We got the chance to interview Little Birds director Elgin James recently about the movie. We talked to him about what we can expect from the movie, what Carlos' character is like, what he has in-store in the future, and more.
Little Birds is about 15 year-old Lily (Juno Temple) and her best friend Alison (Kay Panabaker) who live on the shores of the Salton Sea. What was once an oasis for the wealthy and famous has become a near ghost town, leaving its residents fighting for breath in the deep end. Lily feels eternally claustrophobic and rebellious, living with her manic, single mother (Leslie Mann), clinging to hope for something more exciting than visits with her young and already washed up Aunt (Kate Bosworth).
Little Birds is currently playing in theaters in NYC and will be opening up in L.A. soon. More details on that below!
Also, go follow Elgin on Twitter, @ElginJames, and of course the official movie Twitter, @LittleBirdsFilm.
Here's our EXCLUSIVE interview with him:
Picking one favorite scene is difficult. They are all so personal and important, not just to me, but to all of the cast. When I wrote it I tried to put every ounce of myself into it. And then the actors come on and did the same thing, so it becomes like our diary together. But that being said, there is a scene, with Carlos hiding, jammed into a bathroom with three other people, that makes me laugh out loud every single time.
What's it like seeing stars of the movie in other projects?
It's cool. We all became like family, so I get incredibly proud of seeing all my friends do so well. I kinda geek out and wanna be like, "Hey, I know them."
I spent a lot of time with Carlos. We hung out a couple times before filming. He's such a funny, charming kid it's impossible not to fall in love with him. There were a couple pretty serious scenes we had to film, so it was great to have him on set to lighten things up between takes. While he was super brave about getting vulnerable and dramatic when he needed to be when the camera was rolling, he was good about making us all laugh when we needed to blow off some steam. But also between scenes we would talk about our own lives and experiences to add to his character. We got to know each other really well because you have to open yourself up to help find the truth about each scene.
You've said that Carlos gives a "real gritty and true performance". We can't tell you how excited his fans are to see him in such a different role. Have you had a chance to check out any episodes of Big Time Rush? It's such a happy show, but Little Birds is very different.We've heard that his character, Louis, gives the movie some relief from an otherwise serious and dramatic feel. Can you tell us more about his character?
Carlos' character "Louis" is a wiseass. But he's also a scared kid who covers up his pain with humor. I'd seen Big Time Rush and knew that Carlos is brilliant with slapstick humor, but what was intriguing is that he also has the capacity for real drama. He's such a great comedic actor that it was fun to watch him sink his teeth into the gritty dark stuff. He has a scene near the end of the film where we get to really catch a glimpse of what's going on underneath his character's skin and I just wanted to keep shooting it over and over because it was great to see him knock it out of the park each time.
We've heard that some of Little Birds is based on your own experiences. Is Carlos' role based on a certain person from your life?
The role of Louis was based on actually a few of my friends. Kind of like a mixture of them all. And then Carlos came on and added his own personality, ideas and timing to Louis as well. That's what's so great about film, you get to collaborate with brilliant people and make something completely organic that is part of all of you.
We know Carlos is a very driven and passionate guy, what impressed you most about Carlos' performance in the movie?
His work ethic. I've met few people as driven and motivated as Carlos. And he was kind of thrown into the deep end, he'd never acted in an indie drama before, and his first day of shooting he has to act with Juno Temple (The Dark Knight Rises) and Kyle Gallner (The Haunting in Connecticut) who are so well versed in dramatic work, but Carlos just dove in fearlessly. And then he had to do a love scene with Kay Panabaker (Cyberbully), and those can really freak an actor out, but he was fearless about it.
How about the selection process? Was it difficult to cast the boys at all? Did you just KNOW Carlos was the one immediately?
All of the boys were different. I knew I wanted Kyle Gallner to play against type, and to be Juno's love interest instead of the brooding scary kid he is usually typecast as. I'd never met Chris Coy (True Blood) before but as soon he walked into the room I knew he was the one. As far as Carlos goes, we were having a hell of a time casting the Louis role and Carlos came into read really late in the game. And I think some people were nervous about the Nickelodeon stuff, but Ryan Gosling came out of Disney, and I think that's easily a path Carlos could take if he was interested. But I know he's having a real blast with Big Time Rush.
We know he's extremely busy with the summer tour, and the show, but have you had a chance to catch up with Carlos recently at all?
We won't get to catch up during Little Birds press because I know Nickelodeon is concerned about Carlos doing anything to promote the film because of it's dark themes. That's what is so great about Carlos, he was fearless even when they had reservations during filming. Growing up is tough, and while it's important to have fun, and laugh and be silly, there's also some dark stuff in the world too. And while there are a lot of laughs in Little Birds (mostly from Carlos) because of my experiences growing up, I wanted to make a film about some of the darkness that can creep into being a kid too. But yeah, Carlos and I will be hanging out in L.A. as soon as he's done touring his butt off and being world famous and all that. Honestly, he works as hard as anyone I know.
The movie is opening up in select theaters and cities on August 29, any word on when the rest of the country will get to see it or a DVD release date?
We opened in NYC (at The Angelika Film Center) on the 29th and we open in L.A. on September 14th. After that we will spread out across the country to smaller cities. I'm sure it will be on DVD and On Demand sometime next year. Please tell your friends who live where it's playing to go see it though, I'm incredibly proud of what Carlos, myself and our friends achieved making this film and really want people to see it.
As for you, any new scripts in the works? You can tell in every interview that you have a lot of passion for this movie. Are you ready for another one?
Yeah, we have a few in the pipeline, now. Hopefully you'll see Carlos again in another Elgin James film.
Anything else you would like fans to know about the movie?
Just how excited I am for Carlos' fans to see him in Little Birds. He put so much of himself, and so much blood and sweat into the project. The world should see what this incredibly talented kid is capable of.