A modern-day retelling of Mark Twain’s iconic characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Band of Robbers is a comedic adventure that reimagines the characters as grown men, and small-time crooks. Having its World Premiere at the LA Film Festival on Saturday, June 13th, we got the chance to talk exclusively to the cast right before the screening. We begin:
Matthew Gray Gubler (“Joe Harper”)
WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT JOE HARPER?
Joe Harper is… I have to say he’s the most enigmatic character I’ve ever played. He’s lovable on the outside but, Adam and Aaron and I discussed, he’s sort of a strange psychopath who really is excited about being a pirate and would probably die for Tom Sawyer. A very loyal madman who’s honored to be part of the gang.
IS THIS WHAT DREW YOU TO THE MOVIE?
Adam and Aaron drew me to it, I’ve known them for a very long time, and I truly think they’re some of the most talented people I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve been hearing about this project for years.
CAN YOU RELATE TO TWAIN’S CHARACTERS?
I played Huckleberry Finn when I was 10 in a local play and of course I loved it. Twain is like the grandfather of wit, and he looks great in a white suit. It takes a lot of confidence to wear a white suit, because basically you’re saying you have faith that you’re not going to spill things all over you. I’m a fan of his outfits and a fan of his writing. And his hair. Great hair. I think one of the things about the script and really the whole filmmaking team is I feel like we’re all, for better or worse, children at heart. This story and the themes of being trapped in boyhood and trying to function in a normal world ring very true with all of us and I think that’s why the movie is so special.
Kyle Gallner (“Huck Finn”)
HOW ARE YOU FEELING RIGHT NOW?
Very uncomfortable after all of those pictures, but I’m feeling much better now.
CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT THE MOVIE?
It’s an imagining of what would happen if Tom Saywer and Huckleberry Finn grew up, but in modern times. It’s weirdly kind of like a love story between the two of these guys, it’s a nice story about their relationship. They’re both at different places in their lives, doing different things, and they’re not kids anymore. It’s about what happens when you grow up.
COULD YOU RELATE TO THAT PERSONALLY, THE IDEA OF WANTING TO HOLD ONTO CHILDHOOD?
I did, but then life moved very quickly for me where I had kid, then I had a second kid, and my wife… it all came along very, very quick. I was always a little bit of a wild child and never really wanted to grow up and did try to fight against growing up for a long time but now that you’re here, it’s nice. That journey into being a grown-up is a nice one.
Creed Bratton (“Dobbins”)
SO NICE TO MEET YOU!
Great to meet you too!
Fan Girl: Can I get a selfie with you Creed? I love you!
For God’s sake woman…
I’M SURE THAT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME, RIGHT?
Well [The Office] is playing re-runs so that’s good. When it stops I’ll get worried.
WHAT DREW YOU TO BAND OF ROBBERS?
I read the script and loved it. It’s smart and it’s funny. I read for another character and didn’t hear about it for a few days and thought, ‘What the?’ I really wanted it. Then I heard that the directors liked what I did so they took two characters and combined it into this character Dobbins, so I get to play a bad guy. That was great fun.
WOULD YOU SAY YOUR CHILDHOOD WAS LIKE A MARK TWAIN NOVEL?
I grew up in the mountains right below Yosemite in a very rural area, with a horse. I never went looking for Indian’s gold, didn’t find buried treasure, but I came close.
Adam (“Tom Sawyer”, Director) and Aaron Nee (Director)
TELL US THE SECRET FOR SUCCESSFULLY WORKING TOGETHER AS SIBLINGS?
Adam: We have been doing it for so long. Aaron’s three years older, and it was impossible [working together] for a while, but once I hit like 17 he started to think I wasn’t such a numbskull and thought I had some good ideas. That’s when we really hit the ground running. Honestly, our personalities are very different and I feel like my weaknesses are Aaron’s strengths and vice versa and I think that’s the real key for us.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO WRITE THIS STORY?
Adam: When I was starting out, I was an actor in New York City and I auditioned for an Adventures of Huckleberry Finn adaptation, a verbatim, by the books period piece, so Huck was like a 13/14-years-old but I was like 21-years-old. I was embarrassingly too old for the part and the audition was terrible. I left laughing at how embarrassing it was, but then thinking, ‘Hey, what if they were grown up? What would that actually mean?’ Then Aaron came on and helped me figure it out, then we wrote this thing and that’s how it all started.
SO WHEN ADAM IS ACTING, IS AARON DIRECTING?
Aaron: Yeah I may have more of an active director role, but because we wrote the film together a lot of the decision-making happened back then. Once we were on set, I knew what Adam wanted, he knew what I wanted and we had worked most of that stuff out. It became more just making sure that stuff was happening.
HOW DID YOU ASSEMBLE YOUR SUPPORTING CAST?
Adam: It was tough casting because these are very difficult parts. We didn’t want it to be stereotypes of these famous characters, so it was very hard for people to nail it. When Kyle Gallner came in, it was like, ‘Oh that’s Huckleberry Finn.’ It was so obvious. And then when Melissa Benoist auditioned for Becky, it was so obvious. We got really lucky. I wasn’t going to play Tom Sawyer, we just couldn’t find anybody and it ended up happening last minute!
Aaron: We saw a lot of talented people who auditioned for Tom Sawyer but I think in part because this was an idea that has been ruminating for a long time, over the course of working that character out it because very much Adam’s voice.
Adam: And I knew the directors really well and that helped me get the part.
Beth Grant (“Widow Douglas”)
WE WERE JUST TALKING TO THE NEE BROTHERS ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER AS SIBLINGS.
Let me tell you, I’m really close with my brother Bubba. People laugh and say, ‘You have a brother named Bubba? Really?’ I’m like, ‘I’m from the South, of course I’ve got a brother named Bubba!’
HOW DID YOU GET ATTACHED TO THIS PROJECT?
Matthew Gray Grubler drew me. I had worked with him before, he directed me on Criminal Minds, and I just love him. We’ve remained friends and have been looking for projects to do together. He called and asked me to do it, and Widow Douglas is an iconic character. I grew up reading the Mark Twain books and so to recreate an icon is always exciting.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CHARACTER?
Pretty much me if I had stayed in the South. A lot of times I do extreme characters, but honestly this is one of the few chances I’ve had to really play pretty close to me. It’s just a little cameo, a little fun thing, but we’ll see tonight! I just tried to be present and in the moment. They guys are all really authentic and it really felt like in this movie we were all playing really close to ourselves. Wait till you see it! Matthew’s outfit alone is pretty crazy.
HOW IS IT BEING HERE AT THE LA FILM FESTIVAL?
It’s one of my favorite festivals because it’s at home and you can invite all of your friends. They have a really eclectic taste and I love that this film was shot in Los Angeles and the festival is really trying to encourage filmmaking in LA. Being shot 100% in LA, including local actors and crew, this is the perfect place for Band of Robbers to be.
Melissa Benoist (“Becky Thatcher”)
WHO IS YOUR CHARACTER IN THE FILM?
I play Becky Thatcher, the Becky Thatcher of Tom Sawyer fame. She’s basically the moral compass surrounded by a bunch of crazy dudes that are just messing everything up around her.
ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT TONIGHT’S PREMIERE?
Oh yes, I haven’t seen much of it and I’ve been excited to see it since I worked on it!
Stephen Lang (“Injun Joe”)
WHO IS YOUR CHARACTER IN THE FILM?
I play Injun Joe who is not a Native American, but he’s just obsessed with their culture. He’s a hard, cold-blooded individual.
DID THAT INVOLVE HEAVY MAKEUP OR EXTENSIVE COSTUMES?
I really wanted to find the right look for the guy so we did a number on him. I’m a character actor, not only at heart but in fact, and I really like transforming. This seemed like the perfect role to do that with. I did a number with my hair and nose as well which was pretty fun and easy to do. I think I rendered myself almost unrecognizable.
WAS THE CHANCE TO EXPLORE A CHARACTER LIKE THIS WHAT DREW YOU TO THE FILM?
Absolutely. This is one that my son Noah, who is one of the producers, said I had to do. Now, if I had read it and just couldn’t see it I would’ve passed, but he was dead right. It’s not a big role, but it’s a juicy little thing and it allows me to do something I haven’t done before. I was glad to do it.