From animal house For Old school, collegiate fraternities were once a regular source of cinematic humor. But the new drama Line offers a serious counterpoint to these vintage comedies, revealing why these institutions are no laughing matter.
Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film takes viewers into a fictional brotherhood where abusive hazing and toxic masculinity run rampant, with ultimately deadly consequences. And co-writer/director Ethan Berger says he based the narrative on both the many real-world stories of fraternity hazing gone wrong as well as personal tales he’s heard from friends. ‘friends.
“I know so many people in fraternities who have been hazed,” the filmmaker told Yahoo Entertainment. “It’s something people don’t talk about because it happens in basements and other out-of-sight places. It felt like something worth exploring to provoke questions and make make people think about whether it’s a good thing or not.”
And Berger points out that Line has a deliberate link animal house, the film that popularized the brotherhood comedy. Both fictional houses are based on Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which has had several well-documented scandals in its past. “After animal house And revenge of the nerds, fraternity membership skyrocketed,” the director says. “These movies made it seem like a funny thing, but I’ve since seen in the news that someone has died from something hazing-related almost every year. We wrote the first draft of the movie in 2012, and similar things happened while we were waiting to make it.”
Top Gun: Maverick breakout star Lewis Pullman plays the president of Line‘s and says the film gave him a crash course in the perils of life on Greek campuses. “It’s a rotten brotherhood,” he says of the house his alter ego presides over. “It’s more like The last detail Or Full Metal Jacket that animal house. I went to a very small university where there was not much room for [fraternities]and I learned a lot about the culture from Ethan’s script.”
Before LineAt the Tribeca premiere, Yahoo Entertainment spoke with Pullman and Berger about the political office brotherhood pipeline and what Pullman’s dad, actor Bill Pullman, taught him about growing up in Hollywood. .
Lewis, your character, Todd, is caught in an interesting place because he answers to two masters: his fraternity brothers and the school administration. How does this affect his leadership position?
Lewis Pullman: That’s what’s at the heart of him as a person, isn’t it? He’s in that liminal space of being one of the guys, but he’s also in a very political position where he has to be very careful.
Ethan Berger: To me, Todd’s character is like a lot of fraternity leaders in that he has to keep face, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on inside the house. There are grand columns, but rotting interiors. Lewis and I also talked a lot about politicians – we watched a lot of videos of them and I’m sure it really helped you.
Pullman: Ethan also threw some [former frat] guys who were in middle school, and they took a few semesters off so they could work on the movie with us. Their energy and knowledge of the whole world really put the wind in our sails as a whole and helped set the tone for a world I didn’t really know before.
There’s a larger conversation we’re having right now about abuse in Hollywood. in books like burn it down, which describes executives like Todd who claim ignorance of what happened under their watch. How much plausible deniability does a person in power have?
Shepherd: That’s a big part of the story. Todd frames [abuses] like accidents in public, but when he walks around the house he blames his brothers. So there’s a disconnect there, and he’s doing it. Todd searches for his future, but at what cost? And that’s true for a lot of people in the movie.
Pullman: For me, I always wonder if the same things would have happened if Todd had been there for them. He’s probably relieved that his hands aren’t dirty, but I think he knows deep down that this kind of shit happens all the time and it could have easily implicated him. He’s in that place where he doesn’t know what’s right.
Shepherd: Todd and the school principal are ultimately no different. Both are more concerned with the media, so it’s all about protecting the house at all costs with no real empathy for the inhabitants. What’s interesting is that so many politicians come from fraternities: Presidents and Supreme Court Justices grew up in them, so to speak. So I think a lot of these things were born in fraternities.
Lewis, did your dad talk to you about what the film industry was like when he started acting and how it has changed today in that regard?
Pullman: He talks about how things are going, but for the most part, collaboration is collaboration, and there will always be some nasty moments. So that hasn’t changed — the beauty and difficulty of collaboration is still there. What it takes to be in tune with a crew and cast while telling a story is always going to present challenges that aren’t going away. But he’s also been very excited about the influx of female directors who have different perspectives. It’s something he says is starting to change – the kind of stories we tell.
Did he have the dreaded “nepo baby” conversation with you when you said you wanted to be an actor?
Pullman: No, he always supported me discreetly. He wasn’t really pushing me either way, but we obviously talked about the double-edged sword of nepotism. Not a day goes by that I don’t recognize and be aware of the privilege I have to get into this stuff, you know? There’s a weight to that, but it also makes me feel like I have to work harder to earn the feeling that people take me seriously.
Shepherd: I will say Klay Thompson and Steph Curry’s dads were basketball players, and Lewis is naturally gifted. Sure, you can have this perspective of being privileged because your parents were in the industry, but at the end of the day, you have to bring it and this guy does.
Ethan, have you had any personal experiences in Hollywood with executives who don’t take care of their own house?
Shepherd: Not so much, but I wasn’t really thinking about Hollywood for this movie. There’s a lot of stuff done from an LA or New York centric mentality, and we didn’t want to do that. We wanted it to be accessible to a lot of people, including those in fraternities. Hopefully, this will make them wonder if their brotherhood has the same allegiance to them as they do. But I want to say that personally, I haven’t always been the best leader I could be. Part of life is recognizing when you’re not and having that kind of self-awareness, and that’s what the movie is about. We can all be better.
Pullman: Personally, I thought you were a fantastic leader and self-awareness is integral. There were times when there was no money and we were running out of time, and you would turn to all of us and say, “Let’s talk about this. We all really looked up to Ethan, and it wasn’t a hierarchical thing: we were together, on the same level, and that’s rare.
Lewis, you were instrumental in Top Gun: Maverick Last year. What was the most valuable part of this experience for you?
Pullman: Kinda Line, it was the chance to integrate myself into a world in which I would never have plunged otherwise. We shot for eight and a half months and I loved getting lost in this group of people and in this world. Plus, working with Tom Cruise was so good. I talk about him so much that I always try to find a new answer, but every day was just a masterclass under his guidance. She’s such a hungry and eager sponge to keep growing, and that in itself is truly contagious. Even now, whenever I reach a moment of stagnation, I remember him never letting himself stand still for more than five seconds without pushing forward. He was always asking, “How can I move this story forward?” How can I take it from good to excellent? And it’s priceless.
Do you expect to receive a refusal from the fraternities after Line first?
Shepherd: Absolutely. The Interfraternity Council wrote a letter trying to shut down production while we were filming at the University of Oklahoma. A lot of them won’t like the movie, and that’s okay. I feel like it’s a good movie for Americans to see because we tend to value institutions over the lives of our neighbors. Also, something like 85% of politicians and CEOs come from fraternities and if they are people in positions of power, let’s examine where they come from.
Line premieres June 9 at Tribeca Festival 2023