No one really credits Greg Mottola for making Superbad, given that he was working with a script from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and was fully shepherded by comedy demi-god Judd Apatow. But for his third feature, Mottola is making a personal, lower-key movie, and one that won't be attributed to anyone else.
Adventureland is based on Mottola's own experience working at a low-rent amusement park during college, though he himself admits there are more attractive women in the movie version. Jesse Eisenberg stars as a kid who takes a job working the games booth to save money his big European backpacking trip, and finds himself caught in a romance with both a moody, complicated girl (Kristen Stewart) and the hottest girl in the park, Lisa P (Margarita Levieva).
Below is our interview with Mottola, in which he explains the effect Twilight had on his lead actress, his proof that Falco has a good sense of humor, and his own real-life encounter with Brian Setzer's super-hot girlfriend.
What real-life experiences of yours didn't make it into the film?
The only story I can remember that didn't make it was the day Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats came in with his super-cool girlfriend and a bunch of friends. They played the squirt gun clown balloon game, and the hot tattooed girlfriend won. The prize was a banana with eye, which I put in the movie, and I remember feeling really pathetic, because she said no, give me the bulldog. And I was under strict orders that if I gave the wrong prize that I'd be fired on the spot. I was so desperate. I was doing the job to raise money to go on a backpacking trip through Europe, which never happened, because that money went into my college drinking fund the next semester. I just remember feeling really humiliated. Brian Setzer was cool back in 1984 when I worked there, and I couldn't even give him a little celebrity treatment.
Do Lisa P and Emily really exist?
Certainly with Kristen's character [Emily] she's a composite of some of my early relationships, and remember what it's like to go from being infatuated with women and being scared away when they reveal themselves as real human beings with problems and complications. There are some complicated young women I fell in love with my 20s that are squashed together in that character. Lisa P is based on the one time in my life I dated way out of my league. What was Kristen Stewart like on the set?
She's a very serious actress. She would come to set fully prepared, which you don't always get with young actors. Sometimes young actors stumble into movies and they don't yet know that that's what you're supposed to do. She has a really great bullshit detector. Kristen's got a lot of raw savant talent. She's the kind of person who can learn a musical instrument in a day. She's a really cool person too.
How does she feel about the fuss arond Twilight?
We shot this before Twilight. Catherine Hardwicke came to visit the set to audition Kristen, spent a day working on scenes together. Then Kristen came to set a few days later and said, oh, I got the vampire movie. She was so low-key about it. I had no idea, and then months later, I started to read about it. I think she's handled it well. She's got a good pesrpective on it. At Sundance there were throngs of young women chasing her yelling "Bella!"
How hard was it to get the music rights?
I wrote a lot of the songs into the script. It's a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, what you can afford. The one thing we went after first was Lou Reed, because he's mentioned in the script. Lou Reed said yes, and hat sort of opened a door for some of the bands. One Van Halen song in Superbad cost almost the entire music budget for Adventureland. A lot of the top 40 stuff was the stuff I wrote in. Rock Me Amadeus we had to go to Falco's estate, and they apparently have a good sense of humor.
The movie has a dark side to it. What made you decide to include that?
My first feeling was to make a messy relationship story about young people. Then secondary to that was to mkae a story about life in the suburbs and middle class life at a certain time and place. I feel like a lot of movies about middle class suburban life, there's the Hollywood version where all the edges are buffed off, and those movies can be great. They sweep the ugly stuff under the rug. Then there's an indie version that I feel has been done a little too much. The great version is Blue Velvet, and then there's the Blue Velvet wannabes. I make fun of the suburbs a lot in this movie, and I think it's clear that I don't love them, but memory of them is that it's like any place and filled with life and loneliness and sadness. I wanted to try and catch something nuanced.
What was the evolution of Bill Hader's mustache?
Bill Hader's mustache had its own trailer, actually. It was the most difficult person on the set. The problem with working with Bill Hader is because he's working on SNL, you can't do anything to his hair or face. You can't make him grow a beard, you can't cut his hair. When we were doing Superbad, SNL made us sign a contract that said we would not go near his hair with scissors. So you can't do anything to his look except comb it. We wanted him to hve a mustache, a big bushy Tom Selleck mustache, though on Bill Hader it takes on a different quality. Thr firs day he wore it, we thought that looks ridiculous, but he just loved it too muc, and I knew it would break his heart [to get rid of it].