CS Interview: The cast and crew of Timmy Failure from the red carpet premiere!
Disney held the world premiere of the upcoming film adaptation of the children’s book series Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, and ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to attend the premiere and chat with some of the cast and crew of the project, including author and co-writer Stephan Pastis!
The film is set in Portland, Oregon, which production designer Phillip Messina found a lot of love in as he found himself coming across numerous locations from a certain Fred Armisen-Carrie Brownstein series.
“I remember a couple of times we were out scouting and I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, that’s the cafe from Portlandia,’ and we kept running into Portlanida locations” Messina said. “It was about not trying to make a caricature or make fun of the city, it was about embracing the weirdness of it — with a small w — but not mocking it. We really tried to play a lot with scale of seeing things through Timmy’s eyes, like what does he see? It’s all from Timmy’s point of view, and we had to make a stuffed animal of Total at the beginning. We needed something to visualize what this thing is, seeing this giant stuffed polar bear and this little child together. I had been to Portland years ago and fell in love with the city, I told my wife, ‘Let’s just move to Portland, enjoy the lifestyle, all of it,’ it was fantastic.”
When describing the novel’s journey from the paperback pages to the big screen, Pastis credits much of the smooth transition to his cast “effecting” his vision in live-action and the struggles in bringing “what you call an unreliable narrator” to life in the form of the titular child detective.
“When you write a line in the book, hopefully it’s funny, but when Wally [Shawn] says the line, it gets that much funnier,” Pastis said. “It’s sort of an enhancement on what you can do and then you see what actors can do and you write to that. There were days we’d change dialogue and we’d change it based on their senses, they were all great. In the book, I can get away with an unreliable narrator because he’s talking to you the entire time and you realize quickly he’s not seeing what other people see. In the movie, it can be a little harder because you have to establish that point of view, so when you go to the flashaways, it has to be clear it’s only in Timmy’s head, which we generally achieved by coming in tight on Timmy with the music and you realize it’s all in his head, but that’s a big leap. ”
Stepping into the shoes of an unreliable narrator is already tough enough for an adult performer, but for star Winslow Fegley, it was a “very fun” way to make his feature acting debut, including getting to explore the “very hot” but “really awesome” city of Portland.
“Timmy has such a big imagination, it was very fun exploring what the boundaries were and how far I could stretch them,” Fegley said. “It was very fun playing Timmy, he’s a little different than me, but then again we have our similarities, but it was so fun portraying him and getting to be a part of this film. Portland was just so different than everything else, it’s such a unique city. There’s a lot of hipsters and things, but it was so great and it was so great being there.”
Fegley’s younger co-stars all found a lot of joy getting to know one another on set and getting to be a part of a project form the House of Mouse, with Kei, who portrays Timmy’s best friend Rollo, saying “that a couple of cups in my house broke” as he jumped around with anticipation upon finding out the film would stream on Disney+.
“I was very excited, because I binge-watched the whole Mandalorian series, so I was very excited that you could watch this movie anywhere,” Kei said. “I grew up with Disney and watching Disney almost every day.”
“The crew and cast were one of the best crew and cast I could’ve ever asked for,” Ruby Matenko said. “The kids were so nice, it was so awesome going to play in the pool with them after we filmed. Tom McCarthy and Stephan Pastis were so guiding and awesome to work with and get to know. It was fun to play the antagonist because my character is weird and quirky and it was fun to play the question in the movie of ‘Did she kill the class hamster or not?’ I think I’ll just leave it up to interpretation.”
“Everybody on Timmy Failure was really sweet and every time I go to a new movie, I’ll always remember the family I made in this,” Chloe Coleman said. “Timmy Failure was the very first movie I’ve ever done and I was really nervous, but they really made me feel at home. This is also the first Disney project that I’ve been in and I grew up watching Disney, so to be able to be in it and be on Disney+, I’m so honored and so grateful, it’s exciting.”
In addition to starring a group of sure to be young up-and-comers, the film features an adult ensemble cast led by Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocketman) and Kyle Bornheimer (Marriage Story, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), the former who found herself drawn to the script for its themes of imagination and creative freedom, along with adding further to her variety of genre roles from the past few years.
“I was moved by the script, as soon as I read it, I thought that this was a beautiful film,” Lovibond said. “The imagination in it and the creativity, the messages of ‘Never contain someone’s imagination,’ it’s the kindest thing you can do for a child. I hope audiences get the message that there’s not such thing as normal and that if everyone tried to be “normal,” they’d be in such a tedious spin. Variety is really fun to play, I’ve done a lot of theater recently and people think, ‘Oh no, that’s not worth it,’ but the more diversity I have the more I find it to be satisfying.”
Bornheimer, who has found a hot streak with major roles on the acclaimed sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Netflix’s Oscar-nominated Marriage Story and HBO’s new Avenue 5, enjoys seeing all his projects come out at once and noticing billboards for work as it “makes you feel sort of good and honored” and that his biggest draw for Timmy Failure came a lot in its Oscar-winning co-writer/director.
“Tom McCarthy was a big draw, I really wanted to work with him and I was really excited with what he was going to do with this,” Bornheimer said. “He’s worked in a lot of different genres, and this was something he had not stepped into, but I was very confident that the fact he was doing it I was going to have a lot of fun. With the character of Crispin, I love playing sweet doofuses who mean well don’t often execute their plan well, it’s a really fun thing to play. I knew it was going to be done in a way that was going to surprise me just as much as anyone else, because that’s what Tom does. He has a very unique and expert touch on how to handle character and tone, so it was very fun to step into that and trust him and go where I was told.”
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made follows the hilarious exploits of our quirky, deadpan hero, Timmy Failure, who, along with his 1,500-pound polar bear partner Total, operates Total Failure Inc., a Portland detective agency. An elementary school oddball, the clueless but confident Timmy must navigate the world of adults around him, including his overburdened mother, her well-meaning boyfriend, his teacher/nemesis and a school-mandated guidance counselor, all in his quest to become the best detective in the world.
Joining Fegley in his feature acting debut and first lead role are Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy) as Patty Failure, Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine, Dolittle), Bornheimer (Marriage Story), Coleman (Big Little Lies) and Wallace Shawn (Toy Story, Young Sheldon).
The film is directed by Oscar winner Tom McCarthy (Up, Spotlight) from a screenplay co-written by Pastis and McCarthy. The producers are Jim Whitaker, p.g.a., and Tom McCarthy, p.g.a., with Michael Bederman and Kate Churchill serving as executive producers.
The novel was first published in 2013 by Candlewick Press. Since then, it was followed by six book installments titled Now Look What You’ve Done (2014), We Meet Again (2014), Sanitized For Your Protection (2015), The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (2016), The Cat Stole My Pants (2017) and It’s The End When I Say It’s The End (2018).