BJ Novak of “The Office” fame takes viewers to Texas on a true-crime comedy with his directorial debut “Vengeance.” Novak, who wrote, directed and starred in the upcoming film, still remembers the nerves from the first day of filming.
“The first day I was so scared,” Novak said Variety at the Los Angeles premiere for ‘Vengeance’ at the Ace Hotel. “You know how you see a picture of yourself and you’re like, ‘Burn that picture?’ I thought, ‘What if I feel like this for a whole scene?’ So, honestly, I was afraid to get in the way like that, but luckily that didn’t happen.
“Revenge” follows an aspiring podcaster who travels from New York to Texas to investigate the death of a woman he had been in a relationship with, and finds himself unexpectedly drawn into a large-scale mystery. The film stars Novak as well as Ashton Kutcher, Boyd Holbrook, Issa Rae and Isabella Amara. Novak said his character is reflected in various ways.
“You know, like any comedy, it has to come from a real place,” Novak said. “So I think, you know, it’s about being one of those guys who can be a bit lost, thinks he’s cooler than he is and smarter than he isn’t and thinks he has real relationships when he couldn’t. I think that’s something a lot of us struggle with.
Holbrook co-stars in the film as Ty Shaw, a native Texan and brother of the deceased. The star has high hopes for the new film, saying he thinks “it will be the comedy of the summer”.
“I feel like I got a good front-row ticket to watch someone achieve something that’s on paper impossible,” Holbrook said of Novak’s directing. “You know, writing something from scratch and producing it and performing it and directing it. It was amazing.”
Behind the scenes, Novak’s film was composed by Finneas O’Connell (better known simply as Finneas). The Grammy-winning artist and producer for his sister Billie Eilish first met Novak at a party, where they adored Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for “The Social Network.” The two loved that the score didn’t sound like a classical music score – which Finneas has no experience with. But for Finneas, composing for film is not so different from his musical work.
“I think when I produce for Billie, write for Billie, with Billie, write with other artists, you try to tell their story,” O’Connell explained. “And when you have a scene in front of you with two characters, and whatever the emotional context – if they’re arguing, if it’s a love scene – you’re just marking that emotional context. So it’s quite similar in some ways.
Alongside Finneas, another music legend was involved in Novak’s early life: John Mayer. Mayer, a close friend of Novak, appears in an early scene of “Vengeance.” For him, the decision to appear in the film was quite simple.
“He had the idea. And I’m just fascinated by all of BJ’s ideas,” Mayer explained. “He doesn’t have any bad ideas. I mean, I’m in a very lucky position where I can m sit and listen to BJ come up with thoughts. All of them are interesting and exquisite in their own way. So when he said, ‘I have a scene for you’, I was like, ‘Okay’. I’ll do it. ‘”
Mayer, who recently completed a tour with the band Dead and Company, also said Variety on his next moves, hinting that more Dead and Co. tours are likely.
“Every year we do [a tour] I’m going, ‘I’ll just wait for the next call,’” he said. “So here it is. It’s never over.
“Vengeance” premieres Friday, July 29 in theaters.