‘Nature Calls’ Finds Laughs In Dark Childhood Memory

In the spirit of the old adage that tragedy plus time equals comedy, director Todd Rohal has taken a particularly traumatic event from his childhood and built a dark comedy around it. The finished product is “Nature Calls,” which recently had its premiere at the 19th annual South By Southwest Film Festival.

MTV News caught up with Rohal and his comedic co-stars Johnny Knoxville and Rob Riggle recently where they explained the rather dark inspiration for the film, and how they built humorous action around it.

“It’s about a Boy Scout outing that kind of goes to hell pretty quick,” said Rohal. “I was a boy scout. It’s based on a true story when I went on this 20-mile circuit hike when I was eight years old and we found a corpse of one of our scout masters at the end of a trail with a three foot tree branch shoved through his stomach.”

“It was the first time I’d seen a dead body, we didn’t do anything,” he recalled. “We just assumed there were murderers out there in the woods trying to kill us. We just basically waited to die as eight-year-olds and then the other scout masters came out and started screaming at us for why we weren’t doing anything as eight-year-olds. That’s the first time I got into an argument with a 45-year-old.”

A dark tale, sure, but one that’s led to the birth of “Nature Calls,” which is about a rivalry between two brothers that leads to a hijacking of a scout trip that quickly goes awry.

“My character’s defining moment is I think when Jeanine (Maura Tierney) refuses to give me a beer in the beginning,” Riggle said when asked to pinpoint a memorable moment for his character. “I have to establish the relationship between me and Jeanine. I just say ’Come on Jeanine, you’re ruining everything.’ You just pluck that out and it transpires to the entire movie.”

For Knoxville, his character spends a considerable amount of time at the mercy of a bunch of kids.

“I get crucified for a good portion of the movie, thank you Todd,” he said to his director. “Getting forced through the woods on a crucifix by eight and nine-year-olds, nine eight-year-olds. That was a fun afternoon.”

We then asked them what they want the audience to take away from the film, whether it’s a moral message or simple survival skills like learning how to start fires.

“We want people to walk out of the theater and instantly start a fire,” Riggle joked.

“Oh no. MTV, they’re going to cut that,” Knoxville said. “Don’t start fires!”