Hollywood tries again and again, often in vain, to paint a clear picture of the smoky haze that is the life of a pot smoker. But it's a new independent movie that could finally capture the experience of the stoner by reveling in its messiness.
Actor and comedian Matt Walsh works to tap into the stoner's mindset with "High Road," a largely improvised film about a stoner named Glenn (James Pumphrey) caught between drug dealing, his failing rock opera and his pregnant girlfriend (Abby Elliot). To shoot an entire movie without a fully written script may seem like a risk, but if anyone should do it, it's Walsh. He was the co-founder of the now-legendary improv comedy theater and troupe, The Upright Citizen's Brigade, featured in its Comedy Central TV show for three seasons and has appeared in a bevy of hit films since.
His status in the comedy world helped land him an all-star cast; Elliot, of "Saturday Night Live," is the co-headliner, while Lizzy Caplan ("Party Down, "Mean Girls"), Rob Riggle ("The Daily Show"), Joe Lo Truglio ("Superbad"), Horatio Sanz ("SNL"), Ed Helms ("The Office"), Zach Woods ("The Office") and others feature, as well.
Still, for a guy promoting a comedian-packed film about a burnout pot dealer/musician, he's surprisingly methodical when talking about his approach.
"We had an outline, we took a story form a screenplay I had written with a friend of mine, so we had like 65 scenes and each screen had a paragraph narrative under it," Walsh told The Huffington Post in an interview Tuesday. "There was a tight structure for people to improvise around, and we spent around a couple weeks getting the characters, the actors together, and we just rehearsed scenes that would never bei n the movie so we could get a handle on their relationships and their character backstory. It was a little bit like theater camp, so it was really fun and I think that gave everybody a sound base to start with so that when we got on set, it wasn't like, 'oh, I don't know my character.'"
Caplan, who plays a character she describes as "really dumb and really sweet," and had some of the least improv experience of the cast, spoke with HuffPost about balancing her more traditional scripted comedy background with the spontaneous style of her co-stars.
"With Zach Woods, every take was a totally different thing. He just came up with new ideas or new things to say, from scratch. My way of doing it was that I'd kind of grab things from the takes that worked, so by the fourth take, I maybe sort of knew what I was doing, but I was taking stuff from the previous takes. I don't know if that would be looked down upon by improv actors, but that's all I could manage."
Walsh is hoping that formula -- contained madness -- works with audiences; the correlation between laughs and success isn't always 1:1, but Walsh knows that the film won't be lacking for jokes. Given his cast and the freedom they were afforded, a lot of funny moments ended up on the cutting room floor, he said.
"There's a lot of tangential comedy that doesn't follow the story of the plot, people cracking their friends up in the room, and some of that is in the movie because there is room for that," Walsh said. "There's probably only one scene that didn't make the film that was in the outline, and then there's a bunch of tangential riffs or absurd, kind of pushed reality like, that's not real, but it's funny. Hopefully they'll end up on the DVD."
Caplan agreed that the improv style created an increasingly funny atmosphere -- almost too much so.
"There was a good amount of laughing on set and certainly a good amount of laughing off set. There's this really cool thing when you get a bunch of funny people in one room, it's like this healthy one-upmanship that is at times intimidating, but mostly just fun."
And hey, if there's one thing stoners are known for, it's laughing.WATCH:
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