Hughes the Force: An Interview with Actors Nathaniel Weiss (Simon) and Taylor Treadwell (Leia) by Adam Lamping
On January 28th, 2012, Hughes the Force screened for only the third time publicly at the Seattle's LTD. Art Gallery in conjunction with the gallery's all-Star Wars pop art exhibit. Two of the stars of Hughes the Force were in attendance and took a few minutes to chat about the film.
AL: So how did you first hear about Hughes the Force?
NW: Every day, I go on websites that have job postings for actors, and the one I happened to find his on was L.A. Casting and I was scanning all different kinds of acting jobs and I saw Hughes the Force, submitted my headshot and resume electronically online and I got an email saying we'd love to have you come in for an audition. And I was stoked. You know, most actors, when you come to L.A., you don't know anyone and you don't have any connections. I came here, a brand new babe, fresh from the farms of New England; I didn't know a soul. So you have to start at the bottom, and just go online, and just submit, submit, submit, because I didn't know anybody, and I got really, really lucky, that I happened to be on that website, on that day. Once you saw "Hughes the Force," I was like, "oh man, that sounds cool!" Even the title. So I submitted to it, got an audition, nailed the audition and got a callback. I was really excited and then one fateful night, I got a phone call from J.C. who said we'd love you to do the role, and I was ecstatic.
TT: Justin Okin, who plays Henry, he and I are in an acting class together on Monday nights and he said, "hey my friend's doing this Star Wars/John Hughes movie and you should audition for the role of Leia," and I was like, "Really? Me? Leia? OK, I will try, I would love to." And then he said, "I've seen the work that this guy's done and he is an incredible director. He's really passionate and he really dedicates and puts his whole life, blood, brains and guts into everything he does." That really spoke volumes to me and so I thought, yeah, I'll go and audition, and I went and auditioned and somehow I lucked out and got the part. I wore the tightest black outfit I could find and went for it!
NW: She really touched on something key, I think. It was the script that hooked me in, but it was J.C.'s passion that kept me. Once he started talking about his vision for the project and ideas about who he wanted to get involved in it, just the way he makes films, by bringing people together who have a common passion, and it's not so much about money or making fame, but just having fun. Making something quality and meeting new people and his passion really inspired me and I was like, wow, if this guy's really as serious about this as he says he is, then I know this is going to be good. I know it's going to be fun and worth my time and I was immediately hooked and ready for the ride, right away.
AL: And I guess it's as you imagined, or is it more?
NW: Even better. I mean when he first approached me in the callback for the second round of auditions, that was when he started talking to me directly about his idea for the project. He told me it was going to be a five-day shoot, this little idea he had, his grand schemes of getting Kevin Smith and maybe some other people, and I was like, alright dude, sure, whatever! And then everyday I showed up to the set, he would come up to me with news, "oh, so-and-so has heard about it," or "we've gotten in touch with so-and-so and it's getting bigger and the buzz is spreading, and we've gotten James and Catherine on it and maybe we're gonna get Kevin Smith." Every day it just got bigger and we were like, alright, this is becoming important, this is going to be a really big thing. So everyday, the passion, and everything, just grew and got more exciting, so I've been completely overwhelmed and surprised in the best of ways, absolutely.
AL: You've pretty much summed it up by what you've been saying Nate, but to the both of you, what really drew you to your particular roles? I mean, Taylor, you were kind of earmarked for one role anyway, but what was the appeal?
TT: Well for me, it was just playing something that was so iconic. Actually, it was the combination of two iconic characters that I grew up watching and wanted to be. I told J.C. in the audition, that when I was a little girl, I wanted to be Kelly Le Brock in Weird Science, and I loved that movie growing up. And with Star Wars, it was like, if you were a child of the eighties, then it was as if you were born a Star Wars fan somehow, so stepping into the bikini, both literally and figuratively, was a huge, huge, honor. And also, with these two guys, and everyone else on the film and with the script being so charming and intelligent and smart. I feel very lucky.
NW: For me, the thing of the specific role that interested me was, I'm very much like Simon. I spent most of my childhood as a sort of outcast or a nerd. I never had a lot of social confidence, so I can really, really relate to someone who is very passionate about things that they're interested in, but just don't quite know how to talk to girls or feel confident around girls and I just felt that I could relate to the character very, very well, and I was like, I need to play this character and give life to this kind of person that I feel is inside of me and I kind of want to pay homage to this person that I feel like I used to be and still am in some ways. And in terms of the whole project, it was the idea of giving something back to the Star Wars community. I've been a huge fan of the movies my whole life and the idea of it being something where we can actually become a part of the industry and part of the community, by contributing our own art, that is really special to me. It's very rewarding.
AL: Again, I'm kind of rehashing some of what has already been said, but you're obviously already familiar with the source material, so I don't think we really need to cover that one, but did you have to do any research for the role or were you so familiar that it was just like second nature to fall into?
NW: I didn't have to research, but I did. I watched the Star Wars movies, one more time through, before we started filming, just to get back into the energy and the passion of the project, and then the only thing I did, research-wise, was for every line or reference made in the movie, J.C. sent us a video clip from the actual Star Wars movie it was from, because for a lot of the moments, he wanted us to say it as it was said in the movie, or as close as possible, to make it familiar to all of the fans. So I would watch Harrison Ford saying you know, what was it?
AL: Never tell me the odds
NW: That's it. Never tell me the odds and I tried to mimic how he said it like that and I just wanted to watch the movies again and get back into the passion of the project.
TT: It was a little harder for me because I had to combine the hotness of Kelly Le Brock, with the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi, so you know, it was like a little cool blend of that. But thankfully, these guys are so on top of things that they sent us clips, and like Nate did, I really tried to match it as closely as possible, just so that we could really pay homage.
NW: The funny thing is, I saw Weird Science after we'd finished filming. I'd seen Star Wars probably 30 times each film, but I'd never seen Weird Science, whereas Justin, who played Henry, had never seen Star Wars.
AL: Yeah, I'd heard that.
NW: But he's seen Weird Science right?
TT: Yes he has.
NW: So we were kind of the opposite; he'd seen Weird Science and I hadn't, so it was fun for me to see it after the fact, to go back and watch Weird Science and say "oh, that's why we did that" and in terms of that, I kind of created my own Simon character, in that way. I didn't want to watch too much of Weird Science, because I didn't want to mimic what he was doing. I knew enough about the Star Wars world to give my own take on that.
AL: Has being in the movie given you a greater appreciation for John Hughes movies and for Star Wars?
TT: Absolutely, I can't tell you. The Star Wars references now, ring so true to me. Before they were just sort of like a residual effect of my childhood and now, I'm tickled with laughter whenever I see a Star Wars reference, or watching the films or see someone walking down the street with a sort of Star Wars-y t-shirt, that if you're not a Star Wars fan, maybe you wouldn't recognize it, but now that I've been so immersed in it...
AL: You've kind of lived it now.
TT: Yeah, so every time I see something, I'm always a little joyful, and I have a little secret with that person.
NW: What I noticed in watching Hughes the Force several times now is that people don't really make films the way John Hughes made them anymore, and it's a genre that's almost gone from cinema today and it's really sad because John Hughes movies are such great kid/teenage/young-adult feel-good/adventure/coming of age movies, so it was really cool to kind of help bring that back a little bit and just do an homage to him, because so many of his films affected all of us as children. And as far as the Star Wars aspect of it, for me what was really cool was seeing, well, I didn't really know or realize the fandom was so large and so passionate. Coming to screenings like this and Comic-aze and talking to people who had maybe heard of the movie but were really just big fans of Star Wars and not just the movies but comic books and the expanded universe, and the artwork, I never really realized how extensive the fandom was and how passionate, and how really interesting all of the people who were involved in it were, so it was really cool for me to be able to explore this new realm. I was familiar with the films but not the rest of the universe. Delving into a whole new realm for me was really interesting.
AL: And that pretty much answers my last question which is, the reception you've had from Star Wars fans. So how have people's responses to the movie been and how have you received that?
NW: I think very solid. I think everyone loves the references; I think people recognize that it's more than just a fun movie which we've put out and tried to not copy, but just honor the work of the artists who have gone before us and I've seen nothing but people loving it and I'm really happy about that.
TT: And people are excited. Star Wars fans have seen the Star Wars films nine hundred million times and to see it come together in a different way and sort of in a lighter, comedy way with the John Hughes references, I think people really appreciate it in a different form, if you will, and they really respond to it.
NW: I think people really identify with the Simon and the Henry characters. To me, I grew up watching Star Wars and John Hughes films as a child, and I think of how you're meant to watch them, I think there's something very, I don't know, the way it touches into your...
NW: Yeah, your innocence and your hope for the future and in your passion towards life and it's been very rewarding to be a part of that rebirth.