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Interview: Hot Tub Time Machine's Josh Heald

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Photo courtesy MGM.

If you're not familiar with Josh Heald, you've at least no doubt heard those four little words he made so famous: Hot Tub Time Machine. As the writer of the film, the idea for such a wacky, hilarious, throwback ski comedy is all his. LAist was fortunate enough to sit down over some (spilled) coffee with Heald as he talked about getting his project off the ground, working with such a great cast, duping IMDB, and of course that damn title.

LAist: You wrote a piece for Hollywood.com that did a really good job of explaining the genesis of Hot Tub Time Machine. Was that a preemptive strike towards the questions you were bound to hear about how this movie came about?

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Josh Heald: People ask me in every interaction, or say ‘I’d love to be a fly on the wall, and see that pitch meeting go down, they must have all been high’. It was just me wanting to answer those burning questions. I just didn’t want to tell the story 100 times.

LAist: Were you at all worried that the over-the-top title itself would turn some people away?

JH: I knew that the title was always going to be polarizing. You’re either going to look at it and say ‘I can’t wait to see Hot Tub Time Machine’ or you’re going to say it’s the stupidest thing ever. We knew we were encouraging some audience and pushing away some audience, but I like a little bit of any kind of dissonance in the world. I like people not agreeing with me. I like people who still shit on the movie, who haven’t seen it. I like to see people passionate about it in any respect.

LAist: You’ve also said you wrote the script with Rob Corddry in mind...

JH: Not the most commercial of instincts. You have to pick a voice in your head, and Rob was just Lou. There was no other version of Lou. There are other people who could play that role, probably deliver an interesting performance, or a different take on that performance, but I’ve been a Rob fan since The Daily Show. He’s done a lot of movies, and he’s always elevated his characters to a higher standard, and I knew he would hit this one out of the park. I feel like we’ve both made each others’ lives better through this whole process. I told Rob, ‘I wrote this for you’ and he told me as of a week ago ‘I still don’t believe you’. Obviously, his career is going to continue to go in a positive direction after this, and mine is too. Craig (Robinson)’s is as well. I feel like we all have an attitude of thankfulness that a lot of good people came together to do good things.

(on being a big search topic on IMDB these days)...

JH: Actually, I have to tell a funny story. When IMDB started in the late 90’s, some friends and I thought it would be a great idea to send in a bunch of fake movies that didn’t exist to IMDB. So when I first started writing, I had a fake list of credits for movies that just didn’t exist. When I sold my first project and they had to legitimately list it, IMDB created a second Josh Heald, so I had to go to them and say ‘by the way, I may have been a little bit dishonest in the past...none of these movies exist’.

LAist: What do you say to folks who think you’ve had a simple climb to the top?

JH: I lived in the worst apartment for two-and-a-half years. Some people have 10 year stories, I have a two-and-a-half year story. I used to read three scripts a day, it would take me nine hours, forty bucks a script, so I’m just trying to make $120 a day, then I’d go home and write. It was lean times. When I sold my first project I was very gracious, and it was not a lot of money, but you’re just reaching those plateaus. Sell something, sell something else, get something made, get something bigger made, you just keep on climbing that ladder.

LAist: Any final thoughts on Hot Tub Time Machine’s rise to the top?

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JH: Honestly, I’m just thrilled people are embracing the movie, and noticing what we all knew going into it, like Crispin Glover is fucking awesome, or Craig Robinson could headline a movie, all these cool things. I knew I had a weird idea, and I’m glad that it came together in such a grounded way. I’m just curious to see what happens next.