Interview and Review: Director Matthew Lillard Talks on His Triumph FAT KID RULES THE WORLD

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FAT KID RULES THE WORLD, directed by Matthew Lillard, tackles the difficult subjects of obesity, teen suicide and punk rock in this critically acclaimed, ten years in the making, film.

Produced by Rick Rosenthal, Nick Morton, Matthew Lillard, Jane Charles, Jennifer Maas, Evan Wasserstrom and Talan Torriero, FAT KID RULES THE WORLD, is based on a novel by KL Going and adapted for the screen by Michael Galvin and Peter Speakman.

Staring Jacob Wysocki as Troy Billings, a teen struggling with obesity and suicidal thoughts, FAT KIDS RULE THE WORLD also stars Dylan Arnold as his brother Dayle Billings, Matt O’Leary as addicted punk rocker Marcus and Billy Campbell as their concerned father, Mr. Billings.

FAT KID RULES THE WORLD tells the story of life through the eyes of “the fat kid.” Troy Billings is 16 yrs old, overweight and suicidal. He often has thoughts of self injury. When the film opens, he is envisioning what would be left if he jumped in front of the oncoming bus, a mass of blood, brain and body matter splattered against the double pane bus window are an inviting end to the sorrow the seems to fill every waking hour of each and every day.

Satisfied with the image in his mind of his demise, and as fate would have it the bus arrives on schedule, “the fat kid” takes one step towards the final victory and bam! He is flattened by a stranger, a grunge punk rocker, who feels it is his duty to save Troy from his desires.

Marcus, the life-saving grunge punk rocker, embodied a Seattle troubled youth, dying of decay brought on by parental rejections, abuse, drugs and loneliness. He loves hoping to be loved. He saves hoping to be saved.

As the story unfolds, layer upon layer is removed and the audience discovers idyllic childhoods have been replaced with hurt, rejections, self-loathing, and peer pressure leading to drug, alcohol, food and other addictions.

Interview With Director Matthew Lillard

Having the opportunity to interview FAT KID RULES THE WORLD Director Matthew Lillard at the PMK BNC Los Angeles Offices we talk about his dedication in making this project, its impact and the way obesity is viewed.

Janet Walker: Tell me about FAT KIDS RULE.

Matthew Lillard:  Ten years to make it.

JW: Wow!

ML: It’s a long time to figure out a way to get it done. Every time when somebody says ‘what do you want to tell about the movie,’ I mean its funny most go right to the business side. It took ten years to get it made. Every time we turned around we think we something is going to change the trajectory of our film and it doesn’t. And instead of giving up we kind of double our efforts. There’s been no quit on the movie since its inception, to be honest.  My producers when we won the audience award 'Oh this is going to change the movie.' We got into SXSW and we’re hoping, 'Okay here we go.' And then nothing really changes. Huge success in the audience level and people love the movie, great reviews, and we’re like ‘here we go’ and nothing really changes. And we won the audience award, 'Okay now we’ve got validation.'  Still the world didn’t really pay attention. So what do we do? Do we either give it away or put it on VOD and on platform that no one really cared about; nobody really cares about the movie; so do we stick it on a platform, nobody wanted to buy it.  

If somebody came and said we’ll give you a million. We made it for $750,000.00 so if somebody came and offered us like a million dollars we would have sold it and nobody really wanted to put any kind investment into it.

The good news is we believe in the movie. We think the movie is great. I love the movie. I’m super proud of it. It strikes a cord. We make a movie that has something to say and is funny in the same breath.  Our struggle has been finding a way of getting it into the world. From me optioning the book to know it’s always been, ‘how are we going to get it into the world?’ It was our goal to find that kid out there who needs something. I think we made a piece of art that can affect that kid.

JW:  So tell me when you decided to option the book what did you do?

ML:  So I read the book on tape. I had this crazy emotional experience reading the book. I called my manager. She made me do the book on tape. Because I’m not a very, I have a mushy mouth, very Californian, I sound like I’m drunk half the time. Me doing a book is a disaster. I’ve never gotten an offer before and haven’t gotten one since. So I called my manager and she said, ‘I think you should do it.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Because it is about an obese teenager and punk rock music.’

I come from very overweight stock. Our family struggles with obesity all through our bloodline so it means a lot to me. Getting into it and reading the book I found it isn’t about obesity at all. It isn’t about weight at all. It isn’t about fat or skinny or size. It is really about finding your place in the world. And to me I found acting and he finds punk rock music.

JW: So what was your most memorable moment? I want to ask you a little about on how you motivated the talent? But I want to ask about your most memorable moment first. Over ten years there has to be maybe one, there may be more than one.

ML: Sure. There’s a lot. The first thing that comes to my mind is I lost the options. I lost the rights. And in losing the rights I figured how to make it. I went back to the guys who owned the rights and they had put their proposal forward and we countered and they countered back and I basically wrote the most angriest email I’ve ever written and said, ‘you’re going to blow up this deal over things I can’t give you.’ I can’t give you these things and you’re asking for things out of nothing and we’re fighting about stuff that may never exist.  So let’s all agree to make the best possible movie we can and do what’s best for the movie. I remember I was on a golf course and I was reading this email and I thought I’m not going to get this email over five thousand dollars. Cause I didn’t have Five Thousand. I couldn’t give it; my producer said we’re not putting money into it.  

Then I think about production. I want to walk people through every moment and at the end of production I wanted to thank Jacob for being a movie star and trying to not cry and being overwhelmed with emotion.

JW: He’s overweight. There’s moments when he is not portrayed in the most flattering light. There are moments he shows himself and he shows his flesh.

ML: The first scene in the movie is him getting about the bed in his underwear; 350lbs.

JW: Was he aware . . .

ML: It wasn’t his favorite shot in the movie. I think  . . . first of all, he always says yes. He’s an incredible actor. He’s completely brave. I think he's so brave there will never be a joke about you made that’s based on your size. You’ll never be the butt of the joke. You know, the script respects that character, that kid’s journey. I think he knew it going in.  And that shot originally was supposed to be toward the latter half of the movie. And I wanted to, in the re-write, I wanted people to remember people to know he was obese because I knew he would be the hero at some point. And you would be following him; it’s his journey.

FAT KID RULES THE WORLD a poignant indictment on modern society as bullying increases and more teens are lost to drugs, addictions and murder by suicide predicated by bully stalking, Matthew Lillard and Jacob Wysocki present a solid counter culture revolution film that eventually gets parental endorsement. FAT KID RULES THE WORLD has won multiple audience awards as it should. See it.

FAT KID RULES THE WORLD is playing now in New York City and in Los Angeles and will be released on VOD October 25, 2012.

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