The Bullied Fight Back
Next came the exciting process of finding three fresh, young comic talents
to bring out both the natural humor and the adolescent heartbreak of the bullied
threesome, Ryan, Wade and Emmit. “The whole time we were writing, we kept
thinking, we can do anything we want with the comedy but it’s not going to matter
unless we can find three really funny guys to play these roles,” notes Seth
Rogen. And so it was that the filmmakers began a nationwide search for three
truly offbeat yet utterly relatable youngsters, auditioning scores of hopefuls in
Miami, Atlanta, New York, Toronto, Chicago and Vancouver.
“We were looking for kids who were really original, yet also seemed very
real,” notes producer Donna Arkoff Roth.
There were only a few ground rules for the auditions. “We were
completely open to the idea that the characters could be played by any type of
kids, so long as they were interesting, amusing, looked like they could be bullied
and had great chemistry together,” says Apatow.
As they progressed, these wide-open auditions themselves became part
of the development process. “We really encouraged improv, excessively,” notes
Brill, “to see what the kids would come up with and encourage them to really tap
into their own emotions, histories and back-stories. In the process of casting, we
sort of found out who these kids really are and then reshaped the script a little bit
more towards them.”
Ultimately, the filmmakers found their three stars right in their own
backyard, in Los Angeles, where Troy Gentile, Nate Hartley and David Dorfman
were each kicking off their movie careers. No one could believe how perfectly
each of them fit the characters in Brown and Rogen’s screenplay. “When we put
the three of them together during their screen tests, we just looked at them and
all started laughing – they looked so great together,” recalls producer Arnold.
Troy Gentile, who has twice played a young Jack Black in “Nacho Libre”
and “Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny,” almost didn’t audition because
technically he was too young for the role of high schooler Ryan. “But every time I
looked at the script, I thought how much more like me can you get?” recalls
Gentile. “I mean, I even rap. So I had to fight to get into the audition, but once I
went in there, it went really well and I got the callback. Judd Apatow was there
and he told me to really improv it and I had a great time.”
Everyone agreed that Troy had the right wisecracking stuff – not to
mention a somewhat intriguing similarity to screenwriter Rogen. “Troy was
fantastic. He’s so verbally agile that, even at his age, he’s able to keep up with
Owen. He’s very funny but he’s also got a soulful quality to him,” says Arnold.
Adds Brill: “Troy is such an interesting sort of magnetic extrovert and we
tweaked the character to reflect that. He’s so smart, he’ll probably be taking my
job at some point, which is fine, because then I’ll come to his set and harass him
the same way he harassed me,” the director laughs.
Gentile not only felt an affinity with would-be rapper Ryan, he also felt the
script was a story just begging to be made. “You had all these classic bully
stories in the ‘80s, but there haven’t really been any for our generation,” he
Once Gentile began working with Hartley and Dorfman, things got even
more exciting. “We fit so well together, it all just clicked,” he says. As for what
Ryan brings to the ensemble, Gentile says: “He’s the one who is always skeptical
of Drillbit – wondering, you know, ‘if you’re in the military w
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