Bert V. Royal [Interview]

Photo by Vivien Killilea for WireImage

Hello Folks! And welcome back to another fine week of content for you all here at Trainwreck’d Society. Today we are speaking with an absolute gem of a human being, a brilliant writer, and just a damn kind soul overall. It’s Bert V. Royal Everyone! Bert is the person responsible for writing one of the best “coming of age” stories (or maybe more like “fuck, it sucks to be young sometimes” stories) that the entire world knows and love, and that would be the Emma Stone fronted film Easy A. I first caught this film when it was released at a very weird time in my life. I was 25 years old. Far removed from the inner workings of a modern setting of what goes on in high school, but not so far removed that the anxiety and pressure of being somebody, for some reason, that is supposed to comply with the world around them and just accept that people are shit some times and will believe whatever they want to believe in, and it was up to me take the matters at hand into my own hands, like a regular ole Olive over here!

And as it always seems to happen to be (we really get some of the best of the best around here, I have to say) learning more about the cat who penned such an amazing film made me realize that Bert V. Royal was not only special because of this one story that they had to tell. Bert was/is special because they are delightful person with a voice all of their own and is just an all around wonderful spirit. In my first reading of a smattering of digital words from this fine person, I quickly realized that we are so fortunate to have Royal on the site with us today. And we are so damn excited to continue to follow the career that will be the legacy of Bert Royal, and to have Bert on the site today. So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the best in the business today! Enjoy!

 

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When did you first discover your passion for writing? Was it a deep-rooted passion you have always had, or did you just find yourself enveloped in the world of creating words for the screen and stage?

I think like any young wannabe writer, I wrote a novel at age 12.  It was called Slipping Into the Subconscious.  It was 14 pages – hand-written.  And 32 chapters.  I recently found it and it made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  But I was SO proud of it at the time.  Then many, many years later I wrote a play called George Glass (I was about 23) and it had similar themes and was also abysmally bad.  All signs pointed at ‘Bert Shouldn’t Be a Writer.’  But then I wrote another play at age 26 and people seemed to like it, so here I am.  But after that play I had to figure out how to be a good writer.  I’m still figuring it out.

According to the always reliable website Wikipedia, you made your move from Florida to NYC to work as an intern in the casting department, working on one of my favorite yet short-lived variety shows of all time, Chappelle’s Show. I’m curious as to how this gig may have influenced the rest of your career? Did you have any sort of takeaways or lessons learned that helped shape the career you have formed? Also, in specific regards to Chappelle’s Show, do you remember any specific sketches involving people you managed to get on the show? 

Well, I moved to New York specifically to work in casting and I was fortunate to work with incredibly talented and creative and wonderful people (and some shitheads for good measure) doing Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, TV and film.  I wouldn’t highlight Chappelle’s Show as giving me any sort of influence.  I thought it was kind of ridiculous.  But, dude – the auditioning process for that show was HIGHLY memorable.  We would see really amazing comedians along with some super bizarre people.  Pat, the casting director I worked for, was mostly busy with a network show called Hack – so her assistants and associates would do the auditions for Chappelle’s Show.  (We had NO idea it was gonna be this cultural phenomenon.)  We would get these really lewd scripts and think ‘this is NEVER gonna get aired,’ but we went through the motions and – lo and behold – the stuff would get broadcast AND everyone would be talking about it the next day.  One of the associates, Eli Dawson – who is this brilliant theatre casting director – came to work in the office and I think it was, like, his first day and he and I did the auditions for the ‘Blind Supremacist’ sketch.  We couldn’t stop laughing at the strange array of people who came in.  The whole time we were like: “What the hell is this show?  And who are these people?”  And then it becomes this huge deal.  So, I guess that was the lesson I learned: you NEVER know what’s gonna be a huge hit.  Kudos to Dave Chappelle.

The 2010 film you wrote entitled Easy A was an absolute gem, if I could say so myself, and I’m sure everyone else on earth has said the same. I can remember first checking out this film, and realizing it was SO MUCH better than I thought it was going to be looking at in on the surface. So much of that obviously has to do with the writing. With that in mind, I am curious to know how you developed this story? How much of the film was derived from personal experiences?

Thanks!  It’s a really good movie.  And I’m not saying that because I wrote it.  The stars all aligned and there were some tremendously talented people who crafted it into a success.  (That red-headed girl for one.)  Olive’s character is based on a number of fabulous young women I grew up with, who always stood up for the skinny, awkward, gay kid (me).  While none of it really happened, if you knew these girls you’d get what I’m talking about.  They were always defending me against the bullies and would’ve totally pretended to sleep with me, had I ever asked.  But I was a really prudish kid, so I wouldn’t have.  But also, I didn’t go to high school – so, a lot of it was wish-fulfillment.  I write a lot of high school stuff and I think it’s just me trying to fantasize about what high school would’ve been like.

 

 

I am curious to know what you thought of the final product that was your words put to the big screen with Easy A? Was Emma Stone the type of actress you were thinking about whilst writing the story? On that note, our friend Juliette Goglia played Olive from 8th grade, so I guess the same could be asked for her, as well as the rest of the cast. Basically, how close were the characters portrayed to your original story?

Unlike a lot of feature screenwriters’ experiences, the director was very cool about letting me come and be a part of the whole process.  I’m really grateful for that.  We had a great time making Easy A.  With every take, we ALL couldn’t wait to see what Emma was gonna do.  She just killed it.  Every shot, every take.  It was breathtaking watching this young actress BECOME this character.  We all knew we were watching a star-in-the-making.  And what a cool thing to witness!  And Juliette was fantastic!  I remember Emma running up to me on set saying: “Okay.  I LOVE the girl who’s playing younger me.”  She was awesome.  The whole cast was.  It’s weird to have that kind of phenomenal cast for a teen movie.  I never dreamed when I was writing it that we would have REAL actors.  I think in my mind, the whole thing would be shot with sock puppets.

In doing a bit of research on your incredible career thus far, I discovered the existence of a very intriguing play that you wrote entitled Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. Would you mind telling our readers a bit about this play? And do you believe we will ever have the chance to see this play brought to film? Do you believe it would translate well? How would you want the film version to end up?

So, Dog Sees God was my first “thing.”  And it’s a really long story about how it all came to be – but I owe my entire career/life to that play.  I kinda wrote it as a joke.  It’s an unauthorized parody about the Peanuts in high school dealing with things that are way more intense than a shabby Christmas tree or getting no Valentine’s Day cards.  It’s been performed in all 50 states (that’s my big brag) and many countries around the world.  It’s my “baby.”  (Meaning that sometimes it makes me cringe, but I love it and never want to let it go.)  I’ve been trying for 15 years to get a film made, but people are a little scared of it – being that it’s an ‘unauthorized parody.’  It couldn’t really be a ‘studio film.’  It’s an indie.  And if anyone out there wants to fund it, we will gladly take your money and make the BEST TEEN MOVIE EVER.  Seriously, it could be amazing.  And I really do hope to one day see it happen.  But I also won’t let anyone make it without me at the helm.  It’s sweet though that – about three or four times a year – I get an email from some bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kid who did the play at their college and they’re convinced that they’re the right person to make the film version.  I get a lot of “I have a rich uncle and he said he’d pay for it.”  My response is always: “Okay, how rich is your uncle?  I need to see bank statements.”  Sigh…  One day…

 

 

Scrolling through your IMDb credits, I see you are listed as writing additional dialogue for the absolutely incredible Disney animated film Big Hero 6. I’m curious to know what sort of contributions you made to the film. Was it all the stuff that made me cry? If so, why would you do that to me (just kidding)?

I was GLORIOUSLY fired from Big Hero 6 by the Naked Emperor, John Lasseter, himself.  (I love that I can say that publicly now without gasps of disapproval.  He sucks. Really.)  SUPER sore subject – HYSTERICAL anecdote!  BUT if the scene that made you cry was Tadashi’s video on Baymax’s tummy, then YES.  I made you cry.  Because I’m pretty sure that was the only thing from my ‘nine months in hell’ that made it into the final movie.  I haven’t seen it.  I wasn’t invited to the premiere, despite being told as I was escorted out of the building that I would be.  I tried to watch it on an airplane, but after five minutes turned it off.  Can’t do it.

If you were handed, and given free-range to develop, the chance to write a biopic for any important figure in American history, who would you want to showcase?

This might be the best question ANYONE has EVER asked me.  And I stupidly don’t have an answer.  Is Rock Hudson an important figure in American history?  Probably not.  OOOO!  I know.  Stephen Sondheim.  I would love to write HIS story.  He’s my idol and he’s an important figure in American history and I would chop off several of my own body parts to write a movie about him.  I love and worship him in an unhealthy way.

What does the future hold for you? Anything coming up that you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m currently developing a lot of stuff.  Which means that you’ll probably get a chance to see something I wrote… in 2026.  Potentially fun stuff on the horizon, but a long way away.  Also, I need a job, soooo…  (I’m really good at manual labor…  But only the kind that requires no brain activity.)

What was the last thing that made you smile?

At the risk of sounding super corny, these questions made me smile.  I had a real shitfuck day and getting to talk about Dog Sees God, Easy A, and – okay – Big Hero 6 (to an extent) made me smile.  It made me remember why I got into this insane business in the first place.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll turn Slipping Into the Subconscious into a feature…?  Kidding.  It REALLY sucked.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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