All one has to do is look at the plot description of Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky’s Good Boys and the inherent challenges are immediately understood. After all, raunchy comedies are easy when you’re working with adult actors; but a bit more challenging when your stars are just kids. In that scenario they are going to ask a lot of questions that are uncomfortable to answer, but the filmmakers had a system for totally avoiding them.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky at the Los Angeles press day for Good Boys, and during our conversation one thing we specifically discussed were the questions being asked on set that no adult ever wants to hear from a young kid. As you can see by clicking play on the video below, deflection was very much the name of the game, and simply letting the parents help the child actors when curious about some of the comedy’s more mature content:
As you would expect, stars Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon definitely did have questions about the assortment of adult material featured in Good Boys, and it basically took a quick learning process for them to understand that not all of their queries about the content were going to be fully addressed.
It was apparently really at the start of production when the lead actors were innocently asking about the more adult content, but as the filmmakers explained, that was something they made adjustments for fairly quickly:
Gene Stupnitsky: At the beginning they had more questions. They had a lot of questions. But we very quickly made it clear that we weren't answering their questions about like anything about sex toys or sex dolls or any of that. Like, 'Go ask your parents.' We would talk to them about other things, but specifically anything...
Lee Eisenberg: Any of the R-rated stuff that was, that was the domain of the parents who agreed to let them do it.
In addition to having the parents readily available to field particular questions, another element that was working to the benefit of the Good Boys filmmakers was just the general atmosphere of a movie set and the way in which actors interact with writers and directors. Because of its disruption potential, asking too many questions is a tad on the uncouth side in production culture, and that helped tamper down the uncomfortable conversations. Said Lee Eisenberg,
I think that they all have great parents, and they were also very much on top of them. And everyone knew what they were signing up for. But at the same time I think that the kids, they knew that when they were 'at work' and in the scenes that the rules are very different than outside. So I think they also knew that like, 'Hey, you're not supposed to talk to the directors about the material in that way.'
Of course, in cases of extreme emergency there was also what could be dubbed “The Dumb Method,” as Stupnitsky explained:
We also played dumb a lot. 'I don't know. We didn't write this.'
The film, which co-stars Molly Gordon, Will Forte, Midori Francis, Lil Rel Howery, and Retta, is now playing in theaters everywhere.