Married writing partners Jared and Jerusha Hess have a nifty system down for when they’re working on a script: When a new scene works really well, they celebrate with a make-out session. Of course, deciding when they’ve earned one isn’t always easy.
“Every time something good is written, he’s like, ‘Hey baby,’” Jerusha says. Jared counters, “But she’s like, ‘That was not good enough.”
After their breakout debut, Napoleon Dynamite, the Hesses hit Hollywood, teaming with Jack Black for Nacho Libre. Their latest film, Gentlemen Broncos, brings them back to their native Utah — where they filmed Napoleon — and the type of oddball characters that made them famous.
This time around it’s Benjamin (Michael Angarano), a mild-mannered science fiction buff who has his first novel stolen by his idol, pompous sci-fi novelist Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement).
Sure, but what about that title?
“My mom had this really weird parenting book when I was growing up called, like, So You Want to Raise a Boy, written in the ’50s,” Jared explains. “There’s a chapter that talks about the age from 16 to 17, and they often refer to it as the ‘gentleman bronco’ phase of life, where teenage boys like to take their shirts off and mow the lawn.”
Benjamin was easy to connect with, Jared admits.
“A lot of the things that happen to Benjamin in the film happened to me,” he says. “Well, except the plagiarism.” But Benjamin’s love of sci-fi wasn’t hard to channel.
“I’m a big sci-fi fan,” Jared says. “I actually really wanted to be a special effects dude working for Industrial Light and Magic or something. A lot of my first movies were really lame.”
Working with a spouse has its advantages, of course — and its drawbacks. “I can’t predict what she’s going to say,” Jared explains. “But I think she can predict just about every single dumb idea that I bring to the table.”
For Jerusha, it feels natural to step back after the script stage and let Jared take over as director. “I’m so fine with him being the director,” she says.
“I love having my little stamp on it at the beginning, but he’s such a great director. I trust him completely” But that doesn’t mean she won’t have suggestions during production.” I’m not even on set the whole time,” she explains.
“But when I am I often whisper in his ear.”
“When I’m about to do something real dumb,” Jared finishes for her.