Exclusive Interview: Robert Wilson, Gage Munroe & Jason Lapeyre on I Declare War
CraveOnline: Gage, were you always up for the role of PK or could it have been any of the other parts?
Gage Munroe: Initially I actually auditioned for PK and Skinner, as weird as that sounds. On the second audition, I did my PK reading and then I asked if I should read the Skinner one and they said, “No, that’s okay.” But it turned out well.
Robert Wilson: “No, no, it’s okay” sometimes meaning no, that’s quite fine.
Gage Munroe: I didn’t know if it was a “No, no thanks, we’re not interested” or “No, you’re good.”
Did you test with some of the other actors for chemistry?
Gage Munroe: I didn’t.
Robert Wilson: No, we were at each other’s throats. We were cutting audition tapes back and forth against one another, arguing who was best for what part, so we didn’t give them the time.
Jason Lapeyre: There were a couple things about chemistry that are worth mentioning. We did a table read a few days before preproduction which was a magical moment because it became apparent to us that there was chemistry between all the kids and it totally worked. Then the other thing is we had a training day, a boot camp for all the kids to train them up on the weaponry and some basic military tactics. That was great for all the kids bonding. We had these great photos of all the kids lined together, practicing firing AK-47s. I think that was a great way to get that sense that there was a history to their relationships by the time we started shooting.
Did you have free run of that forest where you shot?
Jason Lapeyre: Yes, although it was in a residential area and the cops were called out a dozen times because of the light munitions.
Gage Munroe: We had to be careful because it was also a conservation area.
Jason Lapeyre: Yeah, there was a Parks guy that was with us to make sure we didn’t crush some of the rare foliage.
Robert Wilson: It’s a large valley right behind a residential subdivision, and when I say large, it’s sort of a huge valley that runs right into the lake in Toronto. Yeah, conservation area. We didn’t really have the run of it but at the same time, we grew up there so we kind of knew it easily and were familiar with it.
How did you create the geography within the forest so we actually know where everyone’s camps are and what the strategy is?
Jason Lapeyre: We drew a map.
Robert Wilson: Good old D&D.
Jason Lapeyre: The map that’s in the film, there’s a scene where the kids are huddled over the map and marking it up. That was legit. We used that as the geography of the world in the movie.
Robert Wilson: The DP decided early in prep to draw a map, put the river in between and that just became the way it was.
What was up with Jess imagining Quinn with her after he’s left the game?
Jason Lapeyre: Jess was imagining Quinn with her after he was gone. [Laughs] When I sat down to write the script, I knew a lot of stuff that was true about 12 and 13-year-old boys because I had been one, but I had never been a 13-year-old girl. So I thought to myself, do I know anything that is true about being a girl that age? The only thing that I knew was true was that girls that age fixate on boys and in fact to an almost obsessive degree. I have a daughter who was that age when I was rewriting the script and she felt that way about Justin Bieber, still feels that way about Justin Bieber. So that was the core of her character, that she was going to have joined the game in order to try and hang out with this boy and then after he was gone, be so infatuated with him that she would project herself and imagine conversations with him.
To be honest, that’s something I did at that age too, and still do to this day. You practice conversations before they actually happen, right? So it felt like it was accurate and we’ve had some great feedback from people who have said yes, that’s what it was like to be that age, women who said that to us.
Has there been any discussion about how to handle a movie about kids playing war with sensitivity?
Robert Wilson: Largely none.
Jason Lapeyre: Yeah, we’ve talked about it only in that we’ve been surprised at how little we’ve had to address it. In conversation with [Drafthouse founder] Tim [League] last night, we realized that anyone who sees the movie very quickly realizes the film is not about guns. It’s about childhood.
Robert Wilson: That conversation dies on the vine in the trailer.
I’m more worried that people won’t see how awesome it is if they have some wrong preconceived notion.
Jason Lapeyre: Right, we’ve lost those people before we even started.
Gage, what are your favorite war movies?
Gage Munroe: Before shooting, I watched The Thin Red Line, Hamburger Hill, Saving Private Ryan and a few others. Those were pretty good. I also watched Patton. I watched Patton as well which is funny, because someone else hasn’t watched Patton.
Jason Lapeyre: I’ve never seen Patton.
You just thought that would be a good reference for the movie?
Jason Lapeyre: Well, my father is a colonel in the Canadian military and I called him up when I was writing the script, and I said, “What is the best war movie you’ve seen from the perspective of someone in the military?” He told me Breaker Morant was the most accurate movie about military life he’d ever seen. So in the first draft of the movie, he’s going on about Breaker Morant but [producer] Lewin [Webb] and Rob sort of called me on it and said, “No 12-year-old, no matter how nerdy they are, is going to watch Breaker Morant.” So I chose Patton just because it’s about a legendarily egotistical general.
Thin Red Line is pretty intense. What did you think of that, Gage?
Gage Munroe: A lot of war movies are straightforward and get right to the point about war, but I think it kind of resembled actually the many themes going on at once. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and I think, I might be a little biased, but I think it worked for me.
What was the moment that made you decide I Declare War was the next film you’d make?
Robert Wilson: Well, Jason had a 10-year running desire to make I Declare War. I’d been aware of it two years before we got to make it, and now we’ve gone back four years. That was frustrating to the point where when it fell into place financing-wise and the option became available, I think we were making the movie inside of four or five months. I think a turning point was just me reading the script. It was, as we said, the experience I had growing up, the experience even Lewin had growing up, the experience Jason had growing up. There wasn’t much else to talk about or worry about at that point. We didn’t even think about how we were going to sell it, which you should have. It was kind of dumb, but it had that kind of magic to it. You just jumped right in and got on board and worried about the complications after the fact. I think production went that way and certainly it’s been that way since.