Crazy parties are not limited to a bachelor's last hurrah at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Sometimes a group of high school students living in a Los Angeles suburb are capable of going a tad too far in reenacting The Hangover in a living room. This weekend, we will see just how awesomely crazy one house party can get when Nima Nourizadeh's Project X hits theaters in North America. The Todd Phillips-produced film stars Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, and Jonathan Daniel Brown alongside Nicole Bloom and Alexis Knapp. The trio of Messrs. Mann, Cooper, and Brown talked to Buzzine about what was so attractive about the high school party film.
Our own Izumi Hasegawa pinned the actors down for an in-depth conversation at Hollwood's W Hotel.
Izumi Hasegawa: How did you come to the project? What attracted you to your character?
Thomas Mann: I think it was nice to be doing a movie. It is not like they approached us with a script.
Oliver Cooper: I had a ton of offers, so I really had to pick.
TM: Yeah, we all kind of, in different ways, got involved. They did a big tape submission thing, searching for unknowns, and that's how they found J.B.
Jonathan Daniel Brown: Yeah, I did an open call over the Internet, so that was fun. I saw it on some blog randomly and was like, why not? It kind of snowballed from there. I still live with my parents, though.
IH: How do you relate to your characters?
TM: We all play versions of ourselves, I think. I'm definitely a much shyer version of myself, sort of like I was in high school. And we used our own names in the movie. We wanted it to feel authentic. We didn't want it to seem like we were doing characters. We wanted it to feel like we were real kids that people could hopefully relate to.
JDB: I'm a much louder person in real life. I'm more chatty and gregarious and boisterous. And Oliver's actually quieter and more mellow and, "Let's go to bed -- it's 9:00 p.m." So it's fun. We didn't know this at the time, but while we were shooting, we switched off versions of each other in a weird, different way.
OC: I'm not as much of a loser as you are.
JDB: Listening to Beach Boys at 8:00 p.m. and calling it a night...
OC: I can be very loud. When I was growing up, I always got beat up by older siblings and friends. I was always this angry ball of energy. So I think I could relate, and that's how I played in the movie. I was probably the bitch of my friends, more so than I was the "Come on guys, we're having a party tonight. Don't be a p*ssy."
IH: Do you think the film is real in that way, that it captured your personalities?
TM: I think we were all cast in our roles and we stayed in our roles, but definitely during rehearsals, the script changed a lot to fit our specific voices. We worked through each scene, and Nima (Nourizadeh) or Todd (Phililps) would fine-tune it and make it better and more efficient.
OC: Matt Drake and Michael Bacall wrote an awesome story in script. We actually had an on-set writer -- a guy named Adam Sztykiel -- who wrote Due Date for Todd earlier. He basically crafted, with us, the characters to our types, in a way, to make it as natural as possible. And it really worked. I mean, what you see in the movie is very much we get to play extensions of ourselves, and it's really cool.
IH: Was your high school experience like in the film? What was the craziest thing you did in your entire life?
OC: I don't want to talk about that.
JDB: He's wanted by Interpol in four countries.
OC: I was just a normal high school kid. There was nothing crazy about me.
TM: Yeah, I don't think anyone has ever been to a party of this magnitude before. Obviously, parties are not like this in high school, but the idea is this party becomes more than a “high school party.” It becomes an "everybody party" at a certain point. But high school parties, from what I remember, are 30 people hanging out playing beer pong.
OC: Or five kids in your basement going crazy.
JDB: "Who wants to play Dreamcast, guys?"
TM: I guess one time I was at my friend's house. His parents were divorced and his mom was away, so we were staying at his mom's house. We had a bunch of people over, but his dad knew that his mom was out of town. So he was spying on us the whole time. When we had someone go on a beer-run and brought back beers, he saw everything. He came in and a bunch of us ran, and I don't know. I spent the night at someone else's house. It wasn't really that crazy, but I remember, at the time, it felt like the craziest thing I'd ever done.
OC: That's crazy man.
JDB: The weird thing about shooting this movie is that it overshadows any crazy thing you ever did. The craziest party we ever had was over five weeks on the Warner Bros. lot. It was a hell of a shoot. It was five weeks of 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. every night, constant DJ on set, constant rioting and nuttiness, even if it was controlled chaos. Nima managed to make it feel real enough on set that, after a while, you didn't feel like you were acting. You just felt tired.
OC: D*mn, party again tonight.
JDB: World's smallest violin.
IH: What was your most memorable scene?
TM: The roof scene, for me, was really, really cool -- flipping off the helicopter -- that whole thing. We did a bunch of takes were it was just different phrases I was shouting out at the helicopter. It was fun.
OC: For me, I really loved two scenes: the taser one -- you kind of had a vibe that that was going to be a good scene when it was happening. It looked so real. The kid getting punched looked awesome. And I liked the cop scene. I go and talk to the cops. I really liked that scene. I really played nice. I don't know. Everything was pretty memorable, though.
JDB: One of my favorite moments -- not necessarily to shoot, because we didn't really shoot a montage -- but when you see the "heads will roll" montage after the ecstasy is dropped -- that's when the movie starts moving toward its climax. Things start to go to crazy town. So that's very memorable for me, when I see it, because I know that's when this is like an indicator that sh*t's about to hit the fan.
TM: I remember the most f***ed up that I ever felt when we were shooting was that scene, where the camera is basically dragging us through the party through all these extras. The house filled with people...
JDB: Three hundred extras.
TM: And basically we were following this light that was on the camera. It was blinding. It was all we could see. It was the craziest feeling.
JDB: Yeah, they shined it in our faces so we could look as messed up as possible.
TM: And they had music blaring. It felt the energy. It always felt like a party. It never felt fake.
IH: Were there any difficult scenes to shoot?
JDB: Okay, for me, the scene where I was shot-gunning the beer was tough for me because I couldn't get the aim right. We did that like 20 different times, because every time I hit the key, I would spray everybody but Nichole (Bloom) and myself. I'd spray the camera, I'd spray extras. I'd keep spraying. I couldn't control the aim of my key spray. So that was a tough one for me. Also, I am as coordinated as a 90-year-old man. I don't have the coordination; special awareness maybe not the best. So when I had to basically shake the beer, aim it a certain way, then hit the key at a certain angle to spray Nichole in the face with a beer, it just didn't work.
OC: Luckily we got that, because that makes or breaks the movie.
JDB: The cop scene was tough. They had to restructure a few scenes. There was one scene we had to restructure where we had to put tape on the staircase. It was a really simple scene, but for some reason, we took forever to shoot it. Remember that?
TM: Yeah, we ended up shooting that three times.
OC: I think the tougher stuff was probably not on our end, but for the camera to make it, because it's documentary style, so that it really feels that way the whole time. I think that's probably harder for those guys that were filmmakers.
IH: Do you think your friends, or people who watch the movie, think this could happen, or is it too crazy?
OC: I think it's crazy for anybody. Any time there's fire and kids getting torched, I think it's crazy.
IH: Do you think a foreign audience would think that American kids are really like that?
JDB: I don't take responsibility for any student in China who decides to set their house on fire. That's on them, not me. This movie is fiction. It's comedy. It's a good time, but it's definitely not a “go out and do this.”
OC: When we were in Toronto, we were doing a screening, and some kid came up to me afterwards, and he seemed like a nice kid. He asked me, "I don't mean to be an idiot, but is this real?" And I was thinking to myself, "No, obviously. Yeah, you are an idiot. It's a movie. Todd Phillips did this movie."
TM: I think the most insane thing, and the thing that makes so tremendous this party, is that it happens so spontaneously. It's over the course of one night, everybody hears about it -- over 24 hours from people to hearing about it to the end of the party.
TM: What I think what makes it so cool is that it happens spontaneously, and that's what makes it so special and such a victory for the characters.
IH: Thomas, what was it like going from this documentary-style film to a fairytale, Hansel and Gretel film?
TM: It was very different. On Project X, there was a lot more, I guess freedom in the sense of the way we shot it. We don't have set shots. "This is your frame. You can't leave this," as opposed to Hansel and Gretel, where very specific. We had green screens and stuff set up, and a lot of technical aspects involved to think about. Yeah, it was a very, very different experience. In this one, we were shooting more often. In that one, I was sitting down a lot on set.
IH: What do you play in Hansel and Gretel?
TM: I play a character named Ben. Hansel and Gretel basically takes place 15 years after the original fairy tale, so now they're grown up and they're witch bounty hunters, and it's sort of like a Tarantino-esque vibe. It's really fun, but also dark and bloody. I play their crazy fanboy. Hansel and Gretel are these witch-hunting celebrities, and they come to my town to take care of a witch infestation, and I sort of become their sidekick.
IH: How dark and bloody can it be? Is it R-rated?
TM: It is R-rated. I haven't seen it yet.
IH: What was the choreography like for some of those big scenes?
JDB: Like the car in the pool? No CG. Completely...
TM: That was really tricky. I was embarrassed for that.
JDB: That was a one-take scene.
TM: And it was one shot from, I think, where we're looking down at the TV on the news, and I run out and I jump onto this table as the car is... It was like a crazy timing thing. We rehearsed it a bunch because we knew we had...
OC: Were you in it?
TM: It's just me. They show me from my back, but basically I can't be the thing that f***s this up, because it doesn't even really matter as long as they get the car. So it was just making everything sync up. The timing of everything had to work.
JDB: The scene where we exploded the van -- everybody, the crew, they were all wearing protective goggles and special outfits except for us. They were like, "Just use your hands. You might get some scrap metal. It's cool. We got on-set medics." It's like, "Oh, thanks."
TM: Yeah, for a lot of stuff, we only had one take.
IH: Did it ever feel dangerous or scary?
JDB: It totally did, when things were on fire.
TM: Things got really hot.
JDB: Sweating like a pig.
OC: I think that kind of helped. There were two things that really helped toward the end of the movie. It gets crazy. First off, we shot the movie in order, so by that time, we were really exhausted. We had been shooting all night, and we were just tired, and the make-up...it was all crazy. Yeah, they were shooting flamethrowers and chaos... There were so many extras running around. It felt real -- as real as you can be on a movie.
IH: Do you think Project X teaches kids to be responsible or just throw parties of their own?
JDB: I think it does neither. I think it's a piece of escapism. It's fun fiction and comedy.
TM: Yeah, it's the experience. I think if you're looking to take any moral lessons from, it you're there for the wrong reasons.
JDB: If you go to The Hangover and say, "I should go get a tiger in my room," I'd be like, "You're nuts." It is a movie in the end.
TM: I think it's about celebrating. I mean, the trailer says "a celebration of bad behavior," which is sort of accurate because these guys are such losers. They have never experienced anything like this before. So that is why it is really kind of a victory for them by the end of the night. I think that's what is most important.
OC: Go out and have a good time.
JDB: This is a movie about wish fulfillment gone wrong, but also very, very right.
TM: It's like: be careful what you wish for.
OC: To be honest, I can't say because I'm in it, but I don't think I'd watch the movie and go, "I'm going to throw a party like that." I'd go to a party like that, but I'm not going to host that thing. That sucks.
JDB: That's on you, dude.
IH: What did you have in your pimp cup?
OC: A little bit of cocaine. Actually, they had O'Dules.
JDB: O'Dules and apple juice with water.
OC: Depending on what you wanted. I always wanted O'Dules because that made me sick to my stomach and I felt like I was actually drinking. I just felt terrible the whole movie. I was drinking so much of that O'Dules, and every time you do a scene, you've got to refill it up, like nine times, and you just feel terrible. You feel sick and drunk. I actually threw up in the movie, and I literally threw up.
JDB: I think all three of us threw up on set at least once.
TM: No, I didn't.
JDB: All right, well, I'll speak for Oliver and myself then.
TM: Yeah, I'm a professional.
JDB: Yeah, you can handle your apple juice water cocktail.
OC: You threw up when you did the tree thing?
JDB: Yeah, I threw up when I did the apple juice water beer pong off the tree.
OC: That was gross because they had apple juice.
JDB: And it was constantly pumping like at 500 miles an hour.
OC: And it was so fast, and it's hitting the back of your throat, and you're like, "Apple juice, eww."
JDB: And it's like the worst concentrate ever.
IH: How did you guys develop a friendship for the film?
TM: We meet in one of the final auditions, and then after that, once we were cast, basically the only preparation we had to do was...
JDB: Chinese food and Disneyland.
TM: Yeah, they just set up these play dates for us so we could bond, but we did it ourselves too. We just hung out a lot.
OC: I think something that helped our friendship too was that we all were in a similar situation. Me and Thomas hadn't been in L.A. that long, so you're not going to have a ton of friends; and Jonathan didn't have a lot of friends either.
JDB: And I have lived here my whole life. I've lived in Los Angeles 22 years.
OC: We were all just in a similar situation. We could relate. This was a big thing for all of us, so we kind of had that bonding.
TM: And Nima too. It was his first big feature. The fact that we were all kind of jumping off the same point...
JDB: And into the deep end.
TM: In that way, it was really special. So it was definitely easy to bond over anything like that, and we had no problem making the chemistry.
JDB: We hang out multiple times a week 'til this day.
TM: Yeah, we still hang out. We're very good friends.
IH: Who used the bounce-house the most?
JDB: Probably I did. I went in there for like an hour once. We were just filming me jumping for an hour with a bunch of random girls. It was like 30 seconds of footage, but it was the best exercise I've ever had.
Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Project X' is released in theaters Friday, March 2, 2012.