B.J. Novak Interview: Revenge


B.J. Novak has always been a multi-faceted talent, but this fact has never been so obvious as in his feature film “Revenge”, which is released in theaters on July 29. a New Yorker who is traveling to West Texas for the funeral of a girl he once dated. After learning that Abilene Shaw’s family thinks he was her loving boyfriend, Ben Manalowitz finds himself trapped in a web of lies that points to foul play.

What does Ben do with the information about the potential murder of Abilene, which her brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook, the Sandman) reported with fury and sincerity? Launch the podcast, of course. With the help of her producer Eloise (Issa Ray, Insecure) Ben is trying to turn the story of the Shaw family’s deceived grief into a metaphor for America and the deception that it feeds itself. While Novak has been writing scripts and directing since Ryan Howard’s days on “The Office,” “Revenge” marks a cinematic shift that will hopefully last a long time.

Screen Rant talked to Novak about the pressure of working on his first feature film, how he settled on the themes of “Revenge” and why he wanted to impress Issa Ray so much.

(from left to right) Clint Obenchein as Crowl, B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz and Boyd Holbrook as Ty Shaw in Revenge. Courtesy: Patti Perret/Focus Features.

Screen Rant: You write the script, direct, produce and play the main role in “Revenge”. All hands on deck are your hands. How did you prepare for this experience?

B.J. Novak: Well, I was scared. And I liked it because it means you’re trying to do something bold and go outside your comfort zone. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t panic. Therefore, I turned for advice to everyone I could, both as an actor and as a performer of the main role. I asked John Mayer, like: “Why are you so handsome?” And he’s like, “Lose some weight, stop drinking, everything will be fine.” [Laughs]

But to be honest, I was afraid of every detail. And especially I turned to many friends-directors for advice and support at every stage of the journey. My friend, Mark Webb, gave me a lot of great wisdom; John Lee Hancock, with whom I worked a lot. It was really an appeal to people for advice.

It beautiful I’m glad their advice worked, because there are so many layers in this story and in the riddle that I really think about it a week after I saw it. To what extent was the podcast culture and alienation from humanity a reflection of your own reality or what you saw?

B.J. Novak: This is definitely the world I live in; the world we all live in. And I think, ironically – and this is just my theory, it’s not necessarily the point of the film – but it seems to me that the things that we think connect us are not, and vice versa.

We are connected to other opinions through podcasts, other voices. We literally hear other voices in our heads. And yet, is it a connection? Or does it make us a kind of humanity menu where you can choose a person at any time to say whatever you want him to say?

And it’s the same with playlists instead of albums. This also pops up in the movie. A lot of it has to do with music and recording. I’m a playlist lover; I don’t like it. I get a Spotify list and I think, “Oh, I like all the songs!” But I’m not looking for an artist, you know? It’s like we have this menu of people from which we can choose without actually getting to know people and all their complexity; all their good and bad sides.

This film is about someone who comes from this culture and ends up being closely connected to his family.

Issa Ray as your producer was an inspired choice. What was the experience like when you had to guide her and just chat with her all the time?

B.J. Novak: This was the person I was most afraid of impressing. It was my first experience directing, and I didn’t know the crew and how the set would go.

But this man, who came here for a week, is just playing. She took a break because she wanted to do it for some happy reason. She took a break, probably producing 20 shows herself. I didn’t want to waste her time or make her think I was an amateur. I really showed my best leadership behavior that week, and in the end the team was just incredible.

Revenge: synopsis

(from left to right) Ashton Kutcher as Quentin Sellers and B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz in the movie “Revenge”. Courtesy: Patti Perret / Focus Features

A journalist and podcaster travels from New York to Texas to investigate the death of a woman he slept with.

Also check out our interview with Vengeance star Boyd Holbrook.


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