Hey everyone, this is a round-table interview I took part in with Detention stars Josh Hutcherson and Shanley Caswell. Since there were something like 10 people asking questions, there’s all sorts of silly bullshit in there, but you get a good sense of these kids from the interview regardless. Obviously much of the attention was lavished on Josh, since The Hunger Games was (and is) going strong, and he plays an extra Executive Producer role on the film as well.
Detention is in 10 theaters right now- and will be only this weekend if geeks don’t get their asses in gear and support the innovative, insane, and true underdog film out there. Woods will still have cabins in them next this month, Stooges will still be doing whatever they do in two weeks, the Titanic will still be sinking next weekend. This film, which you really want to see, needs your help right this instant.
So, how happy are you at this moment with the Hunger Games box office and all that’s going on?
Josh: I’m very happy. I’m very excited. I didn’t expect it, that’s for sure. No, it’s super-exciting- I just love making movies, and the fact that people actually watch them, is just a bonus, I feel like. It allows me to keep on making movies. It’s pretty exciting.
You’ve managed to balance big budget films with smaller films like this and The Kids Are Alright, has that been intentional?
Josh: It’s very intentional, yeah. I think that the most important thing to having a long career as an actor is diversity and being able to play different types of characters in different types of movies. I want to keep acting all my life, so in order to do that, I think it is important to go and do the bigger tentpole box office movies, and then also do more character type roles. And they’re a lot of fun too! I would never get to play Clapton Davis in a big-budget studio film. So there are a lot of characters that you can get into that don’t exist in the studio world.
Do you see the film as a commentary on the high school situation in the United States, and how was your own high school experience?
Shanley: It’s hard in high school- everything’s so magnified, you’re learning so many new things, discovering so many new things. I think a lot of your problems are magnified in that way. We say towards the end of the film, “It’s just high school, it’s not the end of the world.” You know, your problems are not the end of the world. My high school experience was actually really easy going. I didn’t have a bad high school experience like the movies play it out to be, I was a nerdy girl.
Josh: I didn’t go to high school, so I don’t have a high school experience. I was home-schooled during high school. But yeah, I think this movie just speaks to- I mean, kids can be really mean. Now more than ever, bullying has come under the radar of actually being a problem in schools and people are trying to stand up against bullying and whatnot. I think this movie just speaks to that world and how mean sometimes kids can be in school.
Were you each cast together, or Josh were you in there helping with casting?
Josh: I was sent tapes. I wasn’t in town, or else I would have been. As an executive producer, Joseph was definitely more than happy to have me involved with the casting process, which was great because I had never really been involved with that part of making a movie before and I’d always wanted to be. So yeah, it was a really cool first time, for me.
From the very first moment there’s clearly a long history and relationship between both your characters, even though Clapton is with Ione. Will you talk about building that chemistry that’s unseen?
Josh: Yeah, more than anything, it was the sort of thing where Riley and Clapton had kinda had… not really a relationship before, but they been really good friends, for a long time. Which was easy for us because, even though we had just met each other, we became fast friends, so it was easy to play that part of it. It was one of those things where you have a best friend all your life since kindergarten and then, all of a sudden, that moment flips where you go, “Oh, my god, I think I’m in love with this person.” I think that’s sort of a classic story.
Shanley: Yeah, same thing. It was easy for us, because we got along really well at the beginning of the shoot, and so we could slip into that pretty easily.
What are your favorite teen movies?
Shanley: I like Breakfast Club, it’s a classic.
Josh: Pretty In Pink, that’s really good.
Shanley: I like Superbad, I think that’s really funny. We were just saying Scott Pilgrim.
Josh: I love Donnie Darko, that’s one of my favorite movies ever. I mean, I guess that wasn’t really a teen movie, but those are a few.
Joseph has mentioned putting his faith in you before The Hunger Games was a thing, so how did you get the clout to grab this role and an executive producer position, and how was that.
Josh: I think it was after Kids Are Alright that things started to happen, which definitely helps a lot bringing some credibility to the indie world. For me, I’ve just grown up on movie sets since I was nine years old. For someone like Joseph, who’s come from a music video and commercial-heavy background, to have one of his actors be more well-versed in the film world, it just kinda helped to liaison between the two worlds, kinda meeting and coming together. I’m just grateful that Joseph did put that kind of faith in me because it was hard enough for me to put that faith in myself. I’ve always wanted to get behind the camera, so for him to give me my first opportunity to do that was incredible.
How grueling of a shoot was this?
Shanley: It was pretty grueling, it was long hours, not a lot of sleep, hard work…
Josh: It was, and the scenes were all so crazy that you didn’t know what you were getting yourself into every day when you came into work, which was kinda part of the excitement.
Shanley: And it was interesting as an actor because Joseph didn’t shoot in a normal style, with the master shot, the double shot, a single shot. It was interesting camera moves and as an actor to keep continuity and to remember was tough.
Josh: I remember certain times when I was like, “Joseph, we can’t move the camera that way, it literally would not make any sense for us to cut together.” And he was literally 100% right, because he would do this crazy thing where the camera would start on myself and Shanley standing like this, and then he’d pan around this way and we’d run around the back of the camera and we’d be on the opposite side of the lens, and I said there was no way that was going to make sense. And he called it, geo… something filmmaking, and it was so interesting. Seeing it cut all together, it’s incredible.
When you read this script, what did you think?
Josh: It was so wild. It’s extremely crazy. You saw the movie, you know how insane it is, and the script is even more craze, I feel. The reason why I was attracted to it was because of that, because it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I feel like so many times, I read the same script, just with different little pieces, over and over again. This was a whole new way of making a movie, and that was one of the biggest things that attracted me to it.
Do you think that’s going to make it a tough sell?
Josh: Yes, I do, actually. It is harder to sell. People ask me what the one-sentence pitch is for it, and I don’t have one. There literally isn’t one. Its one of those things where I felt like when I watched it, I didn’t even know what I thought of it at first. I liked it, but I didn’t even know how to describe it to somebody. It’s just very different. That is what makes it so unique, but at the same time what does make it a challenge commercially.
Did either of you have any input in the music or hear the alternate choices, since that drive so much of the movie and the dialogue?
Josh: I didn’t really have much input in the music- that’s kind of Joseph’s specialty. But I know music is such a huge part of this movie, it’s such a huge part of people’s lives that Joseph wanted to make a movie that really spoke to the younger generation and part of that was using the very interesting, cool, up-to-date music.
Did you know any song selections as you were filming?
Shanley: Yeah, he told us what he was thinking for the scenes and I was listening to a lot of them. I love the music, it’s one of my favorite things about the film, it’s really really good.
Shanley, you mentioned you’ll be starring in another horror film [The Warren Files], so what is it about the genre that draws you in and what are your favorites?
Shanley: I love the genre so much because it affects people so much, so that they’re leaving the theater and thinking about it all the time. It’s such an adrenaline rush when you’re there that it freaks you out, you go home and it’s still freaking you out. Some of my favorites, I still love I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Ring- that was the first scary movie I ever watched.
Josh: That movie scared the crap out of me.
Shanley: Exactly, and you were scared when you went home. I think that’s so cool that a movie can affect anyone that much. I like that thought.
I have to ask, since the film has this time-travel part, if you could go back to high school in any decade, what would it be?
Shanley: Yeah, sixties or seventies.
Josh: Free love, The Beatles, hippies, I love that whole world, and yeah I think that would be the best time to go to high school. The clothes were rockin. The jeans were a little too tight-
Shanley: The jeans were horrible! The movie I just did is in the seventies and, oh, the high-waisted, tight bellbottoms. I had to lie on the floor and I had five people helping me to pull the zipper up.
That was the Warren Files? How did that go?
Shanley: It was awesome! It was really fun and James Wan is a great director- completely different form Joseph.
Big change of pace? James works with a different style…
Shanley: James is a lot more raw, Joseph has a much more stylized view of filmmaking. It’s cool to see them both.
How do you think it differs from Insidious?
Shanley: It’s a different story, I really like it. It’s a lot of the same filming style, but it’s a completely different story, completely different time, and it’s based on a true story- so there’s that element.
Josh, did you take of with those tight-yellow skinny jeans you wear in the movie?
Josh: That is a big difference between myself and Clapton Davis- you’ll never see me in tight, yellow highlighter pants. Thankfully. Those were not easy to get on and off, and the fact that a lot of girls put themselves through that torture every day, they’ll understand. It’s not really my style- I’m more of an earth tones kind of guy, and Clapton definitely wasn’t. But you took some of Riley’s clothes, didn’t you Shanley?
Shanley: Yeah, actually some of the clothes were mine.
You were talking about Clapton Davis’ name and liking avant-garde music…
Josh: Yeah, I don’t think we go into why Clapton’s named Clapton, but yeah, he’s just a “go by the beat of your own drum” kind of guy, and that informs his music and clothing choices obviously, and yeah I think one of the cool things about Clapton — and why I really identify with him — is he is one of those guys that says, “I don’t have to listen to what society tells me, I’ll be friends with whoever I want to be friend with. I don’t have to be in a clique or a group, I can just do my own thing.”
So what about the whole hipster thing, that term is so trendy now…
Josh: Well I feel like the whole “hipster” thing was like the fact that you were unique and different and did your own thing, but now there’s a look that is the “hipster look.” Which, by definition, means you’re no longer a hipster [laughter] …because you’re conforming to the same look. I like it though! I love Urban Outfitters and that whole, like, fixie single-speed bikes [laughter] …I’m going to Coachella next week, so I’m definitely uh-
Shanley: You’re a hipster.
Josh: Yeah, I’m a hipster.
Since you’ve done Hunger Games since this, do you think you’ll get audience members from those fans?
Josh: I hope so! I think it was fortuitous, you know, we were going for a long time just trying to sell the movie and see where it was going to land, and who would be the right fit for us, distribution-wise. Now I think we’ve found it, and we’re kind of going about this at the right time, it just happens to be after Hunger Games, which helps quite a bit, I think.
With everything sort of shifting for you between this being made and being released, and being swept up in Hunger Games, how do you feel about managing any obligations you feel you have as a star and executive producer on this?
Josh: I think it’s super important. Like I was saying before- longevity comes with versatility as an actor and for me, I love making this kind of a movie. So no matter how big Hunger Games ever gets or will get with other films, doing this sort of thing is something I love doing. Just the vibe on set, the stories you get to tell with indies… there’s nothing in the world like it. In my opinion I like doing indies more than studio films, but it’s important to do both.
With this destined to be a cult film to some degree and something people grow to love over time- what sort of cult films do you guys love?
Shanley: Fight Club
(Me) You’re not supposed to talk about that.
Shanley: I know, sorry. I broke the first rule.
Josh: And the second rule. I was a huge Donnie Darko fan, I’ve watched that movie nine million times, Nightmare Before Christmas is another one I watched a hundred times growing up and still love it.
When you were talking about teen movies earlier- it’s interesting to see the evolution of what we’re getting from the 80s, which was all cookie-cutter and cute, but when you guys mention the teen movies you grew up with and influenced by, they’re all edgy. Where do you think that comes from?
Josh: I think now more than ever there’s so much information at the fingertips of everyone, including our youth, and so I have a 15-year-old brother and I can sit and talk to him like he’s one of you guys now. With Google, where you can find out the answer to any question you could possibly ever have, and Facebook, and Twitter, and how fast-paced everything happens, kids grow up so much faster now. So I think introducing them to a world like Detention, is the world that they know and that they live in. I think if you try to do a movie nowadays like Breakfast Club or Pretty In Pink, it’s a little more soft. Kids would be so, “Oh my god, this is so condescending.” This movie is very straightforward and not looking down to you.
What did you personally take away from the experience of making Detention?
Shanley: It was my first big responsibility as a role, so I think a big one was learning emotional continuity. Also endurance- shooting all night until the sun comes up, and that was something I thought was good that I experience that and making a low-budget movie before I got to experience the studio movie. Because they’re absolutely, completely different. It’s like I went through Detention to learn a lesson.
Josh: For me, the message of the film was something that I took away from it- that everybody has their own problems. No matter how big you think yours are there is someone else that has bigger problems, or different problems. That’s the biggest thing that I learned from this film, or something that was kind of reinstated in me, for sure.
So Josh, “Clapton don’t dance” but does Josh dance?
Josh: Josh dance. [laughter] For sure, I love to dance.
Did you get to do your own stunts for the finale, or did they bring in stunt people?
Josh: It was a combo. There were some things where they had stunt guys working with us. But, we all had to do the fight training and work on the choreography to get that all down, and it was tough. It was pretty physical. There was a lot of slamming onto the ground and slamming into the lockers and throwing punches and stuff, so it was pretty physically demanding.
Thanks for reading!