CS Interview: Directors Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion on Becky
Just in time for the exciting dark action comedy’s digital release, ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (Cooties) to discuss their latest effort, Becky, starring Lulu Wilson (Annabelle: Creation) as a teen who faces off against a group of neo-Nazi prison escapees. Click here to rent or purchase Becky digitally!
When looking at their goals with the film, the duo definitely sought to deliver “a fun ride” for audiences, noting that “especially in these times” the film is exactly what audiences need and that the film can hopefully provide “a little catharsis.”
“We just love revenge movies and when the script originally came to us, we really responded to that idea of a 13-year-old girl getting revenge in a really different way than we’d seen before,” they explained. “We feel like we’ve never seen anything like this, we’ve seen Home Alone, which is like a fun kind of kids’ comedy, we’ve seen home invasion movies, we’ve all seen revenge movies, but never with a 13-year-old girl who just kicked ass on this level, so that’s what attracted us to it.”
Becky marks the third co-directorial effort from Murnion and Milott, who made their debut on the 2014 zombie comedy Cooties, which despite finding a home in audiences’ hearts did receive more mixed reviews from critics for its imbalance of the two genres. Though they believe they learn “a billion lessons” from every film they made, they did find themselves changing up one key element in going into this project.
“I don’t think we can disregard lessons we’ve learned on previous films, but I think also with this one we were a little more involved with developing the script,” they described. “They came to us with the script and when we pitched it, we pitched actually working with writers Ruckus and Lane to further develop it. So I think we had a little bit more involvement with it and I think in a way we did lean a little bit more away from the comedy, it’s like you said, we wanted this movie to be fun, we didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously. But we also wanted to be somewhat grounded and have some stakes and that’s why we tried to make the first act, where you get to learn about Becky and her backstory a bit, hopefully that gives her some motivation and reasoning for why she ends up looking to exact revenge on such an intense level later on in the movie.”
Though the duo certainly sought to find the proper balance of the comedy and action, the biggest creative challenge in bringing the story to life was ensuring they made the killing and revenge of its titular protagonist to be believable, especially given her opponents are “older, hardened criminals.”
“One of the main characters, Apex, was written as this giant, musclebound and we cast Robert, who’s over seven feet tall, so in reality, how could you think that a 13-year-old girl, even the strongest, most athletic 13-year-old girl, could go against a seven-foot tall dude from prison?” the duo said. “There’s really no way it’d be anywhere near a real battle, so one of the things we worked on is when Becky is doing these things where she is getting the revenge, she has planned it out or she has some tools or some help. When she faces off against the antagonist in places where she doesn’t have any of those, and she really doesn’t do well and that was something that we really had to balance, we really had to find her motivation because it kept coming up. Why didn’t she just run away, her dad says run away, why doesn’t she? So I think really making it seem in the cinematic world there’s a viable reason to stay there and those moments, we just wanted to keep grounded.”
These sequences were helped even further by the fact that their 14-year-old star was ready, willing and excited to do the majority of her own stunts, noting she “truly saved the production on so many levels” with her “professionalism” and “ability to do her own stunts and recalling one of her most impressive talents that came in handy for their location.
“Kids on set limit your time, you have about half the time on set with kids as you do adults,” they explained. “With stunts, you just need to make sure they’re safe, so that takes a lot of time, you know, working with the dogs takes time, every level we had a lot of time stock and Lulu basically saved us because she could get on set and really find the performance, find the character arc and just make that part of it so easy and fun. She made that easier and then with the stunts, we had all this time planned because we had to do whole parts of it and then the close ups and then we had to switch out and do the stuff with the stunt double, but in many cases we saved so much time because Lulu would be able to just roll off the back of the guy or jump on the guy and just do all of these things we were planning on having a stunt double do. That being said, we did have a great stunt double who did some of the more outrageous things, which we would never imagine having one of our leads do.”
“She’s also just one of the best runners in the woods person we’ve ever met, she’s like a gazelle running,” they continued. “These were, like, dense woods with trees all the way around, she was able to fly through those, it was really impressive.”
In looking at their forest-surrounded location, the house they found turned out to be “a trip” and that much like other projects, a filmmaker will “have something in your mind and you have to kind of make some shifts” and that though they “really just loved” the house upon finding it, it also brought some “logistical problems that were different than the script.”
“Just to give you a sense of how interesting this house was, as we were doing the initial scouting, we were looking through the master bedroom and the master bedroom and the master bathroom were just one big room,” the duo described. “There wasn’t an actual door between them, which was maybe not that weird in itself, but there was a hot tub in the middle of the master bedroom and then in the actual bathroom part, there was a bureau that was pushed aside that led to a trap door into what we called a dungeon. Granted the house was totally cleared out, so it was an empty basement, but it was still a very strange trap door in an already odd master bedroom/bathroom. We just kind of took those really weird and creepy vibes and used them for our filmmaking.”
“And it was soundproof in that room below and there was a little tiny ladder that led down to that little room, so it was weird,” they laughed.
Though the film was led by the young star of the first Annabelle and Ouija sequels, it does also see frequent Happy Madison collaborator Kevin James take on a much darker and serious role, which the duo said was an idea they had right away as they wanted “someone that’s against type” and could tap into the “charismatic, really magnetic personality” of the character and originally had a certain Mission: Impossible star attached in the role.
“We liked that idea that when you meet this character and he first starts talking, you’re like ‘Oh, what a cool nice guy’ like the characters in the movie and then as he kind of continues, you really are surprised,” they said. “We were originally talking to Simon Pegg but Simon had to bail because of scheduling conflicts and we were talking to Kevin James to play the father. But when Simon bailed, Kevin was like, ‘Hey, I kind of like this character and I know the script’ and we started talking with Kevin and it wasn’t that big of a leap from Simon to Kevin. Kevin kind of just blew our mind with his commitment and his level of generosity with how much he was willing to do, I think anybody that’s a Kevin James fan is going to be shocked that he has a shaved he’d and a big beard, just the level of physicality that he brings to the role. But we worked really hard with him to just make sure that we find the right tone and for example, one of the things he was really adamant about was limiting the amount of dialogue that was coming from his character. He didn’t think the character needed to be very verbose, he could say a lot with less and I think that that pays off in the film.”
Before the world came to a close, the film was originally set to make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, and though the duo were really disappointed that they couldn’t bring it there and reunite with their cast and crew, it did prove to be almost a blessing in disguise.
“What happened is we were still finishing the film in LA, this was in late March, and the world literally just started shutting down, so we were just focused on trying to finish the film,” they recalled. “The world started shutting down, so we had to get out of the sound mixing, which is basically some of the last bits of finishing the film, and we had to finish the film remotely. So what usually takes a little over a week to do at a film studio took about a month to do from home, so we were really working on that and it took a lot longer, so even though we were disappointed, we still though, ‘We have to finish this film and then we can deal with the repercussions of not actually premiering at Tribeca.’ But in the end it’s a bummer because what ends up happening with indie films is that film festivals are our place for everybody to come back together who was involved with the making of it and see it with an audience and see it together and celebrate all the hard work you’ve done. So to not be able to come together and do that, it is a bummer, but we’re excited now that it’s going to show at drive-in theaters and we’re excited for people to get the chance to see it after all of our hard work.”
Becky follows the story of a rebellious 14-year-old Becky as she’s brought to a weekend getaway at a lake house by her father in an effort to try to reconnect after her mother’s death. The trip takes a turn for the worse when a group of convicts on the run, led by the merciless Dominick, suddenly invade the lake house. Becky, not daddy’s little girl anymore, decides to take matters into her own hands.
James, who is known for his many comedic roles, has signed on to take on a new kind of role which is far different from his previous projects. He is set to portray the role of Dominick, who will be the film’s main antagonist. The film will also be led by Lulu Wilson (Annabelle: Creation), who will be playing the titular character. James replaced Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) in the lead role after Pegg decided to leave the project due to scheduling conflicts.
Alongside James and Wilson, the ensemble cast for the film features Amanda Brugel (The Handmaid’s Tale), Robert Maillet (Sherlock Holmes), and Joel McHale (Community, Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge).
Becky will be co-directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (Bushwick) from a script written by Nick Morris along with Ruckus and Lane Skye. It will be produced by Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, and Russ Posternak through their Yale Productions banner along with Raphael Margules and J.D. Lifshitz of BoulderLight.
Becky is available in select theaters, drive-ins, digital platforms and VOD now!