Best known as the narcissistic Dennis Reynolds on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Glenn Howerton made his first venture into producing features with The Wilderness Of James. The film, which was written and directed by Michael Johnson, premiered this year at South By Southwest and did not disappoint. Between an interesting story and an excellent performance from lead Kodi Smit-McPhee, it was one of my favorites at the festival.
Anyone familiar with my It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia reviews knows that I’m a firm believer in the fact that it’s one of the funniest, wittiest comedies on television right now. Howerton is an executive producer on that show and has written some of its best episodes, so I’m always interested to see what else he’s working on.
While I was at SXSW, I had the chance to sit down with the Always Sunny star for a chat about his new film. We spoke about what drew him to the project, how he chose the cast, what he’s producing next and much more.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
WGTC: So I just watched the movie a few hours ago.
Howerton: Oh you did? Great!
WGTC: Yeah, really enjoyed it. It’s an interesting movie.
Howerton: Thank you!
WGTC: What was it about the script that first appealed to you?
Howerton: Well, the director Michael and I have been friends for a very long time and I knew that he was a director. We were friends not through the business, but because we both live in Venice. We never really talked about business, but every once in a while he would send me something and be like, “Hey, I just worked on this thing.” He’d send me a music video he shot or a commercial that he shot, and I was like, “Yeah, this guy’s really talented!” So one day I asked him, I said, “Hey, do you want to do features? Do you have any interest in doing things outside of commercials and music videos?” He said, “Yeah, I’ve been tinkering with this script for a little while, eventually I’d love to do features.” So I said, “Send it to me. I’d love to see it.”
He sent me this script and I was blown away. It was one of the best scripts I’d read in a really long time and it just happened to be written by a buddy of mine. Having coming from producing television and stuff like that, I’d been wanting to produce a feature for a while, I just hadn’t found anything that really interested me. I basically said “I want to help you get this made.”
I think what drew me to it was, and what I still feel like is such a big part of this movie and why I love it so much, is it really puts you in the shoes of this kid. I feel every time I read the script, and I still do every time I watch the movie, I feel the way I felt when I was his age. There have been any number of coming-of-age stories that have been told many times on film, but never one that quite makes me feel personally the way this one makes me feel. I just feel like I’m living the life of this kid, and what it felt like to have such big feelings. Everything was new, everything was fresh. Everything just meant so much and everything was so important. Everything was poetry. That’s what I love about this movie.
WGTC: Obviously with this kind of movie, most of the weight is on the lead’s shoulders. How’d you guys land on Kodi for that?
Howerton: Interestingly enough, Michael and I had both separately seen other movies that Kodi had been in and were very impressed by them. At first we were like, “How are we going to find this kid?” And what we first wanted to do was to find a kid from Portland who wasn’t even an actor and draw some amazing performance out of some kid that was just real. Some kid that was real, real, real. The more we thought about it, we realized that because this kid had to anchor this movie, we really wanted to get a great performance. And because it was Michael’s first movie as a director, we thought, “You know what? Why don’t we take as many of the unknown factors out of it. As many as we possibly can.”
Kodi was one of the first people we brought up. We had both seen him in The Road and we had both recently seen him in Let Me In. He just has that thing. That thing that movie stars have. So we met with him and pleaded with him to do the movie because we loved him so much. It’s a real testament to him where I think he could easily be a movie star, and it’s not to say that he doesn’t want to make lots of money and do big movies and things like that, it’s just that he really is driven to do things because he loves the material. And when he read it, he really loved it.
He’s nothing like that character in real life, which also really impressed me. He’s much more outgoing. He does music and he’s a rapper and he’s a very boisterous kid, but he plays this kind of character so well. We couldn’t think of anybody we wanted as much as him, and luckily we got him.