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Knockaround Guys interviews


The guys behind...


In addition to my sit-down with Dennis Hopper, I had the pleasure of chatting with the KNOCKAROUND GUYS writing-directing-producing team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien. Lifelong friends who also wrote ROUNDERS for the big screen, Koppelman and Levien took a seat at Maggiano's and discussed the film's well-known delayed release, what it was like working with a major ensemble cast (this film stars Vin Diesel, John Malkovich, Seth Green, Barry Pepper, and Seth Green), and their future projects in the works…


How disappointed are you that this movie took so long to be released?

DL: Not disappointed at all right now. To us, this all seems great. It's getting a good release, and the actors are on the rise. We've been impatient at times, but really since January…we got a call in January saying they were going to put out the movie, but do it in a meaningful way and wait until after XXX. So, from a business standpoint we saw the soundness in it.

BK: If you would've asked us a year ago, sure it was frustrating. But if you were to ask us now, we're here...we have a movie...that's big. One benefit is that sometimes you have a movie that people don't think is going to work, and then it works.

Often times, the perception is that when a movie is delayed...there's something wrong with it.

DL: We said to the studio a while ago we said, you know, people love to talk bad about stuff that's been delayed. And they said the earmark for a movie that has problems is they don't screen it for critics, and yet they said they are going to go out and show it to everyone. So, we went with that and we've been getting a good response.

BK: We're pretty sanguine on this whole thing. We learned on ROUNDERS, a movie that we wrote, when that movie came out…half the reviews were good and half slammed it. And now that movie does really well. It has a cult following.

Talk about the casting, getting John and Dennis aboard.

DL: Well, John we got to know from ROUNDERS. He's just amazing as an actor and as a guy. We don't write roles for actors, but we did have John in mind for Teddy Deserve. Because the idea of working with him on our first movie as directors was very appealing. And we sent him the script and he said, "I'm in." It was unbelievable. And then when it was time to cast the role of Benny Chains, we needed an actor who could play an authority figure to John Malkovich. And there are not too many guys who can do this, and we were fortunate enough to get Dennis, who has that legendary status.

What was it like working with them?

BK: They're totally different in their method. Dennis is incredibly open and reactive. And with John it's really hard to understand his method, it just works. John's so imaginative, where Dennis is sort of reacting. John sort of lets his character's imagination be free. But both guys are really great to work with. John's just so intelligent, though. When he's able to focus on something, he is able to comprehend things in a way that's pretty remarkable.

Tell me about your background. How'd you guys meet?

BK: We've been like brothers since we were 14 years old. We met on a student bus tour of the American West at Kennedy Airport. I was such a geek. I had the briefcase of cassette tapes, and carried them around.

DL: Now he's got the briefcase of dvd's.

BK: We just got along great. We tried our best to get women, and ended up just talking about books, movies, whatever. We just bonded.

Are you fans of the gangster genre?

DL: Yeah. Growing up gangster and western films were our favorites. Once we got the idea that these two things could co-exist, it opened up the possibilities for this story. The idea that we could take these sons of wiseguys that wanted to get in but weren't in, with these last names that were hampering them in their growth, these were guys that we were inspired to write about….And when we got the idea that we could take them out of New York, out of their neighborhood and put them in a small Montana town where their reputations couldn't help them, that's where the movie came from.

What's next for you two?

DL: We have another project together. Set up at Dreamworks called THE STORM RETURNS. We're going to write and direct it as well. When we wrote ROUNDERS together, we created this method that works for us and it was a very natural process for us because we've known each other for so long.

How much time did you guys spend in Montana?

DL: A decent amount. We like to research when we write, and we went out there for a good period of time, drove hundreds of miles to these small towns, went into these small bars, and found out what it was like to be an outsider. They knew we weren't from there.

BK: I don't really know if they'd ever even seen a Jewish person, let alone two at the same time who were New Yorkers. It was a very strange feeling. We met the sheriff of this small town, and the deputy and that was the most nerve-racking part. Then we introduced ourselves and it was fine.

Was Vin's role in this after FAST AND THE FURIOUS?

BK: We finished this after FAST AND THE FURIOUS. He had finished most of the movie.

DL: He had done some work and he knew it was going to be well received, and then we met with him. Just meeting him, we knew he was the right guy for the part.

BK: He knew with certainty that all this fame was going to happen to him. Between Barry and Vin, they were glad to work together again (both were in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN). When we told Vin that Barry was in the movie, he was glad to hear that.

Read my interview with DENNIS HOPPER here

Knockaround Guys opens on Friday, October 11, 2002


That's about it. Both guys were great, and they have a great chemistry working right now. New Line was great, as usual. Peace, I'm outta here.

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