Collider.com sat down with Josh recently, during the press period for “Detention”, to talk about his strangely hipster horror flick, high school, stunt work, his favourite teen movies, his role as an executive producer on the set, learning to ride a unicycle, “The Hunger Games” success, and comments on the (then) rumours of Gary Ross directing the sequel, “Catching Fire”. (Note: at this time, Ross had not yet rejected to direct the second film in the franchise; Josh was just expressing his interest at having Ross as the director the second time around.)
A handful of new promotional images from the “Detention” film have been added to the galleries.
So, how happy are you with the box office for The Hunger Games?
I’m very happy. I’m very excited. I didn’t expect it, that’s for sure. It’s super-exciting. I just love making movies. The fact that people actually watch them, is just a bonus, I feel like. It allows me to keep on making movies. It’s pretty exciting.
Has that balance between big budget films, like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and The Hunger Games, and independent films, like The Kids Are All Right and Detention, been intentional?
It’s very intentional, yeah. I think that the most important thing to having a long career, as an actor, is diversity and being able to play different types of characters in different types of movies. I want to keep acting, all my life. In order to do that, I think it is important to go and do the bigger tentpole box office movies, and then also do more character roles. They’re a lot of fun, too. I would never get to play Clapton Davis in a big-budget studio film. There are a lot of characters that you can get into that don’t exist in the studio world.
What was your experience in high school like? Do you see this film as a commentary on what high school is like?
I didn’t go to high school, so I don’t have a high school experience. I was home-schooled during high school. But, I think this movie just speaks to how kids can be really mean. Now, more than ever, bullying has come under the radar of actually being a problem in schools and people are trying to stand up against bullying. I think this movie just speaks to that world and how mean can be sometimes in school.
Being an executive producer, were you involved with the casting for the role of Riley (Shanley Caswell)?
I was sent tapes. I wasn’t in town, or else I would have been. As an executive producer, (director) Joseph [Kahn] was definitely more than happy to have me involved with the casting process, which was great because I had never really been involved with that part of making a movie before and I’d always wanted to be. It was a really cool first time, for me.
From the beginning of the movie, you can tell that Clapton and Riley have a history prior to these events taking place. How did you work on that and create that chemistry?
More than anything, Riley and Clapton had had not really a relationship before, but they been really good friends, for a long time. That was easy for us because, even though we had just met each other, we became fast friends, so it was easy to play that part of it. It was one of those things where you have a best friend for your entire life, since kindergarten, and then, all of a sudden, you have that moment where you go, “Oh, my god, I think I’m in love with this person!”
What was the biggest challenge of taking on the role of executive producer, at such a young age?
I’ve just grown up on movie sets, since I was nine years old. For someone like Joseph, who’s come from a music video and commercial-heavy background, to have one of his actors be more well-versed in the film world, helps as a liaison between the two worlds. I’m grateful that Joseph put that kind of faith in me because it was hard enough for me to put that faith in myself. I’ve always wanted to get behind the camera, so for him to give me my first opportunity to do that was incredible.
How grueling of a shoot was this?
It was hard work. And, the scenes were all so crazy that you didn’t know what you were getting yourself into, every day, when you came into work, which was also part of the excitement.
What did you think, when you read this script?
It was so wild! It was extremely crazy. The movie is insane, and I felt the script was even more crazy. The reason why I was attracted to it was because of that. It was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. So many times, I read the same script, just with different little pieces, over and over again. This was a whole new way of making a movie, and that was one of the biggest things that attracted me to it.
Do you think that will make the film a tough sell?
Yes, I do, actually. It is harder to sell. People ask me what the one-sentence pitch is for it, and I don’t have one. There literally isn’t one. When I watched it, I didn’t even know what I thought of it, at first. I liked it, but I didn’t know how to describe it to somebody. It’s just very different. That’s what makes it so unique, but at the same time, that does make it a challenge, commercially.
What was it like to learn to ride on a unicycle for this?
That was a cool experience and something I never thought I would ever do. I actually got really good at unicycling. I could go for awhile, turn and then come back down. It’s crazy! It was a pretty fun experience. I had a unicycle in my trunk, for the two months that we were filming. It was cool.
Did you get to do your own stunts for the finale, or did they bring in stunt people?
It was a combo. There were some things where they had stunt guys working with us. But, we all had to do the fight training and work on the choreography to get that all down. It was tough. It was pretty physical. There was a lot of slamming onto the ground and slamming into the lockers and throwing punches. It was pretty physically demanding.
What did you personally take away from the experience of making Detention?
For me, the message of the film was something that I took away from it. Everybody has their own problems. No matter how big you think yours are, there is someone else that has bigger problems or different problems. That’s the biggest thing that I learned from this film, or had reinstated in me, for sure.
What are your own favorite teen movies?
The Breakfast Club is really good. Pretty in Pink is really good. I love Donnie Darko. That’s one of my favorite movies ever, but it’s not really a teen movie. I’ve watched that movie about nine million times.
Do you think the success of The Hunger Games will really help this film get some attention?
I hope so! We tried to sell this movie for a long time, and tried to find the right fit for us, distribution wise. I think we found it and are going about this, at the right time. It just so happens to be after The Hunger Games, which definitely helps quite a bit.
Would you suggest Joseph Kahn for the job of directing Catching Fire?
I would not. First and foremost, because Gary [Ross] is my guy, 100%, through and through, and also because I don’t think Joseph would really fit into that world.
Do you hope that Gary Ross will come back?
Oh, for sure! There’s not much doubt in my mind that he’ll be doing it. I think so. I don’t think there’s a chance at all that he wouldn’t do it. He killed the first one. He absolutely knocked it out of the park. Everyone who worked with him loved him. Myself and Jennifer [Lawrence] and all of the other cast members loved him. I couldn’t imagine making the movie without him. That’s what I have to say about that. There was no official statement made. There are a lot of different ways that you negotiate in movies. There are different tactics, for sure.