Saturday Night Live star Kyle Mooney and writer Dave McCary have been friends since the sixth grade. From YouTube videos to SNL sketches, these two have done just about everything together — including their new film, Brigsby Bear.
“We both have a love for movies, and that love kind of began around the same time, and we got to share that,” says Mooney, who co-wrote the film and stars as James, a man who loves the children’s program of the film’s title (though only later learns its nefarious origins). “So I think it’s something that we’ve always wanted to do. It was just kind of a matter of when it would happen.”
Choosing McCary to direct Brigsby was an obvious choice for Mooney, who’s known on SNL for his eccentric digital segments and offbeat characters. “Dave has directed me in mostly everything I’ve ever done. I trust him and he knows what I’m capable of. It just made sense. You know, it’s your first movie and you want to make sure you’re in good hands. When you’re in Dave’s hands, you feel good.”
With Brigsby Bear opening in select theaters Friday, Mooney and McCary spoke to EW about their experiences making and promoting the film.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What has it been like promoting this film and enticing people to see it while trying not to give any of the plot away?
KYLE MOONEY: We’ve always wanted it to be somewhat mysterious and for people to go into a theater not knowing too much. It’s just inevitable that people are going to; they can find out whatever information they want just based on things that have been written before. We always wanted it to be like the initial trailer Dave cut, where it’s basically just from the first 15 minutes of the movie.
DAVE MCCARY: I made that knowing that eventually they were going to make a trailer that showed the world that he enters. I wasn’t excited about the prospect of people going to this movie being a step ahead, but it’s a constant struggle. For people who aren’t film buffs that need convincing to go see this movie, I don’t think that that teaser trailer, as proud of it as I am, I think that that appeals to a very specific art house type of audience maybe, so I’ve got to kind of let go of that.
MOONEY: You do want to convey that it’s more than just that [experience]. There’s so much love and warmth within the movie, so it’s how do you express that?
MCCARY: We got some hugs in the trailer.
MOONEY: Okay, yes, we’ve got the hugs in the trailer.
So when someone asks you what this film is about, what do you tell them?
MOONEY: I say, the movie’s about a guy who’s obsessed with this TV show Brigsby Bear Adventures. He’s into it the way a Star Wars fan would be. He lives with his parents, and then one day the show ends, his whole world changes, and he enters an entirely new world; but he’s still obsessed with this show and wants to finish it.
MCCARY: I like to add, just as a hook, that the show is designed to brainwash. That is such a fascinating element to me as someone who grew up in a household where religious shows were a big part of my upbringing. Kyle has an incredible VHS collection that he’s developed over the years, and a lot of the stuff that we really love ends up being a little disturbing in that there’s some heavy Christian messaging. In our film, there’s this very specific and disturbing worldview that is being taught to James, so I just think that that’s a really fascinating element to the story.
Kyle, what was it like for you to play someone who essentially has never experienced our modern world before?
MOONEY: The character came, I don’t want to say easily or naturally, but it was helped by the fact that I had written it with [longtime friend Kevin Costello], and so throughout that process of writing, I got to develop what it would be. It was a lot of us riffing and improvising situations thinking, “How would this person who’s never experienced this alien world, how would they interact with whatever it is that they’re interacting with?” It was fun. And I mean, we’ve certainly done similar things in the past with characters who are maybe like kind of…
MOONEY: Yeah, lost or just dealing with something that’s new or foreign to them, or they’re trying to fake like they know what they’re talking about. So it didn’t feel like too much of a stretch. It was mostly just trying to play everything earnestly and honestly and hoping that everything fell into place if we did that.
Did you have certain actors in mind for any of the roles, like Mark Hamill for instance?
MOONEY: In terms of writing the script, besides myself, no. We had certain archetypes that we were thinking about, but the tough thing about Mark Hamill’s role was, as fun as it was to cast, it was also a difficult role because you know you want this kind of eccentric, genius type. We really liked the idea of somebody that maybe you either haven’t seen in a while or haven’t seen in this light, and then there’s also the element of voice acting. It took us a little bit to think about Mark Hamill, but then when we did it was like, “Oh, he’s everything. He’s exactly what we want.” Dave and I were having lunch together and we pulled up a YouTube video of him at a press junket where he’s like speaking as himself and then he breaks right into the voice of the joker, and it was like, “Okay yeah, that’s what we want.”
Do you have any good Mark Hamill stories?
MCCARY: My experience with him was pretty straightforward. He was so warm and wonderful to us. There’s so many things that are going on and I’m in charge of a number of different departments that I just didn’t have a chance to really bro down with him as much as I would have liked because we only had him there for a few days. We did go out, we had beers with him the night that he got in before his first day of shooting but I don’t remember exactly—
MOONEY: Just as an actor and as a fan of Mark’s, there was certainly an intimidation factor and I didn’t ever want to overstep any boundaries. He shot with us for what, three days? So on the third day, I finally got the confidence to approach him with two Star Wars comic books that I got autographed for my niece and nephew, and was so cool about it. Afterwards I was like, “Damn! I should have brought everything I own!” But I think everybody on set was so enamored by him and we were all kind of tip toeing around what we should say or how we should interact with him, but he’s the coolest and he’s obviously just such a pro.
Did you ever expect your first feature film to end up at Comic-Con?
MOONEY: We’re from San Diego, so that element of it was really special, to be able to see friends and family. And I would go to Comic-Con as a kid. I wish we could have almost just shown the movie to that crowd because I feel like they could relate in the same what that I relate to fandom and being so into something. We pulled from so many references to create the Brigsby Bear TV show within the movie, and I hope persons of that culture will go see the movie because I feel like they’ll appreciate it in the same way that when I was a kid, I would go to Comic-Con and buy Return of the Jedi action figures still in the packaging or Thunder Cats toys. It was a cool place where that stuff existed and you could pick it up.
So it’s safe to say that you’ve had a handful of obsessions throughout your life?
MOONEY: Oh, for sure. I kind of was always into a new thing, a different thing.
Dave, have you ever had any Brigsby Bear-esque obsessions?
MCCARY: I think that Brigsby Bear is more representative of any childhood hero, whether it’s a musician or a sports figure. I was really into sports at that age. I didn’t really discover a lot of these ‘80s, ‘90s kids shows that I think Kyle grew up on until my 20s, but we were both really into the TGIF lineup, Boy Meets World, Saved by the Bell, Step by Step…
MOONEY: Saturday Night Live. We watched a lot of that as well.
MCCARY: I did have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles phase. That was probably the only cartoon that I was obsessed with. I’d say WWF I was really into it as well.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on?
MOONEY: We’ll, we’ve got SNL which starts at the end of September. Certainly there are other ideas floating around, but I think we’re kind of in the thick of this experience and having no idea whether people will go to the movie or not. We haven’t talked about that stuff in a minute, mostly just because we’ve been promoting the movie and want people to go see it.
MCCARY: The bigger picture is that we just want to continue making movies or television that is, or that feels like our voice and that we have autonomy.