If you haven’t taken a vacation this summer, all you have to do is head to the theater and take a trip with the Griswolds in the new Vacation. We see Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) surprise his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and his kids James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) with a roadtrip to Wally World. Rusty believes the change in destination from their usual holiday will bring the family together and energize his stale marriage. Off they go across country to Wally World–what could go wrong?
John Daley and Jonathan Goldstein wrote the script and directed the movie based on the characters created by John Hughes.
How did the experience of putting this [movie] together match your expectations?
Daley: When we first signed up to write it we didn’t know that we would also be directing it. We approached it first like any other writing job, but we always wanted to direct, so you can see that in the material. The biggest difference with that and writing was the level of preparation that goes into directing a movie. It’s mind boggling how many decisions you have to make.
Goldstein: Writing you make your own hours; filming a movie, it’s basically when the sun comes up you’re in a car going somewhere and spend the whole day running around to get everything you need then you go home and sleep.
Daley: Jonathan’s wife and my girlfriend…all they lived with was us talking about Vacation.
Goldstein: It becomes an obsession. It’s your whole world when you start shooting. It slowly tapers off in post-production and then you get your life back. With that said, it was greatly gratifying.
Tell [us] about the tone.
Daley: We knew that when we started this we were making an R-rated movie. And that there are certain expectations that come with something like that. What we tried to adhere to was, at the very least, preserving the characters. As long as our characters weren’t betraying what we we had already established with them, you can get away with a lot.
Goldstein: We also tried as much as possible to undermine expectations. So it’s just not the low-hanging fruit joke. Some of the fruit is low so you have to pluck it, but hopefully it’s not turds. Part of what we think is funny is when the audience expects it to go one way and we take it another way. We got notes in the early cuts of [the movie] where “Can you just let them get through the roller coaster successfully? Can’t you just let them have one thing?” and we were like, “No we gotta snatch it away.”
Daley: That’s the whole point.
How much did you become professors of “Vacation-ology” by looking at the other movies to prep for this one?
Goldstein: We didn’t want to become slaves to the originals…
Daley: [jokingly] I’ve never seen any of them, personally, I wanted to go into it with a completely blank slate. I was a huge fan of the original and knew that we had to pay our respects to a certain degree, but then also tell our own story. That was the challenge. We didn’t want it to be just a bunch of “remember this scene? Remember that scene?” but we did have a couple of those moments for the die-hard fans.
Goldstein: The truth is that the sequels did their own undermining of the original. They cast different kids in each movie. How ridiculous is that? No one does that now. Louis CK is the only actor that got cast differently in every episode…going back to the tone, weather it’s darker or edgier, I don’t think that I agree. I think the original had a real darkness to it. It’s kind of what the Lampoons were doing, just like Animal House was doing. Dark comedy that we hadn’t really seen in mainstream comedy.
Daley: Killing the dog was enough, but then you have the cop talking about how it happened.
Goldstein: There’s darkness in both, but I think people have somewhat of a rosier memory of the first one.
How crucial was Ed Helms to the casting of this role?
Daley: We first tried starring in it ourselves..
Goldstein: Alternating…we made a little book that was the center guy on the page. He’s just first choice.
Daley: He has some of the mannerisms Clark Griswold has but also this innocence, I think, to him that Clark didn’t have that much of. He’s also the nicest guy in the world and it shines through.
Goldstein: Just like Chevy Chase…
Daley: I’m just gonna ignore that.
Did you have any family vacations that you drew from for this [project]?
Daley: Yeah, I had been on road trips through my childhood. Cross country…its always fun in theory, but halfway through the trip you’re ready to kill each other.
Goldstein: Just being pent up in a car with your family for an x-amount of time, as a kid especially, is a nightmare.
Daley: It’s fun to think you spend so much of your day commuting to and from work that the only time you have off of work you do so much more commuting than when you’re working.
Goldstein: There’s so much pressure to be the best part of the year, a great time, and it’s almost killing it before you even set out.
Daley: Yeah, you’re so desperate to have fun, it comes at the cost of having fun.
Why did you choose the Seal song?
Daley: Its such a beautiful song.
Goldstein: Seal is my uncle.
Daley: We wanted Rusty to have a song from the 90s that he was a big fan of.
Goldstein: Kinda when he stopped listening to music.
Daley: We were gonna make it Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”…it wouldn’t have worked as well in the last scene. It’s placed three times in the movie. It’s really a testament. All joking aside, it’s super catchy.
Goldstein: I’ve heard it 80,000 times and I still don’t know what it’s about.
Daley: Which makes you want to listen to it even more to figure it out.
Vacation is a New Line Cinema film in it hits theaters Wednesday July 29.