'Good Boys' Writers Shocked, But Delighted by Film's Success

Good Boys Still 1 - Universal Studios Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Universal Studios

Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky discuss casting young actors for such adult content, 'South Park' parallels and massive test-screening anxiety.

There is no getting around it: Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, the writer-director duo behind Good Boys, the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-produced raunchy comedy about three sweet but fouled-mouthed sixth-graders, are shocked that the film has been so well received at the box office. 

The Universal movie, which stars young actors Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon, not only bowed Aug. 16 at No. 1, but it has since hauled in $71.3 million worldwide on a budget of $20 million. It was certified fresh with a score of 79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and holds an audience score of 87 percent on that site. 

Eisenberg and Stupnitsky (the latter of whom has the directing credit, but the two say their shared responsibilities) figured the film would either go over extremely well — or maybe mean the end of their careers. There was no in-between. After all, the comedy revolving around three kids is rated R for "strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout — all involving tweens."

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Eisenberg and Stupnitsky to talk about their recent whirlwind success, what it was like casting young actors with such adult content (how did the parents react?), how they feel about those South Park parallels and much more. 

What is your reaction to the positive response of Good Boys at the box office?

Lee Eisenberg: From my perspective, it was a huge surprise. The tracking was putting it $10 million to $12 million. Even on the first Thursday, I think it made $2.1 million and everyone was like, "Whatever happens on Thursday is not an indicator for the weekend." Late Friday night, I started feeling OK about it.

Gene Stupnitsky: I was in between "This is going to be a big hit" and catastrophizing, "Oh, my God, I am never going to direct again."

What did you do on opening day?

Stupnitsky: We went to dinner and then snuck into three or four different theaters around Los Angeles and amassed the audience watching the movie. It was really fun.

What was the casting process like with such adult content involving such young actors?

Eisenberg: I don't think the kids had any issues with the content. Jacob Tremblay was always our first choice for Max. His parents were really into it. And he had never done a comedy before, so they were all on board. It took eight months for us to cast the rest of the kids.

Was there any joke or part of the script that needed to be cut for ratings or for the comfort of the actors or their parents? 

Eisenberg: There was never an issue with the parents or the kids in terms of content. We cut things that didn't work on the day of or the weekend before. We cut for storytelling purposes or compromised the characters in a certain way. But the parents were on board and the kids were on board because they knew what they signed up for.

What was the level of Rogen and Goldberg's involvement?

Eisenberg: They gave us permission to go all out, go bonkers. It was nice to have the guys from Super Bad there, almost like spiritual ancestors. It was helpful to have them on the project.

What are you thoughts on the pic's parallels to South Park?

Stupnitsky: That is the movie [South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut] we talked about the most. In the first version of the draft, there was more of a satirical element to it, but then it became more emotional and less satirical than South Park.

How did the test screenings go?

Eisenberg: We were terrified. The first line of the movie is Jacob Tremblay saying, "Oh, fuck yeah." You're probably 30 seconds into the movie before you hear the line. And it was like, if they laugh after 30 seconds at "Oh, fuck yeah," then you feel like you're in good shape, and if they don't — you feel like this is going to be a horror.

Any talks of a sequel and if so, will it happen sooner than later before the boys age too much?

Stupnitsky: I think it is a stand-alone. If there were a sequel, it would have to be animated. 

Eisenberg: We want to do it like 7 Up, the Michael Apted series, so we are going to check in on the kids every seven years. (Laughs.) And when they kids are 45, that will be the right time for a sequel. We'll be dead.