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5 Questions with Adult Beginners Star Nick Kroll

Nick Kroll is perhaps most well known for starring in the television shows The League and Kroll Show. In Adult Beginners the actor takes the lead as Jake, a man who loses all his money after his invention runs into an investment issue. After leaving the city, Jake moves in with his sister Justine (Rose Byrne) and her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale). Kroll was recently in Toronto to promote the film where we got to sit down with the comedian and discuss his latest venture.

The film is a major change of tone from your previous work. Why did you decide to make a general comedy?

I think it’s a combination of any number of things. The story is based off of my real life as a younger brother with a bunch of nieces and nephews. I knew early on when I brought it to Mark Duplass, my costar in The League, and I kind of knew early on that we weren’t trying to make the big shticky [sic] version of this movie. So once you decide that it becomes like, “Let’s try and tell a real story” and that leads you to telling a real story which means there are going to be more dramatic moments in it and I was interested in being able to do some of that. I would still argue that weirdly a lot of the characters on Kroll Show, while they were insane, I was trying to act them as honestly as possible from whatever their emotional place was, as fucked up as their emotions were. It was something new that I hadn’t had the chance to do. I was excited to try it.

What happened that made you decide to make a film and star in it?

I brought the idea to Mark like three-and-a-half years ago. So at that point it was probably before we started season one of Kroll Show. In general so far in my career you jus get a lot of things going and see what takes hold and where you get momentum. This felt like an interesting thing to start the process of being like “Oh, let’s see what it would be like for me to try and go make a movie!” I don’t assume that anything I work on is going to actually get made or be turned into anything real, but partly for me it is like an exercise in physically doing something and learning what I can doing it while hoping it get’s made and hoping it’s good. The importance was also being able to be like, “I got this sketch that I’m going to start doing. I’m doing The League and it would be nice to do a film and also be able to do something that might be a little more based in reality.”

The film is day-and-date release on demand. How do you think that platform is changing these kinds of comedies?

Obviously it’s great to have your movie in a movie theatre, because one, I think the experience of watching a comedy with a group is different than watching it alone in your home. I love the idea of people seeing it in the theatres, but I also think that a movie like this really can take hold and make a nice chunk of money on video on demand. I made the movie with some of that in mind. Like a movie that my sister and her husband who have four kids who can’t go out can watch; I’d rather them order it on demand than not see it at all. I think it’s a major part of the indie film world. Considering that the indies are dying away because they are being dominated at the theatre, it now gives the chance for people to make films. You just have to shift what your expectation for what the presentation of your film is. Maybe you don’t end up making sixty-million dollars, like you don’t get Junos anymore, but everyone can still make their money back and make a living and that is what I think the goal is for everybody.

You are credited on the film as writing the story but not the screenplay. After bringing the idea to Mark Duplass, what was your involvement like until the film started shooting?

I had conceived the stoy and brought it to Mark and then I was connected to the writers through my agents. From there I just produced the film. Each draft would come in and I would make notes and was very involved in that process. I was also involved in the preproduction by meeting with Rose [Byrne] and talking to Bobby [Cannavale] and then getting Ross Katz as our director and then calling in a ton of favors from fellow actors like Joel McHale, Bobby Moynihan, and Julie White. They are all old friends of mine. Obviously Liz [Flahive] and Jeff [Cox] wrote the movie and that’s why they share story credit and wrote the screenplay.

What was it like working on the latest Terrence Malick film Knight of Cups?

I did one day on the Malick movie and I’d been told by somebody who was at [the Berlin Film Festival] that they saw me in it. Knowing that there are leads in his movies that don’t always get in [the final cut]… It was an amazing day. I got a call on a Tuesday being like, “Do you want to do a Terrence Malick movie on Thursday?” and I was like, “Uh, yeah.” So from that point on it was my goal to just say “OK” to everything. It is a unique process and I just was excited to be there and watch him work and be around it. His process is so different and ever since I’ve seen it and then I watch Spring Breakers for example, I’m like, “Oh wow, there are a lot of things in this movie that feel like a Malick movie.” It was a good lesson for me. One of the tenants of improv is “Yes, and” and you specifically don’t think. I took that very much in stride that day. I decided to say “OK” to everything and just do what I was told and try to enjoy it. Because of that it was a really fun experience. My job was to basically fuck with Christian Bale all day, which was fun. He was awesome.

Adult Beginners is now playing and is also available to rent on demand.


Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.