Michael Shannon & Jacob Alexander Interview: Echo Boomers

Echo Boomers, arriving both in theaters and on VOD on November 13, is a crime drama based loosely on a true story. The directorial debut from Seth Savoy follows five college graduates who decide to steal from the rich in Chicago due to the state of the economy.

Jacob Alexander, who plays one of the criminally-minded youth, is helped in his task by Michael Shannon’s more experienced Mel. The actors spoke to Screen Rant about their thoughts on the script and the generational gap between their characters.

Heist movies never seem to go out of style. What do you think is the intrigue behind them, and why does this genre never go stale?

Jacob Alexander: I think people always want to break the rules and get away with it, you know? There’s a romanticism in being a bandit or being a criminal, to a certain extent. I think there is an intrigue to that.

Jacob, since we’re on the subject, Chandler is a war vet who’s had a tough time finding a job. Can you talk to me about how he finds himself in this group?

Jacob Alexander: Chandler was brought in within the story by Oliver Cooper’s character [Stewart]. He’s just another guy who, like you said, can’t find a job and is kind of at the mercy of the system. He figures that this is the best opportunity for him to move forward. They’re kind of blinded by the riches and the success; they don’t really think about the consequences for their actions. And that eventually catches up.

Michael, there’s some interesting generational themes in this film; new generations doing things in a new way. What was it about the film that attracted you?

Michael Shannon: I don’t want to sound patronizing or condescending, but I have a lot of sympathy for this generation of young people that are saddled with debt. They don’t necessarily feel like the generations above them really care all that much about what happens to them or their future, the future of the planet, the future of the economy.

I remember, when I was living in Chicago, going up to the North Shore and seeing all this immense wealth and all these houses with these people who – God knows how they’re making this money. 9 times out of 10, it involves something shady. They’re insulating themselves from the South side of Chicago or the West side of Chicago, or just being able to create these heavenly bunkers to luxuriate in. I just love the idea of these people getting screwing around with, because why not? Maybe that’s what they need.

There’s two types of criminality in the world right now: there’s the criminality that’ll get you thrown into prison, and there’s the criminality that nobody seems to do anything about. It just goes unabated. And the criminality that doesn’t seem to get you in any trouble is the provenance of super ultra rich people, who just seem to be able to screw over whoever they want to screw over and reap the benefits. I think it’s time to see these people suffer in some fashion.

Adding on to that, talk to me about how your character Mel Donnelly fits into the story. And Jacob, how does Chandler feel about Mel?

Michael Shannon: I don’t think Mel is a super happy guy; I don’t think he had a lot of prospects himself. He probably started out as a low-level criminal, and he’s probably reached the ceiling on what he’s capable of, or what his potential is. And he realizes that he has to present himself as a necessary part of the equation in order to stay in business. He’s a bit of a scam artist, in a way. I think the question throughout the film that the kids are asking themselves is, “Do we really need this guy or not?”

I think that’s pretty common in the real world. You see people fabricating these relationships, and you always got to wonder what the ulterior motive is. Do I really need this person, or are they using me? So I think that kind of captures that dynamic and that relationship.

Jacob Alexander: Yeah, I don’t think Chandler’s motive was to go against Mel. I think he had some sort of admiration for him, and he wanted to please Mel – for lack of better words – or do his job adequately.

Jacob, in the script or on the set, what were some of the influences from other films that you noticed?

Jacob Alexander: It kind of has that Robin Hood-esque vibe to it. That was the main crux of what I feel the story is based off of. The script, while we were working on it, was changing on a daily basis. There were a lot of things we had to change because of timing, and just because of production schedule stuff.

But in terms of influence, I definitely have to go with the Robin Hood factor.

Mel brings up the anger of millennials, but how does he feel about the younger generation?

Michael Shannon: I don’t know. He seems pretty cynical about humanity in general. But if you hustle and work hard and bring in a good haul, he’ll be impressed with that. I don’t think he has a lot of patience for people moaning and crying about stuff, but it’s always hard with these generational labels.

It’s kind of like a Chinese horoscope. Is everybody born in the year of the Tiger supposed to act exactly like it says on my placemat right here? Even though we’re all born in 19-whatever, there’s got to be different kinds of people. It’s the same thing with millennials. Just because you’re a millennial doesn’t mean you’re this, that, or the other thing. It’s more the circumstances that you have to deal with – which are pretty daunting, as far as I can tell.

This was Seth Savoy’s feature film directorial debut. Can you talk to me a little bit about his style and perspective behind the camera?

Michael Shannon: I was impressed with him right off the bat. They’d already been shooting a couple of weeks when I came in, and I didn’t really know him at all. But I was impressed with his preparation. It was a huge deal for him; in anybody’s first film, you  know you got something to prove or else they won’t let you do it again. And he rose to the challenge.

He had lots of ideas, and he wasn’t intimidated to talk to me or to let me know how he envisioned things going down. He was solid. It’s really difficult for anybody, let alone a first time director, to be trying to make a movie on this budget and in this amount of time. He had poise, and he was a professional about it.

Jacob Alexander: There was a lot of things involved with that film, especially with littering and breaking things and the scheduling. He really kept it together and had great composure. When you have that, and you’re and the director, it really sets the tone.

Another person that you both have a lot of screen time with is Patrick Schwarzenegger. Can you talk to me about what he brought to the role of Lance that may have not been on the page?

Michael Shannon: I don’t know, he has an inherent dignity about him. He seems like a very decent human being.

Jacob Alexander: Yeah. He’s a great guy, and he kind of spills that out on camera, I believe.

Michael Shannon: Yeah, you really root for him. You’re like, “I don’t want anything bad to happen to this kid. He seems like a decent fellow.”

He took it super seriously and worked hard. I could always tell before a take, he’d be off by himself, getting his thoughts together. And I was impressed with him.

This movie is loosely based on a true story. Did you research the actual events, or did you leave that largely to the script?

Jacob Alexander: I personally left that for the script. I know Jason Miller had a connection to someone that was involved with these guys, but who didn’t participate in any of the criminalities or whatnot.

I had some basic questions, but I felt like everything was pretty straightforward. I just left it in the script, focused on the story, and made sure to tell that story regardless of it being true or not. But it’s cool when you’re working on something that’s based on true events. There’s more merit to it, in a way.

Aside from being director, Seth also helped write Echo Boomers. How did having a writer as your director help inform your character?

Michael Shannon: I’m a big advocate for a cohesive vision that usually comes from a singular point of view. My favorite experiences are working with Jeff Nichols or Ramin Bahrani – people that wrote it, it was their baby, and they saw it all the way through to the end. They know what they want it to be. I’m not a big fan of when something gets made by committee, and there’s too many cooks in the kitchen. That’s when I feel like the work gets muddled.

Because you can have an infinite number of opinions – it should be like this or it should be like that – and at the end of the day, it takes somebody committing to a vision and following through with the vision. Just like a baseball or a golf swing; it’s the same thing, and you’ve got to have follow through. It makes it easier, because as an actor, you’re also dealing with an infinite amount of possibilities.

A lot of times I like to do a bunch of takes – not necessarily because I think one is better or one is worse, but just because they’re all different. I’m like, “How can we know or understand, at this point in time, what this should be for everyone who comes to see the movie?” Because it’s not going to change. This will be it. But a person with that kind of vision can be like, “I thought about it, and I think it should be like this.” Then you can trust that. If you trust the taste and the judgment of that artist, you have to trust that they’ll lead to a cohesive or final result.

Switching gears for a second, Michael, Zack Snyder is getting is chance to finally see his Superman trilogy vision through by revisiting Justice League. Your character and his influence has been felt throughout the film series. Will you be jumping back on board for reshoots to finish off the story?

Michael Shannon: Oh, man, you get the inside scoop. Nobody’s called me about that, that’s all I can say. They made that rubber version of me for Superman Vs. Batman, so maybe they’ll just haul that out and use that.

Jacob Alexander: It’s still floating in the water. Just pull it out and throw it onset.

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