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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 notes.

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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