Exclusive: Cast and Director Talk ‘The House of Tomorrow’

Alex Wolff, Maude Apatow, Asa Butterfield, Ellen Burstyn, and Director Peter Livolsi talk punk music and Buckminster Fuller.

House of Tomorrow features a boy, Sebastian (Asa Butterfield), and his Nana (Ellen Burstyn) who live by the teachings of Buckminster Fuller, as well as Jared (Alex Wolff), a teen with a heart transplant living by the teachings of Paul Westerberg. Along with his sister, Meredith (Maude Apatow) and father, Alan (Nick Offerman), Jared introduces Sebastian to life outside his geodesic dome and what happens when you combine futurism with punk rock.

The Knockturnal had the opportunity to interview Alex Wolff and Maude Apatow on the red carpet of a NY Film Critics premiere and sit in on a post-screening panel featuring Asa Butterfield, Ellen Burstyn, Alex Wolff, Maude Apatow, and Director Peter Livolsi.

Naturally, punk music was the first thing everyone wanted to share their opinions on.

The Knockturnal: Is there a song in the movie you connected to most or you felt really defined the character of Jared?

Alex Wolff: On set, we always listened to a song called “Talent Show” by The Replacements. “Talent Show” and “Train in Vain” by The Clash and those were our like songs. But I love the song that is in the movie that we write together. I love that song too. That’s a good song.

The Knockturnal: What drew you to the two songs that you always listened to on the set?

Wolff: They’re just badass, cool punk songs and they’re really good and melodic too. They’re old-fashioned punk. They’re not like, you know, hectic, un-musical. They’re melodic, so I think that’s what it is. I love it.

Post-Screening Panel: They say every generation has their version of punk. … It’s forty years ago since punk happened yet punk still has meaning for young kids, or is there something else? I’m surprised it hasn’t been replaced by rap.

Peter Livolsi: I think it had meaning for this kid. I don’t know that every kid. The equation I had for this movie, because I wasn’t into punk as a high-schooler, was I loved movies and would find myself into specific film movements and you would obsess and you would nerd out on things and I think that’s what Jared’s character does with punk. I think there’s a connection in the anger he feels in the music.

Alex Wolff: I think there’s something visceral about someone giving you permission to get angry and get upset and I think there’s something magical about punk and unmatched in the freedom in that it doesn’t celebrate necessarily the best musicianship but it what it celebrates is the emotion and I think that is really cool and really special. … There’s certain punk that unlistenable. It’s so heinous unless you’re in a certain mood but me and Asa were talking about how The Clash and The Replacements and a lot of punk can be some of the best, most sophisticated music ever and I think that will be forever. If you put on The Replacements, if you put on The Clash, no matter what generation they’re going to be moved by “London Calling.”

Livolsi: There was also something great in the novel. Peter [Bognanni] found a way to connect punk and Buckminster Fuller and there’s a DIY mentality: if you don’t see the thing out there that should be out there, you figure it out and you do it yourself. You don’t wait for somebody to give you permission, you don’t ask someone how – you steal an instrument from the church basement and you start your band. I think Asa’s character says that at the end of the film and whether Bucky would approve of that line, I have no idea but I think he was a badass and the fact he did what he did blows my mind. He did it without asking permission, without having the need to have all the answers.

While punk was loved and appreciated by the rest of the panel, Ellen Burstyn had different opinion of the music.

Ellen Burstyn: Oh I hate it. Yeah, you know, Nana has certain characteristics that I recognize, particularly with food but also the music. I’m a classical music lover and I go to the Philharmonic so you can imagine this is just really bad.

Livolsi: You tried to pitch us on that. You said, “Why can’t they be classical musicians?”

Burstyn: I love watching them perform. I think it’s astounding what they’re able to do whether I like the music or not – which I don’t.

The cast also discussed the nature of their connections and relationships with one another and their characters a la Fuller’s belief in “synergy.”

The Knockturnal: So you’re the younger brother in real life and in the movie you play this sort of older brother character, who takes Sebastian under his wing in his own way. What’s the difference in that kind of dynamic for you? 

Alex Wolff: Well, Sebastian’s not my brother in the movie so I kinda felt like the cool thing about the movie was it was kind of a tit for tat. I mean I liked that I was kind of controlling him and telling him what to do and all those things, but I think it was interesting because me and my brother, our dynamic is definitely much different. But I don’t think either one of us is bossy, neither one of us is taking control. But that was fun for me to do on Asa. I loved telling him what to do.

How does Meredith’s relationship with Sebastian develop throughout the movie? In the movie, and in real life, how does your dynamic play out?

Maude Apatow: We shot the movie really quickly so we all got really close. We’re all like the exact same age – me, Alex, and Asa – so I don’t know, we all became best friends and I guess the relationship changed because we all got so close and got to know each other. But in the movie I guess I don’t know, we play like sorta love interests?

I think your most memorable line in the trailer is when you have to explain what a slumber party is to Sebastian. You’re like, you know this dome would be awesome for an overnight. When you were little did you ever have an especially memorable slumber party?

Apatow: Oh yeah, one hundred percent. I mean, I used to have slumber parties all the time with all of my friends. I’d invite like nine girls over and we’d have the best time ever so I guess one of my best memories is having slumber parties, yeah.

Did you at all draw on your own family relationship for the movie?

Apatow: I think I had a very different experience with my family than in this movie, so maybe not.

On a similar topic at the panel, Ellen Burstyn talked about her own coincidental, in-real-life friendship with Buckminster Fuller.

Burstyn: When he was alive he was considered the greatest mind on the planet and he took me sailing and I brought a camera so that footage is the result. I don’t know why I shot it until Peter sent me the script.

Livolsi: It’s just a gift given to you by the movie gods. We’d written, we had moments in the film that put Nana and Bucky in the same place at the same time but never did I expect to have a shot that they shared together and for it to be real and it just gave the film something I could’ve never created.

Burstyn: When I saw Bucky at Carnegie Hall at that time, at the end, when he finished talking which was mind-blowing, he went off stage and audience stood and applauded and he came back on and he stopped them and he said, “That’s very nice that you did that but it’s not nice for me. It’s nice for you because I want you to know that people all over the world, wherever I speak, do that. And I want you to know that that’s happening all over the world so if you want to be of service to the world, it’s easy. You just look around and see what needs to be done and you do it.” So I think right now, where we are in this particular time in our political life, it’s a very good message from Bucky – to look around and see what needs to be done and do it.

Of course, we eventually had to get to topic of Jared’s green hair, which Butterfield now sports, and the geodesic dome itself.

In the movie you have green hair. Would you ever – Asa obviously went for it – would you ever do it in real life?

Wolff: Well I did it for that time so I mean I had it. You don’t get to un-dye it when you go home so I don’t know. Yeah, I probably would for another role. I don’t know if in my life, but I dyed it green and then right after I dyed it jet black and so the dye sort of- It’s kind of a pain in the ass but I loved it during the time. I felt very cool. I felt empowered.

Did you find any appeal in living in the dome?

Wolff: I would love to live in the dome. Put in a good word for me. I would love to live in the dome.

House of Tomorrow opens in theatres April 27, 2018.

Related posts

Jeffrey Wright, Luke Hemsworth, Creative Team & More Chat at the ‘Westworld’ Season 4 Premiere [Video]

Exclusive: Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, David Simon, and Nina Noble Talk ‘The Wire’ 20th Anniversary

NOW OPEN IN FLATIRON NYC: Anita’s La Mamma del Gelato