Exclusive: Fred Durst, Rocker Turned Filmmaker

There comes a point in some interviews when you wonder whether you just asked the wrong question and everything’s going to go downhill, and when ComingSoon.net talked with musician and filmmaker Fred Durst, it was when we made a couple of jokes about his reputation as the frontman for metal band Limp Bizkit and how odd it was for him to be making a family-friendly movie like The Longshots.

The real-life football drama reunites Durst with once-rapper Ice Cube who Limp Bizkit toured with in 1998 during the intentionally ironically-titled “Family Values Tour.” Now they’re making warm and cuddly PG movies together like this one, which stars Cube as a down-and-out football player asked to watch over his niece Jasmine, played by Keke Palmer of Akeelah and the Bee, whom he teaches to play football to the point where she’s good enough to be quarterback for the local high school team, taking them to the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

Fortunately, things quickly recovered after our jokes bombed, but it’s obvious that Durst, once the scourge of the rock world with his controversial lyrics and antics, is very serious about his career as a filmmaker and that he isn’t too appreciative about people (i.e. journalists) making jokes or presumptions about his intentions considering his notorious past. Maybe after people see this or his first movie The Education of Charlie Banks, which won an award at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, they’ll finally be able to separate “Fred Durst, Filmmaker” from “Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit.”

ComingSoon.net: The audience last night seemed to be really into the movie. I went in to see it without really having heard very much about it beforehand.
Fred Durst: Yeah, and it was also a work-in-progress. I was wondering how that was going to go.

CS: It was all temp music what we saw last night, though, right?
Durst: Yeah, it was all temp and even the look of the film… there’s even scenes in there that won’t be in the movie.

CS: Oh, wow… well I’ll have to try to see the final movie then, I guess. I’m sure that eight years ago very few people could imagine you making a heart-warming family-friendly sports movie, so how did you end up making this after “Charlie Banks”?
Durst: Well, I was given the script to read, and I really thought it had a lot of heart in it, very inspiring and a really sweet story. I was jazzed at becoming an uncle, and the fact that Ice Cube was attached and it was a lot different then “Are We There Yet?,” he was playing more of a straight dramatic character, I was really drawn to the material. I just took the meeting from there and was eventually hired as the filmmaker.

CS: So Ice Cube was already attached to the movie at that point? Did you call him up and talk to him about it after reading the script?
Durst: Yeah, we set up a meeting and I went up to his office and we hung out a little bit, talked about the film. He really liked “The Education of Charlie Banks” and said he wanted to do something different, and I said, “Well, that’s great, because I’d love to do something different with you.” This movie has a lot of heart and that’s the kind of the way we took it. Our chemistry together was really good and he trusted me as a director, and I think the guy’s insanely talented.

CS: You directed music videos for a while, so did you ever work with him in that capacity?
Durst: No, we never worked in music videos. We did tour together with Korn back in the “Family Values” days, the first “Family Values” tour, but that was about it though.

CS: Oh, cool, and I guess back then you probably didn’t realize you’d do a movie together even though I guess he was already acting. What was the main thing that got you interested? Was it the fact that it was a sports story or just that it was based on a true story?
Durst: Yeah, it was the heart, it was the story, it was what Jasmine Plummer went through and what she was missing in her life and how she gained perspective. Sports to me was always the backdrop of the story, and I like football and it just fell into place. There’s a lot of different reasons why I liked the story, but I definitely loved it because it’s very sweet and heartfelt and fun. And something I want to give my kids, a substantial family film, and not just one they can only appreciate when they’re just six years old.

CS: I always thought the title of the “Family Values Tour” was meant to be ironic, so was that not the case?
Durst: Yeah, yeah, well that was one of the reasons we called it that.

CS: Since this was based on a true story, did you want to talk to a lot of the original people before starting on it or was everything you needed in the script?
Durst: It was based on a true story, which it is true that Jasmine Plummer was the first girl to play Pop Warner football as a quarterback and take them to the Super Bowl, and a lot of the other stuff, we didn’t live it and it is someone else’s story, so we had to fill in the gaps and make it a movie. We did the best we could to recreate the most realistic story and made it enjoyable for everybody, and it kind of just developed and evolved from the seed to the actual film.

CS: Going back to the original story of Jasmine, when did it originally take place?
Durst: I don’t know. I think it was in 2003 or 2002, wasn’t that long ago. We had to fill in the gaps because we didn’t live it and nobody documented it, so we had to create a story and make it come to life, but we tried to keep it as true to what we found out from Jasmine as we could.

CS: At what stage was it when you came on board? Had Doug already worked on it or did he join when you did?
Durst: Yeah, there was already a script, so with that initial script, me and the writers and producers, we all worked together to keep getting the script as good as we could before went to go make it. That’s the number one thing, it’s gotta be on the page. You have to have a script that’s great before you go make it, and so we worked on the script for quite a while actually.

CS: The movie seemed to come out of nowhere because I remember hearing about it in maybe February, just after Ice Cube’s last movie. Was this something that really came together that fast or was it just something that was kept under the radar?
Durst: No, we were already filming in February. We did preproduction last year, we worked on it all last summer. We’ve been working on it for a while. It just doesn’t seem like that unless they make a news blast or something about it or put it in “The Hollywood Reporter” or “Variety,” you don’t really know about when things start. For this case here, I think I’m hoping for people to see the film and react to it and discover that I directed it, as opposed to marketing and pushing the fact that I directed it and expecting that could become an obstacle. It’s such a different type of movie then I’d guess people would expect me to make.

CS: I missed “Charlie Banks” at Tribeca, but I was told that it was also very different than some might expect coming from you. Do you find people are having a hard time separating Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit with the director and actor?
Durst: It’s a little bit difficult and as I move forward in my life, it’ll probably become easier, but I think that’s there to stay. I think I had such an impact with the music and Limp Bizkit that it’s going to be hard to ignore that, so I just like the art to speak for itself here, and kind of let it go that way. I’m just going to have to deal with it the best I can, and I’m just glad that you had a chance to see the movie and respond to it and react to it. I think it’s interesting that people feel that it’s so bizarre that I’m capable of making a very sweet, heartfelt family movie. I mean, I guess I don’t know why that’s so hard to comprehend.

CS: But most people, if they look inward, will realize that they themselves are not just one thing, but it’s still hard for them to do that for other people, which is just a part of the entertainment business unfortunately. Were you a fan of sports movies yourself? I was curious if you went back and watched any specifically before starting on this.
Durst: I love “Hoosiers,” I love “Rudy” and I love the first “Longest Yard,” the first “Bad News Bears,” I love “Rocky.” I do like sports movies but I like it when there’s a story there where sports can just be there but it’s not gratuitous, there’s some throughline, some story or some human condition that I can identify with. That’s what I like about sports movie that I like.

CS: Did you go back and rewatch some of them for structure or tone or just to see what worked?
Durst: Yeah, for this movie, I really focused on “Hoosiers” and “Rudy” as my inspirations. You just watch them and the feeling it gives you, just how classic they are and how timeless and how they provoke an emotional reaction in me. I just wanted to make sure we had a lot of heart in this movie and it wasn’t just a throwaway movie for kids.

CS: Was Dimension involved the entire time that you were making the movie or did they come on board later?
Durst: No, they were involved the entire time. This was Bob Weinstein all the way. They had acquired the rights to the Jasmine Plummer story and they were already deep into it before I got involved.

CS: How was this a different experience for you than doing “Charlie Banks” which was made independently?
Durst: It was really interesting. The Weinsteins really know what they’re doing. They’re really focused and they’re very serious about film and they’re also serious about being successful. It was a big collaboration, and we didn’t have a whole bunch of time or money to get this done, but we got it done and we made it work, and it’s really worth it, I think.

CS: As far as Keke, she had done “Akeelah and the Bee” which I assume is where Cube saw here, but how did you prepare her to learn and play football and do some of those rough scenes?
Durst: She had never played football before, so this guy named Pastor Denny Durant, he’s been responsible for training a lot of kids that grow up to be quarterbacks. Some of them have been NFL quarterbacks, some of them have been college. We had him come in and help us get Keke acclimated to some of the technical stuff and fundamentals of football and being a quarterback, and he was very helpful. She was very quick at learning these things, plus it’s about a girl playing Pop Warner football, so she can’t be a professional, she can’t have technique of a professional, but she can have the natural ability to have that thing that lets us know she’s got it, and that’s what we wanted, and she was very serious about learning it and she was training all the time, and it shows on the screen.

CS: Did Keke’s mother have any problems with any of the stuff she had to do?
Durst: She was supportive the whole time. (Keke) is very athletic, and she was just rockin’ away, she loved it.

CS: And what’s going on with “Charlie Banks”? I know Anchor Bay picked it up, so any idea when they’re going to release it?
Durst: It’s supposed to be this fall. Hopefully they’ll realize “Longshots” is a good opportunity to get “Charlie Banks” out there. They’re just finalizing the film now and replacing the music we used for Tribeca with other music they can afford, and it’s about to come out soon. I’m real excited for that; I really liked that movie.

CS: Speaking of which, I was interested in the music for this movie. I assume you and Cube have really tight connections in the music industry, so did that make it easier to get some of the music for this? I know I heard some Kanye in the temp music and other stuff like that, so were you able to use that?
Durst: Everything costs money, man. A lot of it was original score and composition and sometimes you’ve gotta do what you gotta do with the music and stuff’s put in there to give you an idea for the feel, so until the last moment, we continue to strive for what works best in the spot and that’s what we did. For the most part, most of it’s scored. The Kanye song is in there but we did use the Fort Minor song.

CS: You now have two movies under your belt, which are going to be released out of order, which is a strange trend these days, but are you looking to develop your own movies and scripts to direct?
Durst: Yeah, I’m really excited to get my own voice out there with my own material and that’s something I’m definitely working towards as a filmmaker.

CS: Is there anything you’re working on now?
Durst: Yeah, I mean I’m constantly writing and cataloguing things and I have an arsenal of music and scripts and different projects that I’m just moving forward and evolving and to find someone who can hopefully get this made and get an umbrella so I can put all these things under in my own company.

CS: How are things going with the music? Have you been able to work on some of that simultaneously with making these movies?
Durst: Nah, I’m always making music. I’m making music every day. I’m in my studio and there’s always time, and I’ll drop some music when people least expect it. Music will never leave me, it’s something I like to do.

CS: You’ve also been able to do some acting in between everything else.
Durst: Yeah, I had a good time. I just acted in a movie called “Play Dead” where I played this idiot savant, kind of like Billy Bob Thornton in “A Simple Plan” and I did it with Chris Klein and Jason Wiles directed it, and I did another movie that’s out on DVD called “Population 436.” It’s fun to play characters. I don’t really aspire to be an actor, but if I do act, I like to play characters that aren’t like myself.

The Longshots opens nationwide on Friday, August 22.

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