A Lively Chat With cast of 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl'
(L-R) Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler in ME EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. (MMoore Photo)
RJ Cyler, Thomas Man and Olivia Cooke at the Crosby Hotel in New York City. (MMoore Photo)
RJ Cyler (Earl), Thomas Mann (Greg), and Olivia Cooke (Rachel) are high school seniors in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl facing problems that most high schoolers face, except for one.” Greg tries to blend in, while best friend Earl really doesn’t give a crap and Rachel has leukemia. Earl and Greg make short film parodies of classic movies until Greg’s mom makes him spend time with Rachel. The plot thickens when Earl and Greg set out to make a short for Rachel that will help ease her suffering.
The Film Strip sat down with Cyler, Mann and Cooke at the Crosby Hotel this week to talk about THE DYING GIRL.
RJ, Seemingly you and Greg were on the oppsite side of the tracks, can you explain their bond?
RJ CYLER: The relationship between Greg and Earl is just like my relationship with Joe Moore. But Joe and I don’t call each other co-workers. We’re friends. And so Joe is a clown. We match. And that’s how I approached it. ‘Hey, Joe, guess what, bro? I’ve got a movie brother that’s just like you.’
It was like Wow. Oh yeah. You know how you get a high school crush that you’re afraid to talk to, and you take a chance, and the whole time, they’ve had a crush on you too? That’s how good this felt. Thank you, Lord. They say the first is your worst, but the first is my best right now.
What was your initial reaction after getting the script?
RJC: When my manager showed me the script, and I was playing Xbox at the time. I was playing Call of Duty. I was playing Black Ops 2. It was before I could afford to get Advanced Warfare, and Ghosts wasn’t doing it for me at the time. So they sent me the script, and I couldn’t help but to keep reading it. I read it three times the first day because it was that good. I looked for ways to make it sweeter.
It was like a mess when I got finished. You’d think a kindergartner was drawing on it. It was so honest, so I couldn’t get enough of it. It wasn’t cliché. There wasn’t a kiss, no awkward sex scene that makes the audience feel odd. You know, a girl has leukemia, and now they’re having sex. Like what? Where did that come from? I was so glad that [kind of stuff] wasn’t there.
Thomas, was it realistic for you to have a friend like Earl?
THOMAS MANN: Yeah, definitely. I mean I liked that they both sort of felt like outcasts and I think you kind of get a sense that earl doesn’t have a stable home life. They’re not the kind of friends that always have to be like ‘oh, you’re my best friend, I’d do anything for you.’ It’s more of an unspoken bond I think and I think Earl just really kind of admires the home life that Greg doesn’t appreciate enough. I like that they have this shared love of obscure movies that not a lot of other teenagers would get, you know. I really was drawn to that relationship. I think it’s totally realistic.
Olivia, what was it like for you to have to do such a dark role?
OLIVIA COOKE: Well, the script read was amazing, real palpable really electric and the chemistry was there. We both had to read separately with other people and I was like, ‘oh god, what happened to Thomas? Is he still in the running?’ and I think he felt the same about me. And then I was cast and I had to read with Thomas and two other boys to screen test them. I kept going back into the room with Thomas and feeling like I was cheating on him…like Rihanna’s “Unfaithful,” but then he was cast.
But it’s more than about the cancer. It’s more about playng a girl who likes herself, a girl who is very self confident. She’s very strong despite her illness and you never really get to read [or see] that. The breakdowns I get from other scripts and casting agents is something like, ‘[she’s] beautiful, but doesn’t know it. She loves Jane Eyre. Boys loves her at school…’
If boys love me, I’ll be on it. Like I would know every single boy, you know. These characters don’t exist and it was so nice to read a real girl. Also, I just didn’t want her to be betrayed as a victim, as a tragic character. I just really thought I could bring her to life and do something different with her.
With screenplay by Jesse Andrews and directed by Alphonso Gomez-Rejon, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” also stars Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, and Bobb’e J. Thompson.