the material ended up being so funny, but they were amazing. They also had an impressive amount of gas. I applaud that in any performer, the ability to rip one in the middle of a scene.
(Laughs) Because Nick is your son in the movie, did you spend some time with him before hand? Or did it just develop on set or in rehearsals?
We didn’t have a lot of time. I was sort of shoehorned in so we spent some time together right when I got to town. We did a little bit of rehearsing with the director and Nick Robinson just has his shit together. It didn’t take long. I mean the kid’s a pro and so we read the scenes a couple of times and looked each other in the eye and he grinned at me sheepishly and I said “All right, turn that camera on.” (Laughs)
And your character, Frank, is great at these sarcastic put downs, but he’s also got a lot of personal issues and you really toe that line very well in the movie. Was the character that complex on the page?
It was probably much more complex. I’m known for my clumsy destruction of writing more than my complexities. I don’t know. I was really attracted to the emotional story of this guy who… He and his son are damaged in the same way. They lost their wife and mother and they are guys. They are going through a son’s coming of age at the very time that they lose the matriarch of their household and all they have to do is say “Hey, we are both in pain. Let’s have a hug. I love you.” But it just takes them the length of the movie to come around to that understanding.
There are a lot of complex and nice scenes in the movie, but my two favorite scenes are your scenes at the door talking to the Chinese delivery guy and the cops. Are those improvs? They seem like they were just right in your wheelhouse.
They are pretty rife with improv, yes. Chris Galletta wrote a beautiful and hilarious script. I was so happy to meet him and shake his hand, because he pours his heart and soul into his scripts and he takes a long time to get them right and that was what really attracted me to this film, his magnificent script. And so the spirit of both of those scenes is his, the annoying rookie cop at the door with the long suffering sergeant and just this righteously indignant dad and then the wonton scene. The spine of that scene is his. It’s the dad, frustrated at what’s going on in the living room and takes it out on the guy over the size of the wontons. That’s the script. Those performers, Thomas Middledich is the rookie cop and Mary Lynn Rajskub as his superior and then Kumail Nanjani as the delivery person.
I mean bringing them from Los Angeles to play these smaller roles was what I think takes the movie into the stratosphere, because those little scenes, which are usually throw aways in a low budget indie, you cast some local stoner as the delivery guy, but Jordan the director brought in top notch talent and so every one of those scenes to me… It’s some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen out of people in a long time. So yeah, we took the spine of what Chris wrote and added some frosting.
These days comedians and comedic actors get a lot of shit for potentially offensive jokes. Do you feel like America is becoming overly sensitive towards comedy?
Well, you know, the Internet is a wonderful tool with a lot of great advantages, but it also has a lot of terrible virus-like attributes and one of them is that we can all say whatever we want to everybody all of the time. Comedy, you used to have to seek it out. If you wanted to hear Bill Hicks go off brilliantly or George Carlin, you had to find it. You knew if you were tuning in to one of those guys somewhat what you were in store for. You didn’t just happen upon it where a self-righteous conservative would say “What? Is this a joke you made about killing sheep?” Then suddenly it’s plastered across the headlines on Huffington Post.
I mean love it or hate it, that whole Justin Bieber Anne Frank thing is like “God, what a sad place the world has come to that some crack a kid made in a guestbook in a Museum in Amsterdam is international news capturing headlines?” So yeah, I continue to remind myself not to give a shit about what people say because I’m doing the job I’m doing, because people find me entertaining some of the time and so I’m just going to continue doing that.
I try not to look at anybody’s opinion about much of anything, because I don’t have the time. I think it’s a waste of time. If people are going to keep saying “Hey we are going to keep hiring you to interpret scripts for photographed entertainment,” then I’ll say “Then I don’t give a shit what a reviewer says or certainly some blog.” I mean that seems to me like somebody who thirty years ago would have been lonely and sad, now they have a place where they can rant about something. It used to be to their cats, now it’s to the seventeen people reading their blog.
I wish we could talk more about that but I ’ve got to wrap up. Last quick thing, what can you tell me about your role as the voice in the LEGO movie? I think that’s going to be so awesome from the guys that did 21 Jump Street.
You know, I’m crazy about those guys, Chris Miller and Phil Lord. Even before 21 Jump Street they made Cloudy With A Change of Meatballs and I’m so grateful to them, because we had so much fun on 21 Jump Street. I was only there for the very first day of production and we had so much fun just sitting there playing grab ass with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. I’m so tickled for them that that movie was such a hit and it was well deserved.
They came up with this part for me in the LEGO movie and they sent me this script and it’s a kid’s movie. It’s a movie created by a toy company to market to kids and I was so moved by their script and their idea and the themes of the movie. They are very creative and the theme is very much about maintaining one’s individuality and creativity in the face of a world that might have too many rules. I’m so grateful and moved that they wanted to keep working with me, because I’m just really big fans of theirs. I think they are going to bring us a lot of really quality entertainment in the years to come.
The Kings of Summer opens May 31.