ComingSoon spoke with actor, writer and director BJ Novak about his upcoming mystery film, Revenge. Novak discussed the transition from writing for television to a feature film and which of his past characters he would most like to revisit.
The synopsis describes the film as “a darkly comedic thriller about Ben Manalowitz, a journalist and podcaster who travels from New York City to West Texas to investigate the death of a girl he was in contact with.”
Jonathan Sim: You’ve had a phenomenal career as a writer for television. Was it a challenge for you to go from writing TV episodes to writing a feature film?
BJ Novak: It was definitely a challenge going from TV format to film, but one that I was really excited about. The Office was such a writer’s dream because you had all these characters already established that we could fall in love with. And then the idea of doing something different where we didn’t already know people, we kind of got to meet new characters and explore them within an hour and a half [to] an hour and 40 minutes … it was exciting for me to go to a new place, a new landscape, new hidden sides of people. And it was really about surprise. So for me, I kept a lot of the sense of humor from The Office because that’s the way I write, but explore the Texas world and the podcast. And it was really amazing to do something on that kind of scale.
Vengeance is a film that you not only have to write, but also direct, produce and star in. Did you get any advice from anyone you worked with before taking on this project?
Yes, I got advice from a director of The Office, Randall Einhorn, who told me to direct everyone like you direct an actor. Generally, when you direct an actor, you don’t say, “say the line like this,” you say why you want them to say the line, [and] what the character is thinking of getting into his head. So Randall basically said to me, “direct the cameraman that way,” which I took [as] “manage the costume designer that way, really get everyone’s creativity on the same page.” And it worked. I ended up with something so rich and inspired because all these people were so inspired by their own talent.
Given that you’ve had this long acting career, if you could reprise any of your past roles and bring them back for a movie or show, which character would you want to go with?
Ryan changed so much over the years that I wanted to see what he’s up to now. In a way, the movie opens … the version of me at the beginning of this movie, Vengeance, I hate to say – has a little bit in common with some Ryan that I had left over that I wanted to show as a way showing someone goes in completely new directions. So yeah, I’d love to know what Ryan Howard is up to now.