Trek vs. Wars and slave Leia: Kyle Newman talks Fanboys

The Fanboys cast (and friend) at this week's special screening hosted by Gen Art in Los Angeles.

Fanboys director Kyle Newman said that he juggled a lot of expectations, especially those of his characters' real-life counterparts, when putting together his tribute to Star Wars fandom—and Star Trek fans might not be too happy.

Set in 1998, Newman's film follows a group of Star Wars fans who take off on a cross-country journey to break into Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch to steal a print of Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace.

Newman, a lifelong Star Wars fan himself, explained that he wanted to celebrate the fan culture that sustained the series and humanize the fans themselves. One regret: He was only able to put co-star Kristen Bell in the slave Leia outfit for a few minutes. (You'll have to buy the DVD if you want more.)

The following is an edited excerpt of our exclusive interview with Newman. Fanboys opens today. (Spoilers ahead!)

When you were building this lexicon of references from the Star Wars universe, was there anything that was just too obscure to include?

Newman: In every scene, someone would go a little too far, and I'd have to bring it back. Obviously, the studio was always stressing, "Don't get too specific."

Like, say, talking about Chewbacca's home planet.

Newman: That was from the holiday special, and in '98 it hadn't been in a movie yet. It had been in books and the expanded universe, so it was very obscure, but I actually made the final call on keeping that in, because I felt if you don't challenge the audience a little bit—if there's not some stuff that's over your head—then you also lose the core people, and you're not challenging the people who think they're on their toes. But guys like [cast members Dan] Fogler and [Seth] Rogen, even with obscure Trek references, there was a lot of that stuff, and we had to cut it back because we could have gone off on so many tangents.

How fun was it to play on the Star Wars-versus-Star Trek rivalry? The movie antagonizes Trek fans a little bit.

Newman: It does [laughs]. I'll say, for the record, I like Star Trek. Growing up, I was even a Starfleet Club member. But I had a different connection with Star Wars, and I was hoping to do a really fun, even back-and-forth with Star Wars and Star Trek. But less than two weeks before we started shooting, we were negotiating with [the Star Trek people] and they were like, "No. You can't use it." It kind of angered us and put us in a really bad position. Here we are racing, we're having Star Wars Fan Club 501st to help us build Star Trek outfits, and they were getting so angry because they would have to knit Star Trek frocks and stuff. So I let it go a little antagonistic towards Star Trek in the improvisation, because I was frustrated. But, you know, if we had Star Trek repped, maybe I would have been a little easier on it, but I was frustrated, and it's a movie about Star Wars fans. You've got to get behind the fans and see the way that these guys look at Trek, and in their world, Trek is bad.

How careful did you have to be constructing these fanboy characters? Regardless whether they're fans of Star Trek, Star Wars or anything else, an obsessive love of any one thing that much could be perceived as unhealthy by audiences.

Newman: We talked about it when casting them all. I really wanted people that could do the comedic stuff, and the over-the-top stuff, and also ground it and be real. Because I didn't want caricatures, I wanted real people. All of the Star Wars fans that I know from going to conventions, they surprise you with what they do with their lives. It's 55-year-old businessman, it's 8-year-old girls, it's people you're not expecting. Yeah, it's prominent in men of a certain age group, but even within that age group, it's so diverse, and I wanted you to look at them and say, "I'd hang out with that guy." We had discussions about keeping them real, never letting the Star Wars be necessarily what defined them. They still have personalities behind that, and they manifest the way they like Star Wars because of their deeper personality.

On the other hand, you guys got Kristen Bell into the Leia slave outfit, but it was kind of de-emphasized in those scenes—especially for a movie about people who obsessively fetishize their favorite characters.

Newman: That was really our shooting schedule. I think we had 53 locations in 27 days, so it was crazy, and it was actually snowing that night in New Mexico. It was supposed to be May, so it really limited how much we could shoot outside. She would be freezing, and you would see her shaking, so we really couldn't shoot too much believably, and then once they were in the theater and she was sitting down it was all cramped in the rows. So it was hard to show it off [laughs].

Is there a chance that people might see more of that on the DVD?

Newman: There was a lot of deleted stuff and blooper stuff, and she's hanging out and goofing around indoors in her slave outfit. So you might see something. But I don't know how much more. It's probably worth checking out.

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