Bob Byington, writer/director of “Somebody Up There Likes Me”
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Writer/director Bob Byington is sometimes referred to as the indie-film world’s best-kept secret. He also gets asked by other filmmakers to appear in their movies. He took a few minutes for an interview with Christopher Lloyd about his newest film, “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” a black comedy co-starring Nick Offerman of television’s “Parks and Recreation,” who also served as a producer.
Congratulations on the film, which is absolutely wonderful. Where’d you get the idea for “Somebody Up There Likes Me”?
I was in a decaying relationship and wanted to tell a tale about the way time moves on but people stay the same, no matter how hard fate wants them to change.
Any concerns about sharing the title with a boxing movie from the 1950s that helped make Paul Newman a star?
Evidently not. The other option was “Someone Up There Likes Me,” but that lacks a certain ring. The other title has already stood the test of time.
It’s hard to describe your movie — black comedy, dramatic comedy, even some elements of a fable. Do you worry about putting labels on it?
Not at all. It’s a comedy designed to make people laugh but not in a kick-in-the-balls sort of way. Thus, it also has elements that could be called dramatic.
Nick Offerman, who’s broken out big with “Parks and Recreation” and recent movies, has a principal role and is a producer. How did he get involved in the project? What was it like directing him?
Nick is an old friend and a heroic performer. The only fair comparison is a young Rip Torn. He has been in several of my movies and will likely be in many more. His success proves that sometimes the public gets it right.
Tell us about assembling your great cast — Keith Poulson, Jess Weixler, Marshall Bell, Stephanie Hunt, Megan Mullally, Kevin Corrigan, etc.
I wrote many of the roles with the actors in mind. Keith used to live in my basement and is in my previous movies. The rest of the cast is incredibly talented, and I am privileged to have directed them.
The main character, Max Youngman, never ages physically even though the story covers a quarter-century or so, while other people do get old. Why did you make that choice?
It amused me to imagine people aging around Keith’s eternally youthful and beautiful visage. He ages horribly on the inside, but audiences can’t see that.
Tell me a little bit about your development as a filmmaker. I understand you’re an actor as well.
Yes. I am an incredibly talented and methodical actor, having worked for many of today’s sharpest devotees to 16mm such as Andrew Bujalski and Alex Ross Perry. My work as a filmmaker and personality at festivals encourages young Turks like them to cast me, and who am I to argue?
What can you tell us about your next project?
I am hoping to make a sequel to my woefully underrated film “RSO,” starring Alex Ross Perry, and also a hilarious comedy called “The Bigot” or maybe “The Fag.”