One of my favorite films of the summer is on it’s way into theaters with a bang. 30 Minutes or Less starring Jesse Eisenberg is a fast-paced, easy-to-watch, extremely funny comedy with some fine performances and a storyline that won’t leave you hanging. Though we were able to speak to the film Ruben Fleischer while he was on the set of the film (read interview), I also had the chance to catch up with him recently for a one on one to find out more now that the film is all said and done and what he has going on in the future (it’s really cool!)…
I was one of the people who came on the set visit and it feels like so long ago, is that what it feels for for you? Is your head in a completely different space? Or are you still deeply attached to this film?
Ruben Fleischer: Maybe somewhere in between, I had to live with this until about April. So the shooting of it feels like a lifetime ago, but the process of bringing the film to completion ended relativity recently, but I’m now I’m in pre-production of another film, so it’s all kind of a blur, to be honest.
So you have two loves right now?
RF: Yes. What’s exciting is I have, I’ve been able to put the film aside for a couple of months and it’s been getting really exciting getting to talk to people about it for the first time again and hearing all of these reactions to it just because this is what I’m being interviewed about, but it’s nice. People have been really positive in their reactions to it, so far.
Yeah, well I’m one of those people with the positive reaction.
RF: That’s awesome. It just makes me feel so good because I haven’t watched it in a while so it’s nice. I guess I have to talk a little bit about how much I love it.
One of the things I love about this is the short-run time. There’s something about a comedy that I want to go in, I want to laugh, I want to have a good time and I want to get out. I don’t want to be there for so long.
RF: I’m with you 100 percent. I’m the type of guy that loves a short runtime so if it’s longer than 90 minutes, I have to really question how much I want to see it. I think that often comedies could be a lot funnier if they used restrain, cut stuff out. I feel like they are self-indulgent sometimes, but me and my editor are very ruthless. We’ve cut so many things that we loved and that were really funny out of this film because unless it was a really huge laugh or a big important story point, we didn’t feel like it belonged. So, it’s a lean movie. What I think helps is the feeling of urgency through Jesse Eisenberg’s character because there’s no time to waste. He’s got to get that bomb off of him and I feel like if you let scenes languish a little longer or put in scenes that don’t really need to be there, it would’ve taken away from the pressure and to the momentum that I think the film has in a very positive way.
It seems like you’re very conscious of your viewers and making sure that they have a good time. How do you get there?
RF: We do tons of test screenings. We rely very heavily on the audience’s reaction. If people aren’t laughing or it just feels like it’s stagnant or not as funny as it could be, I won’t allow it. My obligation is to provide the audience with the most satisfying, entertaining film that I can possibly make. I don’t have the arrogance to say that I’m making the film for myself. I’m making the film very clearly for the audience. I want to make sure that they are satisfied.
What is your favorite part about watching a comedy?
RF: Is there any other answer than just to be able to laugh a lot? For watching comedy, you want to just take your mind off of things for a little bit. Enjoy and laugh. I respond to the actors in comedies. To me the actors trump the story in most films. That’s why I love the cast off 30 Minutes or Less because we have four of the finest people in the world. That’s part of it, to me at least, it makes me laugh so much.
I think you have more than four because Michael Pena, has some of my favorite lines?
RF: I was including him and not Jesse, but don’t tell Jesse. I’m just kidding! We have five. I think everyone in the movie is terrific. I think Bianca Kajlich is great as Juicy. She was great. I think the cast is exceptional and Pena was a complete and total revelation to me. He just blew me away at every opportunity. He’s so funny.
One of my big issues with films is that nobody acts like they are in the real world and this film for however crazy, feels like you treat the matter realistically, which is why it’s so funny. Can you talk about the importance of keeping it real, and why it makes a comedy so much stronger?
RF: That to me was why I cast Jesse because you need somebody who can ground the film and make the audience invest in the stakes that are truly life or death. If you don’t have that then the film doesn’t work and Jesse is so talented and he’s able to play that reality where he can die at any moment. It’s not overbearing or at the detriment of the comedy. He’s able to draw a line where he plays the reality of it but he’s also able to laugh at the same time. That’s an extraordinary challenging thing to do, and he did it exceptionally well.
The comedies I always relate to are not the high concept comedies where it’s like “what happens if that animal starts talking?” To me, my favorite comedies are the ones that are based on characters and like investing in these real characters… It’s like in Beverly Hills Cop, you really believe the Axel is a cop from Detroit who moved to Beverly Hills and it’s like the movie is funny because you are seeing it through this monitor ties of this streetwise Detroit cop who’s having to deal with the insanity of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills and all its silliness. At the same time, Eddie Murphy is one of the funniest people there is on the screen. He’s able to enhance those scenes with his comedy.
I think ours is similar in that we play with the reality of these burned out people in Michigan who make bombs in their garages and blow up watermelons. We play an authentic reality, but then Danny [McBride] and Nick [Swardson] are just so funny in and of themselves that they take it to a whole other level.
Do you think that’s why your films are R-rated?
RF: Yeah, this film is exceptionally R-rated. We really pushed the boundaries and took it to the limit. With Zombieland, I didn’t feel like that needed to be an R-rated movie and in fact, the only thing that made it R-rated was that we shot zombies in the head and if you shoot somebody in the head, it has to be R. So once we were told we had to have an R-rating because of the violence of the film, you know you can’t kill a zombie any other way, so we put some f-words. If we were already R-rated. I honestly feel Zombieland would have worked really well as a PG-13 movie. I’m not the type of person who would say, I must make films R-rated in order to try to portray life in its authenticity or something. That’s not the case. I feel like you can make a very satisfying enjoyable film that’s PG-13 and isn’t phony or watered down.
Do you miss shooting Michigan at all or are you glad to be out of these?
RF: What I really appreciated about Michigan was the sense of summer. Living in Los Angeles, where it all just blends together and you don’t have a sense of season. Grand Rapids we were exactly at this time last year and since their winters are so miserable they really enjoy the summer and it’s something I appreciated.
Did you have to do post-production there as well?
RF: I was there for about four in a half months.
Could you tell me about your future project? You’re working on Gangster Squad, is that your new project?
RF: It’s a really cool, serious, gangster movie set in 1949 Los Angeles about this mobster, Micky Cohen, in the police squad that has to take him down and they work outside the law to fight the gangsters on their own terms. Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling are the two lead cops of the gangster squad and Sean Penn is playing Micky Cohen. For me it’s a huge opportunity to try new genres. It’s not a comedy, whatsoever, if anything it’s an action movie, but its just a classic, genre, gangster movie.
That sounds like so much fun. I want to see it already.
RF: It’s super, super cool. Yeah and Michael Pena is going to be in it. Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackey. It’s going to be good. The script is really great. Hopefully it’ll just be all of us aspiring to make a movie that will last through the ages.
Check out Ruben Fleicher’s new film, 30 Minutes or Less, in theaters starting August 12th!