Every once in a while, an indie project finds its footing in a sea of big-budget blockbusters. Jordan Roberts' 3,2,1... Frankie go Boom! inspired a superstar cast of television and film A-listers to shoot the off-the-wall comedy for little to nothing, in less than a month, based off the power of Roberts' script. Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy), Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids, Friends With Kids), Chris North (Sex and the City) star alongside Frankie's lead couple, Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), and Lizzy Caplan (Party Down, Bachelorette) in a rollercoaster romp of drug addicts, stolen sex tapes, and sibling rivalry.
Just before the theatrical release of their pet project, Hunnam and Caplan got together for a sit-down that let to playful banter, actor analysis and nonstop laughs...
Q: You and Ron have now done three projects together, and we were wondering, are the two of you having this built into your contracts now, that one doesn’t work unless the other is brought in?
Charlie Hunnam: You know, safety in numbers. Why not? We’re huge stars now. We get to call the shots, so why not just bend them to our will?
Lizzy Caplan: What’s the third one?
Q: Pacific Rim.
CH: Ahhh, just this little three hundred million dollar movie [laughs] that we’ve just done, doesn’t matter.
LC: I really don’t follow Charlie’s career, I mean I know nothing about him! Nothing.
Q: That’s a shame.
LC: It is a shame. Apparently people really get excited about it.
Q: But you’re out there doing Bachelorette!
LC: Yeah. I don’t like to make movies that cost more than a million dollars to make. [Laughs] So Pacific Rim wouldn’t be for me.
CH: No. It’s just indulgent.
LC: Yeah… a trailer, food, normal hours… not interested!
CH: Right, right. Your perception of these big movies is way off. You’ll be surprised one day.
Q: Well, you did such a great job on Bachelorette.
Thanks! I’m glad you saw that. Did you see it?
Q: It’s on On Demand! It’s $9.99.
LC: It’s cheaper than a movie ticket. And it will blow your mind. Watch it with your girlfriend, duh.
CH: Ok… [Laughing] but we already saw Bridesmaids… I’m just joking, I’m just joking.
LC: That’s actually… that was the best thing you could have said.
CH: I... I... it almost came out, and then I pulled it back, in and then it just exploded out! [Laughs]
LC: I understand, I understand. There’s no need to see our movie. It’s exactly the same as Bridesmaids.
CH: Listen, you could have said “I’ve already seen Transformers.”
LC: Oh, is Pacific Rim like that?
CH: Yeah, just like that.
LC: Pacific Rim just sounds like it’s dirty, I don’t know why.
Q: I’m sure they’ll make one that’s a dirty version...
LC: Yeah, Pacific Rim Job! There it is.
CH: There it is.
Q: Now, in 3,2,1 Frankie go Boom!, the two of you have a great relationship that we see develop. It seems like instead of Murphy’s Law, it’s Frankie’s Law… anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
LC: You have a law!
Q: How much rehearsal time, if at all, do you have to develop the chemistry that you have on screen?
CH: I think it’s just innate.
LC: I’m a genius actress. I mean, really good.
CH: And we’re just clearly very attracted to each other.
LC: Oh god. If you even knew what was happening beneath this table right now… [Laughs]
CH: We didn’t actually really have much time at all. You know what I think was actually kind of a fun thing, is that we did all of the rehearsal and costume and make up and everything all at Jordan’s house. So we kind of, that’s the thing that I remember, more than any rehearsal, I think you were there [looks at Caplan] – ‘cause I cut my locks off for this movie –
LC: You were such a crybaby about it.
CH: I was such a crybaby about it, but those guys were there to witness it and hold my hand through the process. So we had probably two or three days of hanging, but this whole thing was a very, very fast process. We shot the film I believe in 20 days… 19 or 20 days –
LC: Yeah, something like that.
CH: – for no money at all, and it was really just kind of – more than any type of rehearsal or bonding or anything, I just feel like the movie had something of an energy to it, that was just like, none of us had to do this, or [do it] for money, ‘cause none of us were getting paid. And it was just kind of a fun couple of days, a fun four week romp that we got together and had this experience together. You know, it just felt kind of free –
LC: Summer camp!
CH: And summer campy –
LC: Yeah, you really have to want to be there because you’re definitely not doing it for any of the creature comforts. And they were long days, and some of them were hard days. But it was you know, it was fun. Chris O’Dowd was fantastic. Like our whole cast – I’m such a fan of all of theirs, except for Charlie… and so, I was just having a good time hanging out with all those guys. And I knew Whitney [Cummings] for a few years before…
CH: Ah yes, Whitney.
Q: It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what this movie is about, because it focuses on so many different topics. And there are no easy topics in this film, there’s nothing that isn’t uncomfortable to talk about. You’re dealing with impotency, transgender, AA, and this bizarre world of characters.
LC: I like how you put impotency on top of the list, right up there with AA. [Laughs]
Q: Normally I don’t think I’d equate those two, but that’s where Frankie go Boom! takes it. How did you first come across this project, and what drove you to push yourself to tackle these tough situations and portray one of the more embarrassing things that could happen to a man, on camera?
CH: I mean for me, this whole thing kind of came out of the blue. And my initial reaction was just, that’s not for me, that’s not what I do, and that’s not really what I’ve been trying to train myself to be able to do. And you know, Jordan just was very persuasive, and he decided early on that I was the guy that he wanted. And I didn’t really understand it.
We talked the whole thing through... and then it just became a fun challenge. I realized through the process of it, ‘cause I was kind of resisting, [that] I hadn’t really put myself in an uncomfortable situation for a long time. For about 5 years I’ve been playing roles that I felt were very close to who I am. And it just seemed like a fun challenge without a lot of risk, because the film was being made for such little money.
And these types of films, we were talking about it earlier, they just don’t get seen unless they’re good. So if the thing was bad and we all sucked, no one was ever going to see it anyway, and it would have been just like a fun experience to go try out a little comedy. And then if we managed to succeed all together, if enough of the parts succeeded, that people wanted to go out and watch this movie, then all the better.
Q: Lizzy, you’ve worked in television on Party Down, and Charlie, you’ve just started the fifth season of Sons of Anarchy. What do the rigors of working on a TV series add to your skill set, that you can carry into an indie film like this?
CH: It’s exactly the same thing –
LC: It’s a much similar vibe, than a big budget movie. The amount of pages – I mean, you should probably ask Charlie about the big budget movies, but the amount of pages you do every day is astronomical. You get used to that doing television.
CH: Yeah, very rapid. I’ve seen, you know, because we’re fortunate on my show that we get great actors coming on to do cameos and stuff, and they’re always astounded by the rate with which – you know, a lot of times we do things in one take, two takes is the standard, three takes if it’s not going well and very rarely you’d ever go to fourth take, you’d have to beg and plead for that. And so you know, you get used being really sharp and coming ready to put down the performance that you’d interpret as the right move from reading the script.
Now, the problem for me with that is that there’s not the time and the space to really work with the other actors. I, on a film, love to do a lot of homework and then throw it out the window and see what emerges, through rehearsal and doing the first couple takes with the other actors, but you just don’t have that luxury. If you applied that process to television, by the time you’d figured out how you wanted to play the scene you’d be playing the next scene. Unfortunately, it’s slightly less organic, the process – not to sound pretentious actor–y.
LC: You just made me really nervous, with how you described that. ‘Cause that’s how I do it, you know your lines and then you figure out what everybody else is doing, and then you do it.
CH: Yeah, but that’s good acting.
LC: I don’t know, but apparently there’s no room to do that on a television show.
CH: Have you not started shooting [Masters of Sex] yet?
LC. No. I mean, we shot the pilot and it was definitely like – but we had a month to shoot the pilot. But it was still like, all of these actors know all their lines already! It’s crazy! I think it’s different for comedy too, especially if you’re allowed to improv, which you usually are, then you don’t want to be so word–perfect. ‘Cause you want to be able to have it roughly in your mind.
LC: But I think you’re right with working on a TV show, like any job, if you do it long enough, you learn lines quicker, you get the gist of the scene pretty instantly because you don’t have the luxury of, you know, “figuring it out” for 3 days.
CH: And then, going into the reverse, I found – because I did get so used to the rapidity of television – that when I went and did Pacific Rim... You know, we do a season of Sons of Anarchy, the entire season, 13 hours, in 92 days. I shot Pacific Rim for 159 days to do an hour and a half movie. 159 days, seven months straight.
CH: In Toronto. Six days weeks, seven months straight. And it was crazy! Like, we did this walk and talk scene, Idris Elba and I, and it was a one–page scene, and we shot it over the course of four months, over six shooting days in six different locations. And it’s hard to put a performance together when you’re just walking through a room, talking to somebody and it’s just a rapid–fire conversation. So, it’s [a] really different skill set, and obviously when you go between the two, I’m learning, you need to be able to switch paces very quickly otherwise you’re going to destroy the first two weeks of your performance. [Laughs]
Q: Now how is it for you, Charlie, working with someone like Kurt Sutter [on Sons of Anarchy] –
CH: Sure. You say that knowingly…
Q: – and then, moving on to somebody like Jordan Roberts for 3,2,1... Frankie go Boom!?
CH: Wow! Let me just chart a course through this minefield. [Laughs] You know, I will say, everybody in this business, to one degree or another, is fighting for as much control as they can have, me included. And it’s always just for varying degrees of the same battle. Like, am I going to get my way? Or are you going to get your way? Or is the world aligned during this 3 hours and we actually see this the same way? And that’s just the process of filmmaking no matter who you’re working with.
And you know, in film, the director has a lot of power, but so does the actor, because you get a couple of weeks into filming and they can’t fire you anymore. And you’re working with them every day… but it’s very different when you work in television because you have a writer in the writing room who controls everything, who’s in control of every aspect of production, who doesn’t get involved in the execution of the work – but then also edits it.
So he has the complete control but not real participation in the actual day to day. And so that’s a very, very different dynamic. They’re all just different dynamics that have their challenges and their benefits… the challenges usually outweigh the benefits in all of these scenarios.
And my personal goal, I don’t know about you, is to just get so successful –
CH: – as a writer and an actor.
LC: Go on…
CH: that I have complete control and everyone just has to do the way I want it.
LC: And then Charlie wins the world.
CH: And then I win the whole world.
LC: I think that that’s true, I think it is a power struggle, a lot of times because there is a lot of… healthy egos at play… but I do find that that jockeying for the alpha male position is usually between the actor – male actor – and the director.
CH: But I don’t find it jockeying for a position of power –
LC: And I’m not saying that it happened on this movie, I’m just saying when it does happen…
CH: I just think it’s much more about the creative.
LC: I think it’s fully about power and I have a theory on it. I think that actors such as yourself –
CH: I think your theory is wrong, ‘cause I have a huge c***, just FYI. So if that’s where you were going –
CH: – save it, sister.
LC: It’s because guys like Charlie, who are like “tough guys”, and I say it like that, but you’re like, actually a tough guy, more so than a lot of the actors who pretend like they’re tough guys, and they wear makeup for a living, and they dress up, so they have to show how big their d***s actually are every single day.
Q: Which is why it’s so much more fun to be on a film like Bachelorette with a woman at the helm, and all women.
LC: Yeah none of that shit goes on…
LC: Yeah right, girls are so much worse. [Laughs] So glad I wasn’t asked that question.
Q: There’s an enormous amount of physical comedy in this movie. Lizzy, how many times did you actually have to crash your bike into that car?
LC: Zero times, stunt double. Thank god, because all of that looked very sharp and painful. I don’t know how stunt doubles do that.
CH: It was also cold. That’s what people don’t take into account.
LC: It was freezing the entire time!
CH: It was like four o’clock in the morning in November, and it was really cold! And when you’re cold and you hurt yourself, it sucks. It hurts worse.
LC: I remember being freezing cold the entire shoot of this movie. There was no warm place to be, ever. Ever.
Q: Even in your candy bikini and pasties?
LC: I know, right? So ridiculous. I think our trailers were broken the entire time because there was no heat that I remember, just a lot of exhaust fumes. It was great.
CH: I remember that. They said, “Charlie, you’re going to have to stop smoking in your trailer.” I said, “Why?!” “Because it’s leaking gas right under you. Now, we don’t think there’s going to be a problem but if you throw a cigarette out the whole thing might go up.”
Q: The movie would have actually turned into a real–life Frankie Go Boom!
LC: Ah yes, literally!
Q: Pulling from that same bike accident scene, what do you think about the merits of acting drunk while drunk vs. acting drunk sober?
LC: Acting drunk, I think is easier to do, actually, sober because if you’re really drunk, then you get tired. We’re shooting like 15 hour days…
CH: Yeah, but that did help a couple of times, didn’t it?
LC: Yes, I prefer to get drunk for sex scenes, thank you very much. [Laughs]
Q: You didn’t have a stunt double for the sex scenes?
LC: Of course. I had an ass double. I wish I had an ass double. That’s what I want. That’s how I know that I’ve really made it, when I get an ass double.
Q: Like Julia Roberts in Notting Hill?
LC: I mean so many people, people you wouldn’t even believe. Ass double.
CH: Oh there’s some ass doubles out there. [Laughs] I don’t think you got a single usable quote! But we all had a lot of fun.
'3,2,1... Frankie go Boom!' was released on VOD on September 12th, 2012 and in theaters October 12th, 2012. It is currently playing in select theaters nationwide.