director jake paltrow gets young and restless

As Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones premieres at Sundance, we catch up with the director to chat Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning and shooting in the African Heat.

by i-D Team
23 January 2014, 5:20pm

Nicholas Hoult conjures up memories of A Single Man with the amount of fake tan he is wearing while Elle Fanning takes on a role far beyond her age in Young Ones. In true Tarantino style, Jake Paltrow's latest film explores the idea of American family values in a Futuristic Wild West setting that plays as an ode to science fiction novels of yore. It follows a teenager confronted by his primal instincts when he finds out his brother-in-law murdered his father, unwinding a passionate coming of age story during a water shortage in the desert. The film is shot in three distinct chapters, each featuring a different protagonist and playing like a cinematic graphic novel. We caught up with Paltrow during the Sundance Film Festival where it premiered to talk robots, shooting in African heat and the challenges of filmmaking.

Where did the inspiration for the script come from?
There were two news articles, one was about moving the capital of Yemen due to a lack of water and other was about the driest town in the world in Chile. It was about all the people that stayed behind and why they all stayed for these odd personal reasons. There was water being dropped in. Also, I've always been interested in robotics and I had spent some time with Big Dog at Boston Dynamics. I was really interested in trying to do a story where we weren't going to try and explore its sentience, if it had some sort of soul or sense of self.

It was the South African desert that doubled for America, how was it shooting there?
We were quite remote we'd have to drive over an hour in and out every day to shoot. At one point if felt like nothing was going to work. On our first day we were shooting the first scene with Michael Shannon in 115 degree heat, we just kept taking it one step at a time. I've never had a scene stop because the lights blew. And then they'd have to drive seven hours to Cape Town to get new lights and drive seven hours back the next day. I mean, certain things would get dropped along the way.

The film is shot in chapters, what's the importance of this?
I had been rereading a lot of S.E. Hinton books. She plays with acts, so it really had to do with the books. It was really there to reenergise the audience too. The curtain call at the end has this storybook element too it as well.

Can you tell us about the robot in the film. It looks so real, where did you get it?
It's totally fake. The torso is made out of fiberglass tubing. We used puppeteers and guys doing parkour. We tried to get the actual robot it's based on, oh I tried. And they were great, but at a certain point there was no way. In the end it just wasn't a movie tool and they have much bigger fish to fry.

Elle Fanning mentioned she loved the details of the script for the film and that's why she did it. In the film Kodi Smit-McPhee's character Jerome is constantly drawing pictures, what's the purpose of this?
He's constantly looking for an escape, so he's always drawing what's around him. All the drawings are done by an artist friend of mine and they looked beautiful in the film. I was really happy with them.


Text Donna Tillotson

Elle Fanning
Cape Town
Michael Shannon
Young Ones
donna tillotson
jake paltrow
s.e. hinton