An SLC Punk returns with the Vans Warped Tour Saturday
The name Matthew Lillard might not be easily recognizable to most of you, although his film resume is a pretty impressive one. Through the years, he’s starred in movies like the original Scream as one of the killers, and more recently he was the man who George Clooney’s wife was cheating on him with in the Oscar-winning The Descendants.
For those of us of a certain age and certain indie sensibility, though, Lillard will always be best known as Stevo from SLC Punk. And the funny thing is, it turns out most of the world outside of Salt Lake City thinks of him that way, too.
“That movie more than any other I’ve ever done of the 50 I’ve made has really connected with kids all over the world,” Lillard said in an interview Friday. “Kids in Egypt have come up to me and told me how much that movie meant to them.”
Lillard is coming back to Salt Lake City Saturday with the Vans Warped Tour to promote his directorial debut, Fat Kid Rules the World, an indie flick based on a novel by K.L. Going about a suicidal high schooler who is saved by an unlikely friendship and an introduction to punk rock at just the right time in his life. Fat Kid Rules the World premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award. Rather than be inundated with distribution offers from Hollywood studios, though, Lillard found the offers lacking and decided to try and do something entirely different in terms of getting people to see the movie.
Part of that is barnstorming across the country with the punk-rock summer camp known as the Warped Tour, where Lillard will meet and greet the kids in person who are much like the kids populating the stunningly accurate garage-gig scenes in his movie.
“When we won the Audience Award, we kind of thought, ‘Here we go, Hollywood is going to get on board,’ but that didn’t happen,” Lillard said. “The Warped Tour goes out and plays to one million kids every summer, and this movie is for those kids, with a similar sensibility to SLC Punk.
The process of making Fat Kid Rules the World started for Lillard 10 years ago, when he provided the voice for the audio book. He was so struck by the story of a high school outcast finding punk-rock salvation that he immediately called his manager and began the process of acquiring the rights to the book to make a movie.
“I didn’t have a great high school experience, and junior high sucked,” Lillard said. “I found myself really relating to this kid in a very real way.”
It took nine years of struggling to finally get the ball rolling on making what Lillard now calls “the crowning glory of my entire professional career.” And while it was hard to get money to make the movie, and hard to then actually make it, and now hard getting it in front of audiences, it’s an experience that he wouldn’t trade for anything.
The passion comes through in the film, which I had the opportunity to view before talking to Lillard. The movie is packed with humor and genuine drama courtesy of the “Fat Kid” Troy Billings’ (Jacob Wysocki) drug-addicted friend and savior, Marcus (Matt O’Leary), and his domineering but surprisingly supportive dad (Billy Campbell). The small moments when you see how being exposed to a punk-rock show, or meeting a cool girl at a gig for the first time, changes Troy for the better are excellent.
Also excellent? The original music, provided by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, who was also a big fan of the novel.
“He was one of the single biggest influences on the film,” Lillard said. “I found myself sitting there, trying to convince him to do the music for this movie with no budget, and he was sitting there trying to convince me why he should do the music for this movie with no budget. He saved some scenes in the movie.”
Besides the Warped Tour, Lillard is pursuing another unusual distribution method via the Web. People are enouraged to visit the Web site TuggTheFatKid.com, and in every city where enough people sign up to see a screening, Lillard will send the movie to be shown. It’s basically crowd-sourcing for movie distribution, and he hopes kids introduced to Fat Kid at the Warped Tour will go home and start gathering friends who want to see the movie. (There’s already a screening set up for Wednesday, June 20, in Salt Lake City, so go hit that link and sign up for tickets to the show).
If they’re smart, that’s just what they’ll do. Fat Kid Rules the World deserves to be seen by punk rockers young and old–and especially kids who don’t know they’re punk rockers just yet.
The Vans Warped Tour is in Salt Lake City Saturday at the Utah State Fairpark. Show starts at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are available at the gate and via Smith’s Tix outlets.