Nikole Gunn talks with David Wain & Michael Showalter ahead of the premiere of Wet Hot American Summer
14 years ago, a movie appeared at the cinemas and quickly disappeared from screens – a resounding flop. That movie was “Wet Hot American Summer” and was chock full of ‘big names’ before they made it big: Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon and Paul Rudd.
Set in 1981, the comedy flick about counsellors on their last day at summer camp quickly became a cult favourite with a very loyal following. It gave its creators David Wain and Michael Showalter hope that one day there would be a sequel.
That day has come, but on the small screen as an 8-episode Netflix series, subtitled “First Day at Camp”.
It’s more a prequel than a sequel and goes back in time to their arrival at Camp Firewood. Where the actors were 10-years too old to play sex-obsessed and inexperienced teens in the original 2001 movie, now they’re 20-years too old and the joke still works.
But Wain and Showalter acknowledge that it could never have been made without the backing of Netflix, despite it’s now famous cast more than willing to go back to camp.
“We started thinking about it originally as a feature film follow up, but we had so much more material than we could fit into a movie. There are so many characters and storylines. The Netflix series, in some ways, is the best of both movies and TVs” says David.
Netflix is the perfect vehicle for the story that Wain and Showalter had to tell. Netflix was quick to jump onboard and gave them the creative room to move to develop the project.
“We kind of pitched them the idea and told them that our cast wanted to do it again. From that first meeting, they were excited about it,” says Michael.
The stellar cast lifts what could have been a cheesy remake of a box office dud. These are players with ‘serious’ star power, who could be forgiven for being too busy to go back to camp.
“Even before we put pen to paper, we contacted every member of the original cast and asked if they were interested in doing this kind of thing. Amazingly and wonderfully, they all said yes in a big way. The rest was just scheduling and logistics,” says David.
“After we got Netflix on board, we simply set a shoot period and told everyone ‘whether you’re busy or not, just tell us when you can come and we’ll figure it out’. That’s what we did”.
Actors like Man Men’s John Hamm compliment the original cast line-up. Wain and Showalter relishing the opportunity to take them out of their comfort zone.
Says David, “It was a really, really fun experience bringing in actors,who haven’t had the chance to do this type of comedy before; where they get to be a little silly and less serious”.
Australia doesn’t have the summer camp culture as they do in the ‘States. However, that doesn’t detract from the series. The humour is satirical, a little rude; laugh out loud and at times very subtle and unexpected.
Netflix, Wain and Showalter have been a little cagey on the possibility of a second series, perhaps waiting for the premiere before making an announcement. It deserves a second series. And a third. And maybe a fourth. Time will tell whether the TV series is more successful than it’s big screen predecessor.
All eight episodes of Wet Hot American Summer will premiere on Friday, July 31 at 5:00pm AEST exclusively on Netflix Australia