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Riot LA: The Birthday Boys Have Their Cake and Eat It Too

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by on January 11, 2014

In 2013, we saw something of a sketch comedy boom, as shows like Key & Peele, Kroll Show, Comedy Bang Bang, Nathan For You, Inside Amy Schumer, and more proved that sketch comedy is not just the purview of venerable series like SNL. IFC, in particular, has been spearheading this movement, and one of the best new shows to result from it is The Birthday Boys. Executive produced by and co-starring Bob Odenkirk, The Birthday Boys takes the eponymous sketch group’s unique sensibilities and lets them construct smart, riotously funny sketches that evoke, fittingly, forebears like Mr. Show.

It was also fitting that I caught up with three members of the group – Jefferson Dutton, Matt Kowalick, and Chris VanArtsdalen – around the corner from Los Angeles’ Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, which is where the group got their start and eventually met their IFC co-conspirator Odenkirk. Before they took the stage this weekend at the Riot LA festival, I talked with the guys about how their comedy has changed over time, how they went from UCB sketch comedy show to television, and their advice to other looking to break in to comedy.

Nerdist: So how stoked are you for Riot LA? What have you got in store?

Matt Kowalick: It’ll probably be some sort of combination of the show we were doing on the tour, and then other old sketches that we want to do.

N: Nice!

MK: Yeah.

Jefferson Dutton: Originally it was billed as a Q&A, and we weren’t comfortable charging money for a Q&A.

MK: Yeah, yeah.

JD: We’d rather do the comedy — a lot of it. I think the venue we’re in is more of a theater than, like, more of a movie theater with a screen, versus a black box theater, so we’re trying to tailor the material to that sort of venue. Not a lot of changes, a lot of more directly-addressing the audience.

N: Cool.

JD: But still, it’s from the UCB show, and maybe some stuff from the IFC show.

Chris VanArtsdalen: We’ll probably show some of our favorite videos, too.

MK: We have some videos that aren’t online.

N: Sure, sure. I feel like that’s the best opportunity to sort of do a “best of,” because people are paying for this festival atmosphere. Obviously you want new stuff as well too.

MK and JD: Yeah.

N: But sometimes you want “Birthday Boys Sings the Hits.”

MK: Yeah, yeah.

CVA: And if people want a Q&A, we’ll be hanging out afterwards so people can come up and ask us questions.

N: $20 a question?

CVA: Sure! [laughs]

N: That’s where the big bucks are in comedy!

MK: Buy a shirt, we’ll answer a question.

JD: We have shirts, too.

CVA:Do we?

MK: Do we still have shirts left?

JD: We do.

N: You heard it here first. That’s going to be our exclusive.

JD: Three different kinds of shirts. That’s a lot for, you know…

MK: When I said “tour,” I meant the Comedy Bang Bang tour, just for clarification.

N: Yeah, OK. So there was a separate Birthday Boys tour?

MK: No, no, no. We were opening up for Comedy Bang Bang on their fall tour.

N: Sweet.

MK: Yeah.

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N: Well, speaking of Comedy Bang Bang, another show on IFC — you guys have a show on IFC.

MK: True. [chuckles]

JD: Yes, indeed.

N: How’s the experience been so far? How’s the response been, now that you’re a little bit into it?

MK: It’s been good.

JD: There’s been a lot of good — we live tweet every episode, so we sort of have our finger on the pulse of who is watching and getting involved, and it’s been nice to see that increase. Early on, it was like, “Oh man, we’ve got to get people watching this show!”

MK and CVA: Yeah.

JD: You know, we’ve got our haters for sure.

N: On the internet? [laughter]

JD: But we’ve got converts, as well. We have had people say, “I originally didn’t like this show, and I kept watching, and now I like it.”

MK: Yep! We’ve also had people defending us online.

JD: Yeah, a lot of defenders, too.

CVA: The show has a small audience, but a loyal audience. We’ve got people that seem to be enjoying it, tweeting us, saying they love it, stuff like that.

N: Well that’s good. That’s also the kind of thing you want, especially when you’re a newer show. You want this sort of evangelizing audience, that are going to hopefully turn a lot of other people on to it. You want them going, “Check this video out.”

JD: We’re the 311 of sketch comedy.

N: So you guys are putting on a cruise?

JD: I went to a big 311 school, that was my thing. I was like, nationally, these guys are not a hit, but my high school, for whatever reason…

CVA: Yeah.

N: Yeah, I can relate to that. I had an inordinate amount of Juggalos in my high school.

JD: Oh! That’s even worse than 311!

All: [laughter]

CVA: I can’t say that made it to Pennsylvania.

N: Well, don’t worry. We kept them all trapped in Massachusetts.

JD: Yeah, I was in New Hampshire.

N: Nice!

JD: That’s funny.

MK: It’s funny that 311 got to New Hampshire and was big there.

N: I don’t know where they started.

MK: When I was in middle school, I was into that album that had “Down” on it.

N: Oh, yeah.

MK: That was the album.

[laughter]

JD: Hell yeah, it was!

CVA: Well, speaking of Comedy Bang Bang, the reason that the other dudes couldn’t make it today is that they were writing for Comedy Bang Bang.

N: Oh, nice!

MK: And then Mitch is stuck at an airport.

CVA: Yeah, Mitch is on the East Coast and the other 3 dudes are writing for Bang Bang. You got stuck with what I would say are the alphas.

[laughter]

N: I got stuck with the varsity team!

MK: Yeah!

JD: Sorry!

CVA: You’ll be fine.

JD: Yeah.

N: Now that you’ve been doing the show for a little bit, do you approach your live show any different?

MK: We’re just getting back into doing the live show.

JD: We’ve done it twice.

MK: Yeah. But I think we’re just doing sketches how we’ve always done sketches. If we get make it for TV one day, then we’ll deal with it then, but we’re doing what we’ve always done.

CVA: We still use the live show to test new stuff, see what works, see what doesn’t. Basically just have fun with it. It seems like it’s there’s less pressure in the live show now.

JD: Thank god.

MK: Because we have videos at the ready! [chuckles] Usually, the problem was not having videos.

N: So you have to try to generate enough content every time?

CVA: Yeah, for, like, five years the live show was like…

JD: The thing.

CVA: This was going to be our shot: “What if the agent is here who’s going to change our lives?”

N: Of course.

CVA: But now it’s just more of a fun thing. We still approach it the same way.

N: Yeah, yeah. But that’s nice, though, now that the pressure is lifted off. I feel like you might be able to have more fun with it.

CVA: Yeah. Well, we’re actually doing a live show on Wednesday.

N: Over at UCB?

CVA:Yeah.

N: Cool.

CVA: That’s probably going to be our monthly show.

JD: We’re probably doing some warming up some stuff for Riot…

N: Oh, nice. I can imagine that would be a good testing ground for…

JD: …that sort of thing.

MK: And San Fran, because we’re doing the San Francisco Sketchfest…

N: Oh, nice!

MK: …at the beginning of February. The first weekend of February.

CVA: February 1st.

JD: Yep?

N: Oh, yeah?

MK: Surprise.

JD: At the Brava Theater. That’s bigger than the other theater that we used to play at. The other theater was pretty big, so I’m excited to see about that.

CVA: We’re MOST excited about Riot.

N: Yes, yes—of course, of course.

JD: Let’s double underline.

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N: I will bold that in the interview. So I want to go back into a little bit of history here. How did you guys first form the group? How did you come together?

MK: Some of the guys—most of the guys knew each other in college, then they all moved out here and I met them all at an Improv 101 class.

N: At UCB?

MK: Yeah.

CVA: Yeah. Six of us, other than Matt went to college together, all moved out together in 2006, so, fuckin’ 8 years ago now or something like that. A long time.

JD: We were rudderless for a good year, at least, before we started doing stuff — started seeing stuff in the theater, and then we took up the classes. But UCB was sort of the petri dish for many years.

CVA: We started doing the live—the open mic sketch show at UCB, Not Too Shabby, on Friday nights, which at the time was hosted by Neil Campbell and Paul Rust–great guys, they kind of showed us the ropes, eventually gave us a monthly show there. From there, we met Bob Odenkirk years later, did a couple of live shows with him around town that we wrote with him, eventually pitched the show to IFC, and they bought it. That’s that.

N: Awesome! How did Bob get involved in the process originally? Was it a chance meeting?

CVA: Yeah, it was. His wife, Naomi, was a manager. She had seen a couple of our shows, was familiar with us. She does a show called the Not Inappropriate Show every year, which is like a…

N: Gotcha, yeah, it’s like a…

CVA: Yeah. We did a sketch in that one year, which Bob was also doing a sketch in. So Tim, the guy who wrote the sketch — Tim Kalpakis was actually talking to Bob backstage, and Bob was saying, “Great sketch! We would have done it a little differently on Mr. Show.” And right as he was about to say what he would have done differently, he got pulled away to do something else. So Tim was back there saying, “I wish I had known what he was going to say!” Ended up e-mailing Bob, and asking him, “What would you have done with the sketch?” That ignited this conversation, which eventually led to Tim and Mike Hanford doing some live stuff with Bob in another group he had, called Gentleman’s Club.

N: OK.

CVA: And then from there that went well, so we all ended up doing a live show called Heroic Man with Bob and The Birthday Boys, and then another one called Seven Man Sweater.

JD: Those were at the Steve Allen Theater.

N: Oh, cool.

JD: Bob wanted to make our collaboration be something distinctly different from our monthly slot at UCB. They were also bigger shows—they were hour longs—but that was fantastic to do live stuff with Bob.

N: Yeah, I can imagine!

JD: For a packed house.

MK: With specific videos for that show with Bob, which was a lot of fun.

JD: It was like the germ of our IFC show.

N: How would you say how collaborating with him has impacted how you approach your writing?

MK: I think it just makes us better, stronger writers. I think we’re coming in with stronger ideas, because we have to present them to Bob! There’s a little pressure there. I want this to at least be good or something. Also he really stresses character motivation, even in sketch, and I think that’s something that we’ve kind of… like, “OK, what makes this guy tick?” We lean on that some in a sketch, to another level.

CVA: A lot of times he’ll also take a sketch idea and twist it into crazy new directions you wouldn’t have thought of, like a lot of the way that on Mr. Show, they took a sketch that would ramble into a new scene and then another scene, you know how things would connect.

N: Yeah.

CVA: He showed us how to do that a bit in our show, where one idea would sort of spiral into different scenes and different arenas, which is great.

JD: Yeah, the mutating…

N: Yeah.

JD: …aspect of it, is something that we didn’t really do before.

N: Making one sketch bleed into another?

JD: And let’s be honest: if we had done that without Bob Odenkirk, people would have been calling us a Mr. Show ripoff!

MK [unison with JD]:Mr. Show Ripoff!” [laughter]

JD: That’s something legit that we can — we have license to do now that he’s…

N: [chuckles] Gotcha! As long as there’s one member of Mr. Show, it’s OK!

CVA: He’s also such a great actor. I mean, he comes up with a lot of good acting direction that we never would have thought of.

MK: Yeah, shooting there’s a lot of different angles and ideas coming from him, too, like writing on the spot.

JD: He’ll encourage improv — he’ll push it out of you a little bit and stuff. Our show isn’t very improvised. Bob does, because he’s Bob. A lot of times we punish ourselves over these scripts. We don’t wing it when we get on the set.

N: Yeah, especially if you’ve spent enough time on it, then it’s like, “Listen, we wrote this bloody script, let’s just do our funny script.”

MK: Yeah.

JD: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[laughter]

N: I mean, I know there’s a time and place, because a sometimes stuff isn’t landing.

CVA: Of course. I’d say probably 5% of the show is improvised.

JD: Yeah, truly.

CVA: A little bit. A line here or there.

N: Well, a big section of our audience is aspiring creative types, so having been able to transform a group of friends who met in an improv class into a sketch comedy TV show — was there something you learned along the way? A piece of advice, anything you would impart to someone looking to embark down the same path?

JD: Yeah. I would say A, it takes longer than you think, and B, live together if you can. [chuckles]

CVA: Yeah. [chuckles] A lot of us used to live in a big house together in Studio City, and that was great, to just be able to roll out of bed and be able to start working on ideas.

MK: And also just make it and do it, don’t talk about it. You know, that’s the big thing, have something to show, actually do what you say you want to do.

N: Don’t just have a notebook full of joke ideas?

MK: Right. Yeah. See if it works. It doesn’t hurt anything.

CVA: Don’t get discouraged by ideas that fail, because part of doing live comedy is just the failure aspect, so you’ve got to get out there and try.

MK: It’s live, fellas!! [chuckles] And ladies!

N: I just assumed it was like the royal “fellas,” so it was all gender-inclusive.

JD: Fellows.

N: There you go! 

MK: Now you make it seem masculine.

N: I’ve just got one last question for you guys, and it’s a bit of an oddball, so bear with me: What would be inside your ideal burrito?

CVA: Oh, baby!

MK: I like French fries, like the California burrito.

N: Nice.

MK: Yep

CVA: I’d have to start probably with carne asada. Is that the best?

JD: I think so.

N: Only you know the answer.

JD: I think I have the right answer to this question: A bar of 24K gold.

N: You are not the first person to say that! I always love that response. [laughter] It’s a pretty soft metal. You’d probably have to ask them to heat it up a little.

JD: You don’t have to eat it. You just ask.

N: I could see someone unwrapping a little tortilla present.

JD: It’s about the size. I’ve never seen a real bar of gold, but I can assume, from cartoons, that they’re the size of burritos.

MK: Yeah, Fort Knox is just a bunch of burrito-sized gold bricks. I guess it determines what our dollar is worth.

N: We’ve been off the gold standard for a minute now.

JD: It’s the internet now.

N: Now we’re pegged to Bitcoin and retweets.

MK: Retweets are worth their weight in gold!

CVA: I would still rather have pork belly in my burrito, if I have to answer the question.

N: You could have some gold flake on top. Tasteless, odorless gold.

CVA: That’s true.

N: The restaurant that I used to work at would put that on top of one of their sushi rolls.

MK: Gold flake?

N: Yeah.

JD: Wait — is gold flake also what’s in Goldschlager?

N: Yeah.

JD: And you can drink it?

N: You can eat it and drink it. It is gold.

MK: And it’s a metal and it doesn’t cut up your insides?

N: It’s thin enough. It’s malleable enough.

JD: Really?

N: Yeah.

MK: Malleable metal!

N: Yeah, exactly.

JD: It’s a little too high falutin’ for me. It’s a waste.

N: I prefer old fashioned cubic zirconia.

JD: Yeah, really. Just give me a fake diamond.

You can catch The Birthday Boys at Riot LA this Sunday at 5 p.m. PST, and check out The Birthday Boys on IFC.

THE DLC: Steam Machines, TITANFALL, PlayStation Now, and More

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by on January 11, 2014

With so much incredible video gaming news pouring out of International CES this past week, there just wasn’t any way we could pack all those juicy news bites into one episode of Nerdist News. Thankfully, The DLC is here to save the day. Join Jessica Chobot and me as we discuss China’s newly relaxed console ban, the implications of Titanfall‘s 6 vs. 6 multiplayer cap, what to expect from Sony’s PlayStation Now service, and just why the hell you would want to maybe buy a Steam Machine. Or just marvel at Jessica’s N7 Mass Effect leggings. Or my simple gray cardigan from H&M. It’s your call really. Just make sure that you watch The DLC.

What do you think? Chime in on today’s stories in the comments below or tell Jessica and me on Twitter.

WHAT YOU MISSED BY NOT PLAYING SAINTS ROW IV

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by on January 11, 2014

Let’s face it. No matter how much you try, no matter how much you drop on Steam sales, you just can’t play everything that comes out. There are so many great games out there that there are a few that are bound to slip through the cracks. How are you, a discerning consumer, supposed to determine which games are worth playing after the fact and which ones aren’t? Easy — you let us do it for you. The Nerdist Channel is back with another edition of What You Missed by not Playing, and today’s game in question is none other than Deep Silver’s balls-trippingly crazy Saints Row IV, which is a lot like playing Grand Theft Auto V on bath salts. But don’t take my word for it. Watch the video below and find out exactly What You Missed by not Playing Saints Row IV.

What do you think? Did you dig Saints Row IV? Let us know in the comments below.

Exclusive: ADVENTURE TIME #24 Preview

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by on January 11, 2014

What time is it? Exclusive preview of BOOM! Studios’ Adventure Time time! We’ll work on our intros, but the point is that we have a phenomenal preview of Adventure Time #24 from writer Ryan North and artists Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline. Can Princess Bubblegum and Marceline put aside their differences with the Earl of Lemongrab to save their friends? Don’t ask me — read on and find out for yourself!

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Cover by Mike Holmes

Here’s the official solicit info for you:

ADVENTURE TIME #24
Author: Ryan North
Artist: Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb
Cover Artists: A: Mike Holmes  B: Brad McGinty C: Kevin Stanton D: Eva Cabrera

Price: $3.99

Synopsis: Princess Bubblegum faces the consequences of her science experiment gone wrong as she finally finds a way to save the day! But is it too late? Find out if Princess Bubblegum is able to right all her wrongs or if her friends will never be themselves again, it’s a crazy conclusion to this arc!

Click to expand the thumbnails below.

What do you think? Are you digging the Adventure Time comics? Let us know in the comments below.

STAR WARS EPISODE VII Eyeing Jesse Plemons for Lead Role

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by on January 10, 2014

First he was Landry, the lead singer of Crucifictorious, in Friday Night Lights. Then he was Todd, a/k/a Meth Damon, the sociopathic cold-blooded killer with a Nazi uncle in Breaking Bad. Now he could be the star of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII. According to a report from The Wrap, Plemons could be well on his way to a galaxy far, far away.

It’s important to note that Plemons has not been officially cast yet. The 25 year-old actor is scheduled to meet with director J.J. Abrams next week to discuss the film, which is heavily rumored to reunite Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford too. Apparently, Plemons had taped an audition that “was well-received by those involved in the casting process”, and he’ll make the trek to Los Angeles next week for a second, face-to-face audition with Abrams.

Personally, I think this is phenomenal casting, given Plemons’ considerable acting chops and his slight resemblance to Mark Hamill. Considering Hamill is 62 years old and Plemons is 25 years old, it would put the young actor in the right range to play, oh say, Luke Skywalker’s offspring. There’s no word yet on who Plemons would be playing, but rumor has it that the film revolves around three main characters, two young boys and a girl. Perhaps one of those will be Plemons. One thing is for sure though – it’s likely that we’ll hear more from Lucasfilm and Disney in the coming weeks.

Would you like to see Jesse Plemons make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs? Let us know in the comments below or tell me on Twitter.

Cosplay Friday #56

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by on January 10, 2014

Welcome to the first Cosplay Friday of the new year! We hope your New Year’s resolution includes continuing to create some seriously stunning cosplay, just as ours includes curating the best of the best cosplay the internet has to offer. Today’s haul includes everything from Tales of Symphonia to Final Fantasy VII, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the king’s bounty of cosplay coolness.

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Not every assassin can be poised and put together, but that’s why we love Sheena (Tales of Symphonia). [by traumacentregrrl]

Which cosplay is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below or tell me on Twitter.

HBO Teases the GAME OF THRONES, Season 4 Trailer with Vines

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by on January 10, 2014

Ah, Vine, Twitter’s microblogging video counterpart that is slowly destroying the way movie studios dole out sneak previews of upcoming films. Well, whether you love it or hate it, HBO is certainly embracing the seven second format with a whole slew of Vine videos teasing the first trailer for the hotly anticipated fourth season of Game of Thrones, which as we learned yesterday returns on April 6th. When all’s said and done, you’ll have 35 seconds of glorious, glorious content, which is also about the lifespan of whomever happens to be your favorite Game of Thrones character at any given moment.

Jon Snow going toe to toe with the Wildlings!

A smoldering pan shot of Daenerys Targaryen and her entourage!

Baratheon bannermen traipsing through the woods!

The probably soon-to-be your new favorite character The Red Viper locked in gladiatorial combat!

Tyrion in chains, which would also be a killer early ’90s alt-rock band name.

There you have it, folks! Are you sufficiently teased? You can see the full Game of Thrones, Season 4 trailer this Sunday at 9 p.m. immediately before the premiere of HBO’s True Detective, which also looks pretty freakin’ awesome.

Are you excited? Let us know in the comments below or tell me in seven second bursts on Twitter.

Take an Uncomfortable Ride in this TRUE DETECTIVE Clip

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

by on January 10, 2014

HBO’s terrifying journey into the heart of darkness that is the backwoods of Louisiana, True Detective, doesn’t debut until this Sunday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself a taste of what you’re in for. This morning, HBO released a clip from the Cory Fukunaga-directed limited series featuring its two stars, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the titular detectives, on what might just be the most uncomfortable car ride since that one time I accidentally watched the trailer for Guilt Trip.

In case their sparkling personalities and the promise of mysterious murder weren’t enough to get you to tune in this Sunday night at 9 p.m., then maybe the chance to take a sneak peek of Westerosi goodness will. Yesterday, it was announced that the first trailer for Game of Thrones’ fourth season would air immediately before True Detective, so that ought to be enough to tide you over until its April 6th premiere. And if not, then maybe its time you take the Black and fight crime in Louisiana or whatever the mash-up of these two shows would look like.

Are you excited for True Detective? Let us know in the comments below!

LONE SURVIVOR’s Eric Bana on Working with Peter Berg, Improv, and more

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by on January 10, 2014

Military movies are nothing new at America’s movie theaters, but few films have managed to depict the powerful brotherhood forged in the heat of battle or the grim realities of war like Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor, which opens in theaters this Friday. Based on retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell‘s memoir of the same name, Lone Survivor recounts the events of “Operation Red Wing”, an aborted Navy SEAL reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province that resulted in the single largest loss of loss of life for Naval Special Warfare forces since World War II. It is, by turns, a harrowing and inspiring story, anchored by a tremendous cast including Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Eric Bana. Recently, I was able to speak with Bana, who plays the pivotal role of field commander Eric Kristensen, over the phone to discuss what attracted him to the project, how he researched his role, and what’s on the horizon for the Australian actor.

Nerdist: I want to say I really enjoyed the film. I kind of knew what I was in for with the trailer, but when you’re actually in the theater, it’s just a powerful, very affecting film. Job well done!

Eric Bana: Oh, thanks.

N: I’ve read that you’ve wanted to work with Peter Berg for quite some time. I’m wondering what it was about him specifically that attracted you to this project, and what was the experience like now that you’ve actually done it?

EB: It was a couple of things. Pete and I nearly worked together many, many years ago. He had a project in development at Universal — I’m going to say 13 years ago, maybe 14 years ago, before anyone out here knew who I was, and was really keen on me to play the lead, actually. The project never got off the ground, and I was a fan of Pete’s work as an actor and really enjoyed meeting with him, and we kept in touch over the years. Then through these various films, I’ve just really enjoyed his work, in particular on The Kingdom — I just thought it was one of the best films I’ve seen for a long time.

I knew he was developing this project. I had already read Marcus’s book, independent of that, and loved it. So when he called me up to see if I would consider playing Commander Kristensen, I jumped at the chance.

N: When you have someone with an acting background who transitions to more of a directorial role, do you find that’s more helpful to you as an actor, since they understand maybe more of what you guys are going through?

EB: Yeah, it makes it more interesting to some degree, and it makes it more instinctual. Pete really was happy to throw things away if they weren’t working, and then completely change tack, and that was fantastic. I love being in an environment where things are changing, where you have the ability to change things slightly, and recognize when things aren’t working. He has a great instinct for that. He shoots very fast. He covered the scenes extremely well and it meant you would do things a lot of times and then you could really pour yourself into it. It was a great experience. I loved working with him.

N: One of the things I enjoyed, especially in those first scenes on the military base, there was such a palpable camaraderie, and it felt very improvisational and of the moment, so I was wondering if that was all scripted, or if they gave you some sort of guidelines and you guys got to feel it out from there?

EB: Yeah — no, a lot of it was improvised, and he would just say, “Okay, let’s try this: Eric, you get up and say this and sit down again.” A lot of that was improvised, just to make things feel organic and real and keep the energy up.

N: You mentioned that you read Marcus’s book. I’m curious as to what sort of research and prep you did for this role? Were you actually able to speak with Marcus at all? I’m not sure how involved he was with the production.

EB: He was very involved. I did my research from afar. I was at home in Australia when I got the call, and I did my prep from afar, and arrived at the shoot well and truly half-way into filming. So my job was to really concentrate on what Erik’s role was within the story, and just the processes of the chain of command and ranking and the logistics of the operation. So I concentrated my time into that area and I was unable to meet Erik Kristensen — I was in Australia, so I wasn’t able to meet family and friends, so I did my work from afar, and then off we went.

N: This is not your first military, based-on-a-true-story-type affair, back with Black Hawk Down as well. Is there something about this sort of story in particular that you find yourself drawn to?

EB: Most definitely. I knew it was going to be a special experience, and I knew that it would be a similar experience in respect of working with the Special Forces community on a project — it’s a really wonderful opportunity for an actor. It can be quite life-changing, in some ways. I knew that this film would have a similar tone, in terms of their hands-on involvement, and it was exactly the case. In fact, there were some people that I worked with on this film who worked on Black Hawk Down with me years ago, and like I say, being a fan of Marcus’s book, and really intrigued by the role that Special Forces play in warfare, it’s something that I’m always intrigued by and interested in. It’s just a joy.

N: Very nice. Do you read a lot of military histories and things like that?

EB: Yeah, I do occasionally pick up the ones that interest me — for sure.

Lone Survivor

N: Shifting gears slightly, with a film like this, any time there’s a military film, you always run the risk that it could be really easy to portray the enemy, in this case the Taliban, or even the Afghani people, as sort of a monolithic evil. I thought the film toed that line very well, not making them just sort of menacing cardboard cut-out enemies, but more like real people with motivations of their own. But I’m wondering, coming from an outsider perspective, given your Australian heritage, did that help you remove yourself from some of the politics of the story? I imagine that might make it a bit easier to just sort of take it at face value.

EB: Well, I knew that Pete wasn’t going to make a political film, so it was never really a concern. I had complete trust and faith in what Peter was intending to make, and so I never really thought of it. And obviously the fact that the book, as well as the script, shows some cultural facts that aren’t always explored in those situations that are enlightening, and hopefully somewhat educational. So by saying the way Marcus was treated by the villagers and so forth, and the reasons behind that, it’s very fascinating. It was fascinating to read the book, and it’s fascinating in the film, and so I never really had any concerns about that.

N: Yeah, I thought he also contextualized it nicely by bookending it with the real-life footage of the Navy SEALs, and giving you a little bit of background on what you’re in for, or what you’ve just seen. Stepping back just a moment, you mentioned that you’ve worked with some of these Special Forces guys before. Is there any cool factoid or something interesting that you learned about military service, or life in the military, that normal folks like us civilians might not know?

EB: Well, obviously, you get put in a very unique position where, in some cases, you become friends with these guys, and they’re obviously going to tell you things in private that they could never reveal publicly. And that’s not necessarily from a classified information point of view, it’s just in terms of how they feel about their friendship with you, and so you get to hear stories that most definitely put things into a very clear perspective, and make you think very differently about the level to which behaviors are questioned and rules are made and so forth. So it does, most definitely, open your eyes to a lot of things.

N: Looking towards the future, I know that you have a film, Beware the Night, coming up next. Is there anything else you can tell us about that, or anything coming up on the horizon that we can look forward to?

EB: Besides Beware the Night? No, I was here shooting that this summer, and it’s been brought forward to summer of 2014, so that will be the next film out there for me, so I’m just reading a bunch of scripts now to try and work out what to do next. So beyond Beware the Night, who knows? [chuckles]

N: [laughs] Well, that’s nice too, to not have everything set in stone. A world of potential unfolding before you.

EB: Yeah, right. That’s the best thing about the job.

N: Exactly. I’ve just got one last question for you, and it’s a bit of an odd ball, so please bear with me. What would be inside your ideal burrito?

EB: Wow.

N: Yeah. The question you’ve been waiting for.

EB: I couldn’t even begin to think of a good answer to that. [chuckles] They’re not very common down under. We’re not big on burritos, so I guess as long as it was tasty, I couldn’t tell ya.

N: That’s all you can really ask for at the end of the day.

EB: [chuckles]

N: Eric, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate it, again. I really enjoyed the film.

EB: Great, thank you. Appreciate it.