Earlier this week, “Hook” actor Dante Basco (best known for his turn as fan favorite Lost Boy Rufio in the 1991 new classic from director Steven Spielberg), launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of funding a short fan film about his character’s pre-“Hook” life, entitled “Bangarang.” The campaign is currently asking for $30,000 to fund the story of the orphaned “Roofus,” long before he added a kicky mohawk and headed off to Neverland. Added bonus? If the campaign hits its stretch goal of $200,000, Basco (who is serving as an executive producer on the project), along with writer and director Jonah Feingold, executive producer Rawn Erickson III and the rest of the “Bangarang” team, would set to work on a full feature.
IndieWire spoke with Basco, Feingold and Erickson just as the campaign was really taking off (as of this writing, the campaign has made over $23,000, and seems well on its way to reaching its original goal) to discuss their vision for the project, why it’s totally for the fans and even some casting that should make “Hook” fans very happy indeed.
“It’s pretty wild! We’re blown away by the response,” Basco said. “This is a short film that we’re doing especially for my YouTube channel, and people are like, ‘What’s going on?'”
Basco and the team are eager to reconfirm that the final short will be available — for free — on his YouTube channel upon its completion.
He admitted that he’s already getting a little nervous about fan expectations, but he’s hopeful that the film will deliver an original story that will satisfyingly tie back to the original film.
“I think it’s going to answer a lot of questions,” Erickson said. “Just from the script, it definitely ties in so well with the original film. Watching [‘Hook’], you’re like, ‘Oh, man, Rufio must have gone through some fucked up shit,’ to get to where he was. The film feeds that question that everyone has.”
Despite spinning off the classic works of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan stories, “Hook” itself doesn’t offer much in the way of hard-and-fast canon and mythology. That’s something the “Bangarang” team thinks they can capitalize on for their short.
“‘Hook’ became a cult classic without all the lore,” Basco said. “And it gave kind of a base for things like this, for artists to take their imagination and create — you can call it fan fiction, you can call it whatever — to create what the lore is. I think that’s exciting.”
Feingold can trace the short’s inspiration directly back to a single line in the original 1991 film.
“The original idea really came from one specific line from ‘Hook,’ and then we kind of just worked backwards from there,” Feingold explained. The line? “I wish I had a dad…like you.” Rufio says those words moments before he dies. Basco immediately that said to me, ‘Okay, this guy grew up with either a lack of father figure or a bad relationship with his father. Let’s take this back.'”
That moment proved to be the key for the filmmaker, and he used the implications of that one line to build out “Bangarang.”
“We looked at some of the mannerisms and some of the language and reverse engineered it,” Feingold said. “Obviously, he wasn’t born Rufio, he came from somewhere, like all great heroes do. We hope it kind of fills that.”
Still, the filmmakers also want to reassure fans who are concerned that the project could face possible copyright issues. Despite its inspiration and pedigree, they believe it stands on its own.
“The script itself and the movie is about a young Filipino kid who overcomes his odds and becomes a hero. That’s what the movie is about,” Feingold said. “We’re not about taking anything that’s copyright from the movie ‘Hook.’ Maybe we are taking things from the J.M. Barrie library, but that’s public domain. A lot of people are asking if we have the rights, there’s nothing that we necessarily need the rights for, just in the way it’s written.”
Despite remaining cautious about the campaign, Feingold already has a very distinct vision in mind for the short, one that seeks to marry both the classic kids’ movie world that “Hook” springs from and a very contemporary aesthetic.
“This is about a kid who is bullied at school, and one of the comparables to that is that it’s kind of similar to the first act of ‘Moonlight,'” the filmmaker explained. “I just mean that this is about a scrawny kid who is picked on at school. From the aesthetic standpoint, we are definitely trying to pay homage to the nineties Amblin movies, that kind of aesthetic, ‘Hook’ and ‘Jurassic Park.’ It’s gonna have that kind of magical quality to it, but it’s also going to be a contemporary and raw feel in terms of what this kid’s life is like at school.”
He added, “The closest comparison I can make is, kind of like what the movie ‘Creed’ did for the Rocky franchise, but this is obviously on a much smaller scale.”
Basco is particularly enthused by Feingold’s vision and his expectations of the final product. It’s what sold him.
“When he pitched me this project — and obviously this has been my life for 25 years now — this young guy, new generation, pitching me this thing from my past, it got me excited,” Basco said. “I love seeing the new generation take something that we’ve done and reinvent it for a whole new time. Paying homage to nostalgia, but also taking it to a whole new place, is what ultimately had me co-sign.”
Basco also revealed that he’s not just producing the project, he is also set for a role in the film itself. Next step? Finding the new young Rufio, a big part of the process that has proven personal to Basco.
“It’s important for me to bring a Filipino hero to the next generation and be part of that,” he said.
The team is also clear that they are serious about their stretch goal — Basco readily admits it might seem “far-fetched” — and they are hopeful that it will be met. Erickson and Feingold both hail from the digital space — Erickson is a co-founder of Maker Studios, while Feingold has written and directed series for Buzzfeed, CNN, Refinery29, AwesomenessTV and more — and strongly believe that will aid in their project.
“Our experiences so far have come from this digital world where we can create movies on these budgets,” Feingold said. “There’s clearly a hunger for nostalgia and for this story.”