Unlimited perspectives

Keith Behrman on Giant Little Ones

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Out to lunch with Giant Little Ones - Darren Mann, Josh Wiggins, Kyle MacLachlan, and Keith Behrman
Out to lunch with Giant Little Ones - Darren Mann, Josh Wiggins, Kyle MacLachlan, and Keith Behrman Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

In Keith Behrman's intimate and universal Giant Little Ones, which will open the Canada Now festival in London, Ray Winter (Kyle MacLachlan) is divorced from Carly (Maria Bello), the mother of their son Franky (Josh Wiggins), whose life at high school and the relationship with his childhood pal Ballas (Darren Mann) is growing more and more complicated. Taylor Hickson plays Natasha, Ballas's sister and Kiana Madeira is Jess, his girlfriend. Niamh Wilson as Mouse lends an ear to Franky and is always available to offer advice to the young man who is trying his best to find a way back in. Ray is living an openly gay life with his partner and does his best against all odds to reconnect with his estranged son.

Over lunch with Kyle MacLachlan, Josh Wiggins, and Darren Mann, the director spoke about how personal the story is for him and how the screenplay evolved.

Keith Behrman: "I think that a movie has an opportunity to say things to the audience that they sometimes really need to hear."
Keith Behrman: "I think that a movie has an opportunity to say things to the audience that they sometimes really need to hear." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: Hair is important in your film. Shaving hair, playing with hair.

Keith Behrman: That's true.

AKT: It's almost as important as flare guns and bikes.

KB: All the precision hair droppings. If you look closely you can see that the hair is actually falling too far from his head. But hair, yeah, there are so many ways that we express ourselves, so many ways that we identify ourselves. And I think hair is one of them. In the film, the fact that he [Franky] shaves his hair, the significance of that is that, as Josh says, it's about a whole new phase of his life. It's almost like a sign that a metamorphosis is happening.

[Making Giant Little Ones] I was at a point in my life where I wanted to address my life-long frustration with models of masculinity and all the binary expressions of sexuality and all the limiting beliefs and thoughts that I grew up with. All the very limiting perspectives about who we are in this world and who we can be. All of that evolved and slowly found a voice in this film.

AKT: You created such a wonderful father figure [Ray played by Kyle MacLachlan]. It's so nice and profound when he says to his son "I am proud of you." It's such a beautiful non-exaggerated scene. It's the casualness and the care.

KB: Kyle obviously did an amazing job on that. Kyle exudes that sense of care and compassion. I was talking to someone about that yesterday and I realised that in every single film I made, including my shorts, there's always a scene where the father tells a son, you know, "You're alright and I love you."

Keith Behrman on Josh Wiggins' character Franky in Giant Little Ones: "The slushy scene, that scene was meant to be a surprise and a shock."
Keith Behrman on Josh Wiggins' character Franky in Giant Little Ones: "The slushy scene, that scene was meant to be a surprise and a shock." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

And those two lines of him saying after he says "Don't worry about what to call your sexuality." And then he adds "And you're a good young man, I'm proud to be your father." I was writing that scene and I thought, okay, I'm done. And then, "Oh, these two more lines I got to get in there. How about "I'm proud to be your father"? Here we go again!

I think that a movie has an opportunity to say things to the audience that they sometimes really need to hear. I think that's one of them. I think most people, and in this case, a lot of men, but I think everyone, needs to hear, or wanted to hear just a real, clear expression from their parents of love and approval of who they are.

AKT: I believe it's rare that parents just say "I'm proud of you" like that.

KB: "And you're okay." Yeah.

AKT: "As you are." As subtle as the film is, there are certain moments where everything explodes into quite violent scenes. The beating up, the throwing of the drink at the windshield. It's as if it's pulled into the extreme for a second and then it goes back. Is that something you were doing?

KB: Intentionally? The slushy scene, that scene was meant to be a surprise and a shock. It was meant to be a surprise and a shock firstly to Franky. So when he sees Ballas suddenly become this violent in a split second, It's kind of a bit shocking to Franky. He hasn't really seen that side of him before.

Keith Behrman on Darren Mann's character in Giant Little Ones: "It's incredibly painful for Ballas to be doing it."
Keith Behrman on Darren Mann's character in Giant Little Ones: "It's incredibly painful for Ballas to be doing it." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

I think then by extension it's probably shocking for the audience. And then at the end, I think the ending is a bit shocking too, I think it's painful and shocking because we know how much they actually love each other.

AKT: Yes.

KB: You know, how close they are. And we know as painful it is for Franky, It's incredibly painful for Ballas to be doing it. I think that's shocking aside from the actual physical violence, too.

AKT: You always wanted the flare gun?

KB: That was early, yeah. I had the idea early to have the flare gun. I don't know where these things come from, it's not conscious. But in hindsight, I think the flare gun is interesting. They use it as a celebratory thing. When they first use it, it's this beautiful light that they create together as part of a celebration.

And it's this heightened peak moment for them. But a flare gun is also something you use when you're in distress, something people use in case of en emergency. So the fact that it has those two meanings in the film, I found an interesting combination for the story.

Giant Little Ones poster in New York
Giant Little Ones poster in New York Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: Isn't it a lot of alcohol that Natasha pours into that slushy drink?

KB: Yeah.

AKT: It's a lot. Wouldn't she be completely out of it, totally intoxicated?

KB: You know, these are Canadian kids. And Canadians know how to handle their alcohol. They might have been drunker than they appear in the film. And Kyle sacrificed for his art drinking some pretty horrible wine. It was some bad cheap wine that the prop person bought.

Giant Little Ones is in cinemas in the US.

Read what Kyle MacLachlan had to say ?on? being a father in Giant Little Ones, high school, Cary Grant, Stanley Donen, and Pursued by Bear.

Canada Now in London runs from April 24 throughout April 28. On May 1 the films will tour the UK.

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