According to writer/director Shawn Linden, part of the inspiration for his new film "The Good Lie" came from childhood, when he and his friends would swap increasingly outlandish stories around a campfire, each trying to outdo the last. And Linden clearly put all that practice to good use in "The Good Lie," because we're guessing his friends (and just about anybody else, for that matter) would be hard-pressed to top the central tale in the filmmaker's sophomore effort.

Starring Thomas Dekker as Cullen Francis, "The Good Lie" is framed by a group of friends and a similar campfire tradition. But Cullen's story, which is slowly revealed in between these vignettes, is guaranteed to be far more twisted than anything his friends can come up with -- because it revolves around his recent discovery that the man who raised him (Matt Craven) isn't his real dad, a revelation that led Cullen on a quest to track down his biological father, the man who raped his mother 21 years earlier.

Part campfire tale, part emotional drama and part thriller, "The Good Lie" resists easy classification. Moviefone Canada spoke to Dekker and Linden about those formative campfire stories, including one that didn't make the cut, getting on the same page, and what to expect from a movie that defies expectations.

Moviefone: Cullen is a pretty demanding role for an actor. When did you know you'd found him in Thomas?Shawn Linden: There wasn't really an audition, because I was looking for a personality that matched the character. So just talking to him personally reinforced what I'd thought before, that he's capable of doing this, of portraying this person who's the product of a really positive force and a really negative one.

Thomas Dekker: I guess that's me. [Laughs]

Does that sound accurate?Dekker: I mean, any role that's a good one, that I want to do, my whole interest is in duality. So I never want to play something that's just good or bad. Because I think that's just more realistic of how people are. So this movie was perfect, because it's somebody who was grappling between rage and anger and frustration and sensitivity and sadness.

Linden: Physically too. Like, look at his face. He looks like an angel and a devil had a one-night stand.

Dekker: [Laughs] There is that shot in the mirror where I look pretty f**king evil in this.

Linden: Yeah, your face has the capacity to look almost childlike and innocent and ... the opposite of childlike and innocent.

Dekker: [Laughs] Well, thank you, Shawn. I take that as a compliment.

Interview continues after trailer!

Was that quality at the top of your casting list for the role?Linden: Absolutely. It was the number one thing that it needed. And it needed to go beyond just appearances.

Dekker: That was a really funny thing though: before anybody'd seen the film, and before I would tell them anything about the plot, I'd be like, "It's about me and my father." And they'd be like, "Who plays your father?" And they'd always go, "Matt Craven? Really? He plays your father? They thought you guys look alike?" I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no, that's the whole thing, you gotta wait for it."

You've mentioned that you and Matt lived next to one another during shooting. Was that intentional?Linden: Oh yeah, for sure. We wanted them to be housed together. And by the end of it, they did pretty much get something close to a father/son relationship.

Dekker: We bonded very quickly.

Linden: Alcohol, it just makes things gel.

Since a story like this could have ended up coming across melodramatic, how did you make sure you avoided that?Linden: We were trying to keep the pace of a thriller or a mystery as opposed to a drama, and because of the melodramatic elements, particularly in the beginning of the story, we were really trying to be careful to keep the clip up, and to keep things moving.

It's almost like there's two different movies going on here, with the campfire scenes and the thriller elements.Linden: I think the campfire stories add a nice counterbalance to the soberness of the main story. We were allowed to be completely unrestrained morally and artistically with these stories. And the more we did that, the better. To me, it was like salt and pepper on the rest of the story. To have gotten just a straight-on story of a young man who goes off to find...

Dekker: It would've been too much.

Linden: Yeah, it would have been a bit of a downer. It would've been more of a "Canadian" movie.

Dekker: You know, it's funny, I had a little screening party for it back home in LA, and half the people, when it gets to the last campfire story were so excited it was back, because that was their favourite part of the movie, and then the other half yelled at the TV, "No!" Because they wanted to see what was going to happen with the main storyline.

Linden: [Laughs] Those are both perfect responses.

Dekker: Yeah, it was great. But I love the stories, and that last one is actually my favourite.

What about you, Shawn, do you have a favorite of the campfire stories?Linden: I actually don't.

Dekker: There was a great one that we never even shot, right?

Linden: Yeah. I guess that one's my least favourite, the one that we didn't get to shoot. But I go through phases. Like, we've had this conversation before, and everybody else who'd been working on the film, we'd have to name our favourite. And it would literally go like, "My favourite's the vegetarian, no ... no, wait, it's the dog one. No, no, no, it's the nun one. No, no, no, no, for sure, it's the lumberjack one. Yeah, but the veterinarian one was pretty good ..." So I think that's good that there was no favourite, it just means all four of them wound up working out well.

What was the one that you ended up having to cut?Linden: It was a story about an exploding fox. About two boys who jam a stick of dynamite up a fox's ass and let it go in a field, and it just takes a turn around and runs right back after them. So they're running from this flaming fox. And they jump in their pickup truck, and the fox runs under it, and it explodes. It blows them both up. Or it blows one of them up.

Dekker: That would've been a little pricey, that one. [Laughs]

Linden: And I'm pretty sure that's the only one that was based on a true story. I think that actually sort of, might've happened at some point in time in the southern United States.

What inspired you to come up with the rest of the story?Linden: It was inspired by my own family, and by my own friends. My friends and I grew up going to the woods and trying to impress each other with how funny we can be, and how gross we can be. But the main story is about my family. My mother is adopted, so my grandparents are not my biological grandparents. But they were people who I grew up idolizing and fearing. They were the most impressive people that I've ever known, and the fact that they're not related to me by blood means zero. They are a piece of me as much as anybody by blood could be. And they define me as much as anybody else could.

So it was kind of playing with that idea. It gave rise to this story, and I was discussing the premise of it to my grandmother when she was on her deathbed. We had a big, long talk about the story and she'd said, "Well, when we were picking your mother out, that was quite a common occurrence, that they'd find that there's rape babies out there." And I'd thought that it was really rare, but she was like, yeah, it happened all the time back when my mother was younger. And you know, we got into talking about the story and developing it, and the next day she died, and suddenly everything that she had said, it got that shimmery resonance. That was the drive that got the script made.

The movie takes some pretty unexpected turns. Thomas, what was your first impression when you got the script?Linden: Br-rilliant!

Dekker: [Laughs] I loved the narrative structure. When it got me was when the first campfire story happened. Because I thought up until that point that I'd really figured out what this movie was gonna be like. And it just threw me, like, "What the f**k?" And then when it got these horror/thriller elements near the end, I was just like, "This is so original and interesting." So, that's why I think we spoke for three hours when we first did, because I was asking questions and saying what I thought about it. And everything I was saying, you said it was pretty accurate. So I figured I knew what the movie was going to be.

"The Good Lie" opens in Toronto and Winnipeg on May 10.
categories Movies