Small Engine Repair Cast Interview | Screen Rant

Small Engine Repair tells the story of three working-class friends played by Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, and John Pollono - who also wrote and directed the film based on his play of the same name. The relationship of these friends is tested when Frankie (Pollono) asks for a favor involving his daughter and events begin to spiral out of control. The film premieres in theaters on September 3.

Related: Small Engine Repair Clip: Jon Bernthal Learns How To Use Instagram [EXCLUSIVE]

Screen Rant spoke to Bernthal, Whigham, and Pollono about the process of adapting the original play into a movie and their future projects.

Screen Rant: This was an award winning-play that premiered, what was it 10 years ago? And now you’re adapting it to the big screen. You’re the writer, director, star - this is your baby! Since you’re so close to it, what was the biggest challenge for you when it came to adapting it from a stage play to the big screen?

John Pollono: You know, the biggest challenge I think was to maintain the integrity of the play that we loved so much and not make a film version of the play, but to give the play its own identity. Have that journey that [continues] to update it and have it be resonant ten years later, have it be as thematically resonate as it was in 2011. That was the biggest challenge, to honor that and continue to do that, and to continue deepening it and be able to step away and say, "You know? We did as best as we could." And I feel like it exceeded my expectations so I’m thrilled with that.

On that note, as times change we look back at things through different lenses, so what was the biggest change you felt was necessary to make for the movie that maybe wasn’t necessarily in the stage play?

John Pollono: There were no women in the stage play and they are obviously crucial to the movie and they are omnipresent. Every single woman in this movie is given character and depth and they glow and it’s about women, and so that was the biggest change, making Crystal [Ciara Bravo] and Karen [Jordana Spiro], specifically, flesh and blood characters.

You two started this thing together back in 2011. I’m sure maybe the budget was a little different at first. What do you guys remember about those first few shows together?

Jon Bernthal: Look, you know, this started for me at a play reading - yeah, over 10 years ago. I sat down, listened to this play, read it out loud, and I knew immediately that there's something just so enormously special about John and his writing. I just thought, "Wow! This is the best American playwright, I think, that’s working today." And I was not looking to be in a play at the time, but I said immediately, “Hey, can I be in this? Can we do this?” I think a couple of weeks later we were in rehearsal.

From our first show, there was this electric palpability and just unbelievable energy in that theater. It was at a teeny, 40-seat theater, here, in Los Angeles. You had people coming to see the play that were not theater-goers. You had the theater community, but you had cops and fighters and, again, just this beautiful mix of people and it was so thrilling, it was so dangerous. I think for me, it was clear with how successful the play was, we really just wanted to capture that energy.

How could you have these unbelievable twists and turns? You think you’re in one thing, but then you're in something totally different, but you’re so along for the ride with these characters, you believe them, you believe their love for each other, you love the way that they’re constantly at each other's throats, but there’s this underlying kind of love to all of it. And I really think that John was able to do that, was really to sort of capture those twists and turns while maintaining the heart and integrity of the piece. Those shows were something else, and it really is kind of is a dream come true to get all the way here.

I did notice, and this might be a stretch, but I did notice a connection here because Shea's daughter Giorgia Whigham starred opposite Jon Bernthal in the last season of The Punisher! Does that have anything to do with how this came together? Or am I reaching?

Jon Bernthal: I love Shea's whole family. It's one of those sort of beautiful just loving, great - everyone in his family - and Shea and I have gone back years but, yeah I mean, Giorgio she's such an incredible young artist and human being and so wise beyond her years and then getting to work with her dad in an intimate way like this, that's a dream come true for me.

Shea Whigham: Jon treated my daughter, he went above and beyond, and when someone does that for your child - and also in an artistic way, you know... Jon and I go back to Wolf of Wall Street and seeing his stuff and I've read John Pollono's stuff before this. And you know, Packie was challenging, it scared me and you want to feel those feelings and I met John and I was on board.

Next: Why Jon Bernthal Should Return As The Punisher



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