By Chris Lee
Updated June 19, 2015 at 06:23 PM EDT
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In the award-winning dramedy Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which hit theaters June 12, high school buddies Greg and Earl (Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler) have, for years, shot absurdist lo-fi send-ups of film classics—e.g., Eyes Wide Butt, The 400 Bros, etc. The boys’ private cinematic jokes become a source of fascination to their classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who’s been diagnosed with stage 4 leukemia.

The 21 posters for these faux movies—created by Earl’s animator, Nathan O. Marsh—had the same effect on Earl director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who used them to honor the legendary directors who inspired him. “When else am I going to make a movie to thank my heroes directly?” he says. “Never again! So here’s what happened: I went nuts.”


Grumpy Cul-de-Sacs

Gomez-Rejon was Martin Scorsese’s assistant for two years, and Earl is packed with sly nods to him including a shot of the book Scorsese on Scorsese, the director’s voice heard twice in commentary and a character wearing a The Last Waltz t-shirt. “My favorite part of this poster,” says Gomez-Rejon, “is that at the bottom it says, ‘Better than Mean Streets —Film Critic.'”


My Dinner With Andre the Giant

Screenwriter Jesse Andrews concocted alternate versions of this take on Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre. (The other option was My Dinner With Andre 3000.) “If one person goes out to find the [original] movie,” Gomez-Rejon says, “then we’ve won.”



This inversion of 1950s samurai classic Rashomon is one of the few Greg/Earl productions to predate Gomez-Rejon. “That and A Sockwork Orange were written into the screenplay,” he says. “But MonoRash was beautiful and specific.”


Don’t Look Now, Because a Creepy-Ass Dwarf Is About to Kill You!!! Damn.

“I just thought, ‘That’s funny,'” the director says of this riff on Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 thriller, Don’t Look Now. “Visually it’s going to spark someone’s interest. And those who know it will get it on another level.”


Senior Citizen Cane

Earl and Greg’s sophomoric spoof of Citizen Kane, which has been hailed as the Greatest Movie of All Time, needs no explanation. “I have nothing to add,” Gomez-Rejon says. “Paying homage to Orson Welles was a must.”


The 400 Bros

French New Wave auteur Francois Truffaut’s genre-defining 1959 drama The 400 Blows “changed my DNA,” Gomez-Rejon explains. “I honor it whenever I can.” Exhibit A: The 400 Bros: “In the movie you hear the score of The 400 Blows twice. You see a still image of Truffaut shooting that film. At one point, we were going to [re]shoot a shot from that movie: when he’s being taken away to juvenile hall. But I was like, ‘I have a poster, I’m using the music and I’m gong to use the movie itself? Let’s not shoot the parody. Let’s just make the DVD cover.’”


Ate½ (of my lunch)

Yup, Federico Fellini’s autobiographical, Oscar-winning dramedy gets put through Earl and Greg’s teenage pop cultural sausage grinder. “I desperately needed Fellini and here it is,” says Gomez-Rejon. “It’s a meta homage—a movie about a filmmaker who’s stuck with a creative block trying to film a sci-fi movie.” He adds: “You have to pay homage to Italian Cinema somewhere.”


My Best Actor Is Also a Dangerous Lunatic

This hat tip to Werner Herzog’s 1999 documentary about his tumultuous/borderline homicidal relationship with leading man Klaus Kinski My Best Fiend lies at the more obscure end of Me and Earl’s art house references. “It’s further pushing our homage to the ever-uncompromising and fearless Herzog,” says Gomez-Rejon. Why Herzog? “He’s made 52 films. If he’s not making a film, he’s making a short. If he’s not making a short, he’s making a documentary. He is uncompromising, does everything on his own terms, is absolutely fearless. And has the key to what every director wants: longevity. He is relevant and has been relevant for decades.”


Rosemary Baby Carrots

The implicit shout-out here: director Roman Polanski’s 1968 psychological horror flick Rosemary’s Baby. “It’s me needing a Polanski reference,” Gomez-Rejon explains, “and Jesse and Nate coming up with that title. I’d be walking down the hall and Nate would shout, ‘My Dinner with Andre 3000 or My Dinner with Andre the Giant?’ I’d say, ‘Giant’ and move on. So Rosemary Baby Carrots was one of those. I heard it and said, ‘Done!’”


Anatomy of a Burger

The poster pulls double duty, referencing director Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder and acknowledging Gomez-Rejon’s friends, screenwriter Elaine Bass and graphic designer/filmmaker Saul Bass (who designed the original movie’s poster which features a dead body fractured into fractured pieces). “I love the fact that it’s is now a hamburger,” says Gomez-Rejon. “Saul and Eileen Bass, I met when I was working for Scorsese on Casino. They showed up to shoot the opening credit sequence– it’s their last together and it is so stunning. To this day, Elaine remains a mentor and friend. I had to thank her and Saul.”