Iain Morris Talks The Inbetweeners, in select theaters Friday, September 7th
The Inbetweeners movie, a continuation of the hugely popular U.K. television series of the same name (not to be confused with the American version currently airing on MTV), is finally coming to our shores this Friday, September 7th, for a limited engagement run. The story follows four best friends (Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Joe Thomas) who go on a lads' holiday just after high school graduation in search of sex and booze, but instead, they end up falling in love and discovering the true meaning of friendship. It was a huge hit overseas, and is worth checking out, even if you've never heard of the show before.
We recently caught up with the writer of the movie, and co-creator of the franchise Iain Morris, to talk about bringing Will, Jay, Neil, and Simon to the big screen, both versions of the TV show, and where our U.K. lads will be seen next.
Here is our conversation.
I was watching the stateside remake on MTV last night, and I saw your name pop up in the credits as an executive producer. How much of a hand do you actually have in this thing?
Iain Morris: We had very little to do with it. MTV has Brad Copeland, who is a great show runner. And they had a good production staff and a great team of writers. I think Damon Beesley and I felt that The Inbetweeners UK was about the suburban experience of being teenage boys in the UK. We don't know what its like being teenage suburban boys in America. So, we handed it over, and we said, "Make your worst." That said, I did come back and direct one of the episodes. So I did come back for a couple of weeks to shop direction. Basically being told what to do. It sucks. I'll tell you that right now. I'll never do that again.
That's the thing about the show, though. That's the appeal. We get to see the UK version of a high school comedy, which we don't ever see too much of here. We get to hear all of this slang we never hear in America. Things are different. It's an alien experience, which makes it more special for us in the states. Who cares if it's translated for American audiences. That ruins it.
Iain Morris: Yes. That has been my experience with people so far. If they really like the UK version, they found it tough to watch the U.S. version. If they never saw the original, then they have really enjoyed this new version of it. It always gives it away when you see remakes, and things of that nature. Yeah. Unless you watch Let the Right One in, which was a Swedish film that was remade in America. Which is an exceptional remake. With the exception of that...
Wait, wait...Are you telling me you like Let Me In more than Let the Right One In?
Iain Morris: I did, yeah. Did you not like it?
I thought the second one was okay. I never really got invested in it like the original. And I loved the last shot in that first movie. The remake blows what is a perfect moment in cinema...
Iain Morris: You're right. Yeah.
That kind of goes back to watching the MTV version of the show last night. The vomit on the kid is classic. One of the great comedy bits in the last ten years, in either film or television...But in the U.S. version, I knew it was coming. And worse, it was really being telegraphed. In the original, you never sense that moment is coming. Here, there is no suspense or surprise. They could have changed it a little. It's like trying to repaint a Picasso, and then passing off as the real thing. That never works.
Iain Morris: Yeah, yeah...You know, if you've only watched the show on BBC America, you should catch it on Netflix, or get the DVD that is out now. That scene is even funnier because all of the swearing is in tact. They cut a lot of that to account for time. I hate that. But you'll definitely get more out of it if you watch it on Netflix or DVD.
That's why I loved watching the movie. Its not censored. I can hear every glorious naughty word, though some of the stuff I simply can't understand...Now, why did it suck so hard working on the MTV series?
Iain Morris: No, I enjoyed it. I was only joking!
When they showed the season 1 trailer after the pilot aired, it looked like they were actually going to take it in a somewhat different direction. It's not just going to be a remake of all the U.K. episodes.
Iain Morris: You're right. It is a bit different midway through. The model is what is working. Just like with The Office. I remember watching the first episode of the American The Office, and it was word for word one of the UK scripts. They didn't change it, but eventually they did. Again, I think what they did with the American The Inbetweeners, and mind you, I haven't seen them all, but I think five or six of them are quite close to the original storylines, and then five or six of them are quite different.
That's what it looked like last night. It is like The Office. I remember watching that first episode, and I didn't care for it much. But now it's coming to an end after nine seasons. It really fell into its own groove, and it did become one of those great sitcoms on its own. Who knows, maybe that's what will happen here...
Iain Morris: Yeah. See, that did become its own thing. Steve Carell was so great, and he separated it. I don't really associate the U.S. The Office with the British series any more. It's a completely different thing. That's the dream for The Inbetweeners. Hopefully it will take its own place, out from the shadow of the original.
In terms of the movie, the last time we had a foreign TV series arrive in the U.S. as a movie, it was the Trailer Park Boys...I'm not sure if you're familiar with that show at all...
Iain Morris: I know the name, but I haven't ever seen the stuff...
With the movie, I think they just assumed most people outside of Canada had never seen the TV series. So their movie is really a regurgitation of those first couple of seasons. It's like a two-hour remake of six years of television. If you've never seen it, it's great. But if you're a die-hard fan of the show, it's almost a pointless endeavor. You guys go the other direction. This is a direct continuation of the series, and there isn't a lot of ground retraced in introducing these four guys all over again.
Iain Morris: We did try to write some new jokes. That was our starting point. We felt that we should throw some new jokes in there. What we did, we tried to make it work for people who hadn't seen the show, first. We try to give a bit of an introduction to the characters at the beginning. We felt that, if you hadn't seen the show, you could still follow along. But actually, that was something that affected a lot of the audiences in the UK. We thought, if we get the TV audience to come to the cinema, then the film will be a moderate success, and that will be fun. But what happened is, the film became quite a big success. Because a lot of people that had never seen the TV series showed up to see the film. And they enjoyed it on its own merits. That was edifying. Because we set it up as a stand-alone piece. Though, hopefully we put enough nods to ideas, and instances, and characters in there for people who'd seen the series to go, "Great! I like this. This is rewarding enough. Its not the same jokes rehashed." Is that an answer?
Iain Morris: Great! I suddenly considered that it might not be.
We get the American press release for the film, and it talks about how it beat out Harry Potter at the box office. So, in my mind, I'm thinking that everyone in the UK has seen this TV show, and that it's a big hit...
Iain Morris: Yeah, that's where we were. But the amazing thing that happened was, after the film came out, after Christmas, we sold, like, another half a million copies of the TV series. Because people who'd seen the film in the UK thought, "Oh, I got to go back and watch that!" We thought everyone there had seen the show. But no. Now, actually, it is saturated. When Kate Middleton and Prince William Windsor are nipping off to see your film, that's when you know every single person has seen it.
Maybe it's the sensibility of the film, but it struck me in an odd way. Watching the movie had me pinning for my spent youth. The last couple of U.S. comedies that are in a similar vein never really brought forth that type of emotion. Where does the actual story here come from, and how do you feel you managed to bring a lot of heart to a genre that is often times lacking in that general area...
Iain Morris: We wanted to make sure that we stayed true to these four main characters. And we made sure that we stayed true to the experience of being a teenager. When you go on holiday, you think you're going to change, and your whole world is going to change. That this is all going to be sex, and parties, and booze, and that it's all going to be amazing. But actually, if you saw parts of the film, you realize that you travel with yourself. So that wherever you go, the place doesn't change you.
What happens after this? Are we getting more Inbetweeners? Or is it done?
Iain Morris: There will be a sequel. Me and Damon, only today, I think we announced that we are taking about getting everyone together soon to do a sequel. That's the plan. Yeah. I'm not sure if that would ever happen or not, but we got an idea that we think can be good enough. That's where we are.
Can you give us a hint as to where the guys will be?
Iain Morris: You know what? I honestly cannot. Not because I don't want to. Its because I am so superstitious. I feel that if I say it out loud, than it will never happen. That is the level of lunacy that you are dealing with.
All the kids are ready to come back, I hope?
Iain Morris: I hope so too. Its all about schedules, and things like that. We all get along so well, and we all miss each other.