Actor Matthew Lillard is known for his roles in all kinds of films from Scream to SLC Punk to Scooby Doo and everything in between. Now he’s stepped behind the scenes to put out his directorial feature film debut titled Fat Kid Rules the World, a culmination of nine years of work. Press Pass LA caught up with Matthew at the Vans Warped Tour, Ventura stop, to talk directing, acting, and the breaking the Hollywood mold.
PPLA: Why are you here at Warped Tour?
ML: I directed a movie called Fat Kid Rules the World based on the young adult book by the same title and any kid anywhere in America can set up a screening of our film at their local theater if they go to Tugg.com. So we are out here this summer trying to inspire kids to ‘Tug the Fat Kid’ and get it over to their local theaters.
PPLA: What is the premise of the film?
ML: The premise of the film is about an obese teenager that is about to kill himself and this guitar savant, street urchin kid who stops him. The homeless kid sees the fat kid as a free lunch, and the fat kid just sees the homeless kid as an only friend. So they start a two person punk rock band and basically are using each other. But it’s a great little story, and it’s a lot like SLC Punk in terms of its tone.
PPLA: Tell me about the process of getting this film off the ground. What else do we have coming up for you?
ML: This project is my main focus. It’s taken me nine years to get it done. We premiered at SXSW Film Festival and we won the Audience Award. So instead of taking a traditional deal in Hollywood, we’re kind of trying to break that machine, that mold, and so this is taking up all of my time. That said, I did just film an acting role in a movie with Clint Eastwood that comes out in September, but for now, I’m fully commited to getting this film out there and getting it to kids.
PPLA: What role do you play in the film with Clint Eastwood and what is that film about?
ML: I play Clint Eastwood’s nemesis; it is a baseball movie.
PPLA: Do you think your real life persona is similar to any of the characters that you play in films?
ML: Yeah, I think that I’m like every character from Stevo right down to the guy in Scream. I think that our job as actors is to access the fantasy world that everyone has. You can be a princess or you can be a little sinner and both of those live inside of you at all times. That’s what I teach and that’s what I like to do in my acting.
PPLA: Is directing something that’s a big passion of yours as well as acting?
ML: Yes. I’d way rather direct at this point than act. Acting is a lovely job, and I’m proud to have been able to do it my whole life. But the reality is that it’s not nearly as exciting as leading a hundred people on a story-telling journey.
PPLA: Will we primarily see you directing rather than acting in the future then?
ML: I don’t know. The fates kind of have that. If it was up to me, yes! But the reality is that I’m a gun for hire, so when it comes and if it comes, then I will do it.
PPLA: Did you specifically study directing from someone or did you pick it up kind of by osmosis?
ML: It’s very osmosis-;, it’s very much like parenting. You are a product of what you experience in life and what you are taught and brought up in. So it’s definitely an act of osmosis.
PPLA: Do you have a particular project you would really like to direct in the near future? We won’t have to wait another nine years, we will?
ML: I hope not! (laughs) This film took so long because it’s about an obese teenager and punk rock music and the guys in Hollywood that control money don’t usually respond to those two things. If we had a vampire and a guy with great abs, it probably would have been made a lot faster. My goal is to do big Hollywood movies. I like The Avengers. I like Prometheus. Those are the types of movies that I love- that I’d love to try to get into.
PPLA: Do you act at all in Fat Kid Rules the World?
ML: I actually did but I cut myself out.
PPLA: How did you find balancing the two? Do you think you will try to act and direct in future projects, possibly write too?
ML: I would like to. I mean I’m not really a writer per se. I think that part of my strength as a director is to let people be great at what they do and writing is not my strength. I’ll let somebody else do that.
PPLA: Why Warped Tour for promoting this film?
ML: Because the movie is made for these kids. We are very specific in terms of who we are going after and the story we’re telling. We’re not telling a story that’s made for adults. We’re telling a story that’s made for kids that live outside of the boundaries. It’s like SLC Punk. I have the privilege of walking around everyday and kids come up to me all the time and say ‘that movie changed my life’. We actively went out and tried to make a movie like that.
PPLA: Do you think that’s happening?
ML: I don’t know, you’ll have to see it. You’ll be the judge (laughs). I do know that we strike a chord in people and that people have responded well. And even if we find that one kid or twenty kids or a thousand kids, whatever it is, we have a message behind our movie and we just hope it lands with somebody.
PPLA: Is there anything else that you want audience to know about this film?
ML: The one thing I will say is that we’re trying to shift the paradigm. We’re trying to bring this movie to the people that it was built for directly and try to escape the Hollywood kind of machine. We’re excited about that. In the first week, we sent over 800 movie requests out across the U.S., so we’re hoping that kids see it and they find it. If they want to see it in their own town, they can go to Tug and do that.
Check out our Vans Warped Tour photo gallery.