The Couch Boys Interview Olivia Wilde, Beanie Feldstein, and Kaitlyn Dever: Director and cast of ‘Booksmart’

Courtesy of Noah Barnes

By Brennan Atkins
Asst. Arts & Features Editor

By Noah Barnes
Entertainment Correspondent

[Editor’s Note: Olivia Wilde directed, “Booksmart,” featuring Beanie Feldstein as Molly, and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy. “Booksmart” is a comedy about two high school girls that always thought they were ahead of everyone else because they didn’t party and focused on studying instead. They eventually became aware of the fact that everyone else in their class is also going to equally prestigious schools. This causes them to rally up for one last night of partying. Gatepost staff members Brennan Atkins and Noah Barnes were invited to particpate in a free screening and Q&A following the film.]

Q: You mentioned you only had 26 days to shoot the film – I was wondering what the pre-production process was?

Olivia Wilde (OW): Well, you know, the most important partner for a director beyond the cast, producer, and their support system is their AD (assistant director). I had the best AD in the business. … And he acknowledged the challenge of the 26-day shoot. He asked me if I was discouraged or terrified, and I said, “Nope, I know we can do it. We are going to ask a lot of actors though, and we’re going to have to really prepare.” And he ensured that I had sufficient time with each actor to rehearse, because I knew once we got on set that we would not have the necessary time to have those conversations. So, it was about carving out time in pre-production to spend time with the cast. It was about scouting several times – I went to each location three times. I rehearsed on location with the cast when possible, which was also really, really helpful. I basically had the entire movie shot on the wall of the pre-production office. … I think you can prepare an enormous amount and still allow surprises, allow flexibility, and that’s such an important part of the process. You really need to make the movie before you make the movie so you know it so well so you can allow things to evolve and change because then, the performers bring a completely different energy to it.

Q: Where did the inspiration come from for the film?

OW: My dream was to make something – to make a generational anthem. I was inspired by movies like “The Breakfast Club,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Clueless,” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” so that had always been a dream for me. I was always wondering, “Where’s my ‘Breakfast Club?’” and I didn’t know how that would come into my life. I then read an original draft of the script and I thought, “Oh it’s in here. It’s inside this story. But it needs to be updated to fit this generation, to honor this generation and how evolved they are.”

Q: I think one of the funniest things in the movie is that realization that some of us have that’s like, “Are we the a**holes?” Is that something you wanted to explore in this movie?

OW: Absolutely! I think our greatest goal was to kind of question the judgment we are all guilty of at that age, and it’s natural. High school is a war. The stakes are very high and it becomes challenging not to put people in categories, because you’re doing it to feel safe. You’re doing it to understand the structure. So, when it becomes “Lord of the Flies,” and you’re trying really hard to protect yourself emotionally and to survive an intense environment, we’re all guilty of judging people. I – certainly as an adolescent – decided, well, “That person must be mean, and that person has it out for me,” just to organize society in a way that made sense, but of course, if we are categorizing others, we are doing it to ourselves. I think this is something people realize in their 30s – everyone is complicated. Everyone is dealing with pain and challenges of their own, and it’s probably not about you. … To answer your question, yes, that idea of maybe we are constructing this paradigm ourselves and it’s not actually the people around us.

Q: Did the acting come naturally, as you’re around the age of the characters?

Beanie Feldstein: Well, Kaitlyn and I lived together when we were shooting the film, and so by the time we were shooting the film, we were just in each other’s lap, sharing food, like there was so much trust there, and so much love there that I feel like we just layered Molly and Amy on top of this foundation that we created. But as far as my character, Molly, she didn’t actually come that easily to me. I felt really intimidated by her – I think I was really curious, as I’ve always played the supporting character that makes a joke, then leaves, and they don’t continue on in the story, and so I was really intimidated to kind of be on the two-person journey where the two of us are the story, and we are taking the story forward. Anytime I got scared, I would just look at Kaitlyn and I would feel better.

Kaitlyn Dever: It was really nice to have Beanie’s hand to hold throughout the whole process because, again, we had never led a film before, and that’s super scary. I think it’s always amazing to have that best friend to go through something scary with. You also can’t fake chemistry, I think, so it was very easy to love Beanie. I think it was about doing normal, real-life things together. … It was all about me and Beanie, going to get breakfast together, going to get gas together, and listening to music.

Q: How did you find that chemistry?

OW: First of all, kind of amazing. I had a sense that they would have perfect chemistry, and I assured the studio that they would have perfect chemistry and that we should make these offers and do this. Kaitlyn was already on the project and it was the most exciting news to hear that Beanie would be joining in as well. The moment right before they met, I realized that they never met. I was like, “Oh my God, what if they don’t like each other?” and instead, they met and hugged for what seemed like forever and held hands throughout the rest of the day.

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