As exciting as it is, the transition from high school to college can be a rough time. Throw in a breakup that sends your friend group off-balance and all bets are off. This may sound like the setup for a really depressing movie, but that couldn’t be further from the reality of Banana Split, which had its world premiere at LA Film Festival last weekend.
The film, which Hannah Marks (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) co-wrote with Joey Power and Benjamin Kasulke directs, follows high school classmates April, Nick, and Ben – who are a close circle of friends until the summer before college when April and Nick, who have been dating for two years, suddenly break up. As Ben struggles to maintain both friendships, he introduces his childhood friend Clara who begins to date Nick… and covertly becomes best friends with April. The two girls develop an incredible kindred spirit friendship over the course of the summer, with that little complication of Clara dating April’s ex. As you may imagine, the group dynamic gets complicated (to say the least) as they try to navigate their last few weeks together before leaving town.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Marks (who also plays April), as well as Dylan Sprouse (Nick) and Liana Liberato (Clara) ahead of the world premiere to talk all things Banana Split. (Some mild spoilers below!)
You guys are having your world premiere at LA Film Festival, and I know you did some shooting in New York but the film is set in LA. What makes this a distinctly LA story and how are you feeling about the premiere?
Hannah Marks: The movie takes place in LA in the summer, but we shot in Syracuse in the winter – because when you’re an indie film and someone says they’ll make it, you say great and then you figure it out. We did about a week or so of filming in LA afterwards so that way we could get all of our exteriors. I think it’s really cool that we’re playing this festival because it takes place here and we just finished the movie, so it’s exciting for it to be coming out already and to have people see it.
Hannah, as one of the screenwriters, what can you say about your inspirations for the story and what made this one that you had to tell?
Marks: Oh, my high school breakup. I think everyone’s first thing they write is about their first heartbreak or first love, so I just wanted to talk about that and get it out there. Now it’s a movie, and that’s weird because I’m in my twenties now and reliving my high school emotions. But it’s exciting.
So is the friendship between the girls based on a personal experience?
The girls do form such a strong bond even though they kind of expect to hate each other – or at least, April does. What do you think they are drawn to in each other?
Marks: Well, the same guy. [laughs]
Dylan Sprouse: [jokingly] Me!
Liana Liberato: I think they have the same taste, yeah. And also I feel like Clara brings out the fun side in April, and April brings out the more mature side in Clara.
Marks: They’re yin and yang, which is kind of like Liana and I in real life, so it was easy.
Did you (Hannah and Liana) have the same immediate connection when you first met?
Liberato: Oh, can I tell the story?
Marks: If you want to. I’m already expecting to hear this all day.
Liberato: I’m so excited, now I get to put it out in the real world. I met Hannah when I was eight years old. I was on a treadmill and she got on the treadmill next to me.
Marks: Because eight year olds work out on the treadmill.
Sprouse: You guys started early. [laughs]
Liberato: Can’t you tell, Dylan? The gym was fun when we were younger and our parents were at the gym, so I was like, Oh yeah, I’m just gonna walk on the treadmill. Then [Hannah] got on the treadmill and tried to keep up with my long legs, and she flew off the treadmill. And we’ve been friends ever since!
Marks: Yeah, I hit the window behind me.
Liberato: It was great. It was a good time. But yeah, we were that young and we dreamt of doing movies and TV shows and all that stuff. If you had told us back then that we were going to star in movies together, I would not have believed it.
Marks: I still don’t believe it. I’m so excited to see it come full circle.
When you were writing the film, did you plan to act in it as well?
Marks: Yes, definitely. I’m playing myself, pretty much, so I felt it would be annoying to watch someone else do it. At the time, I was so frustrated by the roles I was auditioning for that I just wanted to do my own thing. It was always the plan for me. I didn’t know if it was always going to happen, but I’m really lucky that it did.
Dylan and Liana, what excited you about this movie?
Sprouse: When I read the script, I found it just effortlessly funny. In general, I thought the ensemble and the dialogue between the characters was really natural and good. I remember saying that to you [Hannah], I think, when we talked on Skype. For me, it was an obvious pick. I didn’t realize when I was getting into it how many flashback scenes I was in. [laughs]
Marks: He’s the montage king.
Sprouse: It was a lot of wardrobe changes. But I found that just actually communicating with you guys put me at ease, too. That’s usually at least for me, now, what I like to do in terms of choosing roles and acting with people. If I seem like I’m going to get along with them, I like pursuing it more. It did definitely seem like I was going to get along with you guys, which I know now to be false. [laughs]
Liberato: Here’s a little fun fact. Hannah wrote the script a long time ago obviously, when she was in high school. What drew me to the role was reading with her. When I was like 15, we would do read-throughs of the script when it was called something entirely different and she was just writing. I think it was before you even wanted to make a profession out of it.
Marks: Yeah, Liana was the one that encouraged me to finish writing it because she was like, This is really good. We should do this. It made me feel so good that I just kept sticking with it.
Liberato: We would play April and Clara in my bedroom and read the lines.
Dylan, Nick’s the common denominator between the two girls – but as you said, his role is a lot in flashback and he’s kind of in the dark for most of the movie. How do you see his role in all this?
Sprouse: I think to a large degree, he’s kind of subject to their whims. He’s definitely like a pawn kind of played by you guys at some point or another. But I think he is pretty authentic about his interactions with them. Really, he’s kind of sadly played between the two without knowing it and when he does put his heart out on the line, he’s kind of burned for it a little bit. I think in that way, it’s very honest to how those kind of real interactions happen. In general, I think he’s just washed between the two of them. At the end, when he does have his final moment with his best friend again, it’s again very authentic. You’re departing from each other and you have to come to terms with all of the bad shit that’s happening before you leave to different areas.
Do you think he really was in the dark about who Clara was spending all this time with? How do you think he would have reacted if he had known earlier on?
Sprouse: I mean, he suspects it eventually. But I do think that he’s in the dark for the most part. If he had known earlier on, I don’t know if it would have changed the interaction. I guess that’s really more of a question for Hannah.
Marks: I think you would have left us for Molly.
Sprouse: Fair. Fair point.
Marks: You would have moved on.
The movie seems like it was so much fun to shoot – the party scene near the beginning was a standout for me. Was there a moment or a scene that was a favorite for each of you?
Marks: We had so much fun just at the hotel afterward.
Sprouse: I think it was kind of a rare scenario because it’s not often that you go to work all day with your cast and crew and then you’re like, let’s also hang out all night afterwards in the lobby of the hotel. That doesn’t happen very often.
Marks: I had fun doing that scene with you guys where I’m stuck in the middle of you guys and you’re like eskimo kissing over me.
Sprouse: That was a fun scene.
Marks: That was nerve-wracking how it was going to turn out, but it was fun.
Sprouse: I like the car ride scene too, in the dream.
Liberato: That’s the one I was going to say. That was really fun. I think any of the scenes in which the whole cast was together was the most fun for all of us because we all loved hanging out with each other.
Marks: I liked doing our rap, too. We had to rehearse this wrap called “Bling Bling Bitch.” We had to rehearse it so long to make it look not rehearsed still. We worked on it for forever, and you would think that we didn’t.
Liberato: [I think that was] one of our first days of filming together. I think that the whole cast and crew kind of got a taste of what they were in for for the next month with us. We were psychopaths singing that song. We committed.
Marks: We did.
The music is such a fun part of this movie too, from the rap to “Call Me Maybe.”
Marks: Oh yeah, we got “Call Me Maybe.”
Sprouse: Did you really? That’s awesome.
Do you guys have a guilty pleasure song like that that you’re listening to all the time?
Marks: “Call Me Maybe.”
Liberato: Anything Taylor Swift.
Sprouse: I have a particular soft spot for Ellie Goulding. I don’t know why. I just love her. I’m not too weak to say it. I think she’s wonderful.
Liberato: I agree with that.
Any favorite song in particular?
Sprouse: Don’t make me choose.
Liberato: What’s the one she did for Fifty Shades of Grey? “Love Me Like You Do”? That’s a good song.
Sprouse: Yeah, I like that one too.
Marks: Isn’t there one about lights?
Sprouse: Yeah, “Lights.” [laughs] That’s an early Ellie banger.
For each of you, what do you hope audiences take away from Banana Split?
Marks: Girl power. I think remembering that your friendships are just as important as your relationships and to take care of them and cherish them.
Liberato: Yeah, absolutely. I would agree with that.
Sprouse: Thrice. I also agree with that.
Liberato: Chicks before dicks.
Sprouse: Yeah! Wait, what?
Lastly, what’s next for each of you?
Marks: I have a movie coming out that I co-wrote and directed called After Everything. It comes out October 12. With the same writer as this, Joey Power.
Liberato: I just signed on to this new movie called Hush, Hush which I’m really excited about, and my new Hulu show Light As A Feather comes out October 12.
Marks: It comes out the same day as my thing, so you’ve gotta choose.
Liberato: Well they can go see it in the theater, and at night they can go watch [Hulu].
Sprouse: It’s a win-win. I have a movie that’s currently in post-production that I just got back from. It was a long shoot in China. I doubt it will be done for quite some time – probably mid-next year it will be released. Then just kind of getting back to my New York life now at the meadery. I’m taking some time to myself, speaking English again. So far, how’s it going? Is the English good?
Marks: I can’t believe you spoke Mandarin in that.
Liberato: Yeah, that’s pretty impressive.
Sprouse: I can’t even believe I spoke Mandarin in that. I don’t remember any of it.
Did you learn it for the movie, or did you speak it before?
Sprouse: Learn is not maybe the right word. It was like two days in advance I’d have to learn the lines for every scene. It was mostly just me reciting it. Funny thing though, they’re probably gonna dub me anyway because I don’t speak it that well and the tones are very important there. But they did say that in the American release, would you dub yourself? So there is gonna be one where I’m speaking Chinese but I’m dubbing over my own voice.
Marks: At least when you’re dubbed over there, your mouth is forming the right shapes.
Sprouse: Exactly. But it’s going to look like an old kung-fu movie, which is fun for me.
Stay tuned for our review of Banana Split from LA Film Festival.
Featured Image via Twitter / @bananasplitmov. Additional Imagery courtesy of AMERICAN INDIE.
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