Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, once proclaimed “Regrets, I’ve had a few” but what if you had a second chance to go back and change things?
You can, sort of, with James vs His Future Self which is an indie sci-fi comedy from the duo of Jeremy LaLonde (director and co-writer) and Jonas Chernick (star and co-writer). All is not what it seems in this touching story that stars the incredible Daniel Stern, which is showing at this years Glasgow Film Festival.
We caught up with Jeremy LaLonde and Jonas Chernick to talk time-travel and more.
And you can check out our interview with Daniel Stern here
Please note there are spoilers for the new film in here.
Where did the idea come from and when did this project start for you guys?
Jonas: Jeremy cast me in a film we did in 2015 called How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town and we really enjoyed working together. We’ve been reading each other’s scripts and giving notes for a couple of years. And then we sat down after that film so we could work out something we could do together.
I had one idea, the very nucleus of James vs His Future Self about a guy against himself butting heads.
I thought of it as sort of an Odd Couple kind of film. I think they were roommates at one point fighting over the same girl. We flushed that out and after a few years it eventually became this.
And this film earned you nominations at Canadian Screen Award – what does that recognition mean and are you prepared for red-carpet fashion questions…?
Jeremy: Nominated for four Canadian Academy Awards!
Jonas: As you can tell from the title of our films we are not academy bait [laughs]. These movies are very satisfying for audiences but not the kind of things that typically get award recognition.
Jeremy: I think if I get asked who I am wearing I think I am gonna say the skin-suit from The Silence of the Lambs.
That’s where my brain goes…[laughs].
Did you ever envisage you’d do a movie with Daniel Stern where in the script his character is said to get his dick out?
Jonas: GET YOUR DICK OUT!
Jeremy: You can tell by our previous films that we are not shy about sex jokes and humour.
That is probably why we are not used to being nominated for awards! That moment always plays very well. I think what that moment does in the movie is allow the audience to understand the tone of the film.
I think what people are delightfully surprised about is how touching this movie is and that early moment kind of tricks them. It is a film that has a little more to it than just dick jokes.
What was it like to work with Daniel Stern and what did he bring to the film beyond his acting?
Jonas: He is very selective about what he wants to do and he has earned that right having being part of two of the biggest, most successful, franchises.
He was incredible from start to finish in every possible way.
Jeremy: Sometimes when you make a movie with this budget level you are literally trying to cast right up to the last minute. We got lucky that Daniel came on really early in the process.
We had him attached to the film almost a year before we shot. Apart from working with him as an actor, just getting notes from him on the script was invaluable. He helped give us that extra confidence to go we can really hone in on something instead of overdoing things.
Jonas: What I found was so cool and impressive about him is when he sat down to talk about his notes and the script it wouldn’t be about his character. What he said was we’d obviously spent a lot of time on his character but was more interested in the other characters and the film in general.
How important was it to stay away from the tropes of other time travel films?
Jeremy: There was something really endearing to us about this idea. We kind of made it a joke but wanted to make a time travel movie that takes place entirely in the present.
At one point we planned a big elaborate sequence that is almost like the start of Looper, where you get to watch the whole process of how he changes from James into Jimmy. But Danny said we didn’t need that sequence at all, stick to the core of it.
So we really lean into the idea of less is more.
As film nerds it was really important to us to create rules in a world and stick to them and make them simple.
Jonas: I think for me the film Primer is the greatest time travel movie ever made. It was very inspiring and influential for me.
You need to watch the film literally 10 times to unravel it. We went the opposite way and think there is enough time travel stuff in it to keep the geeks like us satisfied. But it all happens off-screen and that was sort of our strategy.
It took a lot for us to figure that out.
What one piece of advice would you give your younger self? Any moments you wish you had a second chance at?
Jonas: My answer to that is a little boring but I have to stick with it…
Jeremy: Is it the chlamydia story…
Jonas: No, no. That’s a private story…I wasn’t the most confident of teenagers and I know that might come as a surprise with how confident I am now [laughs].
There was this really awesome beautiful girl when I was 15 or 16 and I didn’t have the confidence to make a move or express myself. She literally became a supermodel, she was in an Aerosmith video!
Looking back at that night she was giving EVERY sign a 16-year old girl could give to a guy and I just dropped the ball.
Jeremy: You know what, you are going to hate my answer.
Jonas: I bet it is going to be this deep, meaningful, answer. And mines is just shallow.
Jeremy: We had this conversation this morning about how grateful we are for the lives we have and how lucky we are. But I always think of the dangers of going back and saying the wrong thing that might unravel everything.
I’d maybe just say you are going to have an incredible life, just trust yourself. Stay the course, stay true to yourself and work hard and you’ll do great.
Jonas: I wanted to make out with that girl. I did run into the girl about 20 years later in Toronto, gave her a ride somewhere and left that experience like ‘Thank god things worked out the way they did!’
Jeremy: Let’s be honest, if you hooked up with a supermodel a week later she would have been bored with you.
Jonas: A week later? She would have been bored with me during the hook-up [laughs].
A great line from the movie – “Wherever you are, be all there” – seems poignant nowadays when most are glued to their phones…
Jeremy: That’s the key line in the movie for me. And I am going to give my wife credit for that. It is kind of the thing that as we were developing the movie and came into this idea of the story about someone being in the present.
Jonas and I are both family men, we have incredibly supportive spouses and amazing kids. It is a struggle to balance between being someone who is in charge of their own career, so you are kind of always working whether you are at home or not.
One night at dinner I got an email and was like I need to respond to it right away and my wife asked if I really really needed to right now. And I was like, I am here, I am at the table with you guys.
And she said to me if you are going to be here then be here. It was her idea that stuck with me.
And Jonas is now literally on his phone as I was saying that.
Jonas: Can you repeat all that because I was on my phone…[laughs]
Jonas: It’s interesting how these things work as creators and writers as well. I think for Jeremy and I that we are story first kind of writers. Character and story is paramount. If things go well then the theme will merge from the characters and from the story.
We did wrestle with this for a long time. Half the process of writing the script we didn’t really know what the movie was about yet, we just knew there was something there.
When this line came into play it was like a jigsaw puzzle and this was the key piece – everything else came together and gave us something to build the whole thing around.
Any personal highlights or moments from the shoot you can tell us about?
Jonas: Something does come to mind when you ask that. Probably it was more fun for Jeremy than I…
Daniel Stern’s Jimmy tries to teach me about presence, meditation and in doing so you think we are about to do some sort of yoga thing. But, in fact, he catches me off guard with a face slap!
And has me focus on the presence of that pain. I really wanted for the close-ups as an actor to be slapped for real, I didn’t want to fake that.
But we were nervous.
Danny Stern is a monster of a man. He is this sculptor, a rancher and 6ft 6’. So we did this practice slap that he did at, like, quarter speed and I thought I was going to die.
So Jeremy was like, I will slap you instead.
Jeremy: Our hands are the same size.
Jonas: So that whole sequence with the hand that comes in and smacks me is Jeremy repeatedly slapping me.
Jeremy: I got to wear Danny’s wardrobe, it was great.
Jonas: He had this grin on his face the entire time.
Jeremy: Jonas is like a brother to me but at that point we’d been living together for a month and a half so it came at the right time. It was also an incredibly shitty day with delays and things going on.
That was a turning point for me that day. Jonas gave me a gift that day.
So will future projects together always feature Jonas getting slapped repeatedly?
Jeremy: I can only hope so.
Jonas: We’ve got something we are trying to hatch together that we can’t really talk about at the moment.
Jeremy: There are things we are working on individually and together. None of which we are formally allowed to discuss at this point.
Jonas: We’ll be back at the Glasgow Film Festival with our next film if they’ll have us!
James Vs His Future Self Available on Sky Movies from April but tickets are still available for tonight’s showing at Glasgow Film Festival here.