’I Declare War’ is an action packed coming-of-age film… With lots and lots of paintball. Following a group of pre-teens and teens playing war in the woods, it’s probably exactly how a 12-year-old boy would like a story about his life to be told; chock full of explosions and gore. What sticks most with the viewer, however, are the darkly funny battle humor and the very real relationships between friends, crushes, and bullies that shape and frame the war they’re fighting. I sat down with Writer and Co-Director Jason Lapeyre, Co-Director Robert Wilson, and star Gage Munroe earlier this month to discuss the film.
MTV Geek: There’s a long tradition of stories about kids going on these parentless adventures. Are there any in particular you found yourself drawing upon and what do you think makes this story different from the stories that we have?
Jason Lapeyre: Um, there was no particular film or group of films that inspired the movie. If anything it was a lack of films in the 90’s and the 2000’s. I felt like I wasn’t seeing any films that sort of accurately depicted childhood so that was part of the desire to tell the story. There were touchstones that I wasn’t seeing anything else like, like Stand By Me and The Goonies. I wondered why no one had done anything like those again.
Robert Wilson: There was a time where you went to the movies with your parents. I saw a list one summer that started probably with Star Wars and went all the way through the 80’s. It was stuff you saw with your parents that didn’t insult your intelligence and your parents weren’t bored and watching dancing singing cartoons. That was missing and we wanted that back. Even old Disney stuff, there were some hard topics. I remember the first movie I cried at was a Disney movie, and I felt weird because my Uncle had taken me and it wasn’t my parents, but this was an experience where you could tell he was choked up too, right. And the moment was intended to solicit the emotion of humans not “We’re going to talk directly to the 8-14 year olds here because that’s who we can sell tickets to.”.
Lapeyre: What movie?
Wilson: I’m not telling you.
Lapeyre: It’s funny, because I think some companies are making a concerted effort to try and break out of that sort of archetype. Everyone has this universal experience with the opening sequence of Up, right, and I think that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about where it’s like, “Stop talking to only the kids or only the adults, just talk to the whole audience at the same time.”. That’s what we’re trying to do, and I think we’ve succeeded because we’ve had people of all ages coming up to us saying, “Yes, you got it, you remembered.”
Gage Munroe: Or “This is what it’s like for me.”
Lapeyre: Which is even better.
Geek: Sort of in that same vein, what would you most like to see viewers take away from this movie.
Lapeyre: We, we don’t, there isn’t some moral lesson hidden in this movie, we just want people to be entertained.
Wilson: I mean, the old guys like us need to get back to being 12 from time to time. For Gage’s group, I think the message is to go outside.
CG: Was it hard to deal with the increasing violence in the script, watching it and taking part in it?
Lapeyre: D’you, do you need details?
Geek: I mean…
Lapeyre: Well, I mean, listen. All the violence that happens on screen is intended as a metaphor for the emotional violence the kids inflict on each other and there is no way that we can, um, replicate how violent it actually was. We embrace that stuff, partially because we fetishize violence and we think a movie about it can be fun and cool but also because it’s an accurate depiction of how cruel kids can be to each other at that age.
Wilson: The movie has a very neat, interesting look at the consequences of that emotional violence that we all experience in one form or another growing up.
Lapeyre: By the way, what did you think of the lone female character in the movie?
Geek: You know what, I really like her. I like that she acts like a girl her age would.
Lapeyre: Scheming and plotting?
Geek: I think that when you involve a girl her age in a game like capture the flag everyone’s going to tell her she can’t use physical force like the boys and that’ll grate on her until she ends up manipulating everybody because she can and she knows the boys can’t quite play that game yet. I mean, 12 year old girls play some really crazy games with their friends emotions. I don’t think people realize how destructive little girls can be, it’s a little bit terrifying, boys would probably let girls play war games more often if they knew. But I like her, I like that she’s pretty real and she’s willing to play the game.
Lapeyre: That’s great to hear
Geek: So, do the actors kind of feel like one big tribe now that you spent all this time out in the woods together?
Munroe: Yeah, I mean, all of us bonded really quickly. Even after the first couple of days it really didn’t feel like working. It’s like these guys said, it felt like I was at summer camp with a bunch of my friends and I think we’ve kept in touch, a lot of us. Siam (Yu, who plays Kwon in I Declare War) lives pretty close to where I am so we hang out pretty often and these guys have gotten together with almost all of the cast and had lunch with them a couple of times. It’s nice, it’s nice to be able to make connections like that.
Wilson: And the dynamics are changing, they’re getting older, it’s been a couple of years. I would say we went into making the movie and we thought 12 year olds were a lot more like 8 year olds than they really are. They were incredibly mature capable competent young adults at that point and now to see them at 14 and to see the changing social dynamic that’s happening to them. I would say that maybe the tribe is a little more splintered as everybody starts to go their own way, different schools, different relationships, but it’s still pretty awesome that we created this group of friends almost a class of, what year was it?
Wilson: Yeah. We’re thinking of opening a summer camp.
Geek: That sounds like a good idea, sabotage camp.
Wilson: Survival of the fittest camp.
Geek: One last question, when and how can everyone watch the film?
Lapeyre: It’s available right now on iTunes and VOD and it’s going to be released theatrically on August 30th across the nation and it’ll be released on DVD and Blu-Ray shortly after.
To find a showing near you, check out this site.