Interview with Actor/Director Matthew Lillard About New Film 'Fat Kid Rules the World'

Photo Credit: Photo by David Livingston – © 2012 Getty Images – Image courtesy
September 14th, 2012

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with one of Hollywood’s great actors, Matthew Lillard, about his new film which he directed called Fat Kid Rules the World.  Matt tells me all about the film and working with Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready.

Nick-  I am here talking with Matthew Lillard who is known by audiences world wide for his roles in dozens of movies including Scream,The Scooby Doo Movies, Hackers, and in 2011 alone he acted in several huge films including The Descendents.  The movie we are here to talk about though is the new film that he directed called Fat Kid Rules the World.

How are you doing today Matt? How’s life out in the sunshine of California?

Matt-  Good. California is very warm today, that’s for sure.

Nick-  Well let’s talk about your new film Fat Kid Rules the World.  I just got done watching it a little bit ago, but can you give our audience a quick rundown of what the movies all about?

Matt- Yeah. It’s about an obese teenager named Troy who’s kind of at the end of his ropes, and he’s about to jump in front of a bus, and right before he does this guitar street urchin named Marcus stops him.  Marcus says to him we should start a band, and it’s about this fat kid who finds punk rock music and it saves his life.

Nick- I thought the film was really great and I liked how it was set in Seattle.  I enjoyed the street and club scenes a lot. 

You directed a short film in 2009, but other than that you’ve always been in front of the camera;why did you decide to direct this film?

Matt- I recorded the book on tape, and twenty pages into the book I just had this kind of emotional experience with the story.  I picked up the phone and called the author and said I wanted to make it into a movie; I think I did because I saw myself reflected in the hero of the book.  The movie is about anyone who feels like their on the outside and lost.  I felt like that in high school so I identified with the kid.  I just felt like it was a story worth telling.  I was also in a movie called SLC Punk! and I know that the impact that that movies had on that kind of subculture of kids in high school, and so I wanted to make another movie akin to that. 

Nick- Do you feel that your vision of the story came across in the film?

Matt- Yeah, I mean that’s for sure without a doubt.  Ten years ago I optioned the book, and have been working on getting it going for a long time. I finally got it there and as a director the good thing, for better or for worse, is that it’s your vision and you’re guiding a collection of artists to try to put together what you see as the best way, or at least your way, of telling the story. So yeah, everything in the movie I take responsibility for, for better or for worse. I love the movie, super proud of it, and I think that people really are responding in a great way.  Yes I definitely think it represents what I wanted to do.

Nick- I think you did a really great job as a director.  I liked how throughout the film the main character Troy has some serious fantasy’s going on about the typical teenage things like death, sexual desires, and things like that, and I think you did a good job at capturing the mind of young kid. Do you feel that this was more to show his way of thinking or his lack of acting on his desires? The way you did it also contrasts well with the character of Marcus because he seems to act out all his desires, and not hold anything back; which leads him into trouble.

Matt- Yeah, and K.L. Going uses these fantasy sequences a lot in the book.  I thought it was a great way to kind of see what he was feeling, and the world that he was living in.  It’s definitely an inner monologue and a lot of them are used for comedy, a lot of them are funny, and I think there’s humor in tragedy.  There a little messed up and dark at times, but really useful.  I think that if you see it in an audience they play really well.  You get to look into his world and laugh. 

Nick- I can’t even imagine what was it like to try to get inside the mind of teenagers today.

Matt- Well it’s not hard you just remember what it was like when you were a teenager.

Nick- And just a few more pieces of technology right?

Matt- Yeah exactly.  Just some more screens.

Nick- One huge part of the film, which I really enjoyed, was the music. It plays a major part in this film, and you had one of my favorite guitarists, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, score the film with songs like "Sock Hop" and "Disconnect" .  What brought Mike to the project?  How well did you guys collaborate on getting the best music for the film?

Matt- Well in the film there’s two elements of the music; Sandy Wilson and Light in the Attic Records was our music supervisor, and he found needle drops all throughout the movie that were awesome.  The thing that brought the movie all together and certainly one of the key elements in the story telling was Mike McCready.  We were introduced through an agent and we sat down one day and hit it off.   To me, he was one of the best collaborators I’ve ever worked with as an artist in anyway.  He was all about the movie. Once I met him he read the book, and the script, and had these great ideas in terms of how to illuminate Troy’s journey; he was awesome.  As a first time filmmaker I made plenty of mistakes, and it’s with his work that those mistakes are relatively minute.  He helps them go away.

Nick- Are you a fan of Pearl Jam?

Matt- I have owned every Pearl Jam album since they came out.  I have been a huge Pearl Jam fan.

Nick- Me too.

Matt- The fact that he worked on the movie is ridicules.

Nick- When I read that he was going to be part of the movie I was really excited to hear the music, and he didn’t let me down.

Matt- That’s good.

Nick- Now I read that you are releasing the film independently through a kickstarter funded campaign. What brought you to this decision, and how, and when, will audiences have access to the film?

Matt- Yeah, so what we did when we didn’t get bought after we won the South by Southwest Audience Award for Spotlight Narrative, we thought for sure we would get purchased, but we never got bought.  So instead of selling our film to the lowest common denominator we decided raise money through kickstarter; we raised $158,000, and then we self-distributed the film so that any one, anywhere, in the world can see our film in the movie theater if they go to  Basically, we struck a deal with a company called Tugg which basically allows for you and your friends to see the movie in the theater, which works a little bit like Groupon, once you get a critical mass of people that pre-buy a ticket, which is anywhere between 40 and 60 people, you can have the film screened near you.  We are one of the first movies into the fray using this method, and it’s been awesome, and we’ve had over a thousand requests in the first three months of this film. 

Nick- It sounds like audiences are reacting pretty well to this film.

Matt- The movie plays, this is such a Hollywood thing to say, but the movie plays through the roof  and we’ve had incredible reviews across the board.  It’s a feel good movie, and kids love it, and it’s funny, and it’s got something to say, and in my experience when people leave the theater they are really happy, and they’ve had a great time.  The good news is that when people find it they like it, and then they tend to tell people so we’ve really started to pick up this ground swell of excitement for the film. 

Nick- That’s the way that people are going to be able to watch it right?

Matt- Yeah, and we are doing 60 to 80 independent theaters in October.  We’ll be in New York, Atlanta, LA, and there is little independent theaters all over the US that are going to screen the movie. The reality of it is that anyone at anytime can go to and can request a screening in their hometown.  It’s pretty bitchin’.  And then on top of it they make money doing it. 

Nick- Well I think that’s cool, and I think that’s going to be pretty successful, not just for your film but for a lot of films. 

Matt- Tell everyone you know bro. 

N- Matt thank you so much for talking with me.  You are a talented actor and director and I thank you so much for your time, and all of our audience will have to go check out to try to get the movie played in their hometown.

Matt- Thanks a lot.