EXCLUSIVE: Aaron Yoo Enters Disturbia

Aaron Yoo talks tech, Sarah Roemer and why this movie struck a chord with the world.

As the comic relief character Ronnie in the breakout hit Disturbia, Aaron Yoo put Hollywood on notice that a new funny-man had entered the ranks. In the film, he played the best friend of Kale (Shia LaBeouf). They investigate Kale's neighbor across the street (David Morse) who they think is a serial killer.

On the eve of this movie's DVD release, Yoo sat down with us to discuss his role in the film and why he thinks audiences made Disturbia the hit that it was.

What attracted you to the role of Ronnie in Disturbia?

Aaron Yoo: It was one of the funniest things I've read. It was such a clear character. There were scenes that didn't make it to the final draft... there was a scene between Ronnie and his mom and they were like, "The mom is an extraneous character we should cut this down." They really pared it down to the 5 characters, you know? There was this scene where he gets out of the car with his mom... and she's trying to say something to him about, "I'm going to come pick you up..." and he's like, "Woman! Leave me!" I was like, this guy is awesome. There's not too many characters you feel like jump off the page at you. Where you're like, I don't have to make you into somebody you already are somebody. He might be very similar to me as well which makes it easier for me to figure out. You get so much dialogue in so many stories where it's basically like, how can I make this into a person?

As I was watching your character I was reminded of how Benicio Del Toro played the Fred Fenster character in The Usual Suspects. You seemed to have your own style of talking and cadence? Did you think about things like that when you were creating the character?

Aaron Yoo: I would say the lingo stuff is definitely me. That's what I am, I like making up my own words to describe situations. Using words that aren't supposed to be descriptive to be descriptive. I'm always trying to sell my boys on the words that I come up with, nobody ever buys them. I'm just like if I flood the market with it, eventually someone will pick it up. If enough people read and see it everyone's going to be like, "Oh yeah, that word means that."

What do you think it was about Disturbia that made audiences respond to it so much?

Aaron Yoo: Sarah Roemer in a bikini.

Yup.

Aaron Yoo: Isn't that obvious? (Laughs) I mean what's not to like. I'm playing. A lot of our audience, I've since discovered, is 13 to 25. I've run into a bunch of these people since the movie has come out and it's literally like, I was once in a crowd of kids and one person was like, "I've seen your movie 7 times." Someone else was like, "I've seen your movie 10 times." I was like, are you kidding me? They're serious. There's this thing where people get into a position to write movies that get produced, they're so far removed from their youth... they're so staunchly settled into adult life, they don't know how to write kids. You get a lot of movies where kids feel like they're being talked down to a little bit. Thematically things aren't as complex or their lives aren't as interesting.

I think there's a lot of people saying, "Oh, you get how we live our lives. You get the way that we act. You get how obsessed we are with our phones." I sit at dinner with my friends and it's like nobody is looking at each other. I was like really what we should do is we'll eat and then text each other while we're eating. It's that bad. We made a point of it while we were shooting, okay, what would we really do in these situations? A lot of the technological interplay was stuff that we talked about. Maybe we should have this in the scene because this is what I would be doing? There was a whole session of just gadgets, man.

So many horror films are so complicated in regards to the subject matter they put across. Do you think Disturbia was also popular because it took place in the familiar confines, for many people, of the suburbs?

Aaron Yoo: Yeah, but you know what though? I went down to Mexico and people were telling me there, "How does it feel to have a hit movie in Mexico?" And I was like, are you serious? It's funny because we're in this worldwide launch of technology... there are certain things about the world that are the same no matter where you are. I think boredom is universal. Really, kids everywhere have that same experience. They say that what great art is is it speaks to universal truths. I think a lot of it is against the grain. We don't need to scare you under the covers in the first 5 minutes of the movie. To me that's always a no win situation. Sometimes it works but if you stab a guy in the first 5 minutes, then 25 minutes in somebody has to lose their head. Where do you go from there?

Instead, we're just like why don't we just tell you a story? Sort of like old school fairy tales. Like the girl with the wooden shoes and then she gets her feet chopped off. You're like, what? There's the moral lesson. Don't spy on your neighbors because they might be killers. It's like a fun story that actually twists you up at the end. I think people are entertained by that. I think that is something that a lot of movies have forgotten.

Disturbia comes to DVD August 7 from DreamWorks Video.

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