Writer, director, producer and actor Mike White is known for his rather eclectic dramedies, such as Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, School of Rock, Nacho Libre and Year of the Dog, which is totally fine with him. Not looking to be a producer or director for hire, he enjoys working with his friends, like Jared and Jerusha Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) on their latest film, Gentlemen Broncos, about a lovable underdog (played by Michael Angarano) whose passion for writing science-fiction novels is turned upside down when his idol, the celebrated fantasy author Dr. Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), steals his story at a writers camp.
At the press day for the film, Mike White gave some updates on what he’s currently working on, including the HBO pilot Enlightened, headed into production in January 2010, as well as the status of Them (with Edgar Wright) and School of Rock 2. Look for what he said on “Gentlemen Broncos” very soon.
Mike: I’d like to go back on The Amazing Race. I’d drop it all to go back on the show. But, I wrote a pilot for HBO that I’m directing, and that’s what I’m doing next.
What is the pilot about?
Mike: It’s a half-hour show with Laura Dern. It’s about a woman who has a nervous breakdown, and she goes and gets “help.” While she’s away, she has an enlightened experience and she comes back to build all the bridges she’s burned, and she’s going to fix everything.
When does that go into production?
Mike: We’re shooting in January.
What is the status of Them? Is that still happening?
Mike: Edgar Wright and I worked on the script for Them. It’s an adaptation of a Jon Ronson book. It’s not a remake of the ant movie. It’s a sci-fi conspiracy comedy. Edgar went and made this other movie, Scott Pilgrim, and now he’s finishing editing, so the conversation will happen about whether he’ll do that, or we’ll find another director. I don’t know. But, the script is written.
Is there any possibility of a School of Rock 2?
Mike: The script was written for that, too. It’s just about scheduling, Jack [Black], studios, deals and money. It’s out of my hands.
Would Richard Linklater come back?
Mike: He’s in talks to come back, yeah.
Is there something you’d like to try, that you haven’t done yet?
Mike: I have a little niche place in the business, and that’s fine with me. I’m not looking to be the King of Comedy, or the King of Hollywood. I just want to be able to keep making stuff that I’m into and have the opportunity to challenge myself with, wearing different hats.
I have no complaints. I do what I do because that’s what I like. I may be pigeonholed, in a certain way, but that’s probably accurate. I do idiosyncratic dramedies. Sometimes they’re bigger like School of Rock, and sometimes they’re smaller. If I wanted to go make a slasher movie, people would probably be like, “I don’t know if that’s really for you.” But, I don’t think I would ever ask to do that, so it’s okay.
Is there anyone specific you’d like to work with?
Mike: There’s just a lot of funny and talented people that I haven’t worked with yet, but none come to mind. A lot of times, you meet people like the Hess’, Jack Black, Laura Dern or Molly Shannon, who are different people that I’ve worked with more than once, and you become friends and that’s who you want to work with. You want to work with people who you like and have an easy rapport with. Some of the fancier people are often more trouble than they’re worth.
What’s the most difficult aspect of producing?
Mike: It’s hard to describe. It’s just a catch-all of many things. But, the hardest part on this job was looking like Dusty on the set and being taken seriously, as a producer. They’d look at me like I was insane.
Will you do more acting?
Mike: Yeah, it’s fun to act. As a director or writer, you have to be so controlling. As an actor, it’s better to just be more loose and give yourself over. That’s always fun. It’s fun to just let go and be somebody else. But, I don’t go out on auditions or pound the pavement trying to do more of that. When it comes up and people ask me to do it, I’ll do it.
Do you hope to work on a major project at all?
Mike: I’m not really a director or producer for hire. There’s lots of big gigs out there, but I’m not looking to do that. Usually, when I’m directing or producing, I’ve written it myself. In this case, I didn’t write it, but a good friend of mine did, so that’s how I got onto the project. I’m not really out there, trying to get on some big horse that’s running through town. I just make my own stuff.