Comedy, Just in Time, For Other Worlds' James Vs. His Future Self
Catch a Zoom Q&A with director Jeremy LaLonde
By Richard Whittaker,
9:00AM, Tue. May 5, 2020
If you could go back in time and stop your past self from screwing up, would you? Maybe, maybe not, but if you're Jimmy, the time-traveling protagonist of James Vs. His Future Self, you would. Mainly because past-you managed to turn you into a mean-spirited dick, and this is a chance to even the score.
The Canadian sci fi comedy is the latest in the Other Worlds Film Festival's year-round Orbiter screening series, but it's also the most futuristic. With theaters closed, audiences are encouraged to rent or buy the film on VOD, watch it any time, and then join star and Producer Jonas Chernick (who plays the beleaguered James) and director Jeremy LaLonde for a free Zoom Q&A at 8pm central on Wednesday, May 6 (sign up here).
Before the virtual screening, we talked with LaLonde about his approach to telling time travel stories, working with the inimitable Daniel Stern, and casting dogs across the space-time continuum.
Buy or rent James Vs. His Future Self via:
• iTunes (Link)
• Amazon Prime (Link)
Austin Chronicle: So, first things first, I know that Other Worlds founder Bears Fonte absolutely loves time travel movie (even wrote an op ed for us on it). The argument is that there's a scale from Primer (airtight chronophsyics) to Back to the Future (logical holes everywhere, but you still understand how it works). Where do you put James vs His Future Self on that scale?
Jeremy LaLonde We're closer to BTTF for sure, though Primer is a HUGE inspiration for both myself and Jonas. It's one of his favorite films and actually scared him off of making his own time travel film after he saw it.
I think we side closer to Looper in terms of "let's just explain enough so that the audience understands it without overwhelming them with it." Primer is so good - but the science is hard for the average person to understand, we didn't want that. Our story is about people, not about science. The science is just a catalyst with which to tell the story.
AC: There's a line which explains why James (Jonas Chernick) doesn't look like his future self, Jimmy (Daniel Stern). A lot of filmmakers go to huge effort to have actors seem like they've aged (the ultimate may be making Joseph Gordon Levitt look like a young Bruce Willis in Looper). Where did the idea come from to just throw that burden out?
JLaL: We knew we'd never have the money to do any crazy CGI where we aged Jonas digitally and had him play both parts - nor were we interested in that. And we didn't want to cast someone just because they were a doppelganger for Jonas either. We wanted someone who shared an essence and enough of a look - and if you look at Danny Stern's early work like Diner, etc... you see how he and Jonas are very similar. But Danny has changed over the years, just like his character in our film.
We knew from the get-go that whoever ended up playing Jimmy we would write something into the script about how the time travel aspect messes you up. And to our delight it seems to be enough to satisfy the audience! Not a single person has complained to us about the casting, in fact we're often praised for it - which makes us very happy. Danny and Jonas are a perfect odd-couple in this, I think.
JLaL: Like I said about, he shared enough qualities with Jonas that got us excited. The film is also heavily steeped in nostalgia and our feelings on the past, so we thought it would be great to get an iconic actor that we all loved in our youth and Danny fit the bill so well. Danny was an amazing collaborator. We were lucky to have him attached to the film about a year before we started shooting and his notes on the script were invaluable. And I don't think a single one of them was about his character - he loved his character - his notes were more about focusing the script and bringing all the other characters up to the level with which we had written Jimmy. He's a pure artist: selfless and playful. I'd do a million more movies with him.
AC: One key scene (I won't spoil it) features multiple dogs along a timeline. Aging actors is one thing: how much of a challenge was it to get lookalike dogs of different ages?
JLaL: My producers were very worried when I made that request. Someone in our production office had the brilliant idea to look up dog breeders, and we actually were lucky that we had two sets of dogs to choose from. It's actually three dogs in the film, but looks like four because of movie magic. All three dogs are from the same family line - a grandmother, mother, and puppy. And they all have the same spots in the same places! It was incredible and really really lucky.
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Other Worlds, James Vs. His Future Self, Jeremy LaLonde, Primer, Looper, Back to the Future, Daniel Stern, Jonas Chernick