Interview: 'Brooklyn Brothers' Ryan O'Nan & Michael Weston Talk Character, Chemistry And Kids Toys
What do you do if you’re a struggling musician, been shunned and kicked out of band after band and make ends meat by belittling yourself playing a musical moose to uninspired kids? Why form your own band, of course! Such is the quirky, hilarious and toe tapping premise of the fabulous new film "Brooklyn Brothers Beat The Best" (in theaters Sept. 28 from Oscilloscope Laboratories), a flick with equal parts comedy and great music (via some kids instruments no less!) with a pinch of dramatic poignancy. The film stars chemistry heavy pals Michael Weston and Ryan O’Nan, with the latter both writing and directing the film as well. We’re celebrating all things Brooklyn Brothers with some exclusive Starpulse.com one-on-one interview time with the very wry and witty Michael Weston and Ryan O’Nan who talk about their memorable pairing, playing with tot themed instruments and their engaging music above and beyond the film. Grab the headphones and hold onto your funny bone, here are the Brooklyn Brothers themselves…
I loved that the inane character played by Jason Ritter in the film says you should write what you know – Ryan how much of this movie is from your own personal experience?
Ryan O’Nan: I was in a band for a long time prior to acting, writing, directing and things like that, so some of it was autobiographical. I didn't want it to be my exact experience and I thought of it more as conveying the process. What was I struggling with? What was I going through in those dark moments and what got me out of it? It’s this duality I think you have when you’re tying to do something that you love and it doesn't have to just be the artists. It’s really anybody that is attempting to do something that they feel will be slightly greater then themselves. So I had these two parts of me – one side where I would go after something, but plagued by insecurity and self doubt and the other where I was like f#ck it, I’m gonna do it anyway. Those two things were constantly colliding within me, so I tried to separate them to two characters and have them battle it out on a journey together. It was more emotionally autobiographical than anything.
Michael, your character is kind of inspired insane – how much of that was on the page vs. what you brought to the part?
Michael Weston: I feel a lot of it was on the page and that’s why I loved the part. There’s a lot of passion in this character and a throw caution to the wind attitude and I love characters like that. They release us all and as an actor you are unhinged a little bit and are allowed to take risks – you’re not really worried about social norms or perceptions. You’re really going off of gut instincts and it was fun to play.
You two have a terrific off beat chemistry – did you know each other before?
RO: I met Michael randomly at an audition. He had just come out and he had obviously failed miserably…
MW: You’ve already got it wrong. You came out with a flop sweat and a sweaty upper lip and I was coming in brimming with confidence. And then Ryan asked me right there, he started with little flatteries and then he just fell down and started kissing my feet and basically groveling...
RO: You know, ninety-eight percent of that’s a lie...
MW: The feet and the groveling part is totally true though!
RO: I was looking at something on the ground!
MW: Obviously, we had an immediate chemistry and we took to each other. We had a kindred spirits about our whole approach to this kind of film which is you have eighteen days to shoot and you just go for it. There’s no ego involved – you do what’s best for the film at all times. In that we had immediate trust and a sense of play. We enjoyed messing around with each other and it was a very safe place to work.
How much of the actual amazing music was played by you guys and on set and were the awesome sounds from actual kids toys?
RO: I’ll tell you what, I was adamant that everything be played live.
MW: ALL of it was live.
RO: Every song was as we were actually playing it – even the song in the car.
MW: It was torture. (Laughs)
RO: And we really were playing those kids instruments. When we first met, I had resigned myself to a certain extent that who ever was going to play that part I was going to chose a really incredible actor – (joking) and then I ended up with Michael – and the music was going to be off screen and the actor was going to be pretending that they were playing. But I asked Michael if he knew how to play anything at all, just to see if he had any training...
MW: And he also saw my hands and he realized that I had really beautiful hands. And I didn't need a hand model or anything. He was like I have to have those hands in my movie even though they are enormously large and manly...
RO: Awkwardly large – just the tips are big. Like you’re a leaper. (They both laugh) But we did play everything live and Michael learned all that stuff.
MW: We’d shoot a fourteen to fifteen hour day and we’d go back to the hotel room and start learning the song we had to play the next day. To me it was terrifying because I’d shirked my piano lessons as a child and I never really aspired to play live music in front of anyone ever. So when Ryan really physically forced me to do this it was frightening to say the least.
RO: It was good that he did know how to play the piano – it was like a blessing from the gods.
MW: But...I didn't know how to play a tiny little child’s keyboard!
RO: You big baby!
The most interesting piece of casting was certainly Andrew McCarthy as Alex’s brother – how did you come to cast him?
RO: That was a tough role because we went out for a few people and responses were that there wasn’t quite enough to the character. I started thinking maybe it didn't have the layers that I was hoping for. And then Andrew came out of the woodwork and I was like oh my God I love him as an actor - he’s in so many of my favorite movies. Plus John Hughes is my favorite writer/director of all time and was so influential on me as a writer, my sense of humor and my music tastes. When Andrew played that part he came from such a place of love - I think a lesser actor would have made it more of a villainous character. He hit all the notes on that and I was really impressed.
Ryan, I recently watched "Freelancers" and you played an interesting unstable character that’s completely opposite from Alex in Brooklyn Brothers – what was that one like to play?
RO: I gained almost thirty pounds for that role. (Laughs) The weight was really hard to lose. 50 Cent is a really good dude and was really passionate about the project and Malcolm Goodwin has become a friend - we had such a blast making that film. Plus it was like going to school watching Forest Whitaker, who came with this role that didn't have a ton on the page and he brought so much that wasn’t even scripted - it had so many layers.
Finally guys - will there be an LP for the music of "Brooklyn Boys Beat the Best?"
RO: There is an LP! Yeah! Warner Brothers music, and it’s so crazy and weird, actually signed me and Michael as...a band! It’s so ridiculous.
MW: The most terrifying thing that’s ever happened to me.
RO: We went into the studio and recorded a ten-song record. The six songs that we play in the film and then there are two songs that I’ve written that aren't in the film and we have Brooklyn Brothers versions of them and two new songs of what the Brooklyn Brothers would have done and I’m so proud of it. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve done in my life and it’s available now on CD, iTunes and we have an LP! That’s one of my bucket list things.
MW: We walked into Warner Brothers records and Ryan got weak in the knees, but it was wonderful to see a dream realized.
"BROOKLYN BROTHERS BEAT THE BEST" HITS THEATERS SEPT. 28 FROM OSCILLOSCOPE LABORATORIES.