The cast and crew of the new teen sex romp 21 and Over is truly getting the party started on location at Temple Billiards on South Jackson Street in Seattle, Washington. The re-dressed University of Washington dive bar is playing host to the production, and if all goes well on the tech end, it could become a future destination for filmgoers who want to see where one of the best vomit scenes was shot.
But wait, let's back up a sec. The movie is the directorial debut of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the screenwriters behind the mammoth hit The Hangover, although for our set visit we happened to arrive on the day Lucas was flying solo. He's helming a splinter unit while his longtime writing partner (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Four Christmases) shoots a different scene across town.
The bar is adorned with animal heads (moose, goat, wild boar), a DJ booth, and dozens of attractive young 20-somethings, but the cameras are pointed squarely at Miles Teller and Skylar Astin as they react to something that hasn't been shot yet.
"Oh f**k, oh my god, holy s**t!" Teller shouts.
While the shot is played back "quasi slow," Teller asks his director: "Jon, are we gonna do that one again in the wide? I feel like it needs a little more time to grow organically."
It's so dark in the bar that the script girl is wearing a miner's light. They do another take, and Teller points and yells, "Dude, that's awesome!" before recoiling in horror. After Lucas yells cut, the sarcastic young actor says, "Ten seconds, baby, ten seconds of f**kin' gold!"
"I'm the instigator, for sure," says Teller, who made a splash last year in the other teen raunch-fest Project X. "My character is an *sshole in the sense that he loves these guys and he's realizing that the party's almost over. Casey's characterÖ I mean, he's wearing a sweater and a tie, party's over. He's looking at internships and stuff like that. The one thing I really have in my life is my friendships. We don't see each other as much so I'm always planning events and this and that. If being an *sshole means I'm trying to ensure we have the best night of our lives, you can call me an asshole. Maybe I don't think about repercussions and consequences, live in the moment, and that means we get branded and various precarious situations. It's all for the sake of having fun and making memories."
For now those memories being crafted include an energetic session on a mechanical buffalo, ridden by the third part of the friendship equation Jeff Chang, played by Justin Chon from the "Twilight" movies. He rides it for the whole minute-long take, then as soon as Jon yells "cut" Chon falls off the buffalo and onto the floor covered in black crash pads. The background extras cheer like mad and let out a "Ooooooh" when he falls.
The bar is filled with thick smoke. There is yelling across the set: "Jon, is he puking on this one?" "NO PUKING," comes a loud reply. A cameraman asks me if I'm from the humane society watching out for the buffalo.
"It's definitely about male friendships," confirms Astin, as if we needed to be told. "Essentially what happens is Miller and Casey, Miles' and my characters, drive up to Pacific Northern University to take his buddy Jeff Chang out for his 21st birthday. When we get there there's a big bomb dropped on us that he actually has a very important, pivotal meeting the following morning and he can't go out. My character understands this, Miller doesn't, and we agree to go out for one drink, and one drink turns into the most epic night ever. Basically, our characters are just trying to get him home, to find him on this huge campus."
21 and Over will take its place among the sub-genre of "one crazy night" teen comedies that seem to be a generational rite of cinematic passage, including American Graffiti, Sixteen Candles and Superbad.
"I think it's true to the genre and the age demographic," says Astin (Hamlet 2). "I know growing up I've had one crazy night, I've watched those movies and been like, 'Wow, that's a crazy night!' (laughs) Those movies, the ones that are successful like 'Superbad' and 'Sixteen Candles,' are ones that are grounded in truth and there's actually a level of heart there. The thing is these are real people genuinely reacting to unreal circumstances. That's what makes that funny."
Teller is similarly inclined to Astin in his style of grounding even the most ridiculous moment.
"Audiences are smart," he says, optimistically. "I don't think you want to play to a dumb audience. You don't have to hit the joke over the head, you don't have to be winking at the camera. The more believable you make a situation, the more an audience can relate to it. We did a scene where Jeff Chang is driving and he's drunk, swerving and missing people. If we're playing like, 'OH MY GOD!' that's not funny. If we play it like I feel like I'm about to die, 'This is f**kin' terrible, you need to pull over,' that's funny. When you see pure terror in someone's eyes that's funny. Terror with a comedy spin doesn't work."
Or, to put it a different way, Chon breaks it down far more simply.
"It's a bunch of dudes making a f**king movie!" Chon exclaims. "All of my messing around as a teenager, all my experiences were just for this movie."
Chon has a tube device running up his back that will spit out the movie puke sauce. They cover him with black plastic to "test the puke level." Lucas shouts, "Let's see some vomit! Fire in the hole!" The machine hurls a burst of white vomit, which is just a protein shake and some rice. Chon drinks a plastic cup of the concoction, and they spend 15-minutes resetting, adding a new tube and shirt, wiping hurl off the buffalo hair.
The second take gave The Exorcist a run for its money, but it was something of a disaster for the camera department. The third camera missed the puke entirely and the lens got soaked, which may cost twenty grand. It was shot at 60-frames-per-second on the Arri Alexa, and the playback, despite the snafu, looks glorious, and apparently it's just the tip of the iceberg.
"This thing we're filming right now, this little montage, happens within the first 15-minutes of the movie," says Astin. "You get to see what makes Jeff Chang get to the point where he is throughout the movie, and I think itís the funniest montage I will ever see. It starts with us shotgunning beers, goes on to body shots, then weirder shots, goes on to moments where he has no clothes. We shot a scene yesterday where he's peeing on a bunch of people. It's ridiculous."
"What happens is there's a point where they lose me, and I just go buck wild," says Chon. "There's not a long period, its spaced out enough that I'm still in the movie, and all you need to see are those little snippets."
If that sounds a little similar to The Hangover, it's probably not a coincidence, but the writer of that and this movie is happy to differentiate between the two.
"That was definitely Todd's movie, Todd Phillips did a great job with that," Lucas says diplomatically. "We were happy to be part of that but that was very much his flavor, and this is our first directing gig. It's going to be more of an expression of who we are. Our comedy comes from a slightly different place than his, and the relationships in this movie might be a little more emotional. 'The Hangover' is a great movie, I'm happy to have my name on it, but this is going for a more emotional level. I say that on the day we're shooting the scene where he vomits on a buffalo."
"The difference between this and 'The Hangover' is in that movie they're showing you the hangover, but in this we show you the night," confirms Astin. "You're not gonna get little snapshots, you're gonna see what happens almost in real time and itís a blast. We're re-enacting the craziest night ever, and itís a great responsibility and itís a pleasure."
That pleasure apparently extended beyond the day-to-day of making the film.
"The stronger we build the camaraderie and our friendship in real life between me, Miles, and Skylar the more it shows on screen," revealed Chon. "It's just natural, it's just a fact. It's good just to get to know them more, and we have a good time. Seattle's a great city to have drinks, so we've done a lot of partying, yeah.
"A week-and-a-half before we got here we all did some stunt training thing and then afterwards we were like, 'Well, we're together, do you wanna go do some 'research,' have a drink at the bar?' We got to the bar at 3 o'clock, the bar didn't open until 4. We're like, 'Screw it,' went to the liquor store, bought some beer, waited in the parking lot. Bar opened at 4, I think we were there until 10 or 11 at night. We played beer pong, it was bad. It was pretty much like this movie, we got pretty wasted."
As for the long-term friendship between Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, 21 and Over could be the end or a new beginning for the two of them as they take a huge leap into making their own movies.
"It's a two-man job," says Lucas. "This is my first day on my own, I hope I don't look like I'm totally underwater over there. It's all about the slow-mo thing today, so itís a slow process, as you saw. Doing it all myself is really hard. I think I'm a good half-director, I'm not sure I'm even close to a good full director. Keeping track of performances and jokes, and I usually throw alts to the guys, and Scott's keeping track of all these technical things and shot lists I'm not very good at. Together it's workingÖ for now. We sorta went into this thinking this was going to bring us closer together or destroy our writing friendship. So far so good."