If you haven’t heard of The Inbetweeners,—and it’s not likely you have here in the US—you need to be aware that this raunchy UK comedy import follows the travails of four high school-aged British lads who pursue sex, booze, and parties with little success. The television show completed three short seasons in the UK and is now available in its raw form in the US on DVD or via online streaming services. At the same time, the success of the show also gave the cast a reason to go on a bigger excursion. So co-creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley sent the boys off on a holiday in Malia. The Inbetweeners film grossed $71 million in the UK when it was released August 2011.
Now, while MTV is airing a retooled version of the show set in America, the film has come out in the US where, in very limited release it grossed about $36,000 on the ten screens it opened on (according to Boxoffice.com). But more importantly, The Inbetweeners—Simon Bird (Will McKenzie), Blake Harrison (Neil Sutherland), Joe Thomas (Simon Cooper) and James Buckley (Jay Cartwright)—along with Iain Morris, got together to do some promotional events and interviewers have stirred up news that a sequel is likely to be developed. The cast made the rounds in Los Angeles before Buckley and Morris dropped into New York to take in a showing over the opening weekend. Chatting with Buckley, I learned it was his first trip to New York before starting an interview with the two.
The Inbetweeners Movie
Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Joe Thomas
(Bwark Productions, Film4, Young Films; Limited: 12 Jul 2012; UK theatrical: 17 Aug 2011; 2011)
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Your movie is opening this weekend here in the States. What do you expect it to gross?
IM: [Laughs] Well, that’s what I got into it for really, guessing financial numbers.
JB: How much was a ticket?
IM: What did Batman [The Dark Knight Rises] do? I don’t know how much a ticket is. I think probably, if you combine the total of Batman and The Avengers.
JB: And probably Avatar and Titanic.
IM: Yeah and Avatar and Titanic. So basically if you took those four films, averaged the screen average, divide that by eight, because that is how many screens we [The Inbetweeners] are on… dunno. Nothing. I would just like someone to watch it really. I don’t care what it takes. We made it for the UK, so it’s amazing it’s getting released over here at all, so it’s fantastic.
Was it the fastest grossing comedy there?
IM: It was the highest grossing opening weekend of any comedy ever. And it was the highest grossing comedy ever in the UK.
When did it come out in the UK?
IM: August last year. The sixteenth. It was a big day in my life, to be fair. Buckley, not so much. He’s like ‘that’s another one of those’.
JB: No, it was incredibly nerve-wracking. We had worked for so long towards that day and then when that day was here, well we’re not working towards that day anymore. I was confident in the film, I enjoyed doing it and I thought it was funny. So I thought, ‘Oh, people like it’. Then I was like, ‘oh, but I can’t just say ‘people like it’ anymore because today we are gonna find out if people actually do like it.
IM: What if people don’t like it?
JB: What’s going to happen?
IM: What I loved about it was that you are aware that the show is popular on TV. But you don’t really know how people watch it. Engaging a film is a different thing to watching a TV show and also for us. So going to see the film and seeing people, in the hundreds in the cinemas, laughing at it, was amazing. It was like the first time I realized ‘Oh yeah, people actually laugh at this’. If you go around to someone’s house when they are watching TV and watching the show, it would be creepy. Whereas you’re allowed to go to the cinema and see other people laughing.
Are you going to check out a screening here in the US?
IM: Yeah, we’re going tonight to the Union Square one and then tomorrow night again. [We’re] contractually obliged to do that [laughs].
Will you be hiding in the audience?
IM: We went to a screening on Tuesday and I was there for the whole thing, I introduced it. And my wife was there. I was like ‘I don’t want to watch it. I don’t care’. I actually ended up standing at the back, and because I hadn’t seen it for a while, but you sorta go, ‘I’ll just stay till that bit. Oh that bit is quite good. I quite like that bit. I want to see that bit’. Then by the end you’ve watched the whole thing.
JB: I was there for the last twenty minutes.
IM: Must have been a classic.
JB: I’d already seen it before.
IM: He’s seen it. He’s seen it.
The Inbetweeners film is opening on big screens here in the US, but the TV show is not as well-known.
IM: No, it’s kinda like a slow burn. I think part of the problem was that BBC America, which is great, it’s a brilliant channel, [was that] because the show is so rude, they cut a lot of it and they bleeped a lot of it. And so, I’ve found when I’ve watched it on BBC America it’s quite hard to enjoy because actually it doesn’t really make sense. I’d like to think that’s one of the reasons it never really caught on. But now it’s on Netflix and it feels like slowly people are finding it and coming to it.
JB: It was the same back home.
IM: Yeah it was very much too a slow burn.
JB: The repeat of the first season was watched by more people than when it first came out because people would watch it and they would say to two of their friends, ‘Oh you know, you should check this out’. Then the mates check it out and they say, ‘Oh, this is great’. It was this word of mouth thing that sort of snowballed and made it a success really.
IM: James is right. It was like the DVD sales almost drove the…
JB: Yeah a lot of people bought on DVD.
IM: [Here] it’s on Netflix and Hulu. It’s actually available on DVD on Amazon and in selected stores. By which I mean, I’ve looked for it in a few and found it in one.
Do you feel it is going to be a challenge to introduce the film here in the US where not as many people have had a chance to see the show?
JB: I don’t think ‘challenge’ is the right word because all we want people to do is watch it and enjoy it. We’ll try and get as many people to do that as possible. If people don’t watch it then I don’t think we’ll cry too much about it. It’s just a bonus really.
IM: Yeah exactly.
JB: If any one American person that goes to the cinema and watches the film, it’s a great thing.
IM: It’s a very British series. We made it for Britain. I think you don’t need to have seen the series to enjoy the film but at the same time, like James said, this is a bonus. We didn’t expect it to get released over here. So it’s great. It’s exciting.
One of the things US audiences might find different was the idea of a lad’s holiday.
JB: I guess it;s sorta like a spring break. Kids finish their exams and …
IM: …go crazy.
JB: In Britain, the way things work is when they finish their sixth forms, which is high school here, they’re 18. Then obviously everyone splits up and goes to different universities and things like that. So a lot of the time, once they do those final exams, the kids will all go on one amazing holiday. It’s one last blowout, a last hurrah. Before everything gets quite serious and you have to…
IM: [Interrupts] For my eighteenth birthday, I got more money than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. My grandfather and my aunt and uncle gave me 180 quid, like ten pounds [sterling] for each year of my life. At the time quite a lot of money. I spent every single penny of it on two weeks in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Again, looking back on it, [pauses] one of the worst holidays in my entire life. The kind of holiday you come back from needing a holiday because they are so stressful and weird and you are so drunk the whole time.
JB: I’ve never been on [a holiday like that]. It’s never something that has appealed to me.
JB: Even at a young age, I’ve always felt like a holiday should be quite relaxing.
IM: Yeah it’s the opposite of relaxing.
JB: All my friends have been on a few [like these].
IM: I did a good five years.
JB: They would just talk about like how the last two nights were just a real struggle.
IM: [Laughs] It is that!
JB: They’d be like ‘C’mon, c’mon we gotta go out’ and they’d be like ‘Ugghhh, alright’. It’s quite funny actually, recently a few of my friends went on a lad’s holiday to, [pauses] Malia [the setting for The Inbetweeners movie].
IM: No way.
JB: They’re married, late thirties. They just ended up on the last two days, one of them came out and was like ‘I’d actually quite like to have an early night tonight’ [Both laugh]. Then they were all like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Should we all just go to bed?’.
IM: The opposite of a holiday almost. It’s just stressful.
How much of your own personal holiday experience was included in the movie?
IM: There’s loads of me and Damon [Beesley]. We both did a good five years of it. A lot of it, to be fair, was things we saw our idiot friends doing as well. But, I remember, there’s a scene in the film where a guy is pulling a dead dog outside a well and that happened. I was in Greece, we pulled up outside a shit hole, and a guy was pulling a dead dog out of a well. I was like ‘Okay! This is a holiday. Here we are’.
James, the holiday scenario that your characters were involved in was not something you would have participated in.
JB: No it’s not. I think I was always savvy. I could see that it wasn’t going to be as good as what everyone was making it out to be.
IM: I suppose you were quite young weren’t you? You started this when you were 18?
JB: Yeah that’s right. I was already a superstar by then.
IM: What, in kitchen fitting shops?
JB: I don’t like clubs in England anyway. I don’t like the music. I’ve always preferred somewhere you can sit down and have a pint and talk. I find those things, ironically, very antisocial.
IM: [Chimes in] They are.
JB: So I’ve never fancied that.
IM: Damon, who I wrote the show with, asked me the same thing. I said, ‘I don’t like clubs. What’s the point of going to clubs? I don’t get clubs’. And Damon was like, ‘That’s because you’ve never taken drugs’. He’s like ‘you have to just understand’. So I think [on a holiday] if you are off your nut the whole time, it just takes the edge off.
JB: I think that might be it as well.
IM: Having said that, we director Ben [Palmer], Damon, Chris [Young] the producer [and I] [got blasted] two years ago. I broke my wrist. Damon puked. We were about as badly behaved as you can probably imagine. And it was brilliant. There were no drugs involved. It was just drinking our stupid heads off.
James, you have some of the crudest scenes in the series and maybe the film. Did you ever feel grossed out with some of the things that were written or did you ever feel awkward?
IM: The ham was…
Yeah the ham scene was…
JB: I couldn’t whinge too much because I had used my ‘get out’. You only really get one. I didn’t want to have my…
IM: [helping] actual
JB: …actual penis out.
IM: The whole CGI budget was on James’s penis placement.
JB: That was another thing as well that we started getting into in another interview. We had to make sure the penis budget is alright if we do another. [Both laugh].
So the penis was CGI?
JB: Basically, yeah.
IM: It was another guy. We plated it in. It was my idea. I was quite proud of that.
JB: So anything else I couldn’t whinge about. Like if they wanted to put ants on me, I had to have ants. If they wanted ants in my mouth, alright then. Because I’d used it.
You used your one pass.
Both JB and IM: You don’t even really get one.
JB: So you have to really fight for it.
Every other ‘stunt’ was real, those were real ants?
IM: Yeah we had real ants. [Pauses] Real ham.
JB: A lot of the stuff that I do and I say, you cannot think about at all. When I read the script, it reminds me of the time when I did a pitch invasion for the football team. Where I didn’t even think about it. Everyone was just running, so I jumped over and just ran on. I wanted to be a part of it. I never thought ‘Oh god, don’t go on the pitch’. That is the approach I’ve always had to the script. Don’t take a second to even think about what you are actually saying. Just really throw yourself into it and try to do it and have no inhibitions. You cannot think for a second about what you are actually doing because, it’s great and it’s funny to watch those things on television, and I watch other shows that are similar and a lot of stuff they do, like say in Peepshow and things like that (it’s obviously not as bad as The Inbetweeners or as embarrassing) but, there’s an episode in the series where I have to ask an old woman for a blow job [Iain laughs]. When you’re watching that as a fan of the show, you go, ‘oh he’s asked that old woman for a blow job’. The reality was that we were all there and I was standing there in front of an old woman saying, ‘Can you give me a blow job?’. That was actually happening. If you take yourself away from that, and actually look into it, ‘why is this happening, why am I saying this to this woman?’
IM: I am on the seafront asking this woman for a blowjob.
JB: There’s the proof of it there. It’s on television.
IM: I think Blake [Harrison] got the worst of it in the film though because he had to put his hand down Cathy’s, this amazing actress who is so game for everything, pants. That is what he did.
So did he use his pass somewhere else?
IM: He used his pass on his penis as well actually. He had a prosthetic penis. There’s a long conversation about how see-through his pants were going to be.
JB: Because his pants were going to be see-through, they had to make sure the penis looked as real as possible. It had to have pubes, which was mostly made of Iain Morris’ beard. Emma was showing me the bag and I was like, ‘What is that, is that actually?’. ‘No, it’s Iain’s beard. We’re going to use that [laughs] for the pubes’.
What were some of the funniest scenes to film together for the movie?
JB: We filmed this film such a long time ago.
IM: The one that you loved is when you and Joe [Thomas] were sitting down and having the sensitive scene and Simon Bird is puking.
JB: Oh my god. I was crying with laughter.
IM: [Laughs] It was like midnight or something.
JB: I was hysterical [laughs]. We were doing this scene which is one of my favorite scenes of the film. I love that scene, it’s a really sweet scene. Jay is one of my favorite people in the world so it was sort of great to do something with him. Simon Bird is throwing up into a well. So he’s making all these noises and straining and he’s bent over and he just lets a fart rip. Then he carries on for a little while [hysterical laugh] but then I think he can start to hear people laugh and he’s like ‘I did a little fart’.
IM: [Laughs] He did a little fart. [More laughter] That was a good one…
JB: Even if I just think about that one…
IM: because he was like [making retching, retching sounds then fart sound].
JB: If I’m on the train or something and I think about that, I’m just the nutter laughing to himself on the train. That was great. That was really good and fun to do. The thing is, without sounding too soppy, we don’t ever film a scene where we are not laughing all the way through it. We just don’t. It never happens. Even when things are getting really heated and serious, there is no time. We’ve got the art of being able to look at something retrospectively and fondly even though it’s happening at the moment. We’ve just gotten to see the funny side of everything. You have to laugh.
IM: [Agreeing] One of my highlights was when we shot a scene—this is not in the film but it’s a pick-up we didn’t use the end—in the toilet. James goes in and pisses on the floor and the other guys all stand and talk about what they are going to do with girls. To get this shot, it was all so rushed and everyone was so close, we don’t really be polite to each other…
JB: We’re like a family…
IM: …no one takes offense. There was a moment where basically they’re like ‘Ok, we can’t get this angle so we to put Simon on a box’. We got a box out, stood Simon Bird there and Blake laughed in his face. Simon was so short he had to stand on a box. We all just sort of cracked up just laughing. It was incredibly rude because we were just laughing at Simon being short. Blake laughed six inches from his face, in his face, because they put [Simon] on a box. That was one of my highlights.
JB: [Laughing throughout].
As you had spent three years or more within your characters, was there any time you were actually able to improv your scenes with your characters?
IM: In the whole series there’s about three improvised lines and I think all of them are yours [looking at James].
JB: That says something. I didn’t learn the lines really. The difference between American shows and British shows is that everything that we say is written by Iain and Damon. They have to have a lot of meetings with people and it’s very important that the lines are, well they should be exactly as they are written. Iain and Damon are there the whole time and it’s their script. They’ve got such a specific idea and it’s a format that is hugely successful, so we can’t turn around and say ‘We demand that we have more freedom’. Well, stick to this because we are doing quite well.
IM: I think that’s one of the reasons it relieves the pressure on you because when we shout ‘cut’, this lot always just muck about and laugh with each other.
JB: Yeah there is that. It’s just written really well.
IM: It is written really well.
JB: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Anything we [might have] improvised would never have been as funny as what has actually been written down. It’s taken such a long time. It takes Iain and Damon basically a year to write, maybe even more. Longer sometimes?
IM: No it’s about a year.
JB: About a year to write. So it’s been all thought out. Like ‘Don’t worry about it, we have thought about this’. A lot of people are surprised when we say that none of it is improvised. Which, again, is testament to the script.
IM: Well it’s a testament to your performance that you make it seem natural.
JB: After the first series as well, Iain and Damon understood how we spoke so the lines were tailored for us.
IM: That’s one of the difficult things. When people say, ‘they are like their characters’, I feel a bit rude because I’m like, ‘Well they are a bit like their characters but that’s not their fault. That’s because we started writing their characters to sound a bit like them’.
Iain, can I ask you about the American version of The Inbetweeners, the show? How much say did you have on the script or the actual production of the show? I noticed the characters have the same names.
IM: Nothing really in the scripts. [MTV was interested] in doing a remake. They had Brad [Copeland] that they really liked. The Inbetweeners itself, the UK version, is a very accurate reflection of Damon’s and my childhood in suburbia. We don’t know American suburbia in the same way. It made sense to have someone that did take it on and take the ideas and take some of the storylines and change and adapt. I think that’s what’s happening. The first couple episodes are pretty similar and the rest of them change a bit and become something different. I directed the last episode, which I really enjoyed. It was quite a funny experience. It was a bit like being a director for hire rather than the show creature. Everyone was nice to me, to a point.
You’re the outsider.
Maybe you can’t answer this then, but in the US, you can’t drink till you are 21 and with the characters being of high school age are not going to be able to go as readily to a pub.
JB: That makes things easier. We could maybe have done one more series if the law was the same back home. [In the first series,] the boys are sixteen and seventeen. That whole thing of not being allowed to go into clubs, not being allowed to drink, but also being too old to sit on the swings, like what do you do? It’s that awkwardness, that bubble, that world that they live in where we sit around talking about doing stuff but we don’t actually really do anything. The things that we do are a disaster and rubbish basically.
IM: That was part of the thing of the America one because I was like ‘I haven’t got a fucking clue what you do if you can’t drink’. I just don’t know.
Back to The Inbetweeners’ UK characters - is there going to be a sequel? What’s their future? Are we going to see something like American Pie where we see them ten years down the road for a reunion? What’s next?
IM: Everyone is quite busy but we’d like to do a sequel.
JB: It’s always been up to Iain and Damon really.
IM: We’ve spent a year away from them and we miss them. That’s what’s been so good about the American [film release], we all get to hang out again.
JB: It’s just the best job in the world. I’ve done other acting jobs since, and you have to take it seriously. You can’t joke about as much. If we behaved the way we behaved on The Inbetweeners, we’d be fired from pretty much everything. It is just so much laughing all the way through.
IM: It’s nice that people want more. I feel like people want that and we like doing it. It seems insane to not try and come up with something else. So we’re going to try and come with something else. We’ll see what happens.