Working with two directors could easily be confusing for actors, so directing duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have a system worked out.
“Only one of us will go off and talk to the actors,” Fleck explains. “We’ll never go up together, so they have to look at both of us and interpret both of what we’re saying.”
It’s a system that’s served them well on their previous features, the acclaimed Half Nelson and Sugar. And their latest, an adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s young adult novel It’s Kind of a Funny Story, shows no signs of confused actor syndrome.
The film follows Craig (Keir Gilchrist), an overwhelmed teen who checks himself into a psych ward only to be placed with adults, as the juvenile unit is being renovated.
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Though the directors weren’t familiar with Gilchrist’s work on The United States of Tara, they were immediately taken with the 18-year-old actor.
“He’s just such a teenager,” Boden says. “He’s this little punk kid, and he comes with his hoodie and all his patches, and he’s not trying to be anything but who he is. Sometimes you meet with young actors and it’s like they want to be sophisticated and professional, and there was just no pretense with him.”
But the most interesting bit of casting comes in the role of mentoring patient Bobby, played by Zach Galifianakis in his first mostly serious turn.
In fact, Galifianakis’ comedic background almost stood in the way of his getting the part, according to Boden.
“We pretty much only knew him from The Hangover, and we were not convinced from that he was right for this,” she says.
“But we looked back at some of his stand-up, and he’s got something really interesting going on underneath the surface. There was this third side of him when we met him, this down-to-earth, charming, loveable, smiley person.”
Fleck recalls that Galifianakis was just as valuable off screen as on. “Zach came late, for the second half,” he says. “We were all starting to lose steam a little bit, started getting tired of being in the same place, it was freezing outside and it was getting a little depressing. And then Zach shows up and just woke everybody up. He came in and was just charming and fun to have around.”