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October 4, 2012.
Ten years is a long time coming, but for actor
Matthew Lillard, the urge to direct had been around long before that.
His acting career has kept him
the iconic roles he has taken were the goofy best friend in the original
Scream, Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo! movies, an adulterous real estate
agent in last year's acclaimed
The Descendants and a corporate baseball man in the current
Trouble With the Curve.
However, for a decade now, he has been crafting his
directorial debut, the film version of KL Going's popular young adult
novel Fat Kid Rules the World. The film is about Troy, an
overweight and depressed high school student who finds new meaning to
his life through forming a band and a friendship with a drug-addicted,
unreliable, homeless singer.
We recently had the
opportunity to have this exclusive chat with Lillard when he was
visiting New York to promote the opening of Fat Kid Rules the World.
long have you wanted to make the jump to directing?
It's been a part of my life my whole life. When I
was in high school, I started to direct there. It just has been a
natural progression for me. I optioned the book ten years ago
and have been trying to get it made ever since.
How did you learn
about KL Going's book and why did you think it would make a good film?
I was offered [the job of recording] the book on
tape. When I was doing the book on tape and I was reading it for the
first time, I found myself very drawn to the characters and the story.
I had a really significant emotional connection to the whole thing. I
think that what I saw in it was the story of an underdog. It's the
story of a kid who is lost. For me in high school, I didn't find punk
rock music [like the hero of the book], I found acting. That discovery
in my life changed my life. It gave me hope and a direction in life.
Jacob Wysocki is
obviously not the average leading man type, but he was very good in
and of course Fat Kid Rules the World. When did you know you
found your Troy?
It was funny, we had three people walk in the room.
While the other two actors were just fine, it was really the potential
of Jacob that excited me. I had met Jacob the first time when we did a
short two years ago in Ontario. He was a kid that walked in the room
and said, "You know, I'm normally funny, but I'd love to try to do
this." He had the right attitude and passion that makes it happen.
Possibly the most
surprising character to me was the dad played by Billy Campbell – he
starts off as a hard-ass but eventually shows a lot more layers. Why
did you find the character interesting and what do you feel Campbell
brought to the role?
I found the character interesting, because I think
that's the real character. (laughs) I think that any kind of
one-dimensional "I'm the angry dad" character just doesn't reflect
anything real. For me, Billy Campbell was a little bit of a Godsend.
We had started the movie and we were looking for a dad, but we couldn't
convince anyone with any kind of street credit to come on board, because
we were a tiny movie, we had no money to offer. No matter how many
times I said, I promise you, the part is going to be worth it, we
couldn't get anyone's attention. So, at the 11th hour, I got a call
from an agent saying that Billy just got done doing The Killing,
what about Billy Campbell? We jumped at the opportunity.
was the setting changed from New York in the book to Seattle in the
Because we were a $750,000 movie shot in 22 days.
There was no way we could have done that in New York City at that budget
and the amount of production value we ended up getting in Seattle.
Music played a huge
Fat Kid, as well as some of your older work as an actor, like SLC
Punk! How important is music to your life and what things do you
tend to listen to?
To be honest, to me music is not a big part of my
life at all. I know that there are a lot of people that live and die by
what comes out next and have an emotional connection to music. I'm just
not one of those guys. I happened to be cast in SLC Punk! and
I'm super happy I was. [Fat Kid] is really about an underdog, set in the world of punk rock music. It's not about the music,
per se, as much as it is that the kid IDs with it.
Young adult novels
seem to be a fertile ground for film ideas. Why do you think that world
is exploding as it is?
It's exploding because the emotions are in high in
books like that. A lot of times adults are a little more pat in their
responses. We're a little more used to the ebb and flow of life. Young
adult books are rich in stakes. There is nothing that happens in a YA
book that isn't of the utmost importance. Those are ripe grounds for
You've worked with
some great directors over the years like Wes Craven and Alexander Payne
and even Eastwood, though I know he didn't direct
Trouble With the
Curve. What did you learn from them that you were able to use as a
Well, I learned everything from them, to be honest.
The collection of men and women that I've worked with as directors
helped define me as an actor. It helped shape me as an artist. The
reality is that influence plays into the director I became. There's
lots, but nothing specific. It's not like I can go back to a moment
when I was with Payne and I was like, oh, I'm going to take that. But
his influence on me is definitely palpable.
A large part of
Rules the World shows that we are not necessarily the people that
others think we are. What about you would tend to surprise people?
Good question. That I'm a father of three. That I
consider myself a very normal human being, a very down-to-earth guy and
my job happens to be acting. I take my craft seriously. I don't take
my celebrity, or notoriety, fame, whatever that word is you want to use
[too seriously]. (laughs) Really, I take the piss out of myself
more than anyone else. Those things are not things that I hold dear
to. I'm the assistant coach of my ten-year-old's soccer team. And I
play Dungeons and Dragons every two weeks.
Fat Kid is obviously so much about the experience
of growing up. What were you like in growing up and in high school?
I was an overweight kid. I come from overweight
parents. I think that insecurity defined me, in a big way, until I
found drama and I found something that I was good at. Once I found
something I was good at, it really changed me. I was a kid way more
inclined to get in trouble for being funny than to say something
intelligent at all.
How did you first get
involved with acting?
My dad said I could take an acting class or a typing
class. I thought I had a way better chance of passing an acting class.
(laughs) What sucked was the next semester he made me take
typing class anyway.
Other than acting,
what were some things you were passionate about when growing up?
I love soccer. I'm crazy [about it]. I'm a soccer
fanatic. I played Dungeons and Dragons growing up. Still do. When I
was a kid, we would leave at 8:00 in the morning and you'd run around
all day. You'd be on your bike. You were playing with your friends.
Playing football. Playing basketball. Everything. It's funny, but
true, we would do that. But I started making these neighborhood movies,
with my friend, when I was ten years old.
Who inspired you to
take filmmaking up?
One of the kids I was with was a movie fanatic. He
had learned how to make a stop-action film. We started making
stop-action films. We really made kind of Star Wars films with
beginnings and middles and ends. It was him, he had a camera, this
little 8mm camera and we shot these movies.
The first time I
remember seeing you – and most people do – was in the original
did you get that role and what was it like being a relative unknown when
your movie explodes like that one did?
Originally I went in to audition for Billy – Neve
Campbell's boyfriend in the movie. The casting director came to me and
said, "You're fantastic, but you're never going to be this guy. What do
you think about this role?" I said yeah and she said "Come back in an
hour and a half. [Director] Wes [Craven] is going to be here. Audition
for Wes." I came back an hour and a half later and auditioned for him
and the rest is history. No one expected that movie to be the kind of
cultural phenomenon it was.
the role that most people know you for now is Shaggy in
you did in the two live action movies and now you are doing in the
animated films. Oddly, I've interviewed all your co-stars in the movies
that and I've tried to ask: generations had grown up with those
characters. How important was it to you to be respectful to the
originals while at the same time putting on your own stamp on it?
Oh, huge. That defined every choice I made.
(laughs) Nothing about that character wasn't motivated by how the
cartoon was and how to do it right. I don't think there is in general a
way to "act right" but for that movie and that character, making that
kind of iconic figure into a real person, I took really seriously.
Have you ever gotten
to talk about how to play the character with Casey Kasem [who played him
in the cartoon series]?
Yeah, Casey plays my dad on the animated series
(Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated) so I see Casey about once every
couple of months.
How does it feel now
that you've finally hit the point in your career where Hollywood sees
you as the kind of guy that women would cheat on George Clooney for?
I don't know if Hollywood sees that, but certainly I
think that Alexander Payne saw that. But the reality is if it comes
down to me and Taylor Lautner making out with some woman in a movie,
it's probably not going to be me.
was a very different kind of role for you. What was that film like to
be a part of?
When you are working with who I think is the best
director in the world, that is awesome. It's one of the three top film
experiences of my life.
You have also just
Trouble With the Curve. What was that like – to be with a talented
cast like Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake and of course a legend like
Good. Again, you realize that you are working with
part of the Hollywood pantheon of great actors. Between Clint and John
Goodman, you don't want to be the kid in the movie that sucks.
as an actor and perhaps as a director, what are some movies that you
most wish you had been a part of?
Every movie I've ever seen. (laughs)
What was the first
movie you ever saw that really blew you away?
Well, Star Wars kind of defined my life from
very early on. From an early age. The idea of playing with Star
Wars action figures really sparked my imagination and kept me going
throughout most of my life.
Is there a certain
movie that if you are in a bad mood it automatically cheers you up?
Not really. I do like flipping through channels
occasionally and finding movies that I love. But if I'm in a bad mood,
I don't go to movies.
What movie do you
think you have seen more than any other?
The Princess Bride.
Times at Ridgemont High.
What kinds of things
bring you back to the old days? What makes you nostalgic?
Looking at my kids and going I used to be young.
Now that you've
gotten your feet wet in directing, do you want to eventually move in
that direction or do you want to continue to balance between acting and
I'd like to move in that direction. We'll see what
happens. The good thing is I don't think I have to choose, per se.
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