Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have been staples on TV for nearly a decade. Both had roles on Reno 911 and then subsequently appeared on shows like The West Wing, Mad Men and Friends before landing their own projects (Ben And Kate, Community). However, it was their Oscar win for adapting The Descendants that caught everyone’s attention. Two years later, the writing duo is back with a new film, The Way, Way Back, starring Steve Carrell, Toni Collette and Allison Janney. This time, not only did they write the film but they directed it as well. Faxon and Rash sat down with VH1 to discuss re-creating memes, directing each other and why they are so terrified of The West Wing.
VH1 Celebrity: What inspired this coming of age story?
Jim Rash: The very first scene in the movie where Trent is talking about the 1 to 10 conversation that actually, the whole scene verbatim in a station wagon, happened to me when I was 14 on our way to summer vacations. We would go to Michigan from North Carolina. My stepfather at the time had that conversation with me – encouraging me to get out there and meet more kids and make something of myself.
Knowing that was going to be the first scene of the movie just naturally felt like a great way to launch a coming of age stories.
What films did you connect with growing up?
Nat Faxon: There were certainly movies we grew up on that we loved. Certainly we appreciated the John Hughes movies from our youth and the way he was able to mix comedic moments with more dramatic moments or honest moments. Even in the more humorous stuff it felt like there were real issues for the kids that were going through them. Then there’s other pieces. Sam Rockwell’s character Owen is certainly the template for that was Bill Murray from Meatballs.
Between writing, directing and acting, which hat do you prefer to wear the most?
JR: They are hats.
NF: We literally, physically have hats.
JR: Well we made them.
NF: They’re cones.
JR: We went to a craft store and Michael’s. Just made them.
NF: I don’t know why they had to be cone-shaped.
JR: Well dunce caps. They were not a great choice. Your actors don’t trust you right away. Directing, because it is sort of the newest, it’s hard to put them in any order ’cause I think we are excited to take another stab at it. I think we’ve always approached everything from acting. Nat thinks he’s reached his complete evolution as an actor.
NF: I’m so seasoned. It’s so hard ’cause I am so ahead of everyone.
JR: He literally said he’s a male Meryl Streep.
NF: I did not want to compare myself to any other male actors. I just wanted to be the male version of a really fantastic female actress.
JR: Well I’m just saying she’s probably the best. And that’s what he calls himself.
NF: Neryl is what you call me.
JR: Oh my god, if you guys were in a relationship that would be great. I think we always looked at what we can learn. Whether we’re doing all three or a combination of two it’s hard to quantify which one you like doing better. I think the selfish side of us just wants to tell a story.
What would you say Jim’s better at: writing, directing or acting?
JR: Oh this going to be interesting.
NF: I mean…
JR: You’re going to offend me no matter what your answer is. Well no, because I’m super neurotic. No I think this is good. I’d like to know then I’ll say it to you. What do you think I’m best at of those three things?
NF: You’re best at?
JR: Well, that’s what he’s asking.
NF: I mean when you’re not on camera I think you’re really thriving. I would say writing.
JR: Yeah, that’s fair.
What about Nat?
JR: That’s a tough one. I think… he is… best at acting. But it’s hard. I think we have an appreciation for watching each other in the directing thing and I think you start to see people in a different way. So jury’s out.
What was it like directing each other?
JR: Just like answering these questions. Like that question beforehand, which we’ll probably have a discussion about.
NF: It was really fun. It was nice because we have lived with this script for so long. I think there was a lot of comfort in the fact that you could be in a scene and your friend and partner is taking care of what it looked like because you were acting in the scene. It’s a lot of fun to collaborate in that way. It’s been a long relationship that we’ve shared. You know, we know each other so well. We’re obviously very good friends and it’s fun to work with your friends. And it’s fun to say, ‘that was so funny when you did that thing. Do that again.’ It feels very seamless. That was a shitty —
JR: That was so funny when you did it.
NF: That was such a stupid example. Somebody’s going to read that and be like, ‘what? What a dumb guy. What an idiot.’
JR: I just hope there are no two friends who go, ‘that was funny what you did. Do it again.’ I just hope they don’t have the rapport. It sounds like you’re talking to a child.
NF: I’m sorry! I’m hungover!
JR: We’re clearly finding out what we’re best at: interviews.