“Gentlemen Broncos” is an Odd Film about a Writer Wannabe
The same creative filmmaking couple that brought audiences the high school slacker opus Napoleon Dynamite and the nod to Mexican wrestling with Nacho Libre now gives a cinematic salute to science fiction fans and writer-wannabes with Gentlemen Broncos. It opens Friday, October 30, from FOX Searchlight Pictures.
It’s a strange comedic adventure that captures the spirit of the underdog who rises to the occasion. Gentlemen Broncos comes from the writing-producing team Jared Hess (who also directed) and wife Jerusha Hess who admit they harvest humorous inspiration from their own lives and families.
Their latest story is about a likable oddball Benjamin, played with quiet charm by Michael Angarano. He’s a teenager who fills his lonely home-schooled days by writing sci-fi stories, with hopes of having them published one day. To encourage his gift of imagination, his mother (Jennifer Coolidge) sends him off to “the best writers’ camp in Utah,” which is the chance of a lifetime to meet his idol sci-fi legend Dr. Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement). At that point, his drab life starts taking unexpected turns and his stories come to life from three different points of view.
One of the stars of the film is writer-producer Mike White, who has the crucial role of Dusty, Benjamin’s “guardian angel.” He’s sort of a big brother mentor who is a good person but more than a little weird.
At the studio press day to promote Gentlemen Broncos, White was wearing a T-shirt embossed with “More me, less you.” I was surprised when he told me that he thinks his role in the film is more than a little cheesy. “It’s full on cheese. We embrace the cheese and have fun with the characters,” he proudly said. “I’m not afraid to be weird. I do idiosyncratic dramedies.”
White does a lot of other stuff too, taking time out to compete on the CBS reality-travel show The Amazing Race with his dad Mel. But since Mike enjoys working with Jared and Jerusha Hess, he was happy to find time to collaborate with them on the writing and producer duties for Gentlemen Broncos. Working with the Hesses was fine but for his role as Dusty, Mike also had to work with a giant albino snake, which was a little unsettling at times.
What’s next for White? “I wrote Enlightened, a pilot for HBO that I’m directing in January,” he revealed. “It’s a half-hour show with Laura Dern, about a woman who has a nervous breakdown. She goes and gets help, and has an enlightening experience, and comes back to rebuild all the bridges she burned. And she’s going to fix everything.” White also has a sci-fi conspiracy comedy called Them, a script he wrote with Edgar Wright. And he’s hoping for another School of Rock. He’s written the sequel, and now production depends on Jack Black’s scheduling.
That all sounds like a pretty impressive workload for a fellow who claims he’s not looking to be the ‘King of Comedy’ in Hollywood. “I have a little niche in the business and that’s fine with me. I just want to be able to keep making stuff that I’m into and have the opportunity to challenge myself wearing different hats.” And he’d work with his friends Jared and Jerusha Hess again in a heartbeat. “I just want to work with funny and talented people.” And embrace the cheese!