THE KINGS OF SUMMER directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, written by Chris Galletta, with Nick Robertson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias and Nick Offerman. An Alliance Films release. 93 minutes. Opens Friday (June 7). For venues and times, see listings.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts is comfortable around funny people.
He cast stand-up T.J. Miller and Party Down's Lizzy Caplan in his short film Successful Alcoholics, and has directed a number of pieces for the Funny Or Die website and its attendant TV series.
So it's no surprise that when he embarked on his first feature, The Kings Of Summer, about three teenage boys who build a house in the forest to escape from their families, he reached out to the L.A. comedy circuit to fill the grown-up roles. And some of those choices wound up bringing more attention to his modest little movie than he expected.
"If we'd had, like, more kittens in the movie, I feel like the internet's collective brain would explode," the director laughs over the phone. "Alison Brie and Nick Offerman have a pretty sizable chunk of the internet carved out, yeah."
Casting Parks And Recreation's Ron Swanson and Community's Annie Edison as father and daughter wasn't some twisted fan service, he explains, but part of a plan to balance the weightier moments between the kids with little comic buttons among the adults.
"I think you have to," he says. "I don't care about comedy that's just comedy any more. My favourite comedies are things like Boogie Nights or Three Kings. They aren't even necessarily comedies, but they're hilarious because of the characters and situations they're in. It's not just gags, it's not just jokes; it's this weird world that you exist in."
Creating a similar world for The Kings Of Summer meant putting young stars Nick Robertson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias through improv training under Thrilling Adventure Hour performer Craig Cackowski, who also turns up in the film.
"I knew I was going to give them a lot of freedom, but I also needed to let them feel like they had a sense of authorship," Vogt-Roberts explains. "Because I'm not 15 and the writer's not 15 any more, and they're the only ones with teenage brains.
"The movie would have been a failure if there weren't a handful of moments that are so pure and raw that the audience could [say], ‘Oh, that little tic, that little mannerism - that little thing I just saw, that feels exactly like what it was to be that age.'"