When tween actors Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon got cast in Good Boys, they were eager to work with producer Seth Rogen. Except they hadn’t seen Rogen in the role they were hoping to channel for their own film. So Noon says they got permission from their parents and then got together to watch Superbad.
“We had a slumber party that night,” he said.
Although big names like Rogen and his frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg highlight the project, it was the three tweens who were barely alive when Superbad hit theaters in 2007 who carried the movie and the aftershow Monday night, when Good Boys premiered at SXSW in front of a high-energy crowd that laughed continuously throughout the Universal comedy. Noon is 13, Tremblay is 12 and Williams is 11.
Good Boys, a Universal film directed by Gene Stupnitsky and written by Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, follows the three as sixth graders trying to learn how to kiss ahead of a boy-girl party, where Tremblay’s character wants to make a move on his crush. The plan hits a snag when they use Tremblay’s character’s father’s drone to spy on an older teenage girl (Molly Gordon). A day of craziness ensues as they skip school to try to buy a new drone and run into constant complications, all of the action paced by incessant f-bombs from 12-year-old children.
“I think we really wanted to tell a story about that very specific time,” said Eisenberg, adding that around middle school is when you’re clinging to longtime friends while dealing with change. “You’ve seen the versions of these that are high school movies, and we wanted to go younger.”
Superbad isn’t the only movie that comes to mind; Eisenberg said they also drew inspiration from South Park and The Hangover. But the choice to make this movie about sixth grade boys — and to cast boys who actually fit that age range — carried certain complications. Eisenberg and Stupnitsky Skyped with Tremblay, best known for his role in Room, to gauge his interest in the project. They then had to do the same with his parents before Tremblay could accept the starring role. “Which doesn’t happen when you cast Willem Dafoe,” Eisenberg noted.
Tremblay read the script with his parents. He said they were all for it, in spite of the R-rated language. Williams had a different experience. “I didn’t want to do it at first because of all the swearing,” said Williams, who was the crowd’s favorite. “My mom just told me, ‘Pray about it.’ ”
The three actors’ moms likely ended up hearing far more about the movie during filming. Good Boys features numerous scenes involving sex toys. During these parts of the movie, the three boys would often ask Eisenberg about what everything meant — as any actor would when talking about the process. But Eisenberg didn’t want to provide them with any context.
“There was a lot of, ‘Why don’t you ask mom the question you’re asking us,’ ” he joked. “There was a lot of passing the buck to moms.”
Good Boys hit theaters August 16.