Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly spoke with Solzy at the Movies about their new two-buddy-comedies-in-one film, Queenpins.
Queenpins, an outrageously absurd comedy, stars Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Paul Walter Hauser, Joel McHale, with Bebe Rexha and Vince Vaughn.
What was it about the coupon scam that drew your interest?
Gita Pullapilly: I think just hearing the words $40 million coupon scam—how did that all connect. It seems so crazy because I never knew you could possibly even make $40 million off of something like that so we really wanted to understand what that story was. As we took a deeper dive into that, it just became more crazy and absurd and we thought, wow, this could make a great comedy.
The two of you are known for your dramatic work. How did you end up writing a comedy?
Aron Gaudet: I think we approached it the same way we would a drama at first. We’re always looking for true stories and something based on a true story or inspired by. When we found this story, it just felt so absurd in that it was coupons and women making millions of dollars with coupons, and Postal Inspectors and SWAT teams, and all of these things that to us just felt like it needed to be a comedy. If it felt like it should be a drama, we would have written a drama but instead, we just went with it and wrote a comedy.
One of the things I loved about watching Queenpins was that it’s two buddy comedies in one.
Gita Pullapilly: Oh, that’s the tagline!
Aron Gaudet: We kept telling people it’s two buddy comedies for the price of one using coupon lingo. You’re the first person to say that as well.
I love the chemistry between Paul Walter Hauser and Vince Vaughn. Can you please tell me there’s a potential spin-off with their characters?
Gita Pullapilly: (Laughs) Yes.
Aron Gaudet: There’s a potential spin-off with their characters. Yeah, no, you’re not the first person to wish for a sequel or spin-off with them. They are so great together and had a friendship off camera as well and wanting to work together. It really shows on camera, I think, the chemistry.
Gita Pullapilly: For sure.
What did you know about U.S. Postal Inspectors before going into the film?
Gita Pullapilly: Nothing until we actually started doing a deep dive into the research of Postal Inspectors.
Aron Gaudet: Now we know a lot.
Gita Pullapilly: Now we know a lot and we’re so impressed by them. Did you know they’re the oldest law enforcement agency in the country? I never knew that. They’re incredibly badass. If you Google Postal Inspectors, you’ll see these videos of them doing all sorts of crazy busts and raids and all of these amazing things that—
Aron Gaudet: They’ve created videos that are on YouTube where it’s them conducting raids and doing all of this stuff. They took down the unibomber and they’ve been involved in a lot of big criminal investigations because a lot of crimes, people will use the mail. We really had no idea going into this. We walked away wanting the movie to almost be a love letter to the Post Office and postal workers because we kind of valued them so much by the time we were done.
It’s so funny how Paul’s character is upset that the FBI doesn’t want to get involved and that he kind of feels let down by the Postal Inspector at first.
Aron Gaudet: We kept saying that, for Paul, Vince was not the hero he wanted but he was the hero he needed.
What was it like to direct this cast?
Aron Gaudet: It was incredible. The collaboration and having not made a comedy before and then writing a script that we thought was funny, and then for them to agree and come in and then elevate it in every way and be able to take anything that might be funny on the page but find even more ways to make it funnier. They’re just so great at what they do.
Gita Pullapilly: They’re just wonderful human beings to work with. They’re talented but also they’re just great collaborators that just really wanted the best version of the story out there. We’re very fortunate our cast really served the story in the way that we wanted them to.
What was the most challenging aspect of the production?
Aron Gaudet: I think for sure it was shooting it during Covid. We made this during the height of the pandemic in Los Angeles and we were asking a lot from our cast and crew. We worked really hard to keep them safe but we were still asking them to sacrifice in a lot of ways. We shot through the election and through Thanksgiving. There were protests happening here. All of these things that we were asking them—don’t celebrate Thanksgiving with your extended family or things that we were asking a lot of them but everybody felt so invested in the story we we’re telling. Everybody felt so wanting to do a good job and give people a reason to laugh during dark times that everybody really bought in. We’re just so grateful for that.
Gita Pullapilly: I think we’ve definitely been battle tested shooting a movie during Covid. Now, it seems like any other production after Covid will be a lot easier—knock on wood.
What were the challenges that came with doing post-production during a pandemic?
Aron Gaudet: We had to do it completely virtual almost like this so we were at home looking at a television and our editor was in her house.
Gita Pullapilly: We had an amazing editor, thank G-d, Kayla Emter, who went above and beyond. We joke that she was the third person in our marriage because the editor relationship is so intimate and Aron edited all of our movies before. To not only be not editing our movie but also, to now do it virtually was just a very daunting challenge.
Aron Gaudet: But we can’t wait to work with her again because it was a great three person collaboration through that.
Were there any films that inspired the look?
Aron Gaudet: I think we talk a lot about just like compositions of frames or certain little scenes in movies that might inspire us.
Gita Pullapilly: We had framing conversations of like how Steven Soderbergh would do something or we joke that if this was our version of Queenpins, it would be more like Thelma and Louise if Judd Apatow made it—what does that look like? Those are the conversations we had specifically.
Have you written off to the stores complaining about their products and getting free coupons in the mail as a result?
Aron Gaudet: Well, I will tell you a story. When we wrapped Queenpins. Kirby came in with a wrap gift for us. and we opened it and it was a coupon for a free item. She said, I’m not going to tell you how I got this but I got this. We have not tried that but Kirby may have tried that—
Gita Pullapilly: She may or may not have.
Aron Gaudet: May or may not have but she was clipping coupons, shopping with them, and doing a lot of research through it and preparing for her character.
Gita Pullapilly: She just went above and beyond to really get into that character and to really understand the world of coupons. We’re so proud of her because it just makes her character just feel real. People who are extreme couponers or do this more than the average person watches Kirby do the couponing and they say that she’s totally legit. And that to us, makes us so happy.
I came up through Chicago improv. Can you talk about directing Jamison Webb and Paul Jurewicz in their brief screentime?
Gita Pullapilly: They’re fantastic, by the way. Fantastic!
Aron Gaudet: Paul was such a pleasure and was sort of so playful and was improvising a little on set with Vince and Paul Walter Hauser. He was great. And Jamison—that was a fun day with him because we had like $5 million worth of cars and all of this stuff there that day that everybody was sort of in awe of. And again, I think they both came ready to play and do whatever and were open to just kind of coming up with more ideas. And yeah, getting to play—with Jamison getting to play off of Kristen and Kirby, and then for Paul getting to play with Vince and Paul Walter Hauser, I think it was a lot of fun. We would take Paul and try to insert him in the background of other stuff at the Post Office because we just liked having him around.
What do you hope viewers take away from watching the film?
Gita Pullapilly: For us, we were making this and we told our cast and crew, people are going to come out of this pandemic and they’ve gone through such hard times, we want to give them a peace of joy and happiness. We want them to feel joy and happiness through this movie and especially at the end and we hope we feel that. But also, if you’re struggling and finding your purpose in life, finding your journey, or you feel undervalued and discounted, we hope you find your personal loophole to find your self-worth and we hope this movie inspires people to do that.
Aron Gaudet: Hopefully, it doesn’t need to be criminal but hopefully, they can still find a loophole.