Read our exclusive interview with actors Robert Longstreet and Steve Little, who portray Robbie Shoemaker and Father William Smoortser, respectively, in the new comedy ‘The Cathechism Cataclysm.’ Now playing in New York, and opening in Los Angeles on November 4, 2011, the movie follows Father Billy as he’s forced to take a sabbatical by his superiors, after they discover he’s telling inappropriate parables to his congregation. In an effort to change his eccentric ways, Billy tracks down Robbie, his high school idol and sister’s ex-boyfriend, and convinces him to join him on a canoeing trip. As night falls, the two realize they’ve lost their way, which is when things start getting weird. Longstreet and Little discuss with us, among other things, what their working relationship was like, and why they were drawn to the movie, which has a VOD nationwide release scheduled for October 26.
ShockYa (SY): Todd Rohal wrote the script for ‘The Cathechism Cataclysm’ after working at a Theology school during college, where he saw a number of priests leave the church. The whole purpose of the film is to show Father William leave the church, and explore life outside his safety zone. Did you feel that an important aspect of the script?
Robert Longstreet (RL): I’m going to let you answer that.
Steve Little (SL): Yeah, I do feel that. It’s about a priest who lost his faith and then turns back to the church. So we did kind of discuss that at some point, like what kind of movie we’re making, and if this is the kind that Kirk Cameron would be all about. Yeah, there’s that aspect of that guy who lost his faith.
SY: Steve, Todd wrote the role of Father William specifically for you after you two met at a script reading for his film ‘Scoutmasters.’ So how did you prepare for the role, and did you feel any pressure to portray him in a specific way?
SL: Well, let’s see. I didn’t really do any studying, like going to Theology school or anything. I mean, it was written for me, so I just felt like I knew what he wanted a little bit. But I do suppose that there’s a little bit of pressure when something’s written for you, that you don’t want to screw up, or anything like that. Actually, Robert, his role was supposed to be for someone else, so maybe he had the opposite pressure.
RL: Mine wasn’t written for me, so I just really wanted to go in and f**k the movie up, because I was mad about that.
SY: Robert, touching on that, you stepped into the role of Robbie after the original actor chosen for the part had to leave the film. What was it about Robbie that convinced you to take on the role?
RL: I was one of the early investors. When Todd asked me to be in it, I didn’t believe him. I think he felt beholden to me, after I put money into the project, so it took him about a week to talk me into it. We, through a bunch of phone call conversations, melted what used to be an IP worker into a death metal rocker. The big thing was trying to figure out why the hell he would go with crazy Father Billy, when he was such a bitter guy. What we came up with was that he was divorced, and had two kids that were taken away from him. He literally goes on tour as a spotlight operator for what is it, the Ice Capades? So he had nothing better to do, literally nothing better to do, so he decides to do it.
SY: In real life, do you think Robbie would go off with Father Billy, having just met him again and not really remembering him?
RL: I actually think that he probably would. I’ve taken a gamble a couple of times, with people who have wanted to get together. The funny thing is, I’ve had experiences similar to this, where I met someone from high school or prep school again who I really didn’t remember. They drove me out of my f**king mind.
SL: Robert was just in Maine, and he invited somebody up to his cabin. The guys in the cabin talked so much that at one point, he had a paddle, and Robert was going to bash him, so he would stop talking or whatever. (laughs)
RL: It’s funny, I do have a Father Billy or two in my real life.
SL: I wouldn’t have gone on that trip. I’m not as adventurous as Robert is.
SY: Robert, how did you balance your acting with serving as an executive producer on the movie?
RL: Once you do the executive producing and that’s all handled, once you’re on set, you really need to throw that away. Then all the other producers take over, so you’re not doing double duty while you’re there. I think it’s really distracting. Sometimes you have to, but with ‘Catechism,’ (producers) Megan Griffiths and Lacey Leavitt did such a great job. There was no on-hands for me while I was there, once I got there, it was all acting, and trying to keep up with Steve.
SY: Todd both wrote and directed the film. What were your experiences working with him like?
SL: Todd is a lot of fun. At first, he just sent us both an outline of the movie, and sort of wanted us to improv all of it. Both me and Robert said we don’t feel all that comfortable doing all that improv. So then he wrote the script. He’s just a mellow, easy-going, fund dude. I have nothing but good things to say.
RL: Yeah, me too. Todd does a great thing where he walks in and communicates, and has great faith in your talent immediately, and really wants you to be there. That just frees you up and makes you comfortable instantly. He has a million ideas, but he’s not all over you. They’re very specific, really wonderful directions. They point you in one direction or the other. He gave me one of the best directions I’ve every had. There’s a scene where I’m in a little bit of pain, and he said “Be polite about your pain.” That was such a nice obstacle. He does all kinds of tricks like that. He’s a real actor’s director.
SY: Would you both like to work with Todd again in future movies?
RL: I would do one million more movies with Todd Rohal.
SL: Robert already has. He was in ‘Scoutmasters.’
RL: That’s true, but it’s not going to be called ‘Scoutmasters.’ It’s an untitled project with Johnny Knoxville and Patton Oswalt.
SL: I would work with Todd again, for sure.
SY: The film was shot in Seattle. What was the shooting experience like there, given that the movie is primarily outside, on the river?
SL: It was shot in twelve days. We did a week in Seattle and a week in Thorp, Washington, on the Yakima River. I liked shooting outside in the canoe, because it was sort of a challenge for an independent film. They sort of invented some sort of contraption of a raft. The raft was locked to the canoe. Then they would unlock the connection. Some days it felt cold and windy, and your voice was going out. For an independent film, to not be shot inside two rooms, is great.
RL: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say. It was such a relief to be outside on this beautiful, gorgeous river, spending your whole day there. Usually, the independent movies I do, you’re in somebody’s house, and it’s hot as hell, because you shut the air conditioning off, and everyone’s sweltering. So this was such a relief. It does a lot of the acting for you, when you have an environment that’s that prevalent, it really helps.
SL: One thing’s that’s kind of interesting is that we started at the top of the river, then we’d paddle for 20 minutes while they filmed. We’d have to get out, and put the canoe in the car, and then go back up to the river and do the scene again. So we had 20 minutes every run. We’d try to get things out, we’d try to get lines out for the correct take, before we reach our end point, which is kind of interesting.
RL: We flipped once, we flipped in the canoe. We went down. Todd told Steve to hold the oar over his head, and it completely knocked our equilibrium. We hit a rapid, and we got rocketed out of it. We were laughing, but they couldn’t see that we were laughing. They were petrified. Everyone thought we were going to quit. But we loved it.
SY: So you had fun experiences like that throughout the film? What was your working relationship like?
SL: I hadn’t met Robert until the night before we shot the first scene. We had just gotten the script a couple of days earlier, so we were kind of nervous about all the lines and what not. So we went over it, and I think the fact that we were both nervous brought us together.
RL: We have a good rapport, a good relationship. I think we connected instantly, which was really, really lucky. We went out to dinner, and like Steve said, we professed our fears, so I think we bonded like that. Acting is really scary. So when you can look somebody in the eye and they can tell you the truth, and tell you “Look, I’m really petrified too, let’s get through this together,” you have a relationship immediately. I was already a fan of Steve’s. Like I said before, I was just worried about keeping up with him.
SY: Would you be interested in working with each other again on future movies?
SL: In a heartbeat for me.
RL: Yeah, for sure. Two heartbeats! (laughs)
SY: The movie had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance’s Midnight in Park City section. What was your reaction when you found out it would be screening there?
RL: I thought it was pretty exciting. I was thrilled. I was at my mom’s house for Thanksgiving, and got the call that four of my movies were going to be at Sundance. I had broken the record of the male actor. No one had ever done it before in the history of Sundance. So I was thrilled and overwhelmed, and a little petrified, actually.
SY: Had you both been to Sundance before, or was that your first time going there?
SL: It was my first time, I had never been there before.
RL: I had been there before. In 2007, I had two movies there. I was in ‘Great World of Sound’ and ‘Low and Behold.’ So I had been there, and I want to go back.
SY: What was the crowd’s reaction at the Sundance screening?
RL: I thought the crowd’s reaction was very good. What I thought was very interesting, I guess at Sundance, we screened about four times, on four different days. People go into the movies, not knowing what to expect. You don’t really read a lot about the movies. I think the second screening was just filled. I think it was an 11 am at the library or something. It was filled with an older crowd. To see them laugh and enjoy it was really kind of cool. This movie wouldn’t have intersected with them if they hadn’t.
SL: I was amazed about how much laughter there was. Even at a screening I was at in L.A. last week, people were laughing. One line, they’d start laughing so hard at, it’s almost like they’d need breaths in the theater sometimes. I’m sitting there going, oh no, wait, the next line’s even funnier. There’s so much laughter in this movie, that you can miss some of it. You need to see it twice.
SY: Were you both surprised that there was the older crowd that went to the Sundance screening?
SL: What I realized is that people just go to a festival, people would just show up, who love movies or whatever. I saw a couple of movies that I would have never seen.
RL: When you say old people, it’s not the blue hairs off the bus. At Sundance, they’re much more of an adventurous crew. But it’s true, you will show people that are not necessarily your demographic out in the real world. To have them appreciate it is just fantastic.
SY: One interesting aspect of the film is that it contains many heavy metal references, as both Father William and Robbie are fans of the music. Are you both fans of heavy metal, and did that element added to the script and the characters bonding?
SL: You know, I was always scared of people in heavy metal T-shirts as a kid. I never really got into it. I did see a show awhile ago, and I said, oh, I understand it, it’s pretty cool.
RL: I listened to a little bit of heavy metal, but I don’t own any of it. I’m a little bit of a hippie, and just sit around and listen to Neil Young. But in our movie, I love it. I think it adds an energy to it, a real pulse to it.
SL: Yeah, it felt good. It just felt, when acting, Todd would say, just remember, there’s going to be heavy metal rolling throughout the movie. That helped out, knowing that.
SY: Do you both have any upcoming projects lined up?
SL: I’m going to be in the third season of ‘Eastbound & Down,’ and that’s what I’ve got going on right now. I also do the voice (of Slog) on this show ‘Secret Mountain Fort Awesome’ for Cartoon Network.
RL: (laughs) That’s great!
SY: How is filming a television series different than filming a movie?
SL: Well, that ‘Eastbound’ is like a movie, as we have a lot of different locations. It’s not like a static, or a sitcom or something where it’s the same four walls. It sort of felt mostly the same. That’s how I felt, anyways.
SY: Do you have a preference of television over movies, or vice versa, or do you like them both the same?
SL: I kind of like both of them the same, actually. On television, I do like that you get to play the same character over a longer period of time. It’s kind of fun, actually. You get to do the same thing for like three years, and then explore new aspects of the character.
RL: I’ve never done a recurring character. My only experience has been on the stage, or something like that. It’s fun to experience it that way. I like movies better, I’ve only had guest spots. Being on a series may be different. But that’s the only time I’ve ever been bad, really. On movies, I can prepare for them the way I like, and talk about them. TV, the way I’ve done it, for little guest spots, is hit the ground running, and I’ve found it frustrating. It’s hard to be a guest star on a TV show sometimes. It’s like walking into somebody else’s family dinner.
SY: What were your favorite experiences while filming the movie?
SL: That’s interesting. I guess my favorite sort of aspect of it was that it was Robert and I, and Todd, it felt like 12 people around, it felt really small. Just figuring out how to overcome these obstacles, like figuring out how to shoot canoe to a raft. Or sunlight, you’re losing the light and you have five minutes to get one scene, so you have to do it. Sort of being a small group and overcoming big obstacles.
RL: It was fun, we had actually had rented this winery with these two houses, and we all stayed in the houses. So we would shoot all day, and come back. Alan (Canant), the editor, would be editing in the living room, and I’d light a fire. We’d all have a glass of wine. Usually, I hate all that kind of stuff, I want to be alone in a hotel room, but it was wonderful and communal. I don’t think there was one experience in the movie. But for me, it was when I knew Steve and I were clicking, and the chemistry in the movie was going to work. Which was probably around the fifth day of the 12. That’s what thrilled me about it, knowing that it was going to work.
Written by: Karen Benardello