Making his leading indie debut in the dark “Big Fan” and then stepping out to star opposite Charlize Theron in “Young Adult,” you might be surprised to learn that seasoned comic Patton Oswalt has yet to topline a comedy. But all that will change at SXSW this weekend when “Nature Calls” premieres. Directed by Todd Rohal (“The Catechism Cataclysm,” “The Guatemalan Handshake“), and executive produced by David Gordon Green, the film boats a stellar comic lineup — Johnny Knoxville, Rob Riggle, Maura Tierney, Patrice O’Neal, Darrell Hammond — and that combination of leading a comedy and working with a strong ensemble was what attracted Oswalt to the film.
“I’ve always done comedy, but what struck me was I’ve only done quick supporting doses of comedy for movies. So this was the first time that I was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute, I’m actually, I’m sustaining this.’ So that’s what ended up being really, really new for me. I didn’t think it would be that. In the end it wasn’t that weird because I had so many great supporting people around me,” Oswalt told us in an interview this week. “And…I saw from the other side how crucial it is to have good supporting players, and you know, I never realized when I did these one or two-day roles how important it was. Just because you’re coming in with someone in there every day for two months and you really want to show up and work and be good for them…that was as much of a learning process, not only how to be a lead but to be reminded, on how being a supporting player, is really crucial.”
The story follows Assistant Scoutmaster Randy Stevens (Oswalt) who convinces his brother Kirk’s (Knoxville) adopted 10-year-old son and his friends to ditch their slumber party and embark on a weekend scout trip in an effort to honor his father’s legacy. As you might imagine, things don’t turn out as planned. And while Oswalt wants moviegoers to come into the film fresh when they see it at SXSW, he does hint that fans of Rohal’s work will not be disappointed. “I think it’s a really funny comedy but [Todd Rohal] does not follow the standard beats of comedies. That’s all I’m going to say. I don’t want to tell you much about it because I want the audience to be surprised.”
Another first for Oswalt was working with a large cast of kids, and the variables young actors can bring to set was something the actor relished. “I kind of dug that. At first I was a little unnerved by it, but then I saw it as a real blessing,” he said about his pint sized co-stars. “That I had that constant unpredictability…it definitely helped my performance, I think.”
“Nature Calls” will screen at SXSW on Saturday, March 10th at 4 PM at the Paramount Theater.