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.
You two mentioned that you had a good cop, bad cop approach to directing. Had anyone from the cast and crew seen the Community episode where the Dean directs a commercial? Was anyone nervous that you might turn into crazy cop?
JR: Maybe. I don’t know. I should have made them watch it before we shot. You know what I think happened there were a couple of times probably where we didn’t confer before. Our actors were doing fantastic stuff. If anything we were trying different takes and approaches to scenes emotionally. Allison in general had a gargantuan amount of dialogue in two particular days and I think Nat ran up faster than I did and was like, ’that’s fantastic. That’s awesome.’ And I probably came up right after was like, ’awesome. Let’s do one more.’ Which is not really good cop, bad cop because I was acknowledging what he said and I was just ending it. Or ’yes, butting’ it. But it was never really meant to be that way. I’ve been told by many people that I have the stink eye. I feel like I get a bad rap sometimes. Dammit, I’m trailing.
The cast has tons of TV talent: Steve Carrell, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph, AnnaSophia Robb, Rob Corddry, and Amanda Peet. If you had to choose one of their shows to work on, which one would it be?
JR: I’ve never done The Office. That would have been fun. Or West Wing. Or United States Of Tara. West Wing would scare the ba–
NF: I did a West Wing.
JR: You did?
NF: Yes. I forgot about that. I literally had one line, if that. I came in and was an aide. I sort of felt like I had to say it in officious manner. It’s so weird. I was on Mad Men and it was the same thing. I got to get in that mode of this is how people talk on this TV show as oppose to being yourself a little bit more. It was a lot of fun but I just remember being terrified.
Did you practice walking and talking?
JR: That’s what I was going to say. That show would terrify me. I did one walk and talk on a show on TNT called Bull. Those walk and talks terrify me. West Wing – where you have to join a shot at the end and so if you fuck it up, they’re like, ’you motherfucker. We just walked all the way down the fucking west wing. And you had to say here’s the file and now we have to go to one.’
Jim, what are you’re top three favorite Dean outfits?
JR: Lady Gaga. The ’50s lady we’ll call her. The housewife. Oh and Tina Turner.
Do you people still recognized you for your Reno 911 characters?
JR: Yes, actually yes. I say Beerfest is your number one, right?
NF: Reno had a pretty huge following. I did head shop owner, but I think I’m more remembered as the milkshake guy.
JR: And I get a lot of the Andrew [the Whore-House Guy], certainly the dildo on my head one.
NF: Cause you’re constantly wearing that anyway. That was your dunce cap.
JR: My dunce cap looks like a dildo.
NF: Your director’s cap.
JR: I get unicorns. I just get them.
Jim, you famously recreated Angie’s right leg during your Oscars acceptance speech. If you two had to pick another meme to recreate the next time you accept an award, what would it be?
NF: I think we’d create our own, wouldn’t we? Just show our asses.
NF: Just thrust our butts in the air or something. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. Delete that.
JR: I don’t even know how to make a meme.
Well, Angie didn’t. She just kind of did without realizing it.
JR: Oh I see what you’re saying. We don’t have to figure out what the design is. What would we do if we went up there.
NF: Oh alright. Let’s strike that butt one and start over and not say that again.
JR: What would we do?
NF: Maybe form a cool shape with both of our bodies.
JR: We would Wonder Twins it but not even close to their actual powers.
NF: You’d either be an animal and I’d be a bucket of water? I don’t think so.
The film hits theaters on Friday, July 5th. Watch the trailer below.
[Photo Credit: Getty]