Exclusive Interview: Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant on Hell Baby
At Sundance, Bibbs got to see Hell Baby and interview the cast, with writer/directors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. Now that the film is coming out in theaters, and available on VOD, I got to take my turn but I wanted to build off what Bibbs got out of them. Lennon and Garant co-created “The State” and “Reno 911” and have a lucrative career as screenwriters. They even wrote a comedy/tell-all book about their screenwriting experiences called Writing Movies for Fun and Profit. Hell Baby is an independent movie they made without the burden of studio notes. It is a horror-comedy starring Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb as a married couple whose pregnancy causes strange paranormal occurrences. Lenon and Garant costar as Vatican priests who come to stop the Hell Baby.
CraveOnline: Did all the money you’ve made from unmade studio scripts pay for Hell Baby?
Thomas Lennon: Yes.
Robert Ben Garant: Yes.
Thomas Lennon: It didn’t pay for the movie, but it paid for the apartments we lived in and many of the dinners in New Orleans. You can lose a lot of money going out to dinner in New Orleans.
Robert Ben Garant: There are some really good restaurants. August is incredible.
Thomas Lennon: August is amazing.
Robert Ben Garant: Bayona.
Thomas Lennon: Bayona was really great. Lilette, Sylvain.
Robert Ben Garant: Oh my God, Sylvain is great.
Thomas Lennon: Oh boy, Stella is a terrific restaurant.
Robert Ben Garant: Oh my God, yeah, yeah, yeah. We, not joking, we lost money doing this movie.
Thomas Lennon: Oh, without a doubt.
Robert Ben Garant: We didn’t put our money into the production.
Thomas Lennon: No, no, on food. On soft shell crabs.
I get that when I travel for work. Anything I’m making on this trip, I’m eating.
Robert Ben Garant: It’s gone.
Thomas Lennon: Ours went directly into the soft shell crab market in Lousiana.
In your Sundance interview with Bibbs, you talked about the difference between the studio for hire jobs and making this movie independently your own way. Was Balls of Fury not your vision, or the Reno 911 movie?
Thomas Lennon: Oh, the Reno movie is totally our vision but these are also big studio movies.
Robert Ben Garant: Balls of Fury was my first time directing and that’s a movie that I think parts of it are great.
Thomas Lennon: I think Balls of Fury has really funny parts, almost a lot of it.
Robert Ben Garant: I run into people, the military loves it.
Thomas Lennon: Not every decision we get to make on those movies is 100% our decision in every single one. Reno was closer I’d say.
Robert Ben Garant: Reno was pretty close. I like Reno more than Rotten Tomatoes did certainly.
Thomas Lennon: When people watch Reno, I just saw it recently on Comedy Central, it holds up and it makes me laugh and I like everything in it.
Robert Ben Garant: Balls of Fury was 45 day shoot when it probably, hindsight being 20/20, probably should’ve been a 75 day shoot with all the ping-pong action.
Thomas Lennon: It was just rushed and not every decision you get to make is your own. That’s all.
Robert Ben Garant: From beginning to end, from casting to post, we didn’t get to do everything.
Thomas Lennon: The visual effects are bad. But the visual effects are terrible in Hell Baby, even worse.
Robert Ben Garant: But I love ‘em.
Thomas Lennon: But I love them. That’s my favorite scene, when the Hell Baby enters and starts biting faces.
At least you have a real Hell Baby, not some CGI.
Thomas Lennon: Oh yeah. This movie would be really stupid with a CGI baby in it, I think. I mean, the movie is pretty stupid now but it would be sooo stupid if we tried to make a…
Robert Ben Garant: It would be very out of place. There’s something very old school about everything else in Hell Baby. I’m glad we have a little Rick Baker [type model].
Thomas Lennon: You ever see Trilogy of Terror? Remember that awful little sort Tiki doll that’s trying to kill Karen Black? Sometimes you could almost see the hand that’s making it chase her around the house? We go for that kind of thing.
Does it really amuse you in horror movies when there’s a sharp cut with a musical cue?
Thomas Lennon: Oh yes. The only thing we didn’t do, we do a lot of sharp cuts with music, we do a lot of pan to someone who’s closer than you think, we do things moving around when you don’t expect. We forgot to do either a cat jumping out at somebody or a preposterously loud telephone ring.
Robert Ben Garant: Where it’s like oh, the tension’s gone.
Thomas Lennon: BBBBRRRRRRING!!!
Robert Ben Garant: Oh no! Yeah, we didn’t do that, which we can always go do reshoots.
Thomas Lennon: Now that I think about it, I’m kind of bummed.
Robert Ben Garant: Because the phone does ring in our film.
Thomas Lennon: Why the hell wasn’t it startlingly loud? We might’ve messed up on that front because everything else is in. Any other stupid thing that could be in is pretty much in.