Interview: Patton Oswalt and Rob Riggle of ‘Nature Calls’
Todd Robal’s raucous comedy skewers his own childhood experiences as a Boy Scout
Can a film about a group of scoutmasters and their young charges be jaw-droppingly inappropriate and politically incorrect and still uplifting at its core? Watching Todd Robal’s “Nature Calls,” I’d have to say the answer is yes! Basing the screenplay on his fond memories of his years as a Boy Scout in Ohio, Robal hired some of the funniest people around to portray the wacky adults in this insane but surprisingly sweet tale of a group of misfit scouts and their misfit leaders. The always great Patton Oswalt (who, in my opinion, should have received an Oscar nomination last year for his poignant performance in “Young Adult” opposite Charlize Theron) plays Assistant Scoutmaster Randy Stevens, determined to honor his ill father’s scouting legacy by mounting one last adventure for his dwindling troop. When he convinces a group of boys, including his nephew, to ditch a slumber party to head off into the wilderness, his brother (Johnny Knoxville) goes in pursuit of the scouts along with his security guard friend (Rob Riggle). The supporting cast includes Maura Tierney, Darrell Hammond, Kelly Coffield Park, and, in his final screen appearance before his untimely death last year, comedian Patrice O’Neal.
I talked to Patton Owalt, Rob Riggle, and writer-director Todd Robal in Los Angeles.
MSN Movies: I love how this film is so unrelentingly and unapologetically inappropriate! When else will you ever get the chance to swear nonstop at a group of eight-year-olds?
Rob Riggle: It was all in the editing. A lot of times they weren’t really there!
Patton Oswalt: All digital effects!
When you’re casting children for this kind of movie, do you have to be super clear with their parents about what’s in store for them?
Todd Robal: Absolutely! Especially when you're filming a naked woman in front of a group of young boys!
Yeah, what was the deal with the naked woman on a motorcycle? Where did that come from?
Patton: She just showed up on the set one day so we decided to go with it!
Todd, was that something you actually experienced when you were a scout?
Todd: Only in my dreams!
I noticed the one area you stayed away from in the film—and I’m so glad that you did!—was any suggestion of sexual inappropriateness with the scouts.
Patton: Yeah, there’s nothing funny about that. But I do think it’s funny when you see adults doing things that are really fucked up because they think it’s going to be a good lesson for the kids. That’s what we were going for.
Todd: We deliberately stayed away from all that stuff. The guys I had as leaders when I was a scout were totally messed up, but nothing like that! On the other hand, Rob improvised a lot during his scenes and it seemed like his standard “go-to” was jokes about pedophilia! Of course I had to cut all that stuff out. He made our producers crazy!
I do like how these guys believe that all their crazy plans will be good for these overprotected boys—no matter how dangerous or nuts. And in a way they’re right!
Rob: I really loved Patton’s character for that reason. As an audience member I was totally pulling for him.
Todd: I remember seeing some of my friends’ parents who may not have been the best parents in the world and were pretty messed up but I admired them because their hearts were in the right place and they were really trying to steer their kids in the right direction. I do think that the kids in this film are stronger at the end because of their experience.
Are you looking forward to your reviews by those Christian websites that list every moment that is inappropriate for children?
Patton: Oh, man, two of my specials got reviewed by that kind of site! I love reading their movie reviews—they’re not even mean-spirited, they just make an inventory of every single moment that they find questionable. I remember them saying that “Jurassic Park” implied a positive view on evolution so parents needed to proceed with caution! I’m not kidding! And remember that scene were Sam Neil has to grab that teenaged girl because there’s a friggin’ velociraptor about to eat her? They say, “he grabs way too close to her buttocks!”
Rob: That’s how they interpret him saving her life?
Patton: And any movie where a woman is leading a man is a huge red flag. They cite a verse in the Bible that says women should not dominate men so when Sigourney Weaver kicks butt in “Alien,” that’s not okay!
Rob: But that Bible verse is correct, isn’t it? (Everyone laughs.)
Working with so many stand-up comics, Todd, did you just sort of present the basic plot points and let them go?
Patton: He let us do whatever we wanted and then he’d just scale it back in the editing. I saw some of the stuff that Patrice did in his scenes with the moms and I knew they’d have to pick just one or two of his lines.
Todd: He never did it the same way twice!
Patton: He gave them such great, funny choices, so insanely inappropriate—the scene could have been an hour long!
You must have all been so glad for this chance to work with Patrice O’Neal since he died shortly after filming.
Yes. I only got to be in a few scenes with him. He was one of those guys that was just so fun to hang out with.
Rob: I got to ride with him from New York City to the set, so I had an hour and a half each way of one-on-one time with Patrice every day. It was great! I don’t think I said five words—he’d just go on and on.
Patton: Something was always bugging him and he would go off about it. Any one of his car rants could have been released as an album, even if he was yelling about something as stupid as “Why didn’t you move the air conditioning vent towards me?” He’d dissect every angle of something that bothered him—he was just this raw id!
Rob: He started calling me his “life coach” on the set because my role was to calm him down. I remember one day he started to pick a fight with the make-up girl for no apparent reason. I’d be like, “Patrice! Why?” And he’d say, “You’re right!’ (Laughs.) He was just an agitator!
Patton: Remember the time he got into this thing with a woman from craft services? She came down to the set and asked if anyone wanted something to eat. We said no and she started to walk away. Patrice said, “Oh, wait, I want one of those donuts,” and she just gave him this little look and he goes, “Oh, so you don’t want to walk back down here now? How much are you going to piss on that donut?” I remember thinking, a) Why are you doing this? and b) Please, please don’t stop! He went off for about an hour and she was about to kill him. Then half an hour I look over and they’re best friends. He was just amazing!
Was Maura Tierney like the “Mom” on the set?
More to us than the kids! She was constantly calming us down and saying, “Can we please just do this now?” She was this weird pillar of maturity in the middle of all of our idiocy—she was great!
“Nature Calls” is playing in select cities and is available on VOD.
I dunno, it just seems like today there is a revolution of thought that maybe Christianity and its male ego Dogma is out dated maybe? The number of members attending church in the category of young 18-29 year olds is declining. Religion has placed road blocks on Medical Research and science,made lists for book burnings and ban lists that even included Harry Potter, and has declared war on sexual freedom and has determined that their "Marriage" is the only one allowed.
I know thats just a small portion of things that have happened over the last decade or two but the point is its not a new thing. Christianity has been In Human lives for about 1500 years or so when the printing press was invented.. so that would make it about the time that the religious leaders started their campaign of terror on human rights. Now over a thousand years later This religion is still one of the mainstays of society. Many depend on its message and rejoice during songs and praise, and you know it wasnt the religion that was bad, it was and still is the human factor that makes things bad.
People will ultimately decide for themselves to follow God or not.
The Super Religious want to take away that choice and force all of us to live the lives they want us to.
In effect, they want to kidnap the people to force their own views on them until they "See the Light".
This is actually unlawful in the USA. But the super religious don't care. They see themselves as the sole( or is it Soul)
arbiter of what is "Right" for America. I choose to think for myself.
I read up on the sciences and I believe in God.
What I CAN'T believe in are the churches attitudes on how the people can or cannot do things that have absolutely no relationship to the church! Man made Church to make himself seem more important. As to be an equal with God. This is the worst thing a person of faith can do! It is the opposite to Gods message of peace and love.