What a difference winning an Oscar makes. Friends and collaborators Nat Faxon and Jim Rash started writing the film that became The Way, Way Back (due in theaters on Friday) eight years ago, and continued to refine it and search for backers even as they became recognizable faces on the big and small screen as actors in shows like Community and films like Beerfest. But it was their roles as the co-writers of the 2011 much-lauded George Clooney drama The Descendants, for which they each received a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar alongside co-writer/director Alexander Payne, that finally helped them bring their own script to cinematic life as first-time directors. Set over the course of a typically hot East Coast summer in a beachside town, the movie depicts the turbulent coming of age of quiet teenager Duncan (Liam James), his mother Pam (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), an alpha male who experiences a severe personality clash with the more reserved Duncan. During a recent press tour swing with New York, Faxon and Rash spoke with us about turning the erstwhile Michael Scott into a villain, how they adjusted to being behind the camera as well as in front of it and their turbulent seasons on television.
There's an incisive and well-acted character portrait contained in The Way, Way Back, the directorial debut of Oscar-winning screenwriters Jim "Dean Pelton" Rash and Nat "Ben Fox" Faxon. Unfortunately, it's not the character that this summertime coming-of-age story is actually about. I'm speaking about Trent, played by Steve Carell in his most successful attempt at ditching the nerdy nice guy persona he's been saddled with since the one-two punch of The Office and The 40-Year-Old Virgin made him an A-list comedy star and taking a walk on the dark side. Trent's not a "bad guy" in the Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader sense of the term, mind you; his villainy -- if you can even call it that -- is more benign and almost invisible to anyone not directly on the receiving end.