It isn’t enough to just make a movie that dissects romance from the guy’s perspective. When you make a relationship movie, moviegoers are going to want your real life advice, too. Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller star in That Awkward Moment as Jason, Mikey and Daniel. When Mikey gets hit with a divorce, Jason and Daniel decide to lift his spirits by professing their dedication to the single life. They make a pact to stay unattached and head out ready to indulge in quick flings together. However, that turns out to be easier said than done because Mikey’s still hung up on his ex, Daniel starts to fall for his wing woman, Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), and Jason meets Ellie (Imogen Poots), someone who actually makes him want more out of relationship for the first time in his life. Hit the jump for more.
With That Awkward Moment nearing its January 31st wide release, Efron, Jordan, Teller, Poots and writer-director Tom Gormican sat down for a press conference in New York City where there were questions about inspiration, casting and filming techniques, but loads more digging for information about what the group values in their real life relationships.
Question: When you guys looked at the script and started to work on the characters, were there moments when you hated the character for what he said or did? And where did you draw the line between who you are who your character is?
MICHAEL B. JORDAN: I passed. Numerous times. [Laughs] No, no.
TOM GORMICAN: We had to chase Michael down. We kept calling his agent and passing on his pass.
MILES TELLER: Morris Chestnut wasn’t available, so we went with Michael B. deli.
JORDAN: No, I guess with my character, I asked [Tom] so many times to change the name. I did not wanna be Mikey. It was just too close, it was too close! But being the guy that tried to make it work, you know, being in a relationship. Being the guy that really wants to make a relationship work even though they’re not in love anymore. Sometimes you grow out of love, you know. People grow apart and that was what Mikey represented, the character that really just wanted to make it work, but just couldn’t.
Were there moments when you wanted to slap him and say, “Hey?”
JORDAN: A little bit. That’s when the inner me kind of came out. ‘Listen, you’ll be fine, okay? Get back in the game, get back in the game. Be around your friends.’
TELLER: What is the game? Michael B., what is the game that you so wanted to get back into?
JORDAN: I wanted to go out there and just drink with my buddies and have a good time, and check boxes.
TELLER: Mike’s the most unlike his character, I can tell you that. Because I’m so used to seeing Mike just 100% in control of his feelings and the girls are always, ‘Where we goin’, Mike? What’s next?’ And so to see him as this character whose feelings are really in the palm of her hand was fun for me to watch.
And for your character?
TELLER: And then for me, when I met Tom, a part of Daniel we kind of expanded and we kind of worked on, but for me, once I met Mackenzie [Davis], we just had a lot of fun and she’s very playful. I feel like so is Daniel, so is Miles. But she was just a lot of fun to work with. In the movie she starts out as my friend so I guess for me, the most important thing was just kind of hanging out with her and getting to know her and making it real.
ZAC EFRON: You know, what I liked the most about Jason is that he’s honest, you know? He tries to be honest. That’s something I’ve always believed in from day one in relationships. Honesty is most important, and it’s difficult, especially in scenarios like in this movie when you’re young and single and sort of figuring out your own life, but I think that as a guy …
[Imogen Poots arrives.]
IMOGEN POOTS: I’m sorry I’m late. It was so snowy!
EFRON: Finally! We’re complete!
GORMICAN: This is what happens in the movie; she comes in and destroys the whole thing. [Laughs]
EFRON: So yeah, I think that’s why guys can relate to this movie. We walk a careful balance between really being good guys deep down and caring and sort of waking up the next day and feeling sort of guilty for our commitment issues, but at the same time, we have to live our lives. This is the first look really into what I think it’s like to be a guy dating at our sort of age and what it’s like to be out there, and sometimes it takes your best friends to get through it.
GORMICAN: You should wanna slap his character for most of the movie. That’s the thing.
EFRON: I wanna slap myself most of that movie.
GORMICAN: But, you know, you should also hope that he gets his comeuppance, and I think he does.
EFRON: And he learns a lesson at the end.
Are there any guidelines you can offer about relationships and how to avoid certain things?
TELLER: I mean, for me, once I’ve spent enough time with somebody to know that we’re not compatible, I’m very good at just cutting it off. I truly believe that life’s too short to spend it in a bad relationship, and that includes friendships. If you’re really not getting anything out of it and it’s kind of one-sided, just who cares? Because at the end of the day, it’s hard to keep relationships with people. I’ve got my family, my best friends and if a girl’s gonna be a part of that then it’s got to be good. If not, I’m out.
JORDAN: It’s easier said than done. Sometimes with matters of the heart, when your emotions get involved, you know …
EFRON: I think I can help you out, Mike. I think it’s tough to sort of do what we do, be actors and constantly move around. We’re on an adventure here and it has a lot of different twists and turns that we don’t expect. I don’t want to commit to being in a relationship that I can’t be 100% there for that person all the time. So it’s difficult, it’s difficult.
POOTS: I think one of the things about having a group of friends, too, is they really – I think what the movie kind of shows you is your friends don’t necessarily dictate the sort of person you fall for, especially with Jason’s friends and stuff. He tends to maybe fall for the same kind of girl every time and I think that’s very true whatever you are. You really can’t refuse who you fall for and you reach this point where your friends can’t combat that.
You find yourself in some precarious situations, often without clothes on.
TELLER: I apologize for my nakedness in the movie.
Question: No need.
TELLER: I know, but I just want to publically say that I’m sorry to each and every one of you for that.
But that has to be challenging so how do you guys attack that?
GORMICAN: That’s my fault by the way. I forgot to tell Miles to work out.
TELLER: I’m an actor. I’m not an in-shape person, athlete. Well, no, you read it in the script; it says, ‘Daniel planks the toilet,’ and so I show up and I didn’t know how naked I was gonna be. I was on antibiotics. I felt pretty disgusting and bloated and fat, and then I get to the bathroom and it’s just a very small bathroom, so I literally was like, ‘I don’t think I’m gonna fit.’ Tom was like, ‘You’ll fit, you’ll fit.’
EFRON: All I could think was, in real life, I wouldn’t use that technique. I think there’s other ways around it. Actually it was a weird day of filming because his was too small …
TELLER: Mine was touchin’ the water.
JORDAN: How deep is that toilet?
EFRON: Well, yours was too small. At least there was no one in it. Mine was an elevated toilet in the middle of a room, it was built for this reason, so literally it was a room full of people this big. That was really awkward.
GORMICAN: In Zac’s defense, he is game for absolutely anything and it’s very difficult for him to take things off because he’s terrible looking. It’s really embarrassing.
EFRON: No, it was a funny scene and – I was gonna say I’ve been there, but I just shouldn’t have said that. [Laughs]
Tom, what was your inspiration for putting this film together and does any of it resonate in your own life?
GORMICAN: Just the toilet scene, really. You start with that and the movie sort of writes itself. [Laughs] I wanted to see, if I could, see a revitalization of the romantic comedy genre because it’s one of my favorites and I think it’s used in the pejorative now. I also wanted to put a different spin on it and have the movie take place from a guy’s perspective because I felt like that’s something that we haven’t seen before and so you create a sort of unpredictable movie from the guy’s perspective and I think both girls want to see that peek behind the curtain and for guys, my hope was that they would actually see something from their own lives and their relationships in it.
Jumping back on the naked train over here …
TELLER: Jump on!
You guys have shown a lot of skin in a lot of things you’ve done, but is there anything you’re not willing to do? Maybe if you haven’t shown your butt before?
JORDAN: You talking to me?
TELLER: I think she wants to see that butt.
EFRON: Show her! Show her right now! [Laughs]
GORMICAN: [Laughs] It feels like the room is upset that they didn’t get to see Michael.
JORDAN: I think it depends on the scene. I don’t care. I’m pretty comfortable with my [body]. I don’t mind. There’s a scene, switching films, in Fruitvale where he was going through getting searched and stuff like that, and Ryan [Coogler] was like, ‘Well, do you feel comfortable?’ I was like, ‘You know, it’s real.’ He would have been naked and he would have been searched so I opted to go full nude and I did and it worked out perfect. So, I mean, if Tom asked me to, I probably would have. [Turns to Tom.] I’m mad you didn’t ask me.
EFRON: If there’s a specific reason for it, if there’s motivation behind it, if it’s authentic and helps the story and is necessary then absolutely. There’s nothing I wouldn’t try.
TELLER: I just need a heads up. I just need like a couple months, a couple weeks.
GORMICAN: Miles just needs to know there’s a camera somewhere near him and he’ll do absolutely anything.
Imogen, any thoughts on that?
POOTS: Well yeah, there’s no Imogen butt in this movie. It was nice in a way. All the guys are planking – I don’t even think planking applies. Can you plank if you’re a girl? Can you still do that?
EFRON: Actually, you can. We can show you.
POOTS: Thanks, guys. Maybe later we’ll plank together. You know, for me, it was kind of interesting to read the script that was fundamentally romantic and I really didn’t need to get scantily clad. That was cool, but at the same time, if something’s necessary and important then I think it’s cool to be comfortable and go for it. But I think all of that comes from a director and I think looking at the boys and what they did in the movie, they have such a terrific relationship with Tom that you can see why everything like that seems so straightforward and understandable.
TELLER: I’m just so glad you’re a part of this press conference, Imogen. It’s just been me, Zac and Mike. It’s so nice to hear your voice.
For the actors, the movie is called That Awkward Moment; can you talk about your most awkward moment? And for Tom, can you talk a little about casting the four of them?
TELLER: Buy us some time.
GORMICAN: I’ll sort of start. I mean, the casting in the movie was, for me, these were the three guys and I chased them down and chased them down until I was able to get them to say yes. They seemed to be the perfect guys and I think one of the things that’s important about a movie where there are guys in their 20s making often times terrible decisions and things that may not make you like them is that they A, need to be incredibly likable as real people and not just as actors that embody these roles, and they have to be people that you would see and would actually be friends in real life and I think they became just that during the movie. And not in that fake way people talk about, ‘The actors are great friends!’ They actually became very close friends and that sort of thing shows up on screen. So that was sort of my process in figuring out who we could put together and I think we did the best job possible of finding guys that worked for these roles. And Imogen was the perfect casting for this role because I wanted someone that in real life …
POOTS: Was really awkward.
GORMICAN: [Laughs] … was incredibly awkward, but someone that might surprise you or surprise someone like Zac’s character. She’s not the obvious choice for someone like Zac and I thought the moment where a guy, like Zac, lets someone like Imogen get away, that’s when he realizes he needs to make a few changes in his life. She perfectly embodied that for me.
EFRON: That was one of my favorite moments in the movie as we sort of figured out Jason. The moment when a guy like Jason finds that girl that something’s just different about her, that awkward moment of, for the first time, he’s flustered. He’s never had this feeling before. He doesn’t quite know what it is and he’s caught off guard. That moment of authenticity, that awkward moment of a guy who’s so smooth and handles himself so well meets somebody he has no tricks for. For the first time, he’s forced to be authentic.
[Teller picks up a drink stirrer on the table.]
TELLER: I just noticed these are penises.
JORDAN: They are.
JORDAN: Cock-tail! [Laughs]
Does anyone want to talk about their awkward moment?
TELLER: When I was like 10 …
JORDAN: We were hoping you’d [have one].
TELLER: When I was 10, me and my sister were trying to come up with a game to play and we had a basketball and a baseball bat so we said we’ll play BASEketball. It was a rubber basketball and I hit the basketball and I knocked myself out with the bat. And that wasn’t that awkward, but what was awkward was, I had a huge lump on my head and I gave myself a concussion, people saying, ‘What? Where’ve you been?’
JORDAN: Knocked myself out!
TELLER: Yeah, I knocked myself out with a baseball bat.
GORMICAN: Super awkward when he was taken away by Child Services. [Laughs]
This question is for Zac. You have such an amazing performance. It’s honest, it’s funny and it’s relatable and also, I just wanted to ask, as a human being, you’re also very relatable and you successfully overcame some tough times last year and I wanted to ask you, what are some of the good things that came out of that? How is your life better? You look so happy.
EFRON: Thank you. I appreciate the compliment from a man. Awesome. I’m so happy. I feel like I’m in a great place and I’m glad that I’m really here to share this moment with everybody and be present for all of it because, you know, it was an interesting year. I learned so many things, so much, but the best part of it was being able to reflect upon this experience and realize how much I had learned about myself and the kind of man I want to be. This movie and these guys and coming back to it, coming to New York and just being here in this moment, I don’t know, that kind of exemplifies it. That’s what it’s all about. I’m so happy to be here and I couldn’t be happier. I’m in a great place. But thank you for that compliment.
In the movie you have “the so,” but is there anything else you can offer from the guy’s perspective that people should avoid saying or doing?
Is there anything else stereotypically discussed by guys?
TELLER: You can see it in their eyes, I think. Some girls have crazy eyes. You can spot that! So just look at her eyes for a second and you’ll see what’s going on.
POOTS: I guess now, too, I feel like there are a lot of excuses. I feel like people can hide behind technology and you never actually confront it face to face. Maybe even “the so” thing, maybe all people sitting down and talking about stuff, maybe those tools sort of grew dated. People can just stop answering your calls. Maybe they do that anyway, [or] not all the time.
GORMICAN: And I think the guys would agree about this, this sort of theme that the movie relies upon and the thing that happens is basically, you realize that being there for somebody when they need you and it’s difficult is what relationships are, and they sort of lean on each other and end up being there for each other, and I think you can extrapolate from their real lives that they do it in real life as well.
EFRON: Just to offer a different point of view, that example, “the so,” that’s not a rule by any means. I don’t think there are any rules in real face-to-face relationships or interactions. I think authenticity and being yourself is always, without a doubt, the best plan of action. Things happen differently when you’re actually here, so you can’t put out a general guideline that’s gonna show up in text and be interpreted. There are no rules, just be yourself.
TELLER: Break all the rules. I don’t trust a girl that doesn’t eat. I find that a little sketchy.
GORMICAN: So he’s moving out of Los Angeles.
What are the basic elements that turn a romantic comedy into a classic and what are some films you’d love to see this movie double featured with?
GORMICAN: That’s interesting. It puts me in an awkward position of having to name classic movies that maybe I shouldn’t be putting myself next to.
GORMICAN: [Laughs] I’m good at writing it down and have you saying it, actually. I think there’s a through line of movies from the Eric Rohmer movies, which I loved like Chloe in the Afternoon to Woody Allen stuff, Manhattan and Annie Hall to all the Working Title movies of the early 90s from Four Weddings and a Funeral all the way to About a Boy, one of my favorites. I don’t know if they’re technically classified as romantic comedies, but those are particular movies that I love and I would love to be put in the same theater as, if not the same category.
TELLER: What’s the double bill? This and what if you could match it up?
GORMICAN: Um, Braveheart? [Laughs] Or Blue Valentine.
What about the basic elements that turn a romantic comedy into a classic?
GORMICAN: One of them is casting, certainly. If there’s no immediate chemistry with the co-stars, the movie falls apart regardless of the story. The other timeless quality, one thing I would say is put it in New York and the second thing I would say is the specificity and getting very, very specific about things in relationships sort of creates a universality, and I think that’s something you should strive for and I certainly strive for. Whether you achieved that or not is up to you guys.
EFRON: And Tom’s life is just one giant romantic comedy.
GORMICAN: That would be my other thing is base whatever you’re writing on my life.
One of my favorite parts was Michael’s line about Morris Chestnut and my second favorite part was no one knew who Morris Chestnut was.
TELLER: Which is a real thing! I had no idea.
Can you tell me how that came about? Was it improvised?
GORMICAN: First of all, you needed somebody who Michael B. Jordan’s wife would plausibly cheat on him with, and Morris Chesnutt is very cool. [Laughs] It’s also kind of funny, so we put him in there. Originally in the original, original draft of the script it was Art Garfunkel. [Laughs]
JORDAN: It had to go.
GORMICAN: Michael was adamant about that going so we chose Morris because we’re all big fans of his work. He had a tremendous year by the way, too. I’d like to think that we had everything to do with that.
JORDAN: I think Tom just wanted to see me get into a fight with Morris Chestnut. [Laughs]
GORMICAN: I remember asking [Mike] that question specifically, who would win in a fight between you and Morris Chesnutt? And I’m not gonna tell you what he said … but it was Morris Chesnutt
Zac, in what ways do you relate to your character and, if you wouldn’t mind, can you answer the earlier question about your most awkward moment?
EFRON: I mean, in what ways don’t I relate to my character? I loved him a lot. I feel like at the core of it, he’s a good person that’s kind of getting through finding love and that’s really what I’m doing right now in my life. I can relate to it a lot, to him a lot, to this story a lot and I knew the second I talked to Tom the first time that we met …
GORMICAN: The idea of someone trying to figure out what a relationship really is appealed to Zac. As people approach their late 20s, that’s what he found interesting about it.
EFRON: Also, what Tom said about being there for somebody when they needed you. That’s really what a friendship is. Those are all things that I’m learning and I was excited to be a part of Jason and be on that journey with him. It took me there. This was one of my favorite things I’ve ever been able to do and I feel blessed. My most awkward moment was probably this year when I slipped and hit my face on a fountain in my house. The cool part of that is there is a fountain in my house. [Laughs]
Like a birdbath fountain?
EFRON: Like a birdbath fountain? It’s a fountain that sprays water and trickles down.
Is it outside?
GORMICAN: Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, and Imogen are looking forward to the moment when they can have a fountain.
TELLER: Yeah, I live in a duplex with my two buddies from high school.
EFRON: Yeah, but I guess if you leave your fountain on and then leave the house for a week, which you’re not supposed to do, it splashes and gets water on the floor. So I’m a klutz and yeah, I slipped and smashed my face onto it and it was very awkward! What’s more awkward is telling everyone about it.
Imogen mentioned you all get along so well, so how was it on set? Were you guys getting into a lot of mischief?
GORMICAN: They had the best time of their entire lives. If you guys don’t mind …
EFRON: Take it away, Tom.
GORMICAN: [They said] I was the most prepared and emotionally in-touch director. That’s what they e-mailed me a lot. I can forward that to you guys.
TELLER: Like you said, we had a lot of fun, but at the same time, we were on a really tight schedule. This was an independent film, fully. We made this thing in 25 days so it’s pretty tough and I think when you see the movie it looks like we had twice as many days. It really looks like a big studio comedy, but it wasn’t. This was pretty much independently financed. And it’s tough with comedy. You do have a bunch of guys, we want to ad-lib, we want to do this and that, but at the end of the day, you gotta just start going through pages.
EFRON: This was the first film that I was actually a producer on, so I was able to actually help facilitate who was in the film. I got to meet these guys and I felt like I was instrumental in putting it together, so I took a lot of pride in how this film was made. From the ground up, movies are not just made by actors, directors or photographers. There’s a lot of grips, there’s a whole crew. It is a massive undertaking, making a film. This was gorilla film making in every sense. We were out in the freezing cold, we had a very low budget, Tom specifically being a first-time director, and all these guys hung in there under pretty extraordinary circumstances and stuck with it. And yeah, we did have fun, but I think at the end of the day, we’re really just proud of what we did, proud of everyone.
TELLER: I’m pretty sure Imogen filmed outside in a dress during the coldest days. The coldest days we filmed, it was always Imogen outside, freezing!
EFRON: And the best part of that was that she would hold onto me for warmth.
POOTS: Every time. But also I think what was so cool about it is I really felt part of something. And I don’t even mean an ensemble in that sense, but part of something. With all due respect to Tom, you had constructed this world and it just felt so relevant and as much as you can talk about the movies that you love or romantic movies that you adore, this is a film that happened right now and it felt really special to be part of it. And also, if you’d said to me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be with these three guys or four guys for however many weeks,’ the idea was great, but maybe wouldn’t have been thrilling, but then it turned out to be absolutely wonderful, and we all had so much fun and I just found Tom an amazing director. I really did. Being one of the only girls in the movie and having his presence there, I never in any way felt over-testosteroned, you know what I mean?
TELLER: Even around me?
POOTS: In fact, least around you, Miles. [Laughs]
TELLER: Okay. Copy that.
JORDAN: I think the chemistry that you were talking about came from us spending time together. Me, Zac, Imogen and Tom, we took a trip up to the Adirondacks, the mountains in upstate New York. We had a good time, ate, went on nature walks, did the whole bonding experience, but that really paid dividends to the project. It really came through during filming and afterwards, we’re good friends, we hung out and go to games, charades, Xbox, you know, regular friendship.
Do you guys have any friendship rules that you follow when dating or just in general?
JORDAN: One of the funniest things about the films is we have all these expectations. We try to have normal relationships and encounters with people. There’s no set rules that we go by. Just because we did a film that has some awkward moments that we highlight doesn’t mean that we live our lives dedicated to those things. You try to be honest. You look for real moments. I think when you first meet somebody that you put the best foot forward most of the time and as you get to know somebody through texts or phone conversations or dates or whatever, that really inner person starts to come out and then you just use your best judgment, honestly. I think if you’re a good person, that comes through. If you’re not, then that’ll come through. And that’s just how you’ve gotta live life, period, whether it’s a friendship or a relationship.
TELLER: For me, as far as friendship goes, I think you truly get out of it, what you put into it. Like I said, relationships are hard and most of my friends I’ve known since I was 14, they all live in Florida. I make a point to try and talk to them on the phone at least once a week because even though I can see them in a year and nothing really goes by, you’ve gotta put some hours in.
Imogen, since this movie is about the guy’s perspective, I’m interested in hearing yours. What are some of the rules you think you should follow as the new girl trying to fit in with this group of longtime friends?
POOTS: Well first of all, actually, just to touch on a point, I actually thought what was so cool about Ellie through Tom’s writing was he created a character that I never felt was responsive purely to the guys. In a lot of ways I actually felt her perspective was thoroughly explored. And additionally, the thing that I found so intriguing and excited about playing her was she never actually attempted to conform to anything. She never intentionally tried to be part of his friends or anything. She was doing her own thing and, in fact, it actually took them coming around to the idea of her that made it all gel together so great. And so I think that was what I found exciting about it because the concept of this movie could sound very one-sided and actually I didn’t find it that way at all.
EFRON: That was because of you.
POOTS: Well, thank you. [Laughs] I think as well, when you date somebody, a lot of the time, their friends come with them.
JORDAN: Part of the package.
POOTS: Yeah, it’s part of somebody’s identity and you have to have an open mind. If their friends are complete assholes then that may be a bit of a challenge.
EFRON: I think it’s a conflicting role and I think you found the beauty in it. You found that silver lining in there and that’s what was so cool. I had some of my favorite scenes with you.
GORMICAN: People are asking about rules a lot and rules in relationships and one of the things that the movie does is say that there are no rules. You either show up for someone when they need you or you don’t, and that determines whether you’re in a relationship or not. Whether you’re dating on Facebook or you’re dating on this or that or whatever the other signals and rules and things that you adhere to are, the movie says those are all not things you should rely on, and so I think that’s what we tried to do.
For me it would have been a deal breaker not to show up at a funeral. That was a big thing. What are deal breakers for you guys?
JORDAN: But they just met. They just met! Is that really a deal breaking?
TELLER: I actually had that exact same situation.
JORDAN: They just met!
GORMICAN: The guys are still rationalizing this one. They clearly learned nothing. [Laughs] Michael’s still mad about it.
TELLER: Sleep with Michael B. Jordan. That is a huge deal breaker for me.
EFRON: If I’ve known a person for that long and I’m still figuring out who they are and every moment from then until now is authentic, there’s no such thing as a deal breaker. You don’t know what that person’s going through. I’m not a person that lives with deal breakers in my life.
POOTS: And also when someone’s really boring is a deal breaker for me.
EFRON: If the deal breaker was that they didn’t show up to a funeral, you’ve got your own issues I think before then. It’s a bad sign.
And Michael and Miles?
TELLER: I said mine. I’m not sure if you heard my in the cheap seats, but sleep with Michael B. Jordan is my deal breaker.
TELLER: Because everybody has slept with Michael B. Jordan. [Laughs]
JORDAN: Don’t listen to these guys! I am not that guy at all! A deal breaker? I’m trying to figure out how you guys will judge me after I answer this.
GORMICAN: Just admit to them that you have no deal breakers.
JORDAN: I think … man …
TELLER: [Laughs] Phrase it, think about it!
JORDAN: I’ll think of something and I’ll give it to you later.