Inside the making of The Binge, Hulu's raunchy teen spin on The Purge
Dexter Darden is on the phone when he pauses to get something shoved up his nose.
"I promise you I'm going to finish this story," the 29-year-old star of Hulu's new coming-of-age comedy The Binge tells EW. Darden is taking a COVID-19 rapid test on the set of Peacock's upcoming Saved by the Bell reboot ("They are doing it in the most safe and secure way possible," he says), and also discussing the climactic scene in The Binge when his character, Hags, delivers his best Al Pacino Scarface impression with his school principal (played by comedy legend Vince Vaughn) staring right at him.
Due to a last-minute rewrite, Darden had to quickly learn one of Tony Montana's monologues the morning of the shoot and then perform it in a library full of extras with no air conditioning — "on the hottest day of September in Syracuse" — and fake cocaine all over his face.
"I'm just stuffing my face into a pile of baking soda powder," Darden says with a laugh. "I was sweating so much, and it kept sticking to my face."
Darden's cocaine-fueled scene fits perfectly into The Binge (streaming now), a movie that packs in as many one-liners as it does cleverly crafted stunts. The film stars Darden and Skyler Gisondo (Booksmart, HBO's The Righteous Gemstones) as Hags and Griffin, two seniors at American High who are chasing the night of their lives on Binge Day. Binge Day is your high school weed dealer's ideal version of The Purge, where instead of all crime being legal for a night, all drugs are. Eduardo Franco (Blockers) also stars as Andrew, their buddy with the plug.
Griffin, Hags, and Andrew need to become legends at that year's Gauntlet, a competition where teams battle it out in challenges that include balancing a donut on an alligator's head and tickle arm wrestling (another person, not a gator).
The last stage of the competition is called Cocaine Scarface. Contestants must snort as much of a Scarface-sized mound of the white powder as possible in three minutes. If they pick up their head at any point, they have to do their best Pacino impression until they put their head back down and return to the task at hand. Hags struggles in the beginning, even slipping into an impersonation of Robert De Niro from Meet the Fockers, then rallies, going into 40 seconds of Pacino's "Say goodnight to the bad guy" speech, clinching the win for his team — and creating a memorable movie moment. "I wanted to make sure that we were paying homage to the traditional comedy in a way that was special," Darden says.
Unbeknown to Darden, his big scene almost didn't make it into the film. "Whenever we did screenings before COVID, I was like, I don't know how this is gonna play," screenwriter Jordan VanDina tells EW. "I didn't know if, legally, we [could] keep the speech. Up until a couple of weeks ago, we weren't sure if we [could] keep it in."
VanDina and director Jeremy Garelick specifically rewrote the final scene because they knew of Darden's talents as an impressionist. "In my audition tape, I just did all of these impressions, I was laying them all out there," Darden recalls, adding that he read for the role with his mom while still in New Jersey. His repertoire includes a Denzel Washington impression, which he featured in his audition and breaks out in the movie.
So what was the key to pulling off his Tony Montana impression? "I just watched that clip over and over and over again," Darden says. "I really wanted to make sure I got his bottom lip right." Luckily, he was pretty familiar with the 1983 film. "It’s sort of one of those staples in the Black community. I’m a singer, and I can’t tell you how many times I walk into a studio and a Scarface poster is in the middle of the room!"