back in the day
Back in the Day can finally be on all of our shelves as it is being released in the US on April 8th 2014 on Blue Ray and DVD. I really would love if all fans of Michael would buy a copy, I am in England and have pre-ordered mine from Amazon.com so country is not a problem, I would love to carry on the amazing support we gave him when it was available on demand and buy this film. If he gets good sales it will help him to get more projects greenlit and I think we all would love to see more Michael at the cinema and on our TVs!
I have uploaded over 3000 screencaps from the movie Back in the Day to the gallery just click the picture below to see the goods. Remember if you make any fanart you can always email it to me at email@example.com for inclusion in the gallery
From writer/director Michael Rosenbaum, Back in the Day is a raunchy comedy with heart that tells the story of Jim Owens (Rosenbaum), an aspiring actor in Hollywood who decides to go back home to Indiana for his high school reunion. Reliving the glory days with his now-married friends, he encounters an old flame (Morena Baccarin) and wonders what could have been, had he chosen a different path in life.
At the film’s press day, actor/filmmaker Michael Rosenbaum spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what started him down the road for this film, how directing an episode of Smallville was a great trial run, having to write for your budget, how he got this great cast together, how much improvisation they did, keeping track of his own performance while he was directing, changing the ending, editing the film down from a two hours and 20 minute assembly cut, and what he’d like to do next. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: What started you down the road on this?
MICHAEL ROSENBAUM: I was on Smallville and I had a lot of free time on my hands, sitting around on the set, and my friend was like, “You need to write.” Carrie Fisher, who’s a friend of mine, said, “Just write stuff. You’re always telling me these crazy stories, so write it!” So, I wrote a whole bunch of short stories about growing up, and then I gave it to her. She said, “Did this really happen to you?,” and I was like, “Yeah.” She said, “You need to write this. This should be a movie or a TV show. This is really funny.” I was like, “What?! You wrote Postcards from the Edge. You’re a genius!” So then, I started writing and I got to sell a few things. None of them got made, but I sold them. You’ve always gotta look at the little things, and the accomplishments in life. While I was at Smallville, I was like, “Why don’t I take the opportunity to direct an episode?” So, they let me direct an episode, and I was like, “Oh, my god, I love this!” And then, I directed a short, produced another short, and wrote this and that. Then, I decided that I was going to direct a movie. I’ve seen a lot of people do it who can’t, and I’ve seen a lot of people who really can, so I decided to give it a shot. And then, you realize, “Wow, I have no money,” and you have to raise money, which takes forever. Then, you lose money. Then, someone else comes back. Somehow you get a movie made, which is a miracle, on its own. And then, you have to cast it and finish it. This was one of the first scripts I had written. It was loosely based on a lot of stories that happened when I was growing up.
Did directing an episode of Smallville really help you with directing a movie?
ROSENBAUM: Yeah, it helped. But, you’ve gotta remember that Smallville had millions of dollars in the budget, an infrastructure, a special effects department, a stunt department, a make-up department, and a hair department. Everybody was already doing their job. You don’t have to direct anyone. You just get the performances. But, I felt that I really got great performances, and I thought, “Okay, I can do this.” We had nobody. We just had one person doing make-up and hair. A lot of times, people think directing is how you can move a camera and how you can make big explosions. That’s not directing. I haven’t directed a lot. This is my first movie. But, directing is more about telling a story. You have a script and you tell the story, the easiest way possible. The best direction I got was from Jason Reitman and James Gunn. They’re big directors and they said, “Tell the story. Transition to the next scene. Get performances. Get a variety of performances, so that you have something to cut, if you don’t like it.” To me, it’s really about performance and telling the story. I’m an actor, so it’s easier for me to talk to actors. I felt like I could get what I wanted out of them. That was the biggest thing I had going for me. I knew that the characters were going to be good and that they were going to be believable, I just didn’t know how the movie was going to turn out. But, I was very happy. You’ve just gotta keep it simple. There are movies where you need to do big things, and they’re called action movies. But for a comedy, you’ve just gotta tell the story.
When you wrote this, did you know you’d also be directing it? Did you think about that while you were writing it, at all?
ROSENBAUM: You just have to know your budget. You have to go, “Okay, I want to do a stunt scene driving.” I wrote this scene where a truck jumps off into the cornfield and busts through a billboard that’s my face with a big thumbs up, but I couldn’t afford that. We had six hours to shoot a stunt scene. I was a little over-ambitious. I wanted to do so much, but I love what I have. We had 20 days to shoot the movie and a million bucks. That’s it. We shot in the middle of nowhere with no tax credit and no overtime. To do what we did was simply amazing. I can’t believe we did as much as we did. We shot driving scenes, stunt scenes, a wedding, a reunion with 12 actors and at least eight days of it, a wiffle ball scene and a BBQ. There were a lot of big group scenes, and that’s very difficult. I knew that we could do it. I just hoped that weather permitted and that Lady Luck was on our side.
How did you get this great cast together?
ROSENBAUM: I got lucky with this cast. I was a first-time director, and it was pilot season. I had no idea how I was going to get people out to the middle of nowhere, where I grew up, to shoot this movie. But somehow, I did. We didn’t have enough money to get through the days, but we did it. Then, we were finished and we were in the editing room, and I was like, “Wait, there’s some funny stuff here, and this actually looks like a real movie.” The one thing I didn’t want to do was make an arthouse movie. I love them, but I didn’t want this to just show at a small theater. I wanted people to go, “This looks like it could be a studio movie.” And I give that credit to my D.P., Bradley Stonesifer. It looks great. And we’ve got a great soundtrack. Call it luck, or whatever, but I am lucky.
Did you have these particular actors in mind?
ROSENBAUM: Yeah. Harland Williams was always Skunk. It’s based on a real character, who I grew up with. Skunk was such a great guy, and Harland nails that character. Nick’s character is based on a guy who used to ump our wiffle ball games. He’s a big drinker with a heart of gold. They were all loosely based on different people, for the most part. So, I knew Nick would play Freeman, I knew Harland would play Skunk, and I knew [Jay R.] Ferguson would play the fiancé. I was blessed, but I was lucky that they all did it.
It seems like a movie like this would have a lot of improvisation, but when you’re on such a tight schedule with such a tight budget, can you even allow for that?
ROSENBAUM: I had to. It would be a disservice to not let these gifts in the improvisational world not to improvise. As little time as we had, I always said, “Take one, say it how it’s written. Once we get that, let’s play with it.” And I’m acting in those scenes, too. You take your time for things that are really important, and those things that aren’t as important, you just go, “Hey, that’s enough. Let’s move on.”
Did you find it hard to keep track of your own performance while you were directing?
ROSENBAUM: Yeah! I thought I was going to be so stressed about knowing my lines because I wrote it and it’s embarrassing, if I don’t know my lines. But, I was at ease because I was so worried about everything else that I forgot. I just became myself. But, I had eyes on the camera. I was just say to my first assistant director, “Hey, are we good?” Every once in awhile, she’d say, “You could use a little more energy.” And I trusted her because she’s done 30 movies. I just shot as much footage as I could. I knew that the key was to shoot as much footage as I could, keep rolling and get the moments. I wanted people to connect, and I also wanted people to laugh. The jokes had to be there, and the relationships had to be there.
Was this always the ending you had written for this?
ROSENBAUM: No. The scene at the end wasn’t supposed to be there. I wrote it at the end. I was like, “You’ve gotta have a little bit of a happy ending, and some morsel of hope that maybe things work out.” This is a comedy. This is light and fun. This is a date movie, where you’re going to laugh and enjoy yourself. You don’t need to feel sorry for anybody. I didn’t want it to be too cliche. It’s just a real story.
How challenging was it to put together a final cut?
ROSENBAUM: It was easy, but there was a lot of great stuff that got cut. Richard Marx was a gift from god. He was hilarious in the movie, but I ended up cutting him out. It was not because of his performance, but it didn’t work. He was nice enough that he gave us a song. He’s become one of my best friends. He’s like my big brother. But my editor said, “I’ve never been with a writer/director that cuts as easily as you do, ever. You can cut stuff like you don’t care if it’s you.” I was like, “If it’s not funny, it’s not making the movie. If I don’t believe it, it’s not making the movie.” This is a comedy. People don’t want to go so a two hour and 20 minute comedy, although some directors do that. I wanted to make an hour and a half movie, where you’re in and out and you laugh your ass off. We have outtakes at the end. That was important. I didn’t want the movie to drag. There were some dance scenes at the reunion and some bachelor party stuff. I cut a lot of Harland Williams stuff. I had to just cut stuff that was really funny, to get out of the scene. When they gave me the assembly cut, it was two hours and 20 minutes, and I said, “What the fuck?!” I remember chopping it down to two hours, and then to one hour and 50 minutes, and then to one hour and 40 minutes, but that still wasn’t enough. I even think I still could have cut another four or five minutes, but it moves and it’s fun.
When you throw so much of yourself into a project like this, do you then just want to go do an acting project and leave the rest to someone else?
ROSENBAUM: I’ve gotta say, as much as that sounds so easy, and it’s fun sometimes to be the actor and go home and not worry about anything but your lines, I loved coming to work every day and seeing this whole crew that looked at me like, “What are we doing today? It’s your call.” I like to direct. I like to engage with people, and I want people to have fun. I’m a people person, and I feel like I could be a good leader. I think being a good leader is knowing what you want, having professional people around you, who are fun to work with, and know your taste and what you want. That makes it easier. A lot of these big directors work with the same people, for years on end.
Do you see yourself directing scripts that you haven’t written?
ROSENBAUM: Sure. I’d love to direct my own stuff, but a lot of my stuff isn’t as good as most people’s stuff. I don’t think I’m the world’s most gifted writer. I think I have great ideas and great characters. Sometimes I think I write really well, but sometimes I don’t. If a script comes to me that’s great, I’m game. If I can get the rights to it, I’m gonna direct it. But, I like to put my own twist on it. I like if they can give me the freedom to add things to it and take things away. I always want that freedom. I want to improvise. If it’s not working, I want to have the freedom to not have to call the writer and say, “Do you care if we change your words?” I’m not going to be that director. You’ve always gotta respect the writer, but if you write and direct your own stuff, you can change it.
Do you know what you’re going to direct next?
ROSENBAUM: I’m gearing up to hopefully direct my next movie in the summer. I can’t really tell you anything about that right now ‘cause everyone steals in this business. But, it will have a bigger budget with more days off. It’s a very funny romantic comedy. There’s also a camp movie that I wrote, and another movie that I won’t talk about. I’m really narrowing it down, revising both and seeing what’s best. But, I’m up for anything. One of my favorite movies is Tommy Boy, but then I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I like to make people a little uncomfortable, and then say, “It’s okay. These things happen.” There’s just some kind of awkwardness that I want to convey, so hopefully I’ll be able to do that, in the future.
Back in the Day is now playing in theaters and on VOD.
Michael Rosenbaum is known to television fans for playing the iconic role of Lex Luthor in Smallville, but he wanted to expand his talents beyond acting. The 41-year-old star decided to spread his wings and make his feature directorial and writing debut in Back in the Day.
The story focuses on aspiring actor Jim Owens who goes back home to Indiana for his high school reunion. It’s a hilarious yet classic tale of what might have been had he stayed home and made a more conventional career choice.
Daily Actor had the opportunity to interview Rosenbaum about the film, his career and what’s next in his career.
Michael Rosenbaum: Let’s do it. I’m ready.
Daily Actor: Alright, well let’s talk about Back in the Day because clearly it looks like to me that you have some autobiographical elements to it. What inspired you to write it?
Michael Rosenbaum: I love going back home. I go to play whiffle ball in my small town where I grew up in Newburgh, Indiana, in Evansville, twice a year. People don’t understand why. I say, “Come back and you’ll see,” and they do and they’re like, “wow.!” It’s just a bunch of guys playing whiffle ball who are a little over-aged. They’re in their mid-30s or 40s and drinking beer and eating Strombolis and hanging out and it’s just… I grew up in a small town and it’s just… we used to cut through backyards and drink out of a garden hose and play flashlight tag and catch fireflies. And I just… I miss that essence and when I’m here it’s just like the character in the movie where he has to go back. Because it’s not only that he goes back for a reunion, but he starts to fall in love with the town he ran away from so many years ago and I left and I thought, “I’m gonna be the one who gets out of here. I’m gonna be the one who goes and becomes an actor.”
This guy only becomes… regardless of what he’s become, he’s like the Nationwide insurance guy with the big thumbs up all the time. All city insurance, always there, all the time, all in. And when he gets home his friends give him shit and they go, “All the time? Balls deep.” And, you know, I think it’s one of those things where I’m 41 now and I’m like going, “Wow,” you know? It’s not a pity party. It’s like, “Wow, I did Smallville and movies and I made some money and I’m… shouldn’t I be just on top of the world?” Then you go back home and you see your friends with their families and their kids and their… and it’s just this sweet and you’re like, “What did I miss out? Did I go in a different direction where…?” You know, there’s a line in the movie where Morena Baccarin’s character Lori says, “Are you happy?” and I go, “No.” I go, “Are you happy?” She goes, “Well, who’s really happy?” And I go, “Happy people, I guess.” It’s kinda like this what the… in a sense it’s like it’s what you find… what really makes people happy. And when I go back home there’s that innate goodness about the Midwest and…
DA: Sense of community.
Michael Rosenbaum: Sense of community.
DA: We don’t have out here in LA.
Michael Rosenbaum: It’s just like the generosity. You can’t rent a high school out for free. Fuck you, give me 20 grand.
DA: And let me see a permit.
Michael Rosenbaum: Let me see your permit. We want money. Change the name of the high school. They’re like, “Yeah. Shoot in our high school for 3 days for free. Shoot at Pizza King for free. Shoot at the Nob Hill.” My friend Phil went and slept in a Howard Johnson’s or some shit for letting me use his house. You don’t find that here.
Michael Rosenbaum: I had to go home. I, you know, there was something, you know, you talk about this project, it was like it’s a passion project. A lot of these stories sort of happen. These characters are all based loosely on people and, you know, some of them. And, I felt like I had to go film in Indiana.
DA: It kind of takes a village. They all helped you with the project in some way.
Michael Rosenbaum: This movie is for Indiana. I think they’ll get a kick out of it and I think they’ll appreciate that, you know, most people go back to their hometowns or their small towns and say, “Oh, this is the fattest city in the country,” or, “Oh, this is the most depressed city in the country.” But I’m like, “This is the most beautiful city in the country. Fuck you. Go and visit and you’ll find out how cool and interesting Midwesterners are.” I couldn’t imagine growing up… growing a family in Los Angeles. Not to put Los Angeles down…
DA: I get it.
Michael Rosenbaum: …but I don’t know how people do it. I mean, I remember, like I told you, just living in a neighborhood where we walked to school and cut through yards and, you know…
DA: You can’t send your kids out in the street here.
Michael Rosenbaum: I think all these kids are so hip and they’ve got their phones. Take phones away from children. My niece texts me these little emojicons. What do they call them? Emojis?
DA: Emojis or emoticons, either one.
Michael Rosenbaum: She’s 10 years old. She says, “You’re a terrible uncle. You don’t text me back.” I’m like, “You’re 10 years old. Get off the cell phone.”
DA: Go outside and play.
Michael Rosenbaum: Call me from a freaking landline like a normal 10-year-old. So I don’t know, man. This world. But I… look, I got off on a tangent.
DA: No, no. But it makes sense though because I think for people in LA, especially, it’s a story that a lot of us can relate to if you’ve gone back. I grew up in small-town Massachusetts so I totally understand.
Michael Rosenbaum: Worcester?
DA: Not Worcester.
Michael Rosenbaum: My uncle lived in Worcester.
DA: Worcester. Andover.
Michael Rosenbaum: Park the car in Harvard Yard.
Michael Rosenbaum: Yeah, I know that.
DA: I don’t have the accent, though. Thank God.
Michael Rosenbaum: But going back home is like I just, man, there’s something about it. I just am drawn to it. I’m drawn.
DA: Well, how about you, you’ve been an actor, this is your writing and directorial debut. What was it like for you to be in charge because I’ve got to imagine this was a big learning lesson for you?
Michael Rosenbaum: Anybody who knows me, look, I just brought all my friends to Disney World for New Years Eve. I’m a leader, I organize softball, flag football, kickball, bowling, and when I don’t people are like, “Dude, what’s going on?”
DA: What’s wrong with you?
Michael Rosenbaum: I’m like, “You guys can do this.” So I always was like, “You know what?” I like to have fun, I like to think that I’m fun to be around, and I wanted to do… I really… this may sound egotistical, but I like control. I like having control. I like, being on set, I like saying… calling the shots. I like to think I know what’s funny and if I don’t I have other people around me who are all talented and funny and I said, “Well, what’s on paper is fine, but I know that these guys are gonna bring it.” And Nick Swartz and Sara and Morena and Emma and all these… Jay, Isaiah, Nick, Chris, and I’ll name all of them. Mike. Who else?
DA: We’ll be here all day.
Michael Rosenbaum: Liz. Anyway, you just, I… whatever.
DA: That seems to be the best part. Was there a hard part that you didn’t expect?
Michael Rosenbaum: Yes. The first two weeks I felt like, “I can do this. Wow, I’m a born director.” And one day happened, whiffle ball scene, it rains, shot list out the window, we’ve gotta create… we’ve gotta somehow shoot the scene handheld, they’ve already let some actors go home so now other actors are reading with assistants who don’t know how to act and are reading their lines off camera and somebody’s being short with somebody and so and so is being short and they’re like, “Oh my God, does this first-time director know…?” I don’t know if they said that, but I’m sure I… in my mind I was like, “Oh my God, this is the shits, fucking gonna sink.” It was just one day and all these other days were brilliant and it’s one of those days you’re like, “Oh my God, can I do this?” And then you fucking say you put it together, you put your team together, and you say, “How are we gonna make this work? Let’s make this work.” And the next day we got a record of 63 setups, which is unheard of.
DA: That’s huge.
Michael Rosenbaum: And I said to my DP and my AD and I said, “Hey, today was rough. Tomorrow is gonna be beautiful.”
DA: As an actor did you feel a little bit more nitpicky on your, you know, what you were doing?
Michael Rosenbaum: You know what? I just, I knew… I trusted myself as an actor. I’ve done enough work where I was like, “You know what? If you’re worried and paranoid and insecure and going, ‘Oh, am I good enough?’ and all those things, you’re gonna fail.” You’ve gotta trust how good you think you are. You just gotta say, “I’m good. I’m gonna do this. I’m not gonna worry about me.” My goal is to worry about everybody else and make sure their performances because they gave their time and they’re in Indiana and I’ve got to make sure that they’re taken care of. So I made sure everybody’s performance was good and I looked at my producer and my best friend Tom and my AD Sherry and I said, “Hey, watch my back. Watch these takes. If I need more energy, tell me to do another one. Because I’m not gonna watch my shit. I know the shot, I know how close you are on the camera. If it’s not good… if it’s good, we’re moving on.” And you don’t have time to look at your shit, you’re shooting eight pages a day. So I just trusted. I trusted the people I was working with. You’ve gotta let go. As much of a control freak, you’ve gotta let your DP do his job, your AD do her job, your producer do the job, and your actors, let them do their shit.
DA: It’s called delegating, isn’t it?
Michael Rosenbaum: Delegating.
DA: You know, all the fans were asking, what are you working on next? They’re dying to know.
Michael Rosenbaum: You know? I’ve got… I’m definitely gonna direct another movie. That’s happening. So I can’t say what it is, but it’s gonna be happening by the summer probably and they’ll hear about it shortly and I’m really excited and I think it’s gonna be a little bigger of a budget and, you know…
DA: You writing it?
Michael Rosenbaum: I wrote it. And I’m also… I’ve written a couple of horror movies and so there’s a horror movie coming out that could be made soon and… and also there’s a TV show that I’m gonna make digitally for a studio. So I think that’s gonna happen too so we’re just dealing with contracts and stuff. There’s a lot of… there’s a lot of good stuff around.
DA: That’s good, I’m glad to hear that.
Michael Rosenbaum: I’m blessed.
Back in the Day is available on video on demand now and in theaters on Jan. 17.
Rosenbaum may be best known for playing “Lex Luthor” on “Smallville” but is now taking over the big screen as star and director of his new film “Back in the Day.” In the movie, the star plays “Jim Owens,” an actor living in Hollywood who heads home for his high school reunion where he tries reliving the glory days with his buddies. Reliving those glory days entails revenge on his former high school principal and an attempt to rekindle an old flame.
The film stars “Homeland’s” Morena Baccarin, “Half Baked” star, Harland Williams, “Grandma’s Boy” Nick Swardson, Jay R. Ferguson, Sarah Colonna, “Old Spice” commercial star Isaiah Mustafa and more!
Laura Bell Bundy caught up with Michael about his country music faves, bloopers from set, and being buddies with the likes of Dierks Bentley and NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson…
Laura Bell Bundy: This is your directorial debut, and you are also the lead character “Jim,” how did you balance both of those roles?
Michael Rosenbaum: I don’t know. I’ve been acting a long time. You really just have to trust yourself and not think about things too much. If you ever doubt yourself or get into your head for too long, that’s when it gets a little overwhelming. And hiring a lot of professional and talented people makes your job a lot easier. I was also very prepared and knew what I wanted. I didn’t sleep much, I’ll tell you that.
LBB: How would you describe your film?
MR: A raunchy, romantic, buddy comedy with heart.
LBB: You headed back to your hometown in Indiana, what was it like to set up shop there, so to speak, and shoot in places you grew up around?
MR: Surreal. We shot at the old Pizza King, my old high school, the mall and cruised Green River Road. These were things I did as a teenager. It was really freaking cool. What was even cooler was that the whole cast really loved filming there. They were all very sad when it was over. They really thought it was one of the most beautiful places they had been too. I loved growing up in Indiana and was glad they appreciated it too.
LBB: Seems that you’re from the “country,” what are some of your favorite country songs/artists from growing up?
MR: Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbit, Alabama. An old teacher of mine, Mr. Hunter, used to make us listen to all of that, and I can’t thank him enough. I still listen to it all. My friend and I Sheldon Souray, who is a professional hockey player, kick out those old jams all the time and belt them out. We love us some Country.
LBB: I know you’re a big country music fan now too, who are you listening to?… Besides me : )
MR: Just so you know, I will “Two Step” & “Giddy on up” with the best of em’. I love your voice. You sing like an angel. I’ve seen you on Broadway twice, if you remember. I will always be a fan. But, I love me some Dierks Bentley. Got to hang with him a few times and he’s just a great guy all around. He even tweeted about my movie “Back in the Day” along with Jimmie Johnson and you, of course. I love the support. But I think my favorite country song in the last few years is Kenny Chesney’s “Somewhere With You.” I just love that damn song. Touches the soul.
LBB: If there was a country song to describe your childhood, what would it be called?
MR: That’s a tough one. Hmm. How about…”I Ain’t Too Short To Love You.”
LBB: You worked with some of your hilarious friends in the film, there had to be some amazing behind-the-scenes bloopers. Are there any memorable mishaps?
MR: We could honestly have an hour and a half movie of bloopers. I’m not even kidding. At the end of the movie there are some great ones. And I put another five minutes worth on the DVD. I love when movies have bloopers at the end. What a treat.
Also, the girls shared a trailer and the boys shared a trailer. We didn’t have a lot of money so we had to share. I think the actors were skeptical at first but it was the best thing that ever could’ve happened. There was this immediate bond and everyone grew close very fast. You really had no choice when you were going to the bathroom and two feet away the rest of the cast are screaming “Connect Four.” That’s an old game from the 80′s for all you young farts out there.
LBB: What feeling would you like your audience to walk away with after seeing your film, and is there any particular message you wanted to convey?
This is a fun movie. It’s light and filled with a lot of craziness, but I also wanted it to have heart. But a message? Hmm. I guess I’ll say this:
Nobody loves growing up. And, I truly feel like age is just a number. It’s really just about doing the things that make you happy and being around people that make you happy. This is the story of a guy who is trying to find himself and uncertain if he’s making the right decisions so far in life. Sometimes it takes getting advice from an unlikely source to guide you in the right direction. So you should always keep your eyes wide open…
We’d like to thank the talented Laura Bell Bundy and friend of Spotlight Country, Michael Rosenbaum for this great interview.
We’ve seen the movie a few times already and can assure you that you will belly laugh while, at times, be overcome with nostalgia. Any 80′s & 90′s fan will greatly appreciate the fantastic music, as well. GO SEE IT!
Michael Rosenbaum and the gang are taking a trip down memory lane in the all new side-splitting comedy BACK IN THE DAY and because I like you, you’re coming along for the ride. Recently, I sat down with Michael Rosenbaum, to talk about his experiences tackling his first feature as both the writer and director. Not only that, but he stars in the film as well. Michael is a buddy of mine, but we never talk shop so this was a real treat for me.
BACK IN THE DAY is the first feature film written and directed by Rosenbaum. He also stars in the film alongside Morena Baccarin Harland Williams, Sarah Colonna, Nick Swardson and Isaiah Mustafa. The film was acquired by Screen Media Films in early October, and will be making it’s way to theaters on January 17, 2014. Can’t wait that long? Well, you are in luck! BACK IN THE DAY is out on iTunes now!
They say “write about what you know, and there are definitely some similarities between you and JIm. You’re both actors, you have a similar sense of humor, similar friends. Was that your process for this film?
You know, I wrote it a long time ago… and this other movie that I wrote fell apart. We lost the money, so I switched gears and started writing what was OLD DAYS, now is BACK IN THE DAY. You know, they always say “write what you know”, at least in the beginning, so I kind of stuck with that. Write on experience. Write what you know. Write characters that you know. It’s real. It’s easy to write. You’re not just creating stuff. You can just elaborate, or make a character that you know a little bigger, and brighter. The foundation’s already there, and it’s a lot easier to write. So, these were characters that I knew… like this guy Skunk growing up. He was a trouble maker. He had a heart of gold, but he got in fights, and was a tough guy, and he drank a lot. He had some amazing stories behind him like waking up naked in the back of his neighbors pick-up truck, and the story – the true story – is more fantastic that the one in the movie. Then there were these guys that I grew up with like T… we used to play wiffle ball at his house since I was, like, 10, and he choreographed the dance scene in the movie. Isaiah Mustafa, who’s my good buddy now, plays him. The real T isn’t as ripped as Isaiah, so I said to him “Isaiah, you’ve gotta gain a little weight. You can’t look that ripped up” because this guy I knew wasn’t always this ripped up, so he gained a few pounds, and grew a goatee… All of the characters are loosely based. It’s an exaggeration. You hire funny people to make things funnier.
Have the people who are begin loosely portrayed in the movie seen it yet?
They’ve seen a lot of it. My friend Kent Brenneman – Kris Polaha, who’s a great actor plays him. Kent’s a church guy. He’s family oriented. He’s a good guy, but he’s got a little bit of an edge. He likes to have fun here and there. He saw some of the character and was like “Oh, wow! Kinda looks like me actually.” and T’s always been a smart ass, so there was an essence of T in the movie. Skunk was just an exaggeration. Obviously, when Harland Williams is playing him… but there’s a heartfelt moment in the movie where we see that he really loves Jim. He’d do anything for Jim. There was that part of the real Skunk in there. Nick Swardson plays Ron Freeman – it’s one of my favorite parts in the movie, because on paper he’s just this floater… who is this lost soul years later, and he finally meets someone who’s trying to find herself. These two lost souls find each other. What’s amazing, which I think people will see if you are a Swardson fan or not – if you’re not, you’re going to be a Nick Swardson fan – is that he’s [the character] just a genuine guy. Everyone knows, in their town, that guy, but it’s heartfelt, and it’s real, and it’s exaggerated. I say this with absolute sincerity… I think this is the best performance that I’ve seen him give. Regardless that this is my movie, I think that it’s like “Woah!”. It makes you uncomfortable. There’re all these different levels to him. Even though it wasn’t the biggest role in the movie, he has such a presence. I feel like every character in this movie is a leading role. Because it’s the 12 of us, it’s all about these characters. It’s about personalities.
You are no stranger to being onscreen. Do you think there is more pressure bringing someone else’s words to life, or your own? Is there added pressure since you wrote this?
Yeah. You always hope that your jokes are funny. Sometimes they’re funnier than you thought they were. Sometimes they’re not funny at all. Sometimes when you hear other people saying them, no matter how they say it, they can’t make it as funny. I had the gift of working with such amazing talent that, if something wasn’t working, we’d make it better. If something was really working, we’d make it even funnier. You write a script, and what I think is funny is that I can hear these people [the characters] talk, and when somebody else reads it, they don’t always hear it the way you do. It’s artistic expression. If any of these guys write a script, or write a movie it’s objective. It’s arbitrary. When somebody reads it, it’s their interpretation of those voices in their head. The jokes aren’t hitting how you have it in your head. So, you really have to rely on good acting. You have to trust… It was amazing. I remember the first day that I heard my words, going “This is working! This is coming to life!” “Oh, this is funnier than I thought!” or “It’s even funnier if I say this instead of making things work that aren’t working.” I don’t know. Sometimes you go to movies, and you go “I can’t relate to anyone”, and that was the biggest thing for me as a writer and director. I wanted people to go – worst scenario – “Eh, I didn’t like this story, but I liked the characters.” They’re going to relate. At least there is a believability. There’re jokes. I want them to at least like everyone, and I wanted to have every actors back. I wanted to make sure they were all likable in some way, and have some sort of redeeming quality. Like the character of Mark, who’s the fiancé. You think he’s going to be the stereotypical guy that cheats on his fiancé, or that he’s the dick, or the asshole, but he has some redeeming qualities. I wanted to go against the grain sometimes.
You brought some of your close friends to Indiana, which is your home turf. Did you take them to some of your old stomping grounds? How fun was that?!
It was amazing. I was nervous though, because we were coming out to Indiana, and leaving LA during pilot season. Not only are they going to Indiana in the middle of that, but they’re also going into a cold climate. They’re not getting paid much money. I was nervous. I wanted them to like Indiana as much as I do. I go back, for a reason, twice a year to play in wiffle ball games. There’s just this sense of reality there. It’’s a family there. You go back and it’s more relaxed. It’s slower. LA moves so fast, and you get caught up in your own life. Sometimes you just forget about what’s important. What’s great is, I think they all came back and said “That’s the best time I ever had on a movie.” Isaiah, Harland, Morena, Sarah, Liz, Nick… all loved being there. They loved the town, and didn’t want to leave. I remember seeing a tweet from Morena when she went to LA for an interview and was coming back to Indiana to finish filming. It was something like “I’m on my way back to Indiana. I can’t wait to be back. I miss it so much.” and that touched me. They appreciate where I came from. When you make an independent movie, a lot of stuff could be a disaster. You don’t get stuff done. I was a first time director. ‘Does he have my back?” “Am I going to look like shit?” “Will there be a good makeup artist?” “Is there a good team?” Those are all things to think about, but I’m an actor. I knew all of these things. I actually can relate to them. So, I said ‘I’m going to take care of you. You’re not going to look bad!” You have to, hopefully, know that they trust you, and they did.
You have quite a few friends that are writers and directors. Did you get any tips from them seeing as this is your first feature?
You know I did. [laughs]
We don’t ever talk about this stuff. [laughs] That’s kind of the beauty of it.
Yeah. We leave work alone. We went on a hike to the hot springs with a whole bunch of people. I think I was the only one naked.
You were the only one naked. [laughs] Although I was the dumbass that forgot a suit and went in wearing shorts.
We go to concerts and things, and that’s who I am. I have friends from being in the business so long, like James Gunn. He’s one of my dearest friends, and he’s directing the new GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and SUPER. He’s just a really smart guy, and he’s directed a lot so I wanted to get advice from him… and my friend Jason Reitman who did JUNO, and my friend Greg Beeman who did LICENSE TO DRIVE in the 80’s, and Peter Segal who did TOMMY BOY. I sat with all four of these guys, not at the same time, and I got something from each of them. My friend Greg, who’s a dear friend, and we’ve written a lot of stuff together told me “Tell the story. Get the performances. Tell the story. Have transitions from scenes.” and “Be honest and sincere.” That’s another thing Reitman really dug into me, was “Find honest moments. I know your movie’s funny and a little outrageous, but find those little nuances that make your characters likable, or relatable so that you feel something for them.” That was a great note. And Pete, well, most of them said “Don’t play the lead role. Don’t do it!” They were like “Listen, by the end of this thing you are going to collapse. You are going to be exhausted.” I did not take their advice on that one. [laughs] As much as it worked, I think the next time I just want to direct. You can see more from outside looking in, rather than being in the scene acting, and being a part of it. They all gave such great tips. They all told me “Look, this is your first movie. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Have fun. Get the jokes. Don’t worry about moving the camera and being fancy. Just put the camera where it tells the story best.” That’s something Reitman really dwelled on.
What’s the one thing, as an actor, that you wanted to make sure that you did, or didn’t do on set?
I didn’t want to be selfish, or narcissistic, or an egotist. I didn’t want to be perceived as that. I wanted to be someone who the actors thought “He’s got my back.” Whenever you’re working with a first time director there is some worry. I’m sure all of them were like “Fuck!” I just wanted them to know “Hey, I’m going to make you look good. Trust me on this.” I also wanted to let them know that I knew what I wanted. Sometimes it can be hard to get, and you’re not the most articulate person, but I wanted to be a leader. It’s funny, because in my personal life I feel like a leader.
My nickname for you after all of the concerts and kickball games was “The Captain Of Summer”. [Laughs]
“The Captain Of Summer” [laughs], people call me Grizwold! Clark Grizwold from the Vacation movies. I like that. I think that’s sweet because I do organize things, and I like people to have a good time. I kind of feel like I lead people out to have fun. I was like, “I want this to be a really good movie. I want them to give me what I want, but I also want them to have a good time.” It was a balancing act. I think most directors don’t give a shit, and they just want to get what they need. They don’t care if you hate them. I felt like, not only was it important for everyone to have a good time, but to be comfortable, and for them to be happy with what they were doing.
Is it easier, or more difficult to direct your friends? I know Isaiah and Harland are your boys.
Sometimes. You know, Isaiah wasn’t my boy. I didn’t know him.
That’s how you met Isaiah! [Casting him in this film]
That’s how I met Isaiah. I interviewed him, and I thought the fucker was late! I was sitting in this restaurant, and finally I call and go “Where’s this fucking client? He’s really going to be 20-30 minutes late?” and I look over, and he’s sitting at another table. We were both looking at each other like ‘Is this you?” Within five minutes I knew “This man is just a sweetheart.” He’s a sweetheart. He’s a gentle soul, and I knew, right there, that he had to play T. Everyone was pushing me to play these other actors, but there was something about Isaiah that, I thought, was midwestern… genuine. That’s what I think about when I think of the character. Harland is one of my best friends, so that was a no-brainer. He was like “Well buddy, I’m a little older than you.” So I told him “Just dye your hair. You’ll look great! You’re a character that flunked out of class a few times. It’ll be fine.” I knew Jay Ferguson, who’s on Madmen, and Jay has more energy than anyone. He has worse ADD than me. [laughs] Keeping him entertained was a balancing act. Ultimately it comes down to performance, and he gave a great performance. They all did, but it was challenging. It’s challenging when you’re directing your friends, but Harland said “Hey buddy, anything you need man!”
You actually said that in his pacing. [laughs]
“Hey buddy, anything I can do for you man. It’s your movie”. [laughs] There were times when I’d give a certain direction, and you could tell that they weren’t sure that they wanted to do it, but they listened to me. I wanted a variety of things. I didn’t want the same reaction every take. One actor was going a little psychotic with his character, and I told him “You’ve gotta bring it down. I don’t believe it. If you want to look like an asshole on camera… ” and he brought it down. I think they started to see that I knew what I was talking about. A week later I showed them a scene, and they were like “Oh wow. This looks like a real movie.” and it helped to build trust. You can’t build trust overnight. You have to work at it. I think, by the end, people started realizing, and especially once they saw the film… Now I’m not a first time director. Now, not having to say “He’s a first time director.” Now they can say “He’s directed a feature”… so, hopefully next time it’ll be easier to cast this son of a bitch…
Are you working on something?
Oh yeah. I’m narrowing it down between three. Right now there’s one script that might direct, that I didn’t write, but there are three that I am thinking about. I mean, I’ve written, and I’m revising. I have to decide between another buddy, romantic, balls out comedy or one that’s more of a romantic comedy… I don’t know. I fell in love with this.
You’ve played such a wide variety of characters. You’ve done the superhero villain, you’ve done the comedies… is there any type of role that you haven’t gotten to play yet that you’d like to?
Hmm. You know, I’m very lucky, and I’ve played a lot of different roles, many of which probably no one has ever seen. I know that SMALLVILLE – Lex Luthor – was the most iconic, and most of the time people think of me as this serious, intense actor… I’m so not if you know who I am… if you meet me. Actually, it’s a compliment. You know, Wes Craven told me in a movie that know one saw, called CURSED that he directed – I love Wes – and he told me “You’re going to play this killer one day… this psycho, and it’s going to be just brilliant.” and I don’t even know how to take that.
Thank you? [laughs]
It was just a really great compliment. He said “You have this way about you that is likable, so when you turn [snaps]….” I don’t know. It always sat with me. I hope he’s the one who directs that. Look, I don’t think anyone has seen what I can do. I’m 41 years old, and I really believe that. I mean, I like to believe that I can do anything, and I really hope that people can see that. I mean, I’ve done drag in SWEET NOVEMBER, where I played Charlize Theron’s neighbor, I was the homosexual in MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, I was Lex Luthor – the mastermind, and I was in SORORITY BOYS… So, I like to be funny. I like to be serious. I like to mix it up. You just hope that you get the chance. It’s really hard. I don’t care what you are doing. At my level, with a million people above me, I have to fight for everything. I have to audition, and I’m fighting against everyone constantly. It’s never easy… to get a movie made, to get the role that you want. You just have to keep fighting. Some people just decide “Fuck this. I’m going to go have a family. I’m tired of fighting.” I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of fighting.
Writer, director, and star of the new film “Back in the Day” Newburgh native Michael Rosenbaum stopped by The Rob’s Radio Show today. His film is very funny and he provides a lot of insight to its production (which took place here in the Tri-State) as well as his personal life. It’s being shown exclusively in Evansville at Showplace Cinemas East for the next two weeks.
You can listen to this HERE