Exclusive Interview: Robert Wilson, Gage Munroe & Jason Lapeyre on I Declare War

To celebrate the release of their youth action movie I Declare War, Drafthouse Films held a paintball battle in their base city of Austin, Texas. In between battles, the filmmakers and star got on Skype to talk to us here in Los Angeles.

Writer/director Jason Lapeyre, director Robert Wilson and star Gage Munroe spoke about the action film entirely starring teenagers. Munroe has grown a lot since shooting the film, where he played PK, a brilliant military strategist who watched Patton in between playing war in the forest. He’s never lost, but Skinner wants to make sure he does. They’re playing with sticks and balloons, but we see them realized as guns and grenades on film.

I Declare War is currently on VOD and opens in theaters this weekend. Check out the official website for I Declare War.


CraveOnline: Thank you for outsmarting the “Would You Rather” game.

[All laugh]

Jason Lapeyre: You’re welcome.


That was me as a kid, and everyone hated it. He’s really brilliant to come up with a solution that’s neither choice.

Jason Lapeyre: Yeah, the “Would You Rather” thing was something that I put in the script just because kids have always done that, trying to out-disgust each other and freak each other out. The whole idea of PK trying to find a solution that wasn’t either of the choices was all about his character. That sets up what happens at the end when Skinner gives him a choice, and PK once again tries to go straight down the middle and his character is finally put in a situation where he has to choose and he can’t have his cake and eat it too. Then you find out who he really is.

Robert Wilson: It’s really a classic Kobayashi Maru.

Jason Lapeyre: That’s right, it’s a Kobayashi Maru.

Gage Munroe: And we actually played quite a bit of “Would You Rather” on set. That inspired a “Would You Rather” game on set and I think one of them was: Would you rather be rich or famous? Which is fairly simple but I think we all try and find a way around it, like in the script.

Jason Lapeyre: I want to be famous, but…

Gage Munroe: I’ll be rich and invest in something and become famous off that.


So many kids movies do it with a wink. Was it important to take this war game absolutely seriously?

Jason Lapeyre: Well, I never describe the film as a kids movie. We think it’s very much a movie about children, but it’s not exclusively for any one particular audience. And yeah, no winking. No winking allowed. It was intended to be a hermetically sealed universe that took place in the imaginations of these kids. There was never any intention that we were being sarcastic or jokey.

Robert Wilson: A wink kind of says, “Hey, this is all going to work out all right” and I’m not sure that’s the way being 13 feels.


I won’t spoil what happens at the end, but was it also important to make it ultimately about more than just the game itself?

Jason Lapeyre: Yeah, the raison d’être of the film is to tell a story about how it actually feels to be 12 or 13 years old. The mechanics of the game, the game itself is an excuse to highlight the character dynamics in a story and show these archetypal moments from adolescent life and just to find these moments that were universally experienced by boys and girls at that age: jealousy, love, friendship, betrayal.

Robert Wilson: Machine guns.

Jason Lapeyre: Machine guns, violence, so that was one of the main conceits of the film. These are all things that also happen in war movies, so why don’t we find a fun way to combine them?


Is part of it also that kids can go too far with roughhousing, even though they’re just playing?

Robert Wilson: Yeah, kids can go too far with roughhousing even though they’re just playing but kids heal quick too.

Jason Lapeyre: It’s interesting the way that you phrase that, Fred. When you say “kids take roughhousing too far,” roughhousing is an adults only word. Kids never use the phrase roughhousing. They call it playing. The idea of taking roughhousing too far, that’s exactly what we wanted to do with the film. Let’s look at this from the other side of the fence. How do kids experience this? How do people remember this actually happening? Adults now call it roughhousing. So what is the actual emotional intensity of that kind of play?

Robert Wilson: There was playing, at least when Jason and I were growing up, you see it in a lot of movies from the time, the boy comes home with a black eye. The mom says, “What happened? What happened?” The answer is, “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got this covered. I’ll deal with it.” Which I think is a little bit different from today’s parenting where parents become immediately concerned that that’s happening. The thing about it is, I could never go home and say to my mother or father, I’m not sure any 12, 13, 14-year-old or even 30-year-old, can say, “My feelings got hurt.” And this is what it’s about. That’s the context of the movie. Even if there was a principal figure or authority figure that could swoop in and say, “Side A has won. Side B is in the wrong.” The emotional damage is still not easily articulated, and it’s the intense part.


I meant particularly taking a prisoner is part of a war game, but a 13-year-old tying up another kid can get serious.

Robert Wilson: And he’s breaking the rules too, right? That’s not part of the game, but that’s guerrilla warfare.


Did you have to use your real pyrotechnics sparingly?

Jason Lapeyre: No.

Robert Wilson: It’s very hard to use the real pyrotechnics sparingly shooting a movie with 11 and 12-year-old boys. No, we wanted big muzzle flares and we wanted those sequences in their imagination to be imagined as they would realistically portray them.

Jason Lapeyre: We sat down with our munitions guy, our special effects and armor guy, we told him in preproduction, “We want to go big.”

Gage Munroe: You went pretty big.

Robert Wilson: I remember the test explosions of the bazooka were not big enough. We worked on that.