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BJ Novak on Making His First Movie Revenge Being Friends With John Mayer and Living in Bob Odenkirks House

He may have starred in the beloved sitcom The Office and worked with his hero Quentin Tarantino on Inglourious Basterds but B.J. Novak feels his best when hes spinning shit in a watering hole. Manhattan chic with his friend John Mayer.This creation inspired the opening sequence of Novaks new film Vengeance a lifesize comedy that delves into a murder mystery in the heartland of America. But before all the gunfire and bloodshed can begin the film opens in Soho House as Novak and Mayers characters get poetic about dating and engagement in todays era. .

I wanted it to be a collision of two movies says Novak who also wrote and directed his directorial debut. I wanted it to be a smart conversational movie – like Manhattan – the kind I grew up having fun with. And then I wanted a real revenge movie.

Novak plays a writer and podcaster named Ben Manalowitz who is looking for his next big thing when he gets a call that his girlfriend Abilene has died of an opioid overdose. In Bens mind they werent in a serious relationship as his parents thought even though they had met a few times. Somehow shes guilty of attending her funeral in Texas only to find that her armed relatives believe she was killed. Sensing a career opportunity Ben stays behind to do a podcast titled Dead White Girl about the mission to solve the crime and avenge Abilenes death.

As a lifelong east coaster Novak knew very little about the south before he wrote Vengeance. But he spent a lot of time in the area picking up on idiosyncrasies — for example Texans love Whataburger but cant explain why — to ensure the movie doesnt turn into a caricature. Novak wants the culture clash comedy to hit audiences in red and blue states.Look Im from Boston. When Dunkin Donuts was on Good Will Hunting I was pretty excited he says. Its important to get those details right.Novak spoke to Variety after the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and ahead of its July 29 theatrical release.What was it like watching Vengeance with a crowd at the Tribeca Film Festival?

It was extremely exciting. Im not one of those brave solo directors who dont care what other people think except themselves. I really want to entertain an audience. I really trust an audience. I remember when I saw Who Wants to Be a Millionaire I noticed that Phone a Friend was never as good as Poll the Audience. The public always knew the answer. It had a profound effect on me. All of which means Im more interested in watching this movie in a theater with 900 people than anything else.How did you get Mindy Kaling to go to the premiere instead of Tonys which was the same night? [Kaling was a producer on A Strange Loop which won Best Musical.]

She promised to come as soon as she heard about it. And she said Its selfishness and possessiveness. I dont want you to become Jordan Peele and leave me without me being part of the race. Of course it was a nice compliment and in Mindys way both heartfelt and a joke. But when he found out the Tonys were on the same night he scolded himself a lot as he stumbled and grumbled. I told her to go to the Tonys but she didnt. I did this big screening and had an after party with my friends then I wrote her Hey did you win the Tony? And she wrote Yeah. And I thought Oh my god this woman wont ever stop giving me a thumbs up.Where did the idea for Revenge come from?

It comes from the version of my life that I spoofed in the opening scene I was a guy whose dream night was texting the girls at Soho House with John Mayer thinking we were two guys sure of understanding everything. I thought Well what do I really want to change about this guy? And what would be the situation that would do that? It came naturally from this original premise of how can I take someone who has so many qualities about me that I didnt like and put them through something fun?The film feels like a commentary on modern dating culture. Why did you care?When I confessed to people how superficial I felt about my life this

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