Interview: Son of Rambow filmmakers Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings
Known together as Hammer & Tongs, the British team of Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings (pictured, left to right), like many before (and after) them, got their foot in the door with music videos for the likes of Fatboy Slim, Blur, Supergrass and R.E.M. (They did the latter’s brilliant “Imitation of Life” clip.) Goldsmith (who produces) and Jennings (who writes and directs) graduated to movies with the daunting task of bringing Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to the screen. But their follow-up is radically different: the small-budgeted comedy Son of Rambow, follows a pair of kids in the ‘80s who, spurred on by First Blood, try to make their own version on a clunky camcorder. Rambow arrives not long after Be Kind Rewind and as a movie about three kids who did a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the ‘80s is rolling into pre-production. PW sat down with Jennings and Goldsmith – who joked about the British interpretation of the Inquirer headline “Nutter Passes Gun Law” – as they appeared at a screening of Rambow at the Philadelphia Film Festival.
Though it premiered at Sundance last year, Son of Rambow is coming out as this wave of films about people making lo-fi remakes of Hollywood fare is really taking off. Why do you think that is?
Garth Jennings: “I think it’s just one of those things. We started writing this eight years ago and we never intended to make something that was part of a scene. There were lots of people growing up in our generation who had similar experiences. If we hadn’t written [Son of Rambow] someone else would have.”
Nick Goldsmith: “Also, at its heart it’s about friendship and the possibilities when you’re a kid, when there’s no fear of consequences and anything’s possible – that wonderful innocence and naiveté we have back then. It just so happens that it all comes through the process of making a film.”
Jennings: “We were trying to capture how great it was for us to be 11 or 12 years old. We didn’t feel limited in any way. We didn’t think anything we did was stupid. It was a lovely, free, exhilarating memory. It gives you quite a lovely feeling. If it was just about them making a movie, it would be a very boring film.”
Is Son of Rambow at all autobiographical?
Jennings: “I used to make films when I was a kid and the first one was inspired by having seen First Blood. But very quickly we realized this was a mere starting point, because my actual life was not that interesting. Whereas the kid next door was a Plymouth Brethren [roughly the British equivalent of the Amish]. It felt like if you took these ideas and you moved them to that kid’s house, we could make a movie that did capture all those feelings we were trying to capture.”
When making the film, had you heard about the kids who remade Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Jennings: “Not till we were well into the scriptwriting process. But again, I wasn’t surprised to find that people wound up having similar experiences.
By choosing First Blood, were you trying to make a satirical point about kids latching onto a film that has sociopolitical themes they don’t remotely understand?
Jennings: “No, it was purely because that was my experience. It was the first film I ever saw that was not meant for my age group. I saw it and was inspired to make my first home movie with my friends. We didn’t chose First Blood because it was a great film. Rambo wasn’t like the other heroes. He just had a knife and a stick and he had to take on 200 men. It’s deeply impressive when you’re that age, especially because he was running around in a forest. It was very easy to emulate. Besides, there wasn’t an easier way to become Rambo. All you had to do was take your tie off and wrap it around your head.”
Goldsmith: “When we were kids First Blood was just a guy who was brilliant in the woods and could kill things with his bare hands and eat things that made him puke and all that stuff. The fact that it was about a Vietnam Vet and how they were not being accepted into society – that went completely over our heads.”
Jennings: “This is a country reacting against a man who represents a war they’re ashamed of – we just didn’t get that.”
Goldsmith: “He could cauterize his own wound! That’s what we got!”
Has Sly Stallone seen it?
Jennings: “He saw it in January and he loved it. He really loved it and he sent us an unbelievably lovely message. The fact that there’s a Rambo movie coming out within months of ours is ridiculous, because we started writing this eight years ago when there was no chance of there ever being another Rambo film.”
Did Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy make it easier to make Son of Rambow?
Jennings: “No, it made it worse. It was hard enough beforehand because you were doing a film with no stars. But after Hitchhiker’s – number one in five countries and technically very successful – we were proposing a film that was utterly different. That didn’t make good business sense. If we had done another film with robots that would have been fine. People weren’t concerned with the content. They were concerned with the budget. They were like, ‘Will there be lasers?’”
Goldsmith: “In a way Hitchhiker’s closed a lot of doors for financing on Son of Rambow. People see you as studio people now and you’re not taken seriously by some of the independent financiers. We thought foolishly that we’d finish Hitchhiker’s and that we’d just call someone and start Son of Rambow. We had at least a year of rejections before we got financing.”
What was the experience of making a film the size of Hitchhiker’s, especially coming off of music videos and commercials?
Jennings: “The short answer is everyone told us it would be different and we realized it wasn’t. The mechanics of making a film or telling a story is the same whether you’re doing an indie movie or a big budget movie. You’re always running out of time, there’s always something broken so you have to do something else, you’ve always trying to get that magical thing you’ve had in your head all these years onto the screen. It’s the amount of people that’s different. That’s all.”
Goldsmith and Jennings, who are very nice, will be present for tonight’s screening of Son of Rambow at 7pm at the Ritz 5. It also screens tomorrow, Saturday April 12, at 2:30pm at the Bridge.
Entry filed under: Errata.