At a time when summer blockbusters were king, “The Kings of Summer” countered big-budget flash with the most legitimately satisfying (and hilarious) movie of the season.
This indie darling of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival harkens back to adolescent adventure classics such as “Goonies” and “Stand by Me,” and stars charming and talented young actors Nick Robinson (“Melissa & Joey”), Gabriel Basso (“Super 8”) and Moises Arias (“Hannah Montana”) as three teens who run away from home.
Robinson plays Joe, a young man fed up with his overbearing father (Nick Offerman). Basso plays Patrick, Joe’s best friend who becomes equally disenchanted with his suffocating home life and his quirky parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson). In an act of defiance, the two boys and their extremely odd companion Biaggio (Arias) set off into the woods with plans to construct a house and spend the summer living off the land.
I recently sat down with Nick, Gabriel and Moises (ages 18, 18 and 19, respectively) to talk about the new movie, which is now available with XFINITY On Demand.
David Onda: Was there anything you guys did as kids that compares to this adventure?
Moises Arias: Not at all. I wish. That would be so cool.
Gabriel Basso: Yeah.
Nick Robinson: I wish I was that cool. I went camping a lot with my family, but that was with my family. I ran away from home once when I was 7 or 8, but [that was] not nearly as impressive. I made it, like, two blocks and then turned around. I was probably gone a total of 20 minutes. My mom didn’t even notice.
Onda: In this movie, your characters construct an amazing amateur house. Did the production crew really build that structure?
Arias: Absolutely. They found a patch of grass in a random person’s backyard and they built it in, like, 10 days.
Robinson: That’s when the movie became real for me, is when we walked into that house for the first time.
Onda: Moises, your character Biaggio delivers some one-liners with the potential to be movie classics. Do you have a favorite?
Arias: [laughs] One that always pops up is, “I met a dog once that taught me how to die.”
Onda: Nick, you’ve talked about not being able to keep a straight face during certain scenes. Was there one that is a blooper reel of gaffes?
Robinson: A lot of my stuff with Biaggio, especially in the beginning, was real tough. Just because, seeing Moises change from Moises to Biaggio – just that sudden switch when they called action – just killed me.
Basso: It was a visible transformation, too. Watch… [motions for Arias to perform]
Arias: I don’t know if I can do it on the spot. I’ll do it while you guys are talking.
Robinson: The grandma scene. I think it’s very briefly in the film, probably because we [expletive] it up from laughing too much, but there was the scene with Patrick’s grandma and Megan Mullally…
Arias: He’s just looking at me, waiting for me to do Biaggio.
Robinson: … and Megan Mullally and it was just, for whatever reason, it was like 3 a.m. and I just could not keep it together. I was just cracking up. The director had to take us outside and be like, “Guys, come on now. Bite your tongue, do whatever you have to do, but just keep it together.”
Onda: Is it true that you all lived in a retirement community in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where you shot the film?
Arias: [quickly does the "Biaggio face"]
Robinson: Damn it, I missed it! I don’t know if it was the cheapest place to stay in Chagrin Falls, or if there just wasn’t any other place to stay in Chagrin Falls for an extended period, but they put us up in Shady Oaks Retirement Community, and it was a lovely place. Very nice people. We got to meet some of the locals. What was your experience at Shady Oaks?
Basso: Dude, we keep calling it Shady Oaks…
Arias: Yeah, I don’t think it is.
Robinson: What is it actually?
Basso: I don’t remember, but Shady Oaks is from “Up.”
Robinson: Yeah, maybe it’s not Shady Oaks.
Arias: I don’t have any crazy retirement home stories. Gabe does.
Basso: Oh, I got there the first night, and apparently they don’t lock the doors or we just forgot, because I woke up in the morning to someone in my room and I was like, “What the hell?” And it was this old woman who lived downstairs and she said, “Just checkin’ on you.” And she went outside. She was in my apartment checking on me and then walked away.
Robinson: Very nice people.
Basso: And she had this weird skin condition, so it scared the [expletive] out of me.
Onda: You worked with a lot of animals in this movie, and they were handled by a man called “Jungle Terry.”
Robinson: Yeah, “Jungle Terry” drove a zebra-printed Range Rover. And they say don’t work with water, children and animals, and we had all three. We got through it somehow though. I did not really trust “Jungle Terry” with my life, but I was forced to, so I just went with it and he turned out to be a good guy.
Onda: Did you get any important lessons from your movie parents?
Basso: I think they taught you indirectly. They didn’t really come up and impart knowledge on you. I think just watching them, you learned a lot about improv and how quick they think. That dinner scene where I’m eating my burger and they’re just riffing, that scene was a good 45 minutes to an hour long of them just improving. You can really tell these guys are on a different level.
Robinson: Nick Offerman – such a nice guy, such a professional, such a funny guy. And he knew everybody’s name on set, down to the people who got coffee, all the way up to our head producer and writer and everything. It almost seemed like a gimmick at first, but I could tell he was genuine. That was a class act.
Onda: Did he teach you how to sculpt a sweet mustache?
Robinson: If only. If only I could grow Nick Offerman’s mustache. I learned I’d never be as much of a man as Nick Offerman.
Catch Nick, Gabriel and Moises in “The Kings of Summer,” which is now available with XFINITY On Demand. Click here to begin the process of ordering at home.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.