John Francis Daley and Jonathan M Goldstein interview: Vacation, Spider-Man

The co-writers and directors of Vacation on the film, Spider-Man, Statham and Freaks & Geeks...

Despite now being heavily linked with Marvel’s upcoming reboot-of-a-reboot Spider-Man film, writing duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein are just bringing their first film as directors to the screen.

Another stab at an existing franchise, Vacation is a sequel/reboot of the beloved ’80s road trip classics, and follows Horrible Bosses and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 on their joint resume. Here’s what they had to say about the possibility of a Freaks And Geeks reunion, writing for their friends and those Spider-Man rumours.

How was it taking an existing franchise and updating it in a way that paid homage to the old ones and would also reach a new audience now?

JD: It’s an absolute challenge because we want to pay our respects to fans of the original and to the original itself, but we also wanted to give the world a new movie with our voice. So we couldn’t pay too much homage to the original.

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JG: It had to work for those people who don’t know the original – and they are out there, young people especially may not have seen the originals – so we had to make a movie that stood on its own, as Rusty says in the kitchen scene at the beginning. But yeah it’s a huge responsibility. We’re big fans of the original and we took it seriously. We don’t want to be the guys responsible for breaking this thing that everybody loves.

JD: So we set out to make a funny movie and, beyond that, we tried not to pay too much attention to the politics behind it all.

You mentioned the speech from Ed Helms – was that written as a specific effort to address some of the issues people might have before they can have them?

JD: Absolutely – that statement was for you. We knew we had to acknowledge it and get it out of the way early on in the movie.

JG: It’s a way of saying to the audience, ‘okay, we know what you’re thinking but give this a chance’.

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JD: And we also knew that they were going to use it a lot in the trailer.

The original film inspired a lot of sequels itself, is that the plan here again – is this a franchise-starter?

JG: It all depends on how the movie does when it comes out, but yes we’re already talking to the studio in the optimistic hopes that this will be the beginning of something good. Because it’s essentially timeless – the family road trip is something everybody can relate to, it didn’t stop in the eighties.

JD: We tried to establish a relationship with the family and our audience so that they would want to see them hopefully going on new adventures in the future.

How far does your interest go – would you make ten more or…?

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JG: We’re signed on for ten more…

JD: …we’ll probably stop at twenty, between you and I.

JG: In a package deal we get, like, $15,000 for ten movies so, I don’t know if that’s a good deal, but…

JD: We’re going to get a lawyer at some point, but right now I think we’re having fun winging it.

Is comedy something you’re drawn to writing-wise?

JD: Yeah, not solely, but I think both of us were geeks growing up – shout out to Den of Geek!

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JG: I had a den in my house…

JD: I did too actually. We can totally relate to what you guys are doing. But I think, as geeks, you kind of have to be funny in order to survive high school and being an adolescent because, you know, it’s hard out there for a geek. I think that’s how the lyric goes…

How does your dynamic work while you’re directing, is it different than when you’re just writing together?

JG: It’s definitely more intensive. You’re under the gun each day you’re shooting and so for us it was all about preparation, making sure we’re on the same page and making sure the actors and the crew know exactly what we’re hoping to do. When we’re writing there’s a little bit more leeway – you kind of make your own hours…

JD: Yeah, you can’t direct from your couch in your sweatpants. I mean, I guess you could in some situations but, no it was obviously a lot more immersive and more of a challenge, but it was really fun to bring the work that we wrote to life.

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John, this job directly led to you leaving Bones last season – how was that, and has the fan outcry died down a bit now?

JD: Every time they have a repeat of that episode I get a whole new barrage of sad, desperate tweets from people. I feel bad because I know that fans of the show, a lot of them were attached to that character, but I hope that it serves as some kind of impetus to see the movie and get why I left in the first place. Obviously this is a huge opportunity for me and I’d always wanted to direct, and so I’m hoping that Bones viewers will understand that and forgive me.

In Vacation, you had some cameos from people you’ve worked with before – how was it directing people you know well?

JG: It was great, it was very organic. People like Charlie Day, we had a relationship and we knew each other well enough that it was pretty easy going. As you go along, your actors trust you more and respect that your instincts are leading in a good direction. It’s obviously a lot of fun directing people that you’re friends with and have known for a while, but there’s also a fun in directing someone new, because you establish a relationship very quickly.

It’s the same with the actors, Ed and Christina (Applegate) had never met each other before this movie and it was interesting to see the progression of their relationship and how they went from being complete strangers to really feeling like a married couple.

We’re talking on the day that the Spider-Man news has broken, that the pair of you are writing the new film. How was it waking up to that being all over the internet?

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JG: Well we can’t confirm or deny anything at this point, but it is always crazy to see your name blowing up on the internet.

Are you fans?

JG: Of Spider-Man? I’ve always enjoyed the Spider-Man comics and movies. I was a comic-book geek as a kid, actually, I spent a lot of my babysitting money on comic-books.

JD: Spider-Man was probably the first pair of themed underwear that I wore as a kid.

JG: But that in no way suggests that we are or we are not writing the movie…

Going back to my first question, with Vacation being an existing franchise, has that made you more sure of maybe picking up another existing property for your next project?

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JD: I don’t know if it would make us want to do it more because we wouldn’t wanna be known only as the guys who bring old franchises back to life. But I think if the right thing came along we wouldn’t run away from it just because it was an existing thing. We are sort of strategising what our next move is in terms of directing…

JG: We’re always sort of leery of being pigeon-holed as any one thing, we don’t want to be the guys who just bring back to life old franchises, but there are a lot of good franchises out there, so…

Are there plans for any more Horrible Bosses movies?

Both: No.

JG: No, I think that one’s done, but hopefully there’ll be a Vacation sequel.

If Netflix or another outlet suddenly called you up and said we’re going to a Freaks And Geeks reunion or reboot, what would you say?

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JG: I would say why are you calling me? Oh, you mean John…

JD: I would see if Judd (Apatow) and Paul (Feig) were behind it, because they were the masterminds of that show and I don’t think any of the cast would do anything without their blessing.

Just finally, what are both of your favourite Jason Statham movies?

JD: I would say Transporter. He is an action god and I think that was what first introduced him to American audiences. It had some really cool driving in it, it had some really cool shooting of people in it, and he’s a serious bad-ass.

JG: I would have to go with Snatch, it just doesn’t get any better than… Snatch

JD: …that’s what I say all the time.

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JG: There’s your closing quote!

JD: You can use that one as the headline.

John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, thank you very much!

Vacation is in UK cinemas from Friday.