BWW Interview: Playwright Neil LaBute Talks Latest Film SOME FREAKS: 'It's a Pretty Unconventional Romance'
"I don't even know if these kids would make The Breakfast Club. They probably would've been pushed to the back of the library and been shunned by most of those kids," explains famed playwright Neil LaBute, who serves as Executive Producer of SOME FREAKS. The indie drama comes out in select theaters August 4th. "It's a pretty unconventional romance for that age in particular," he says of the characters.
Broadway's Marin Ireland (On the Exhale, Reasons to be Pretty), Lily Mae Harrington (The GLEE Project), Thomas Mann (KONG: THE SKULL ISLAND), Ely Henry (Mean Girls) and Lachlan Buchanon (The Young and The Restless) star in the film written and directed by Ian MacAllister-McDonald. One-eyed high schooler Matt meets a 250-pound Jill in biology class and falsl in love. But after graduation, Jill moves away for college and loses over 50 pounds, which surprises Matt when he comes to visit.
LaBute, whose play Reasons to be Pretty garnered 3 Tony Award nominations including Best Play in 2009, is known for his controversial plots. He believes this storyline fits his traditional, rather untraditional mold. "This felt a lot more real to me: the disappointments and the changes in their lives. They did a really nice job of fitting a film into a familiar mode but making it very much its own and surprising."
Broadway World's Leigh Scheps caught up with LaBute to discuss his latest projects, including a reboot and whether he's still "weary" of Broadway.
Would you call SOME FREAKS a modern John Hughes film?
I mean the characters are pretty motley, even in John Hughes terms. I don't even know if these kids would make The Breakfast Club. They probably would've been pushed to the back of the library and shunned by most of those kids.
You are executive producer of the film. How did you initially get involved?
I started out working with [director] Ian MacAllister-McDonald [when he was] an intern years ago. When he started to put SOME FREAKS together, I said I'd help in any way I could. I just really liked what he was writing about and what he was trying to do with his first film.
How has it been different than what you're used to as a playwright?
You can help raise money. You can give advice. You can give feedback on a script or a cut of a film. I've done all those things.
As Executive Producer, what creative input did you have?
I had a fair amount of input. It's always something that a director can take or leave but it's good to get opinions from people. I saw the scripts before [the film] was shot. I saw footage they were shooting. In the end, you're just an audience member as well. You're just watching, reading and responding to it in a way that anyone else would hopefully.
Lily Mae Harrington's character loses a dramatic amount of weight in the film. Was it risky to put production on hold for 6 months for that to happen?
You know, I think so. Whether it's Tom Hanks or Kristen Bell or Lily Mae Harrington, you have to hope they actually do those things. In a way, it's less risky for a film of this size than it is for a studio film. That's such a big machine to put on hold with a lot of money at stake. Films like this often are made in pieces. I think this was the best kind of hiatus.
You're known for controversial and unconventional love stories, how does this film fit into that mold you're so famous for?
Pretty easily. It's a pretty unconventional film and an unconventional romance for that age in particular. Because I've done a lot of relationship pieces, you want to find a relationship that feels legitimate, one that they haven't seen before. This felt a lot more real to me: the disappointments and the changes in their lives. They did a really nice job of fitting a film into a familiar mode but making it very much its own and surprising.
What do you think audiences will say of SOME FREAKS?
It will be a mix, quite honestly. I think some people won't give it a chance. Some will find it too slow. I think it deserves an audience because there are a lot of people out there who are alone in their relationship. But they're the only ones going through this. I think it sometimes feels great to see that on the screen.
You said in an interview with Huffington Post, "Broadway is still a creature I am weary about." Do you still think the same thing?
I think I said that after [Reasons to be Pretty]. In a way, I do. It's such a money-making venture. But it's definitely a thing that's based on a commercial concept in that we are going to run this as long as we're making money. I don't love business -- thinking about money and that kind of thing. You begin to think in ways that are not so much useful for a writer but more of for an accountant. As a writer, you almost have to shift over and think about: Wow, is this story going to bring 1,000 people into the theater every night? Will they pay $100, $200 to see this? I just want to tell a good story; take 90 minutes or two hours of their time and have them say, "That was worth it."
Can we expect another play on Broadway soon?
I hope so, but again, it all feels like it's out of your hands. There have been plays I've done that feel like a natural for Broadway but it doesn't go there. If you just asked me, pick the play that you think will end up on Broadway. I don't know that it would've been Reasons to be Pretty. So, I might not be the best judge. I've also done some adaptions that might happen before an original play. That might reach Broadway before anything else.
You always write about unique characters. Is there a story line out there that still needs to be told?
Oh god, I hope so. I think that's the beauty of art. People say every story's been told, and maybe that's so, but I think there are so many variations of those stories or bringing new stories up into the present.
I'm working on a couple different things. I've been working on a television show for Syfy. I've been writing the pilot for a reboot of American Gigolo for Showtime. I've got a couple of my own plays and films I've been trying to make. I like to tell stories so I'm someone who's happy to go sit down and stare at a piece of paper and say, who's live will I wreck today?
Photos By Good Deed Entertainment