Ike Boys was on of the most refreshing movies at Fantastic Fest. There were plenty of good movies to come out of the film festival, but many of them had a darker atmosphere. This is not surprising – it is a genre fest, after all. The lighthearted atmosphere of Ike Boys is more of the outlier. We spoke with director Eric McEver and stars Quinn Lord, Ronak Gandhi, and Christina Higa. The four were easy to speak with and obvious proud of their work. They were in such a good mood, they decided a joke was in order.
AIPT: Are you fans of anime?
Eric McEver: Well, I grew up on it and giant monster films. So, it’s a little bit more than fandom. It’s been a driving, defining animating force in my life.
Quinn Lord: I was raised by my dad who grew up in the ’80s and my dad had a heavy influence on what I was watching when I was younger. So he ended up showing me the original Transformers series along with Robotech and I really loved those.
Then years later, Eric here sends us a nice long of anime series to get in the right headspace before we get on set and one of those series is Evangelion, which has like very similar if not the same animation style as Robotech. I’m going to watch that next. It’s respark the love for anime.
Ronak Gandhi: Yeah. I probably wasn’t as much of a diehard anime fan as Eric, but I did sink my teeth little bit of Dragon Ball Z when I was younger. I’ve watched all of that. I am also a huge fan of some more contemporary anime, like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Loved that show. I watched it three or four times, so it’s really good.
But also to piggyback off of Quinn, he also sends us Neon Genesis Evangelion. So, I did watch that. It was awesome. I’m definitely going to start watching some more.
Christina Higa: Hello. I don’t watch anime, but growing up, I like a lot of American movie..
AIPT: Eric, you actually kind of answered my next question. What was your inspiration in making Iké Boys?
McEver: So, it’s based off of my own life, very loosely. Shawn is a fictionalized version of me. Vik is a fictionalized version of my best friend. Miki, she’s an amalgam of several of my dear friends in Japan. My thinking was I wanted to make, that’s a couple of things, I wanted to make a film that I was uniquely qualified to make. I thought it would be better for that. I want to make a film that really inspires people and makes people feel better about themselves after they seen it. And I thought, “Well, the only way I can earn the trust of viewers is if I entrust myself to them.”
There’s a lot of aspects of this film where I really tried to make it as personal as possible because the more personal it is the more authentic it is and I think the more it really speaks to people.
So, like the playground where the boys are testing their powers and fighting, that’s the playground where I skinned my knee for the first time in the garden. There’s a lot of things like that in there. Obviously, I’m delighted that people seem to be responding to that. Also, a lot of people like these three here pour their heart and soul into it, too. So, it began with me, but everyone else really elevated it.
AIPT: What drew you three to the movie?
Lord: This movie is a kind of movie that I’ve never really done before. It has a whole combination of things that is a first for me. It’s the first project that I’ve been a part of that takes place in the ’90s, so that’s another decade across off my list. I’m currently filming a series called Firefly Lane for Netflix, season two right now, and that’s taking place in the ’70s. So, I can cross that off the list of all the decades that I’ve gotten in the past. So, ’80s and early 2000s are left in that regard.
Speaking Japanese on screen, speaking a language other than English on screen was a first for me and that was a fun, unique challenge. I’m looking forward to maybe doing that again in the future.
Gandhi: I just loved the character who was a goofy kid. I’m a pretty goofy kid, and that’s something that I could just be like my authentic self on screen. So there’s not much difference between me and Vik totally. That’s something that I really enjoyed and that’s what drew me to this project and Vik specifically.
Higa: I like Miki because she is like a lot of my friends in Tokyo. The movie represents Japan in authentic way.
AIPT: Who do you think would be the target audience for this?
McEver: Well, I’ll say I think I grew up in the middle of America and I was obsessed with things from Japan. I think there’s a lot of little girls and boys my age and younger who lived that experience, who were fascinated by Japan and lived overseas. And I thought, “Well, no one has made a film for that sort of that Japanese cultural diaspora.” I thought, “Well, I hear I’m in a position where I can do that and I think I can do it well.
Now, my hope is I didn’t want it just to be for them. I mean, I really tried to tap into some universal things about that I believe in about what it takes to live a good life and what it takes to be a good friend. So, my hope is that all of this stuff with Japan and heroes and monsters, that’s all great. That’s what’s on the surface..
What’s beneath that really is for everyone. So, anyone who gets intrigued by the sort of the surface package and all the colors and all the monsters and all the cool stuff, I hope that they’ll discover something underneath it. That is deeper and crosses generations.
AIPT: It’s been mentioned a couple of times over how lighthearted and wholesome Iké Boys is, but tt does tackle some pretty serious issues here and there. How important do you think it was to kind of add that layer into the film?
McEvers: Well, honestly, I think that these are connected, I mean, I think we speak in terms of innocence and growing up and losing innocence, but really, I think as kids we’re aware of the “harsh realities” of life right away. I mean, I think in a lot of ways we kind of fool ourselves as adults and overcomplicate things, but I think kids… They say fresh eyes see clearer. Kids, really, they get to the heart of the matter. So, I think maybe the key word is sincerity.
It’s I think innocence and lightheartedness that is just one step away from dealing with really big dark things in a sincere, straightforward way. I also mean that I really think that love is the answer to hate. I think you need that sweetness and that lightness and that purity to be able to tackle and deal with the big issues. So, I think they’re connected.
AIPT: What do you want audiences to take out of Iké Boys?
Lord: I’m fairly certain that Eric and I have the same sort of overall opinion on this, where you want to have a very entertaining movie, but also a thorough… not satisfaction, what’s the other word I was thinking of? I really want them to take away that general enjoyment of the film and to take away some of the key points. like it’s okay to be who you are and be yourself and you can overcome some challenges that way. At the end of the day, say, you have a bad day, you can put on Iké Boys and maybe today wasn’t so bad.
Gandhi: Yeah. One of, at least for my character, the main thing for him was to accept who he was. We wanted to be like someone. So, I think that’s something that we all deal with growing up. It’s this tendency of wanting to be liked, wanting to be accepted. I guess hopefully people can be okay with who they are themselves.
I think to go answer one of your earlier questions about who the target demographic would be, I think if you have a real love for original story making, if you have a real love for cinema and film in general, you don’t have to be a cinephile or like Marvel movies, et cetera. But if you have a general love for movies and original storytelling, I think this will relate to those types of people.
Higa: I agree with Ronak. I want American people to want to travel to Japan, and Japanese people to want to travel to America as a places. That’s all.
AIPT: Awesome. Well, thank you all very much. .
McEver: Well, thank you so much, Nathaniel. That means the world to us. This is probably the point in the conversation that we should reveal that we’ve been pranking you for the entire call.
Gandhi: Wait. Let them guess. What are you thinking?
AIPT:I wouldn’t even. I wouldn’t know.
Gandhi: Go ahead. Tell…
Lord: Right. Big reveal.
Higa: I totally speak English. I have been in character the whole time.
AIPT: I should have guessed because every time you spoke, I could see Eric kind of laughing and I was like, “What, he’s kind of mean.”
McEver: You’re not the first person who’s been the victim of this particular prank. It has a storied tradition.
Gandhi: When Christina first met us, she started off in character, wasn’t speaking English for the whole entire night. So we were at dinner trying to explain to her, “Oh can you do this or whatever?”
Higa: This is the long standing joke throughout like most of the shooting. So, every time a new actor would come or whatever, I remember doing this the first few days of getting ready for hair and makeup, and I could hear everyone. They were like, “Wow, she really doesn’t know English. Is this going to be okay? Does she even know what we’re saying about her hair?”
But it really helped me get into character and I was just in Japan before shooting the film. So, I was just like, let’s copy all the way.
McEver: The wonderful thing about it and I witnessed this with you Nathaniel, just now, is like, whenever we do it, it’s really interesting. Because it’s almost like it activates people. They pay more attention. They’re more empathetic. So, it reveals a lot of the best things about the person who’s listening.
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