FanBolt had the pleasure of chatting with Michael Rosenbaum this week about his new film, Back in the Day, in which he not only starred in – but also wrote and directed as well. Rosenbaum, best known to fans for his portrayal of Lex Luthor on the hit CW series Smallville, brings an non-traditional high school reunion film to the screen, and one that really hit home for his high school friends. The film was actually filmed in Rosenbaum’s hometown in Indiana.
Check out our full interview below!
What inspired you to write Back in the Day? Is it based on any of your actual high school experiences, or how true to that is it for you?
Michael Rosenbaum: You know, it’s loosely based on some friends, but then there’s a lot of characters that I just wrote, some of the ladies in the movie, the principle… I just wrote, trying to be funny. But some of the characters are loosely based on guys that I grew up with, and I still hang out with. They were all honored at the premiere, they were like, “That’s me! That’s me!” and I was like, “Well, you don’t wanna say that too loud!” [Laughs]
I wrote it like ten years ago, and I never thought it would see the light of day, and somehow, some people enjoyed the script and said, “Hey, we wanna make this!”
So, it’s a little treat, to get an independent movie made. The studio movies are 50 million dollars, and these independent movies, they fall apart, sometimes while shooting, the day before shooting, so we were lucky enough to get through the movie and not have those problems.
I know you mentioned you wrote this film 10 years ago, but did you have any of the cast in mind when you wrote the characters?
Michael Rosenbaum: Yeah, since I became friends with Harland Williams, who you might know from Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, we did Sorority Boys together, and I thought he was a riot. He’s such a great guy, and we became best friends, so I always had him in mind to play this character I grew up with, Skunk.
I always thought I’d play Jim, in the beginning. I didn’t think I’d direct the movie, but I ended up doing it since I had gotten into directing. Then I was faced with the question, “Are you sure you wanna be in the movie, and be the lead actor?”
I made the decision to do so, because my brother forced me to do it, “But you gotta play Jim, man, it’s about you.”
So, I did it, I think the next one I’m just gonna sit back and direct, because it’s not as much work as being in a scene as an actor, but I don’t regret it.
Would you say that was the most challenging part of this whole process for you, being in all of those roles: writer, director, and actor?
Michael Rosenbaum: Yeah, because normally, if you wanna change your lines, as an actor, if you have a question, the writer is there. But, I liked the control, the freedom to say, “Hey, let’s change this line, let’s make it this.” “That’s not funny, let’s find a funnier line.”
It was really a collaborative effort with the cast and crew. Everybody wanted to make the movie as funny as possible, so everyone worked together. But it was very difficult to be in a scene, and work with myself as an actor, I found myself very difficult as a director. [Laughs]
Well, you’re always your own worst critic, so I imagine that would be very difficult to do.
Michael Rosenbaum: It’s an old joke, ”Did you like your director?” “No, my director is an asshole,” because I’m the director. I can say that. It’s like, “Yeah, the actor, that Rosenbaum can’t act.” [Laughs]
But, it was tremendous experience to do this. I wanna do it again. I think a lot of people think, you watch a reunion movie, and they’re all the same. I think most of them are kind of sad or too serious, and this was like, you know, we had a lot of fun, and a bunch of great comedians, so I urge people to see this. You know, you can download it on my iTunes right now.
You spoke a bit about the difficulties of getting an independent film made. I’m curious as to your thoughts on the evolution of funding for filmmaking. We’re seeing a number of indie projects being pitched on Kickstarter after the success of the Veronica Mars movie campaign. What’s your thoughts on that as a source of funding?
Michael Rosenbaum: Well, you know, I was like, maybe we can raise the money, and do a Kickstarter. Then I thought people are gonna say, “Oh, he was on Smallville, and he’s been in a bunch of movies, so he’s asking us for money?”
And I thought, it was such a backlash on that, but at the same time, I respect Kickstarter. I really think it’s an ingenious way to get things made, because a lot of times, especially for filmmakers who don’t have any connections, who don’t have any money – it’s really the only way.
So I always donate to projects, I just donated to a project a couple of months back, and I’m always trying to support independent filmmakers, but for me, I was lucky enough to raise the money independently, and I’ve put my own money to it as well.
I think Veronica Mars was also a rarity. It already had such a tremendous following. If I had said, “Hey, I wanna do a Smallville movie,” I think I would be able to raise a couple of million bucks myself with all the fans – if we could a cast together and do it. So, they had built-in connection right away. Their’s was really smart, I mean, “If the studios don’t want to make Veronica Mars, we’ll make it on our own, with the fans.”
That’s exactly what they did, and I find that to be pretty terrific.
Coming out of a series as successful as Smallville – how did that affect your career choices and the roles that you went out for?
Michael Rosenbaum: You know, it was pretty easy, because I think a lot of times you’d go, “Oh, he’s bald,” but my hair grew back pretty easily, and it was a pretty easy transition.
I think the hardest transition was I’d been gone for seven years doing the show, and I had to take meetings and let people see who I am now – that I have hair, and that maybe I could do comedy. So those opportunities happened right away, I landed a pilot, then I landed Breaking In, and I went off and directed a couple of shorts, and produced some things. Now I’m doing my own movie. It’s only been a couple of years, and – knock on wood – thank God, I was able to continue, but even so, if that was all I had ever done, for me it was a huge success. Really, either way you couldn’t fail.
Would you say your main passion is acting, writing or directing?
Michael Rosenbaum: I fell in love with directing. I really did. I felt like, I love to make decisions, I love to have some control creatively.
I love to be a part of something as an actor, you show up, you learn your lines, you hit your mark, you’re done, and there’s something great about that… Something very laid back and easy about that. But for me, to be in charge of a crew… You know, I had so much fun with this crew and the cast. Everyone keeps telling me it was the best time they ever had. It was kind of like a family to me, and I really fell in love with it. So I think I can do it.
What’s next for you?
Michael Rosenbaum: Well, I got another buddy comedy that I wrote, and I’m deciding on either that, or there’s another movie about these 3 kids who go to camp for the summer, and their lives change. And there is a horror movie, I’m a big fan of thrillers, so I wrote one as well. So I’m hoping to make a decision in the next month, I just haven’t had much time with all the press and stuff, but it going to be one of those!
Back in the Day is in select theaters today and available for download now on iTunes and VOD! Be sure to check it out!