R-rated tennis comedy Break Point was a labor of love. Not that all films are not also labors of love, but writer/producer/star Jeremy Sisto and his writing partner Gene Hong survived the ups and downs of a lengthy development process (financiers were secured, then lost, and later found again, production delays, general stress and frustration) to share their offbeat comedy, which premiered at SXSW in 2014, with the world.
Break Point is the story of two estranged brothers who reunite to make one last run at a major tennis tournament. Jimmy (Jeremy Sisto, Clueless, Six Feet Under) is the narcissistic and obnoxious one, Darren (David Walton, About a Boy, New Girl) is the logical, Nice Guy one who is also the better tennis player. Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons plays their encouraging, even-tempered, dad.
Screen Rant sat down with Sisto and Walton recently to discuss the lost art of the tennis comedy, J.K. Simmons: Oscar-winning diva and, since they’ve both experienced being on network TV shows that have been unceremoniously cancelled (Suburgatory and About a Boy), what the “cancellation protocol” is like for actors.
Is it fair to say this idea was born on a tennis court?
Jeremy Sisto: It is, yes. I only do yes or no answers [Laughs]. Yeah, me and my buddy Gene Hong, a very talented writer, we figured out that there was a hole in the movie world, the great tennis movie world, so we thought we’d take a shot at it. We started throwing ideas around and about five years later and after many many drafts, we bring on this guy [indicates Walton] in to fill the shoes we need.
David Walton: Yeah, they’d gone out to about five or 10 guys [before me], they were up against a wall.
Did you have to play tennis in your audition?
Walton: No, they took my word for it. I forgot about the story but, I told them I’m a 5.0 player which is an advanced player and they were like, “He’s 5.0 we’ve got to cast him!” So they cast me and then on our first day, all the producers and financiers, everyone is there to see how we actually played tennis, because they didn’t know, they had just taken my word for it. And every actor alive, lies. Like, “Yeah, I play hockey!” And they’re out there trying to figure out how to skate. So I went out there, and for the first few seconds, I was just like the most gawky, I tried to act like a total beginner and I looked over and you see the financier like having a meltdown.
How much of a diva did Mr. Simmons be come after that Oscar win?
Walton: I don’t know, I haven’t talked to him [since].
Sisto: [Laughs] No, amazingly the guy could not be more grounded. Every couple years it happens where somebody who really deserves the recognition, comes up and kind of re-inspires everyone in the industry.
Who did Josh steal the most scenes from?
Walton: Yeah, I had one scene with him. My favorite scene in the movie is actually you guys in the hot tub. You steal it back from him.
Sisto: High-five. In your face, Josh! ‘Course I did have like five years to make sure the script worked.
Walton: Just so we are clear, that’s a scene with [Sisto], with a 12 year old boy in a hot tub. Just so we’re clear about that.
I didn’t realize that About a Boy had been cancelled until today, so sad. Since you’ve both been through the ending of and cancellation of shows, I’m just curious what is the process like for actors, is there a protocol? Phone calls made?
Sisto: Its like the day of.
Walton: Yeah, you get a sense, beforehand. As the Upfronts approach you get a little knot in your stomach, because although it’s unlikely, [you’re thinking] maybe there’s still a chance, and then when the death knell hits, I’ve been through that enough where I now get the death knell and I’m like, “Alright, this feeling will go away in 24 hours.” You mourn it, because ultimately it’s the end of all your relationships with the crew and the cast, which was so fun. It’s like anything, you mourn but, where one door closes another opens.
The 10th anniversary of Six Feet Under is coming up, any parties planned? Reunions?
Sisto: Oh is that right? I didn’t even know that, I just got through 20 with Clueless, that’s exciting, 10-year. 20 kind of prepared me, so that 10 does not feel like a long time, I’m like, “Oh it’s great, I’m a young man.”
Walton: I’ve got to watch that series.
Sisto: Yeah, I should go back and take a gander.
Walton: Everyone talks about it. Are you proud of your work?
Sisto: It was a great role that he wrote it for me, I definitely didn’t always feel like I nailed it, but it really gave me a new vote of confidence to have somebody like Alan Ball write scenes for me, like if he believes I can pull it off … it was special.
Break Point is directed by Jay Karas off a screenplay by Gene Hong and Jeremy Sisto, and stars Jeremy Sisto, David Walton, J.K. Simmons, Amy Smart, Joshua Rush Nisenson, Adam Devine, Cy Amundson, Vincent Ventresca, Chris Parnell, Jennifer Wade, Mo Collins, Jerry Minor, Kate Flannery, and Mayank Bhatter.
Jimmy Price is a reckless man-child on the last leg of his career as a doubles tennis player. When his latest partner drops him, he realizes he’s officially burned all of his bridges on the pro circuit. He decides to make one last ditch effort to revive his career, reaching outside of the tennis world and convincing his childhood partner — his estranged brother Darren, now a pathetic substitute teacher – to team up with him. The mismatched pair, with the help of a unique 11-year-old named Barry, make an unlikely run at a grand slam tournament and are forced to re-discover their game, and their brotherhood.
Break Point is now playing in a limited release