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Interview: 'The Way, Way Back'

Nat Faxon, Sam Rockwell, and Liam James star in the coming of age film, "The Way, Way Back."
Fox Searchlight
Nat Faxon, Sam Rockwell, and Liam James star in the coming of age film, "The Way, Way Back."

Co-Writer-Directors Talk About Making A Coming Of Age Film

Interview: 'The Way, Way Back'
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando interviews Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, co-writer-directors of "The Way, Way Back."

ANCHOR INTRO: The new film The Way Way Back opens this weekend. The title refers to how far back in the station wagon 14-year-old Duncan has to sit. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with the filmmakers about how to make a successful coming of age film. Duncan's summer vacation begins uncomfortably with a road trip in which he’s in the way way back of a station wagon unable to escape a grilling from his mom’s new boyfriend. CLIP: Duncan on a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are?... I don’t know, a 6… I think you’re a 3. JIM RASH: And that glorious conversation actually happened to me when I was 14. That’s writer-director Jim Rash. JIM RASH: We were riding just like in the movie in a station wagon on our way to our summer vacation just like in the movie and my step father at the time had that conversation with me. That sort of dramatic little launching point was what we started with. And it’s a perfect place. The best coming of age films – like The 400 Blows, American Graffiti, and Stand By Me -- always rely on personal details to make them stand out in a crowded field. Co-writer/directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon drew on their childhood experiences and found that with a little distance those sometimes painful memories could make for bittersweet comedy. JIM RASH: Some of the best comedy comes from these moments where it can be awkward and we are not operating at our best and when you look back on these moments it’s sort of cathartic and that’s sort of what we went with. NAT FAXON: It also feels more honest in terms of what you may experience on a day to day basis. The highs and lows of life in a sense where great and funny things can happen and also sad or tragic things can also happen. Last year Rash and Faxon won an Oscar for adapting The Descendants to the screen. This year they once again turn to a tale of dysfunctional family life in order to make their directing debut. Beth Accomando, KPBS NEWS

The title for "The Way, Way Back" (opening July 12 at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas) refers to how far back in the station wagon 14-year-old Duncan has to sit. Filmmakers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon talk about about how to make a successful coming of age film.

Duncan's summer vacation begins uncomfortably with a road trip in which he’s in the way way back of a station wagon unable to escape a grilling from his mom’s new boyfriend.

Trailer: The Way Way Back

"The Way, Way Back" has a painful exchange early on between Duncan (Liam James) and Trent (Steve Carell).

Trent: Duncan on a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are?

Duncan: I don’t know, a 6.

Trent: I think you’re a 3.
"And that glorious conversation actually happened to me when I was 14," says co-writer-director Jim Rash, "We were riding just like in the movie in a station wagon on our way to our summer vacation just like in the movie and my step father at the time had that conversation with me. That sort of dramatic little launching point was what we started with."

And it’s a perfect place. The best coming of age films – like "The 400 Blows," "American Graffiti," and "Stand By Me" -- always rely on personal details to make them stand out in a crowded field. Co-writer/directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon drew on their childhood experiences and found that with a little distance those sometimes painful memories could make for bittersweet comedy.

"Some of the best comedy comes from these moments where it can be awkward and we are not operating at our best and when you look back on these moments it’s sort of cathartic and that’s sort of what we went with," adds Rash.

"It also feels more honest in terms of what you may experience on a day to day basis. The highs and lows of life in a sense where great and funny things can happen and also sad or tragic things can also happen," says co-writer-director Nat Faxon.

Last year Rash and Faxon won an Oscar for adapting "The Descendants" to the screen. This year they once again turn to a tale of dysfunctional family life in order to make their directing debut. Keep your eyes on them, they have a great feel for humor and real but flawed characters.

Companion viewing: "The Graduate," "Rushmore," "Submarine"