INTERVIEW: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED: JAKE JOHNSON AND KIRAN SONI
We had the chance to sit down with Jake Johnson and Kiran Soni from the movie Safety Not Guaranteed during SXSW 2012. Here's what they had to say.
If you had to sum up the movie in three sentences what would you say?
KS: Three people travel to investigate a man who claims that he has built a time machine. Did he? Did he not?
JJ: [Laughs] Okay.
KS: It changes their lives forever.
JJ: one of the weirdest trailers. Okay I would say a story about people who in one way or another feel like they have to go back in time either emotionally or physically and a love story happens – or maybe two weird love stories happen.
The movie is based on a 1997 classified ad. Do you know anything about whether there was actually a classified ad?
JJ: I know there is a real classified ad that a guy wrote and he was in the movie. He was the old guy in the actual post office.
KS: It was in a magazine – Backwoods Home Magazine – so I guess it was not in the paper, but he did write that. I know he got the rights and stuff.
JJ: The guy is a character, but I’m not one hundred percent sure he believes that classified ad. But he’s one of those guys that I’m really not sure.
KS: Yeah, you just – when you meet him, he talks about guns.
JJ: We’re really glad he did the movie. He came to Sundance too.
KS: We weren’t at that screening, but people were excited.
What was your favorite part about shooting the movie?
KS: Mine was shooting the movie! It was awesome.
JJ: It was one of his first big jobs. You killed it.
KS: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was really great to work with Jake and Aubrey – I feel like we have the same sense of humor in some ways. We just got to hang out and just have fun and then shoot the movie occasionally. It just felt really relaxed and even between takes we were doing weird improv-y characters and we were in the car for hours and would lose our minds and it was just a weird funky four weeks and it was really fun. After it was over, I was like “wow, I really appreciated that. As it was happening, it was just like a blur.”
JJ: It was a lot of fun to shoot. I really enjoyed when Colin let me get on the go-cart and get weird.
What is your favorite time travel book or movie?
KS: Growing up, I really liked Back to the Future, but I really like Jurassic Park – If feel like it’s a time travel movie, because they are seeing things from the past – that’s kind of a weird thing. But that’s one of my favorite movies.
At the screening, everyone was cracking up at the hungover scene where you were still a little bit drunk in the background. Did this acting come from experience, improve practice?
KS: A little bit of everything. I’m really surprised that people find that moment a really big thing. I just thought I was lucky to be in that shot – be there that day – but I heard that people were laughing at that. We hadn’t shot the whole ending sequence at that point, so I was just winging it. I was like I guess this was a long night for him and then after we shot it, it makes sense now I guess.
Your relationship is really strong and a key and essential part of the movie. Did you spend a lot of time off set really getting to know each other and preparing for that, because it was really touching?
JJ: Yeah, we did.
KS: We did and we didn’t.
JJ: What do you mean we didn’t? We were right next to each other all the damn time.
KS: But it moved so fast. We didn’t even prepare before.
JJ: We shot the movie in a month.
JJ: SO we didn’t do sixth months of chemistry. But in terms of making a movie…
KS: We became friends very fast, I think all three of us.
JJ: They put us – Colin put the three of us together a lot. Duplass came in and did all of his in two weeks. But they shot him out in the middle and we were there the whole time. And Colin wanted Karan and I to be together a lot so that it would be real, so we spent a lot of time together.
Did you get to eat a lot of pie when you were doing…
JJ: No, we didn’t actually eat any pie. Everything with Genica was shot in a day.
Have you ever been in a movie shot that fast?
JJ: No, never like that. I’ve been in stuff that goes quick, but never to the point that an entire story – like Genica – was shot in a Thursday. You wake up that morning and are kind of like – I hope it works today – I hope it doesn’t suck today.
KS: How many weeks was Ceremony?
JJ: About six weeks. A lot more than this. Significantly.
Did you do any pranks on set to each other?
JJ: Do you remember any pranks? I don’t really remember any pranks. We were together a lot, so we messed with each other a lot.
KS: Aubrey and Jake got into some weird characters when we were there.
JJ: I know Aubrey got bed bugs. She had weird bites on her and she did not have a sense of humor about it.
KS: She was not happy about it.
JJ: That’s not a prank I did, but I thought it was funny for her to be like there is another bite on my arm!
KS: “I’m dying! I’m dying today!”
JJ: I’m in the bed right next to her, and I’m like I don’t have a bump on me.
If you could actually go back in time what would you do?
KS: I would go back to the time and place where they were having auditions for Slumdog Millionaire. I would get in on that.
JJ: That’s a good one. I’ll go back to being a kid before the Wonder Years and try to take Fred Savage’s job. We would just go back and try to get other people’s acting jobs.
KS: So much happier.
Personal curiosity – what is the last video game that you played?
KS: I played Final Fantasy 13 was that the new one or 12—yeah that’s the last one, but it’s getting to the point where it’s too hard for me. I always stop like halfway through until it’s not easy and you have to do too much. I play a lot of RPGs and stuff, but when those get too hard, I’m like ok next.
JJ: I’m kind of an old man with video games. Bejeweled in my phone – does that count? I’m super good at Bejeweled.
You have a very touching scene and many scenes – did you pull from personal experience?
JJ: I think for most of Jeff I didn’t want to do anything based on my real life. What I like about Jeff is that I think he’s an asshole. When I was talking to Colin about the part, when we were discussing it, he said we’ve got this movie that is optimistic and hopeful, and a unique character in Kenneth and Aubrey believes in him, and if you do it, we need you to be an asshole, so that we can counter that. And I love that. And then I thought for the break-up where he gets his heart broken, I went into ex-es in my life, and thought, and I’m married now, and I thought if my wife said to me out of the blue, it’s over, I tried to think about that as much as I could…in the one day that we were shooting that part. That and actually being really tired. And Being like what the fuck – we’re on page 9?! Let’s do this in three days, Colin!
What attracted each of you to the roles and the movie in general?
JJ: well, he got it.
KS: Yeah, I was lucky enough to be in it. I didn’t even read the script.
JJ: It’s called audition book the job.
KS: Yeah, audition book the job, but then I did get the script about the day before I was supposed to read with them, like two hours before.
JJ: Halfway done shooting the movie, he’s like, this script is pretty good.
KS: OH I’m in that scene, that’s pretty good.
JJ: Oh you guys are in this movie too?
KS: But I guess I really like the character and was intrigued and was like “what is this” because they give you a scene from the start and the middle and the end, so I was like whoa what just happened – what are they talking about. Then when I read it I was like, yeah this is really cool.
JJ: Parts I look for are parts that have – I don’t necessarily need to be the lead in a movie, but I look for a character that has a full arc, so I think if a character can have a beginning a middle and an end, and that character that at the end gets to go crazy, that’s great. At the end of the day, we have to do it, but it’s gotta be fun to do. When I was reading it, I was like, okay Jeff’s an asshole…he’s mean, he’s mean, he’s mean, he’s crying on a go cart. And the cat Genica, who we obviously make comments about how she is unattractive and big. In real life, she’s an attractive woman, but the way it was written, she was supposed to be a FAT…she is more attractive than we thought, but it’s just because when she auditioned, she was the best actress for the job. But I also felt that’s going to be interesting= that’s going to be fun. His character actually genuinely falls in love with her and I felt like – I like this guy.
The go-cart and carnival scene – were there other rides?
KS: There was that one where I was staring.
JJ: Yeah, that’s right. There was the blond – I don’t know her name – one of the girls – those guys came in for the scene and they were game for everything.
KS: Yeah, we tried all of these scenes with us watching them.
JJ: There was one ride that’s your basic…
KS: It was just a horse going up and down and I was sipping a beer and watching…
JJ: Yeah Colin was like why don’t you go ride the horse or whatever. This girl does it like she’s in a damn porno movie.
KS: She’s like I’m not getting cut from this movie and went for it.
JJ: Literally like members of our crew – our sound guys were like -----There were eight minutes where they didn’t cut the camera.
KS: And I was just sitting there watching. And they were like no, watch more, now smile a little bit…
JJ: It was really creepy. Colin is a director that I love, but I will say, he sometimes whisper directs that out of context can sometimes be really creepy. He’ll be like “Jake, on your knees, look up, look up…” You’re like “EW!” I know you want me to look at the sun because it’s a big moment, but it feels disgusting.
JJ: Not a lot was cut out, because we only had … the other ending stuff
KS: because a lot of other stuff happens….
What’s next for Safety Not Guaranteed?
KS: The movie comes out June 8.
JJ: Film District is behind it. Film District bought the US distribution, and we’re really excited – they did Drive, and we think that this isn’t just company talk – we think it’s the perfect home for it. We think that they are really excited about it, so I think they’re going to give it a real push. We just gotta get people to come out and see it. It’s gonna be a platform release, so it’s going to be the big cities and then if people go, then it will expand. I know it’s starting in NY, LA, Seattle, and Portland.
**** Safety Not Guaranteed Opens in NY, LA, Seattle, and Portland on June 8th. ****
**** Safety Not Guaranteed Opens in NY, LA, Seattle, and Portland on June 8th. ****