Jeremy Sisto and David Walton (NBC’s About a Boy) star in Break Point, about a guy named Jimmy Price (Sisto, who also co-wrote the film) who is nearing the end of his career as a doubles tennis player. When his latest partner drops him, he teams up with his estranged brother (Walton) to make one last run at the Grand Slam Tournament.
At SXSW, I talked Jeremy, David, Vincent Ventresca, 6-year-old actor Joshua Rush and the films co-writer Gene Hong and director Jay Karas in a really fun roundtable interview. I asked Jeremy how he found the time to write and where the idea came from, training for the tennis scenes and how their co-star, Rush, is smarter than everybody in the room. And it’s true. I sat right next to him and he’s smarter than I’ll ever hope to be.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes.
Jeremy, you were co-writer on this? You are tons busy. How do you find any sort of time to do anything like this?
Jeremy Sisto: Well, I’ve been on TV shows and actually have more time when you’re working on TV shows than you do when you’re not working. Because when you’re not working you have to read a whole bunch of scripts and prepare all these auditions. You’re working way harder when you’re not working. So it’s actually a much more… I get much more productive when I’m on a show. And I think… I think I was on Law and Order maybe?
Gene Hong: He was, yeah. Because I would go off and do a draft.
Jeremy Sisto: I mean in the beginning though, when I first came back.
Gene Hong: No.
Jeremy Sisto: Maybe it was after Kidnapped?
Gene Hong: Yeah, it was after Kidnapped…
Jeremy Sisto: So it was right around when I met my wife and, yeah, and so… yeah, it was just a desire to be proactive and I always… I recognized early on, we were friends first, but I read Gene’s script, I recognized he had a really unique voice. Really special and it hadn’t really been seen yet. I read it before you even had an agent.
Why do you stay busy? You just have to get obsessive. When you get rejected constantly for these movies, you just… you become obsessed about wanting just to have the shot at playing the roles that… I would’ve never gotten this role if it was out in the… if I had auditioned for it.
That doesn’t answer your question, I’m just rambling. No end to the story…!
And the tennis experience didn’t scare you? I know I have very limited tennis experience and so if I would get a script that would completely throw me off.
Jeremy Sisto: I was scared shitless, yeah. Oh, excuse me. I was scared poopless.
So what was that process like? What was the training like for that?
Jeremy Sisto: Well, we spent I think it was over 6 years ago that we first came up with the idea, around 6 years ago. It’s been about 5 years. So there’s maybe 2 and a half years that I thought, “Ok, next hiatus we’re gonna make it,” so I would… I went to this place called Saddle Ranch in Florida, which was like a tennis academy or something. You go and you play 5 hours of tennis every day and I would take tons of lessons. I mean, I spent so much money on this.
And it really is frustrating. I mean, I really thought I just would never ever, ever get better. Eventually I did get a little better and more than that, I kind of got some insight into what it would be to be a professional athlete and just experience that dynamic of having to try to control your body and make your body do things that instinctually it didn’t wanna do. Use muscles that had never been used before. And largely because I was afraid. You know? Because I was afraid of showing up and being like, “Really? You developed a movie and now you look like this playing?” I was afraid of that conversation.
Gene Hong: You actually develop a lot of confidence and he trained and trained and trained and it wasn’t… and he didn’t have another bout of insecurity until we were auditioning for his brother and the big question was, “Can we find someone that can hang and play tennis and look good if Jeremy has worked so hard?” And then when David came in, all of a sudden it’s like, “Jeremy, I don’t know if you’re gonna look good next to how good this guy is.”
Jeremy Sisto: I was like, “Yes, he plays good tennis. Oh, no. He plays great tennis.”
Were you a player before?
David Walton: I’ve always loved tennis, yeah. And so this truly, I can’t believe this is the first time I’m saying it, but the idea that I could be in a tennis movie. First of all, just to be in a movie that’s so well written and funny, but then to… a sport that I’ve loved since the age of 3 and did tournaments as a little kid and sort of got injured and stopped playing for a bit.
But it’s truly like pinch yourself. Sounds cheesy, but it’s like when we were out there shooting, we’re just playing as real pros. We’re getting to practice. It was one of those shoots where it would be lunch and the crew would be eating lunch and we would be out there serving and hitting with those guys who were so good that you’re like, “I’ve gotta… this guy was 110th in the world. I’ve gotta play with them.” We got to play with the best people.
Jeremy Sisto: You did say that early on though you were like, when we were offering you the role, you were like, “I’ve always wanted to do a tennis movie.”
David Walton: It was a total lie. I was completely lying. I didn’t think they existed.
And Jake, at what point did you get involved in the process?
Jake Harris: It came to me as an open directing assignment. I received the script with a note saying they wanted to meet people in a week and they wanna go into prep in 2 weeks. So it was like, “Oh, I guess I need to read this right away.” So, I literally read it the next day and the script was so good I called my representatives and said, “I have to do this movie. What do I need to do?” So he set a meeting and I just, you know, when I went in and met with these guys, I told them I’ve been working for a few years. I’ve been working in television for years and years and years and I’ve been looking for a few years to figure out what my first feature would be and I was being very selective and I wanted something that was funny with heart and grounded and real and moving and heartwarming and this had all of that. And I just really fell in love with it.
So that was just under, like 10 months ago. So it’s actually been pretty quick. So these guys did develop the whole thing and it came to me as a screenplay that was basically ready to shoot. It really didn’t change much from there.
Joshua, I saw you do a lot of animation work. What do you like better? This something like this, or standing behind a microphone?
Joshua Rush: Well, the thing is, people think of them as one thing and I guess to a certain extent they are, but there’s really certain aspects of them that are so incredibly different from each other. And I like doing voiceover work because I can call in some of my experience from theatrical work into my voiceover work and vice versa too. But they’re so different that trying to compare them is impossible.
David Walton: You should really ask us what it was like to work with an adult.
I think you’re smarter than me. I have no doubt you’re smarter than me. I just wanna tell you that right now.
Joshua Rush: Thank you.
And I’m just curious too, has anyone called the film Point Break yet?
Jeremy Sisto: I just called it that today, actually