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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 06.07.20] action thriller

The writing/directing team of Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion third feature film is as different as anything else they've done to date.

Becky stars up-and-coming talent Lulu Wilson as the titular Becky, a self-possessed 13-year-old who wants nothing more than to bond with her dad (Joel McHale) on a weekend getaway to the family's vacation home. The cabin holds some special memories for the pair and Becky sees this as an opportunity to re-connect with dad while dad sees this as his chance to break some big news to his daughter but both of their intentions are for naught when a group of escaped convicts, led by the maniacal Dominick (Kevin James). Not prepared to go down without a fight, Becky proves to be more than the convicts can handle.

Admittedly, there are some familiar beats in Becky which borrows from any number of revenge movies and even has throwbacks to Home Alone but this is not the kind of movie you share with the kids. Sure it has some fun moments but it's gruesome and violent in ways you don't want to be unpacking with your kids.

While the casting of Kevin James is certain to be a point of discussion, it's a change of pace for the actor known for comedies, the real stand out here is Wilson who continues to impress with every role.

Becky was due to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and while didn't happen, I had a chance to catch up with the directors leading up to the movie's cross country theatrical, drive-in, and VOD release on June 5.

Quiet Earth: How did you become involved with the project?

Cary Murnion (CM): We got a script from our agents and managers and who presented it to us and wanted us to pitch to direct it. We really responded to the initial idea so our pitch included some significant changes to really, develop the character of Becky, and to really fulfil the promise of a 13-year-old girl, kicking ass and getting revenge. We pitched that and the producers who owned the script agreed with us. We were able to work with writers to further develop it and get it to this point where we feel like it really delivers on that premise.

Jonathan Milott (JM): It really just stood out as something we had never seen before with all the pieces that it has in one place. You know, we've seen Home Alone, we've seen John Wick, we've seen tons of other revenge movies like Tarantino's films and one of our favourites Old Boy. So we had seen all these elements, you know, the intent to revenge with gory moments of violence, but we've never seen it from a 13-year-old girl. So that was also one of the big parts of our pitch; we really wanted to focus the perspective on Becky, for it to be from a 13-year-old girl. So in a way, we could make the movie a bit more whimsical and in our minds, really let us unload and have fun and make it a wild ride in a way that we had never seen before.

The casting of Lulu Wilson is fantastic. How did she come to be involved in the movie?

JM: Oh my God. We're really lucky to have her on board. We very specifically wanted her for the movie and almost felt like we couldn't do it without her. It takes a really mature actor to play a part like that at any age so for her to be as young as she is still really kinda grasp the character arc and the different aspects of the way it progresses in the film... it was really lucky for us because right from the first day we did a table read, she was blowing our minds and even Kevin James knew he had to step up his game.

You bring up Kevin James who is likely the most surprising casting choice of the movie. How did he become involved?

JM: It's so cool for us to see what he was able to accomplish because going into it, it was a question of whether he could pull it off. You look back at all the movies he's done and the TV shows and this is unlike anything he's ever done before. Not even close.

We worked with Joel McHale as well, and Joel had done some dramatic things and some different types of performances that aren't just comedic. We were actually talking to Simon Pegg originally for the role of Dominick and Kevin James was going to be the father but Simon Pegg had to drop out because of scheduling so Kevin threw his hat in the ring and suggested to us that he wanted to play the role and we immediately thought that that was a great idea.

You could kind of see the similarities of what we were going for with Kevin in the role: someone that is really charismatic, someone that isn't necessarily on first glance, someone you’d think of for that type of role. So we could really subvert what the audience knows of their previous roles and make it a unique project for the actor.

You're working with a new cinematographer this time around. Was it easy to find a rhythm and style working with someone new?

JM: Yeah. We love working with Lyle Vincent and he had done our previous two films. But he was busy on another film. We're very lucky and we try to be loyal with our crews and we've had such great experiences in the past but scheduling forced us to make another decision and that's just part of filmmaking.

We were so lucky that Greta [Zozula] was available. We had followed her work and just loved her and, and knew that she was an up and coming talent that is ready to just explode onto the scene. We started discussions with her and we had a really intensive look-book, a mood board, of how we wanted to approach the visuals in terms of what we were talking about with the perspective of a 13-year-old which really led the look of the film. In terms of the pallet, we had an evolving color palette with very distinct reds and blues conflicting with and contrasting with each other.

The way we use the camera in terms of really making it chaotic for Becky at the beginning when she's totally out of control and then a lot more controlled for Kevin's character. So we were discussing all these things with her and she just came with so many more ideas and was able to bring so much more style and really get into that headspace of a 13-year-old girl in a way that we were really pleasantly surprised and excited about.

I don't want to talk about too many specifics but I have to ask about the opening montage. Was that in the script or did that come together in editing?

JM: That was definitely something we've worked with the writers to put in the script. That's one of those things that in the script stage sounds great and you can visualize it and you're like "Oh, that's going to be so cool." But then the executing of it is actually a real challenge because getting those specific shots to line up from one scene to the next and one shot to the next, so seamlessly... it takes a lot of precision, a lot of work on set, a lot of coordinating from the assistant director. So yeah, that was in the script and we work really hard to make sure that we could have those moments because to us that bouncing back and forth, but still kind of visually blending them really creates an interesting dynamic.

When we last talked, you guys were working on a couple of other projects including an LA heist film and a project titled Neon. Are those still in the works?

JM: You know, that's the business, right? We were really excited and we thought we had some movement on those and then things just kind of get jumbled. It’s the same thing that happened with Simon Pegg and the scheduling. There are a lot of moving pieces.

We always have a bunch of projects in the works and I would say that in to some extent, those projects are still still on the burner but we'll see. We have a lot of other projects that are kind of moving to the front of the stove metaphorically speaking. So we'll see because we've worked on those scripts for a long time and there's a lot of potential with them. So we'll see if we can make those happen.

Becky is now playing in select theatres and drive-in across the US and is also available on VOD.

Recommended Release: Becky

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