With every film festival I attend, there's always that one movie that stands out; the one film I get behind, talk up to my friends and really pimp out as much as I can. Not because I have something to gain from it making money -- I do it because I thoroughly enjoyed the experience I had while watching it. And it's an experience I want my friends and family to feel as well. At this year's Tribeca Film Festival, that film for me was Zak Penn's The Grand. Now, perhaps it has something to do with my love for mockumentaries -- the fact that I wrote and directed one myself -- or that I simply adore everyone in this cast. Whatever it is, the movie hit me in a way that just felt so good.
Fortunately, I was able to sit down with writer-director Zak Penn a few days after watching The Grand. Penn, who is more known for writing superhero flicks like X-Men: The Last Stand and next summer's The Incredible Hulk, also happens to be a very funny guy who surrounds himself with some of today's top comedic talent. Look, maybe you'll like The Grand, maybe you won't. I will admit that if you're not a fan of the loose, improv mockumentary-type style, then you might not get this film. Personally, I hope you do. That way we can convince Penn to make another comedy, because I'm already itching to see what he has in store for us down the line. What follows is the very low-key conversation we had inside the swanky lobby of the Tribeca Grand hotel. We talk everything from casting and shooting The Grand to how he approached one of Hollywood's most talked-about scripts; that being the highly-anticipated follow-up to Ang Lee's Hulk.
Cinematical: Most know you as the guy who writes superhero flicks, but then you've directed two low budget mockumentaries. Is it a case of one for the money and one for the passion, or do you get an equal amount of enjoyment out of each project, be it big budget or indie?
Zak Penn: Will, the X-Men movies I happen to really like. That's not an unfair characterization of how I do it, however sometimes the ones you do for money are also the ones you do for passion. Like with X3, I worked my ass off for a year and a half on that movie -- I love the franchise and would do anything to work on it. It's not about the money. But, it does pay a lot of money and it allows me to do stuff like [The Grand]. There is a truth to it in that doing that production re-writes, doing assignments, things like that; it's not nearly as fulfilling as doing something like The Grand. Particularly, I don't even try to write comedies for Hollywood anymore. I've written a couple, and I don't like the way they come out. PCU was the last comedy I wrote, and that was the last one I wanted anything to do with. So yeah, it's like I go do these movies to make a living, keep my family afloat, and then I go do these more interesting independent movies because, to me, at least I'm doing something different; something that's worth seeing.