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Hey Boys and Girls, such fun days around the Temple. Weíve had a lot of visitors in the past few weeks but few have been as adorable as the kids from the fabulous coming-of-age film, THE WACKNESS. (Click here for our glowing review) Wunderkind director Jonathan Levine, Girl of the Moment Olivia Thirlby, Hip Hop monument Method Man, and adorable Baby Star, Josh Peck.

Dig in as they tell us who they were in 1994 (Some werenít even an itch), the secrets to choosing era-appropriate slang, the summer movie benefits of Angelina Jolie keeping her mouth shut, working with ďSir BenĒ Kingsley and all the dope on THE WACKNESS.

Luv it,


Josh Peck

Josh Peck: Whatís up, ma peeps?

The Lady Miz Diva: I see we still have our slang working.

JP: Just wait till I use ĎWhatís the Dilly?í ThenÖ

LMD: Oh, I use that all the time.

JP: No you donít!

LMD: I totally do, but I add the ďOĒ on the end if mine.

JP: Dilly-O?

LMD: Dilly-O.

JP: You know that didnít make it into the movie, but it almost did.

LMD: Iíll even break out ďWhatís the scenario?Ē and thatís just wrongÖ

JP: Respect! {Does Ali G-esque hand sign)

LMD: So much to say about THE WACKNESS: Tell us about Luke, and how Josh and Luke are similar? Did you have any similar experiences growing up as he faces in the film?

JP: I feel like it was one of these divine gifts that I was granted that I feel so many similarities with Luke. Y'know, I feel like heís going through a time now that Iím just sort of at the tail end of.  Itís very difficult at 18 years old to figure out what constitutes being a man; because for all intents and purposes, you are a man. I mean, you can vote and go to war, but is it experience, is it relationships? And youíre trying on everything.

I think Luke describes it best that, ďWe were the most popular of the unpopular.Ē This is like my tribute to the mensches. Itís like the cats that werenít exactly nerds in school, but they definitely didnít peak and werenít that cool. And they kind of grow up to be interesting adults that are continuing their maturation process well after high school.

LMD: But youíve grown up on a TV show; Iíd imagine your experience was a little different than Lukeís.  Did you go to a regular high school?

JP: Yeah, like Luke, I did get ostracised a lot in high school. And I went to home school which was awful.


JP: No, Iím kidding. I went to Performing Arts High School right here on 48th Street, and then I finished up in home school.  It is a different upbringing, but nevertheless, some things are just universal, you know? Heartbreak is just universal even if you do have your own Nickelodeon show.

Unfortunately, thereís no good way around it. And I think for the most part I was so focused on my work while doing it, but then I would have a long, long time off where I would just be living my life, and I never was kinda out rocking it at the clubs, living that Hollywood life. I donít even think I was invited to go live that Hollywood life, but I was kicking it in North Hollywood with my boys, you know what Iím saying?

LMD: Jonathan Levine has described Stephanieís character as evolving once he saw Oliviaís interpretation.  Did you feel that Luke also evolved from what you brought to him?

JP:  I think so. I mean it was a total gift that when youíre an actor or any kind of person thatís dealing in any kind of creative entity any kind of artist, you use your life as something to draw from in every experience, and so it was very fresh to me, my first heartbreak, and a girl who I was really in love with. And God, your first heartbreakís tough, man, you donít know whether youíre gonna live or die, if youíre gonna breatheÖ I just ate a lot of Rice Krispie treats, slept on my momís couch.

So, in that way, actingís not therapy, but itís therapeutic, and when I met Olivia, she didnít have a fucking chance, cos I was like, ďI know who you are. I got you pegged.Ē  But it was beautiful, and our relationship was so close and we were friends, and sheís a month older than me and we both grew up in the city, but there was always a small sense of uncomfortability, because our characters are sort of in this new relationship, you know?  And thatís when the person sees the best side of you, and youíre afraid to pass gas in front of them, you know what Iím saying?  Youíre on your best behaviour.

Q: One of the things we were talking about with Olivia is how quickly Luke lets his guard down and says I love you after three weeks.  Could you relate to what Luke was going through there?

JP:  I think I told my girlfriend I was in love with her after three weeks.  Really, donít trust a guy in a post-coital moment.  But itís so true, real shit comes out.  Iím victim, Iím guilty of that.  What can I say?  I mean, guys my age, weíre a generation raised by females.  I was raised by a single mother; Iím very in touch, man.  My femininity is bursting out of me.  I canít help it.  Iím falling in love with you guys as we speak!

LMD: Tell us about working with Sir Ben.

JP:  Sir Ben? He had a tough time getting used to calling me Commodore Peck, but I insist on a preface.  I mean, what do you say when youíre a basketball player, Michael Jordan says, ďNice jump shot,Ē you know what Iím saying?  It was a gift and privilege. Heís my favourite actor. Iíve peaked; itís downhill from here.

No, it was be careful what you pray for, cos I was bugginí out when I found out it came true.  I think the thing about him is that the stakes are so very high, no matter what.  Whether itís a line that would normally be discarded, he makes it life or death.  And thatís why youíre so vested in who his character is and the stakes.

I was in awe of being around him and I tried to grab any pearls of wisdom that he mightíve discarded.  And I think he knew that we would instantly be intimidated by him.  For intents and purposes, Olivia and Jon and I were sort of just taking our first steps into hopefully what will be a career, and he is the Academy Award winner; the professional.  Heís Gandhi, dude!  I mean, he allowed for us to feel comfortable and especially me on the first day of shooting, he walked up to me and said, ďThis part chose you,Ē and he gave me a hug.  And he knew that there needed to be that sense of vulnerability between us, otherwise it would be disingenuous.

LMD: Did you ask him for advice in any way?

JP:  I did.  The last day, I said, ďIíll never have this chance again,Ē though he let me quote lines from SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER -- his lines!  Which is rare, most actors donít ever allow that.  But the advice, he was more interested in giving me advice on who I was as a human being and as an actor, and how I carried myself.  Because your artists and your actors are on a very personal, private journey thatís very singular.  You do it alone because youíre investigating the inner works of your soul and where certain things live inside of you.  Certain blocks that you have built, that we all do as human beings because we naturally wanna protect ourselves, but we all have these human instincts for sex and security and society, and sometimes our instincts go astray. 

So, I think he was most interested in helping stabilise me through this period in my life that I could be instantly influenced or instantly thrown off course, and it could be so new and jarring and scary.  He was most interested in how I conducted myself onset and as a person.

LMD: Itís interesting that you, Olivia, and Jon are all New Yorkers telling a story that takes place during a time of big changes in New York City history.  You come from Hellís Kitchen, right?

JP: Right.

LMD: And thatís gone though a lot of changes since you were a kid.

JP:  A lot

LMD: And now New York is going through a lot of those same changes where large part of the city are being gentrified that same way it was during the time of THE WACKNESS. Did that cross your mind while you were making the film?

JP:  Yes, I mean, I think that it was a gift that we were all from the city, and it played such a role in the movie, because that was one less thing we had to worry about was how genuine these characters were and the mannerisms, and just the way that they held themselves. Because it was a movie shot in 28 days on a small budget and so we wanted to focus on making it look right and making sure the performances the best that they could be.

As far as that goes, itís also a story of the loss of innocence, the movie, and I think when you see that scene with the Towers, that day was a real loss of innocence for the city.

You know, Giuliani has done a lot of positive things for the city, and I canít hate on him that much, but thereís also a lot of flavour thatís been lost.  And itís real tough for people my age, or Iím sure any age, to live in this city anymore, you know?  Itís rather expensive and itís too bad, because I feel like people like us are the ones that are the soul of the city and maybe not the suit and ties.

So, I hope that it reverts back to its old ways, or hopefully, it changes into some beautiful, bohemian, everyone-driving-hybrid-type city.

Q: Having such a following on the Nickelodeon show DRAKE AND JOSH, do you worry about making a movie thatís so much more mature?

JP:  I think that DRAKE AND JOSH is something that spoke to me when I was 15, and now Iím 21, and my tastes have matured. 

It was never really a conscious decision cos Iím forever in debt to Nickelodeon, theyíve sure made me who I am today, but inevitably, this isnít exactly a movie for kids.  And if I was 15 when the show started and the people that were watching it were 12, and now Iím 21 and theyíre 18, so hopefully they can see it.  And for the kids that are too young and they donít wanna see my naked ass on the screen, I hope they check it out on DVD in a couple years. 

It is a leap of faith that Iím taking with my audience and that I hope they take with me, because it is uncharted territory and I donít know what the trajectory is gonna be.

Q: Youíve been quoted saying some bad things about New Jersey. Where does the Jersey hate come from

JP:  All right, check it out Iím gonna be really honest.  I will preface with this; Iíve talked too much shit about Jersey, Iíve gotten into trouble about it.

The Garden State is beautiful.  Iíve spent many a time at the Jersey Shore.  I have family that lives in Jersey, and it was in print that I talked shit about Jersey.  That said, I went to the audition and Jon asked me where Iím from and I said, ďIím from New York City, from Hellís Kitchen. A lot of my family lives in Jersey, but I FUCKINí hate Jersey.Ē  In hindsight, maybe that was a little bit overboard, but I find it funny that Luke doesnít like Jersey, either.  But, yo, Iím sorry, Garden Staters!

LMD: Whatís next for you?

JP: Drake and Josh Christmas Movie, TV movie.  This way I donít have to be a waiter, you know what Iím sayiní?  Iím trying to look for cool projects, but this movieís so good it makes it tough, you know?

I wanna find something that compliments it.  I did a movie in Cape Cod called AMERICAN PRIMITIVE about the 70ís.  I got a real JFK accent, never been over the Sagamore Bridge in the movie and hair down to my shoulders and shit.  Itís cool; Indies speak to who I am right now. Maybe one day Iíll be able to do a movie like HANCOCK or something.

Jonathan Levine

The Lady Miz Diva: We just had Josh in talking smack about Jersey.

Jonathan Levine: Fuck that kid.

Q: He said you bring out the Jersey hate in him.

JL: No, I love Jersey Ö Well, I love Bruce Springsteen.

LMD: I think the first thing one talk about with THE WACKNESS is the incredible Hip-Hop soundtrack.  Where does the love for that music come from?

JL:  I think that music that sort of defines your childhood is always really the music you go back to for the rest of your life, and for me that was the soundtrack to my growing up.  It inspired me in a way that music has not since, and I dunno if thatís cos Iím older, more cynical, or because itís so goodÖ or cos music sucks.

It was a real movement, and to have the opportunity be one of the first people to kinda look at it that way, with that kind of nostalgic lens is a very amazing thing, and Iím glad we were able to sort of do it right. 

Iím glad we were able to get the right songs and some seminal songs from that time, and also some that might not have been.  We got popular ones, and we got sort of discoveries like that Raekwon song I love, I guess that was sort of popular.  But we were able to get all sides of the spectrum, and I think that for me, the spirit of that music is something that we tried to infuse the whole movie with.

That kind of personal stuff that the music does, and that combination of opening yourself up and yet at the same time, being about having a good time and partying, too; thereís two sides to it.

LMD: But when you wrote the film were there certain songs you had in your head?

JL:  I did!  I wrote a bunch of stuff into it.  Thatís the first thing the editor tries and we start playing around from there.  I had known how hard it is to clear music just because Iíd worked on a couple of other movies, and Iíd been working closely with the music supervisors on clearances.  And so, the songs I wrote into the script were the songs I thought would be easier to get, and we ended up getting stuff that was way better than the stuff that I wrote in the script, so it was cool.

Q: Was there anything you didnít get?

JL:  Well, there were a couple of songs where the artist never cleared their own sample.{Laughs} Or didnít know what the sample was.  We tried to get "í93 Ďtil Infinity," by the Souls of Mischief, which is a song that I really loved and had it in there, and we pursued it, and we never got it because they didnít clear the sample. 

And I would have liked to include some other 94 music that wasnít hip-hop: I wrote Nirvana into the script, but we never even tried to get it, because we were like, itís impossible, and others like Weezer or Smashing Pumpkins, or some alternative rock.  I would have also liked to put in some really crappy music like Counting Crows or Hootie and the Blowfish, but there was no scene to put them under. {Laughs}

LMD: While THE WACKNESS is set in 1994, a lot of the changes that were happening in New York City are still going on and repeating themselves; like the gentrification of the neighborhoods like Harlem and the Lower East Side.  Was that at something in your mind when you wrote the film?

JL:  Yeah, I think it was, definitely.  For me, I picked that time as sort of the last time of innocence in this city, and Iím sure that 10 years from now, weíll look at this time as the last time of innocence.

But it really feels like that was the start of a trajectory where youíre seeing New York have the same stores that every other city has, yíknow?  Local businesses are going away, and we see it becoming a lot like any other city, and of course the gentrification thing, as well, is something that the Kingsley character talks a lot about, as well.

So, in many ways, yeah, I wanted to look at that time and juxtapose it with this time and see and sort of ask questions about where are we going and we come from, and I think it very interesting that we still continue on that trajectory -- it hasnít reversed itself in any way.  But, you know, you see signs of interesting things happening in not just the culture of New York, but the culture of this country as a whole. I think hopefully, weíre gonna get on the right track soon.

Q: Did Ben Kingsley playing in the film change the part in any way?

JL:  He didnít! He didnít do anything! He just decided the way he wanted to do and then he very strictly adhered to the text.  

In fact, if he would change one word of the text, heíd ask the script supervisor to come up to him and let him know.  And I asked him -- of course, Iím a young director -- I wanted to create an environment that was a comfortable as possible for him.  So, when I met with him the first time, I went, ďDo you want to change anything?Ē ďIs there anything you think doesnít ring true?Ē Bla-bla-blaÖ  And he said, ďNo, I wanna do the movie that you wrote,Ē and thatís kind of awesome, y'know?  But what he did do was he translated it through himself and his physicality and his personality, and he channeled it in this really amazing way, and he created that character, yíknow?  I mean, the words were mine, but he created the character.

The only thing I remember when we first started talking about the character, the first thing he said was, ďI donít think this guyís bald. I wanna wear a wig.Ē  And he was working on another film at that time, a film called ELEGY, and he had the hair people on that movie make him this wig, and he would send me pictures.  Iím like, ĎThatís so cool.í And so much of it is the way he carries himself, the way he speaks.  His goal was to connect to the truth of the script and not change it any way, which kind of brings it out that much more.

LMD: There was a lot of unapologetic realness to the teenagers of THE WACKNESS that reminded me of a less ugly version of KIDS; the hyper-adult mentality that they have.

JL:  KIDS was very strong reference for us.  Obviously, the authenticity of it, and their world is very similar.  I think where that stops and we start is I wanted it invest that with a little more sweetness and heart than I saw in that movie, but I loved that movie. 

And those are the movies I grew up on; those are the first movies that kind of made me aware that thereís such a thing as a ďfilmmaker,Ē whether it be KIDS or DO THE RIGHT THING or PULP FICTION.  All those movies were kind of what taught me the existence of a director.  But, yeah, KIDS is a super strong reference, especially for the clothes and stuff, we were watching that over and over again.  I really, really, really love that movie.

LMD:  Did you use KIDS as more of a reference than the kids you personally went to school with?

JL:  No, you know I think thatís why that filmís so good is because those are the kids I went to school with.

Sometimes, actually, very specifically, those are the kids I went to school with; like friends of friends were in that movie, cos he was just taking real kids from New York schools.  So, I definitely identify with that having gone to high school here and the authenticity of it.  Itís kind of an historical document in a way.  Also FRESH was a good one to watch, too.

LMD: Besides the costumes and hair, how did you make 2008 New York look like 1994 New York?

JL:  Well, itís very much about what you donít show, y'know?  First of all, we didnít wanna do a New York travelogue, like show the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, all that stuff.  We wanted to be a more personal New York.

Central Park obviously hasnít changed very much, but the streets of New York have changed so much, sometimes we had to go to Brooklyn.  Sometimes we went a couple blocks off in Williamsburg to do one of the SoHo streets.  But putting a pay phone on the street, or a couple pay phones covered in graffiti will go a long way, I tell you that, and having an old cab drive by.  You know, itís just little things, and the accumulation of these little things paints the picture of the world.  Itís amazing to me, because the audience fills in a lot of it themselves; if you throw a couple things in there the rest of it just takes care of itself.

LMD: One of my favourite little moments in the film is when you have Method Man handing Joshís character a bootleg tape of Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready to Die."  Was that always in the script, or did the casting of Method Man inspire that scene?

JL:  It was always in the script, but that to me, listening to that album for the first time was a huge revelation to me, and so it was very important that Biggie be this kind of unseen presence in the movie, and to have Method Man be the guy who was handing it off is pretty cool.

LMD: But now thatís another reference that is Jonathan and Luke, and Iíve heard you deny that the film is autobiographical.

JL:  No, itís autobiographical. Well, what it is is personal, yíknow?  What it is is I certainly was a lot like that kid at the time, and I certainly shared a similar worldview to him. 

I think when I say itís not autobiographical, Iím just trying to specify that I never sold weed. {Laughs} Everything else is cool.

LMD:  What have you got coming up after this?

JL:  Iím writing a script for Sony, a book adaptation right now called ECHELON VENDETTA, its kind of THE BOURNE IDENTITY.  And then, I donít know, I think I need a little vacation, one week off somewhere, but Iím gonna write stuff, Iím gonna be reading scripts.

~ The Lady Miz Diva/Mighty Ganesha
June 26th, 2008

The chat continues: Click here to go to part 1 of our talk with Hip Hop legend, Method Man and the lovely Olivia Thirlby.






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