In E.L. Katz‘s crazy black comedy Cheap Thrills, David Koechner and Sara Paxton play a twisted married coupled with loads of cash. The two begin the night, celebrating Violet’s (Paxton) birthday, but soon they’re joined by a sad mechanic (Pat Healy) and a raging man child (Ethan Embry). We had the chance to talk to Koechner and Paxton, and during our exclusive interview, they talked about what drew them to this project and the characters, and what it was like to shoot an intense film like Cheap Thrills in only 14 days. Check it out.
What was your reaction to the script?
David Koechner: I was fascinated by it. It was a real page turner. Reading the script I was completely engaged and I went along and thought all the logic stacked up because in a movie like this it’s a slippery slope. You can either get out, but you’re never out. You buy into this film right away, and you’re in for the count. That’s how I felt about it. I didn’t feel scared by it. It is an intense film. My wife had to walk way twice the first time she saw it.
Sara Paxton: I was scared reading it just because I was scared to play such a psychopath. I was really scared to play Violet. I’m not like her at all. I also knew I was going to have to hump Pat (Healy), and he’s like my brother. That was scary. But I agree, I was fascinated by the script and thought it was so exciting.
David, you never get to play characters like Colin. Is that what drew you to this project?
David Koechner: The challenge, of course. Any interesting challenge is welcomed. This movie was modestly budgeted. You do things for different reasons, and for this one it was because it was such a fascinating script.
There’s a lot of intense scenes that revolve around the dares. Which dare were you most uncomfortable with?
Sara Paxton: When you guys filmed the eating of the dog, I opted out of that one. I didn’t want to be in the room. I couldn’t do it. And I think Ethan (Embry) puked.
David Koechner: I couldn’t tell if they were acting or really getting sick.
Sara, your character is very interesting. On the surface she looks like a bored pretty girl and like there’s not a lot to her, but she’s definitely very mysterious and intriguing in a twisted way. What was your take on her? Were you able to relate to her at all?
Sara Paxton: Yeah, when I read the script, I thought, “Oh she’s a psychopath.” And I’ve definitely met a lot of girls like that, that I don’t know personally. But I thought it was really interesting that she never says a whole lot, and I thought it would be challenging and different to have to use my facial expressions to get my point across. And I was really nervous about it because normally when I take on a character I can find like a piece of me somewhere, and I can find that and bring that out. But with Violet, that person wasn’t there at all. It was really challenging trying to find that. But I think I could only do it because I was surrounded by such amazing actors, and that definitely helped.
David Koechner: This was a good crew of people. It was a good ensemble, that’s for sure. It felt like there was something unique happening. It felt like we were in a play.
And David, how do you get into the mindset of playing a character like Colin?
David Koechner: Well for me, I don’t have to identity with him personally, but whatever his wants and desires are. I know what it’s like to want the love of my wife or my children so that’s a comparable. So what would I do for them? It’s not a game. I don’t specifically relate to the games he asks people to play, but if I wanted to challenge any of my children to do something better, that’s relatable. So I don’t have to think about the true psychological consequences that are scripted as long as I have a comparable one in life, stakes wise.
This was E.L. Katz’s first directorial effort, what was it like working with him?
David Koechner: Oh it was remarkable. He’s got a nice light touch. And you see that evidence on the film. He did a great job.
Sara Paxton: Yeah he’s great. He’s really open to listen to his actors and collaborating. He’s awesome to work with. He’s really fun.
David Koechner: Yeah, we met several times before the film and he talked about it. He’s very thoughtful and precise about what he means metaphorically. Also what is really happening in the scene, and he always reminds us right before we go into a scene what’s happening in the film right now, and where we are psychologically, and what each one of us wants, so he’s really good with that.
This could of easily been a campy film, but, even though it’s hilarious in a lot of ways, there’s a lot of reality/truth to it. For you David, how appealing was that for you, to do a film that wasn’t straight-forward comedy?
David Koechner: I personally never thought of this as a comedy. I was shocked at how many laughs there were in the festival crowd. I didn’t know that there were going to be laughs at all. I knew some scenes would be funny, but I didn’t anticipate as much as there is. I think it’s a different experience. When you watch it at home, there’s probably fewer laughs. When you watch it with a crowd, you feel the pressure to release. That’s my take on it. And no one was playing it for the laughs, which makes it more sinister.
Unlike Pat and Ethan, both of you didn’t have to do any dares. But you did shot this film in 14 days during the summer. Was that the biggest challenge for you guys?
Sara Paxton: That was definitely a challenge. We shot the movie in 14 days so that was definitely hard. We were all in this tiny house, with no air conditioning in the summer. Tensions were rising. We were shooting chronologically and it was just getting hotter and hotter. We were rushing a lot of intense material, so that was kind of challenge. But then again, I just sat there and watched and texted (laughs). I really liked being able to watch these guys so I got learn from them and that was fun for me. I enjoyed it.
David Koechner: I mean who doesn’t want to sit around and watch three hot guys? That’s a dream for Sara.
Sara Paxton: Jackpot (laughs).
Cheap Thrills will open in theaters March 21, 2014.