I love a good horror-comedy film, even in this year that feels like a horror-comedy itself. Beast Mode was introduced to me by friend and fellow journalist Drew Fortune, who co-wrote the script with director Spain Willingham. Drew typically interviews celebrities and writes for all sorts of publications, including SPIN, Vanity Fair, Vulture, Rolling Stone, and more. Spain Willingham directed First World Problems in 2012, and this is his follow-up film. Drew and Spain have known each other for many years. Their chemistry, along with the screenwriting expertise of co-writer and co-director Chris W. Freeman, made Beast Mode the hilarious, zany gem that it is. I was more than happy to talk to this dynamic duo about the project’s genesis, their influences (including Troma Entertainment), and much much more.
So how did you guys meet each other initially?
Drew Fortune: Spain can start because my friend brought Spain to me.
Spain Willingham: That’s true. He kept talking about Drew. We’re talking about a guy named Dan, who I was in Columbia College with during film school. I was like, “When are we gonna meet this guy, Drew?” He was saying, “Oh, this guy likes a lot of the same music, a lot of the same films.” Finally, I went over to meet Drew.
We immediately had a lot of the same knowledge, a lot of the same interests, especially in movies, music, and other stuff. Drew kind of introduced me to his world and some of his funny roommates, just this whole side of Chicago. I was new there, and I didn’t know anybody. I moved to Chicago and didn’t know the neighborhoods, so I moved to a part where there was not really anybody like us. Not a college part of Chicago. It was all working-class and blue-collar, and I was like, “I gotta kick it with somebody,” and then I met Drew, and he was cool.
“We immediately had a lot of the same knowledge, a lot of the same interests, especially in movies…”
Fortune: I remember being really impressed by Spain and a little intimidated. Some of his knowledge went deeper. Especially horror stuff. Like really obscure ’80s stuff. He basically turned me on to Frank Hennenlotter. I remember watching Brain Damage with Spain. He was like, “This was so hard to get! I’m so stoked. I’ve never seen it!” So we watched that together. I remember showing him Roadhouse, which he oddly had never seen. It was a weird cultural blindspot there. We just kept filling each other in on stuff. The mutual love for Ween was huge. Spain had all these Ween live show tapes, and I didn’t internet at that time, you know what I mean? I didn’t know how, and I was just like, “Oh my God! Look at all this!” It blew my mind, and I had a little man-crush.
That’s cute. Did you guys move to L.A. together?
Willingham: Drew was already there. I was in San Francisco for quite some time after Chicago. I was doing video game work there, but I was also making tiny little movies in the background. They were for film festivals. They were not like, “I HAVE TO GET THIS DISTRIBUTED!” They weren’t like that.
Drew Fortune: I was trying to think because I came to L.A. in 2010, and then I would drive up to San Francisco from L.A. to kick it with Spain for a weekend. I remember when he did move to L.A., it was almost immediate that we thought we should start writing something.