At a cursory glance The Way, Way Back looks like the latest coming-of-age comedy set in the course of a summer, like The Kings of Summer or Adventureland (2009). The reality is writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash had written the script a decade ago and spent the intervening years trying to get the film made.
Faxon and Rash met around 13 years ago when they both were members of The Groundlings comedy troupe in L.A. At times they had prominent comedy directors attached to make The Way, Way Back but as is usually the case the film failed to materialize. “We will work together,” Nat explains to Free Press Houston in a phone interview. “We brainstorm and figure out ways to improve the backstory,” Jim, also on the phone adds. “You may see us in working in coffee shops.” And Nat adds: “Then we collaborate separately – Jim will go back and figure out a way to put the pieces together.”
The duo described how they were part of the Groundlings farm team. “We started doing skits on Sunday night, which is kind of the equivalent of open mike night,” recalls Nat. Soon they were drafted to the troupe proper.
The script to Way, Way Back made the rounds in Hollywood, garnered a reputation and led to a meeting with Alexander Payne who hired the pair to adapt a book for a shooting script he wanted to direct. The next thing you know Rash, Faxon and Payne received Academy Awards for that script for The Descendants.
Flash forward a year and The Way, Way Back gets a go light by Fox Searchlight with Rash And Faxon not only playing supporting roles but also directing with a cast that includes Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janey, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and with Liam James as 14-year old Duncan, the film’s star. We see the summer evolve through the eyes of Duncan observing the bickering and philandering adults while he works at a theme water world.
Rash and Faxon found an actual Mom and Pop water world close to their shooting headquarters called Water Wizz Water Park and that location became a major character in the film. “Duncan’s journey is a universal story. It’s about the rites of passage,” Faxon says. The Way, Way Back opens this weekend at the Sundance Cinemas Houston and other area theaters.
- Michael Bergeron