Which raunchy comedy concerning a quartet of male friends and their alcohol-fueled misadventures in a warm foreign country grossed $71m when it was released in the U.K. last year? Surprisingly, the answer is not The Hangover Part II—which garnered a comparatively meager $53m—but The Inbetweeners Movie, a big screen spin-off of a U.K. sitcom about four hapless teenagers.
Those amazed by the record-breaking success of the film, which opens in select cinemas here on September 7, include Iain Morris who co-created the original show and penned the movie with his writing partner Damon Beesley. “Damon has described me often as pathologically pessimistic,” says Morris. “But you’d have to be on some sort of positive-thinking drug or a maniac to assume that that would happen.”
In the movie, our heroes—Simon Bird’s uptight Will, Blake Harrison’s dimwitted Neil, Joe Thomas’s lovelorn Simon, and James Buckley’s sex-obsessed Jay—decide to “holiday” in the Greek resort of Malia with frequently disastrous, and disgusting, results. Morris says many of the film’s comic moments were inspired by his and Beesley’s own teenage experiences. One exception? An early scene in which Buckley’s character uses cold cuts as a masturbatory aid. “After the premiere my mother turned to me and said, in front of people, ‘I always wondered why we got through that sliced ham so quickly,’” recalls Morris. “I had to go, ‘We made it up! We made it up!’”
The Inbetweeners invasion of the U.S. is two-pronged: In addition to the movie, MTV is currently screening an Americanized version of the TV show. Morris also reveals that he and Beesley have an “idea” for another Inbetweeners movie sequel. Plus: “I’m maybe doing a remake—not a remake—but a film for Paramount about teenagers on holiday.” Mmm, that does sound familiar. “Basically,” laughs Morris, “I’m just shilling the same old s— in different forms!”
Below, Morris talks more about The Inbetweeners Movie — and Ricky Gervais’ terrible taste in clothes.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Obviously you could do a lot in the Inbetweeners film that you couldn’t do on the TV show. Did you have a stockpile of foul dialog and outré situations?
IAIN MORRIS: The funny thing is that we never held back on the TV show. But the very first time Damon and I came up with the characters we had a list of stories, things that had happened to us, things that had happened to other people, and a whole sort of separate file was “Holidays.” From the age of, like, 17 onwards both Damon and I went on those teen holidays. Those ideas kind of got pushed to one side because were were like, “We’ll never be able to afford to do that.” So they were present at the very beginning and they came back at the end and we turned them all into the film.
Could you give one example of something in the film which was inspired by your real-life misadventures?
Well, I remember, with some friends, pulling up outside a hotel in Kavos in Greece. We’d booked ourselves this lads holiday. And the hotel was literally in the middle of nowhere. We were all sitting on a bus, 5am, 6am, the sun was coming up, just looking at this half-built apartment block, thinking. “This can’t be it.” It went incredibly quiet on the bus. I remember seeing a Greek man pulling a dead dog out of a well and then a woman literally jumping on the bus and going, “Morris party? This is you!” to the most tumultuous applause from every other person on that bus. It was almost like déjà vu when we were shooting that scene.
That is extremely similar to what happens in the film. Do they pay you to write this stuff?
[Laughs] Well, Damon and I always call our writing style much more remembering than actually writing. That’s the trick.
Did you look into the possibility of product placement for the scene in which Jay uses sliced meat as a masturbatory aid?
We didn’t, actually. In general, people are not quite as keen as you might think to be associating their products with masturbating. But I can tell you we did about 20 drafts of the film — and that was actually sand until the very last draft.
Sand. I don’t know why it was sand. But it was sand until the very last draft. Then we changed it to ham.
You filmed some of the film in Malia itself?
Yeah, we shot for three days in Malia and then we shot the rest of the time in Magaluf in February, which was freezing. I mean, literally, if you turned the camera around from all those shots of people in t-shirts and bikinis there’s just a classic film crew huddled up, under umbrellas, wearing North Face jackets and waterproof trousers and hiking boots. Turns out that Majorca in February isn’t as hot as you’d think it would be.
I appreciate the cast, unlike their characters, are responsible people…
Well, I mean, sort of.
So, was it something of a cats-herding exercise to get them to work at a holiday location?
They were brilliant, actually [but] they did sort of treat it like a holiday. They kept saying, “The thing about being on holiday…” And we were like, “You’re not on holiday, you’re working.” The hotel we all stayed in was in the center of Magaluf and we were there for five weeks and I think it was eight euros a night, the room. So they’re weren’t living in luxury. But Jessica Knappett, who plays Lisa in the film, she’s got quite a good part because she has, like, two scenes where she speaks, but she’s in the whole film, really. So she set up a bar called Bar Knappett in her room and basically every night all the cast would go to her bar and drink and hang out there.
How involved, if at all, have you been with the American version of The Inbetweeners?
Well, “Not very” and “Quite” is the answer. I’ll elaborate. Damon and I decided that we don’t know what the life of an American teenager is, really. So we kind of handed it over and said, “Go and do what you like.” But on the flip side of it, I directed the last episode, so I was quite involved with that one.
There was a recent review of the U.S. show in The New York Times which explained at some length why the U.K. version was funny but the MTV version is not. I assume you have mixed feeling about that.
I have. The thing I really like about the American one is, I love the cast. They’re four really nice young actors and the girl who plays Carly, Alex (Frnka), is great. Even in the relatively short period of time I spent directing them I felt really quite paternal towards them—the same way I feel towards the guys in the original one. For their sake, if nothing else, I really want the show to be a hit and to work well.
I’ve been through the ringer of TV over the years and read unbelievably horrific reviews of various things. We worked on the Inbetweeners, the first season, for about nine months, maybe a year. I read the Guardian every day because I’m a terrible leftie. I got up in the morning, bought the Guardian, saw on the TV review page it was the last reviewed thing, very very small review. And the review read, “You could forgive Damon Beesley and Iain Morris’s new sitcom for being puerile, as it is about 16 year old boys. What is unforgivable is it is not funny.” I was like, “Well, there you go, that’s the end of my career. Dismissed by the Guardian on day one!” So I feel like that was the last moment I got really upset by a review.
Talking about bad reviews, as I know every interviewee loves to do…
…back in 2000 you worked on the much maligned-in-the-U.K. Ricky Gervais Show…
I did. I must be the only man to make him unfunny. Go on…
… but is it true the reason he now only wears black is because you and Damon bullied him about his s—y taste in clothes?
Um, I’d like to think it is. I mean, “bullying” is a very harsh word. It was relentless, cyclical, p—-taking. If it wasn’t me and Damon against him, it was him and Damon against me, or me and him against Damon. It was one of those things where anybody was absolutely fair game.
No, he had genuinely the worst taste in clothes. I mean, he didn’t have taste in clothes. It was like what was in his eyeline when he woke up in the morning—that’s what he put on. Jane, his partner, worked a lot on TV shows over the years and I never saw him in anything other than a free jacket that was given out to the crew. Never. And some of the shows I’d never even heard of. He’d put on a crew jacket, sweat pants, trainers that you’d find in a dustbin, to be honest, and then just a black t-shirt. It wasn’t like it was a particular stretch to take the p— out of Ricky’s clothes.
You can watch the (the extremely foul-mouthed) red band trailer for The Inbetweeners Movie below.