Matt Bush, star of the new comedy 'High School' in theaters June 1st, sat down with FlickDirect to discuss the film and its influences. He elaborates on his role and how the film fits in the great pantheon of 'teen stoner films'. Without further ado we present Matt Bush:
FlickDirect: I was expecting more of a drug-movie, a Marijuana-Humor movie; and it is much more of a comedy-drama than I would have expected. It took it's material way more seriously than I thought it would and was much better for it!
Matt Bush: Yes, exactly. The first time I saw it in its entirety was at Sundance. When we saw it with the music and everything, I had a similar reaction. Of course, I had a much better idea of what to expect; but, yes, I am with you.
FlickDirect: How did you get into the movie?
Matt Bush: Believe it or not -- I live in New York, and casting was in LA; so I did a video-satellite casting call. I originally read for Sebastian [one of the antagonists]. He is a "weasely" kind of bad-guy. I put that on tape and got word back from them saying, "Maybe you should read for Henry -- do you respond to that character?" I said "yeah, hell yeah, I do." They flew me to LA, and I met with Seany and the Director; and they brought me on.
FlickDirect: What did you bring specifically to the character of Henry Burke?
Matt Bush: Well, we shot it in Michigan, and they flew me and Seany to Michigan to meet with Jon (the Director). He said "Before we get started, here is some homework." Some films: Risky Business, The Girl Next Door...
FlickDirect: Ferris Bueler's Day Off?
Matt Bush: Yeah! Yeah-yeah-yeah, exactly! And these all had very intelligent protagonists. I think what John wanted to do with Henry was that "yeah, he is intelligent -- he has a scholarship to MIT and stuff. However, now he is put in an extraordinary situation; he curses, and he unbuttons his shirt a bit; and he is not so straight-laced. He is not a stereotypical kind of nerd at least.
FlickDirect: Right. They didn't have stereotypical scenes with him getting beat up or abused by the mean-girl cheerleader clique or anything like that.
Matt Bush: Right! He does have his issues with girls as we see. But he's not the most incompetent guy out there either.
FlickDirect: Yeah. I was surprised at how they downplayed the female characters. I was expecting more spin on that. Usually that is a major stereotypical theme of getting the girl; and I think moving away from that a little worked for the movie.
Matt Bush: I am with you on that. The focal point is the friendship with Bro.
FlickDirect: I agree completely. It is more of a buddy movie -- more than a "coming-of-age," "guy-does-drugs" becomes cool movie.
Matt Bush: Right!
FlickDirect: So you had to go through almost the whole movie with black-eye makeup on. How did that work?
Matt Bush: When we got there that day, we had some rehearsals; and we were going to have some test black-eyes. The first one was exploratory. It was like the beginning of Rocky 2. Jon saw it and said "Uh ... are you going to be comfortable wearing that for a whole month?" Not so much. So we opted for the black-under-the-eye look. Each character had their own iconic look. They could almost be Halloween characters.
FlickDirect: Especially "Psycho Ed" who is wild looking and covered with tattoos.
Matt Bush: I could see someone dress up like that for Halloween.
FlickDirect: Was that Michael Chcklis' real hair? I have never seen him with hair.
Matt Bush: [Laughs] No. No-no-no. That was a piece. He is almost unrecognizable. Friends of mine have seen the trailer, and say, "Who is that?" When I tell them, it blows their mind. It's very against type -- and it works.
FlickDirect: Was there any story that stands out working with the cast?
Matt Bush: It was great. It was one of the most fun experiences I have had in my career. The first time I met Michael, we were rehearsing the seen. I had just met him, and John goes "Okay, that was great!" and Michael goes "Okay ... is that how you're going to do it?" I'm all "Uhh--uhh ... yeah? I think that is how I am going to do it?" He just lets it hang for a second or two with me sweating, and then bursts out laughing. A little hazing!
FlickDirect: I could imagine him doing that! So judging from Wikipedia, which I never really trust, you are older than any high school student could be?
Matt Bush: I am older than any high school student could be.
FlickDirect: When you get picked for these roles, do you say, "How much longer can I do this for? Or do you just say, I can do this as long as they'll let me." You do look the part.
Matt Bush: It's a character. If I respond to the material and the character; if I can bring anything to it that's my part. Then it is up to the Casting Company and the Director and those people. I think it works here. I appreciate hearing that.
FlickDirect: High School got an R-rating, which is appropriate for drugs. When you were dealing with the writers and directors, did you feel they would have "Done the research"?
Matt Bush: They seemed to know what they were talking about (Laughs).
FlickDirect: The drug in question was kind of made up.
Matt Bush: Yeah. That was funny.
FlickDirect: You were on Adventure Land, which if I recall correctly, also featured pot-brownies. Maybe there is a trend?
Matt Bush: That's right -- maybe it is a kind of calling card? I don't know.
FlickDirect: What other movies would you compare it to? It is not exactly a drug-movie in the sense I would expect -- there's no Cheech cameo, for example.
Matt Bush: Right. Well, if we can humbly compare it--
FlickDirect: Heh. Since you are being asked to, I think it's fair.
Matt Bush: Well, for example I loved, LOVED, the Harold and Kumar movies; but I think High School makes a left turn from being a drug movie to more of the bro-mance--the relationship between the two characters. It is not just a stoner comedy -- it does play it straight. I could compare it to Risky Business. When he gets into trouble, you can feel the danger. When our characters get into trouble with Psycho Ed, we wanted to have the same sense of danger -- that we are in trouble.
FlickDirect: Right. It is not so absurd that you think nothing bad could happen. Which scene stands out for you -- either for being really cool or hard or fun or whatever?
Matt Bush: Believe it or not, you see this in films all the time -- it takes place in the grow-room where there is a slow-motion, super-man style dive where I am jumping to catch something. That scene is SO hard to do. You have to jump, keep your body straight, land on your stomach -- much respect to that. That was actually me. They had a crash pad, and we did it over and over to get it right - and I actually had to catch it.
FlickDirect: That wasn't a camera effect?
Matt Bush: No, we just chucked it in the air, and I dove at it over and over.
FlickDirect: It was great to talk to you. Hopefully we will have a chance to talk again when you do your next thing.
I'd love to.
Catch High School in theaters on Friday, June 1st, 2012 and check in with friends with the iPhone Movie Countdown Clock App at the theater.