Beast Beast is a 2020 American coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Danny Madden. Based on a 2018 short film titled Krista, also directed by Danny Madden, the film stars Shirley Chen, Will Madden, and Jose Angeles as three young adults whose lives intersect in a suburban town. Beast Beast was executive produced by Alec Baldwin and Casey Bader and premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
During a press junket, we had the luck to chat with the director and screenwriter Danny Madden and the three main actors Shirley Chen, Will Madden, Jose Angeles.
Q : Hello Shirley, Jose, Will and Danny, to begin I would like to say bravo for this great and original movie. The acting are really good as the as the script and direction of this film. Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background ?
Shirley Chen : i guess i can go first. I'm Shirley, I play Krista in the movie Beast Beast and also played Krista in the short which was at SXSW and i guess I’m currently a college student and i grew up acting.
Will Madden : I’m Will Madden i play Adam Manning in Beast Beast and I am the brother of Danny and longtime collaborators.
Q : Danny, it is your second movie after Euphoria 8 years ago, what can you tell us about the genesis of this film from the short movie Krista to this one ?
Danny Madden : Well we really felt like we found a cinematic voice that we liked in Krista and we said oh let's explore this more let's really find this kind of textured approach to showing this theater life and how it translates in and out of the real world and so we just kind of felt like exploring that and opening it up more and also showing more. We really had such a great time working with Shirley and we only got to see this sort of dark gloomy version of her when in real life like you know Shirley has such a kind of exuberant personality but also like we wanted to show that contrast we thought having suffered through this traumatic event we wanted to tell the story with the contrast of this is what she was like beforehand so that was really the impetus to start cracking it open and then there were story ideas that i thought could be interesting stories to interweave you know and like Will's character Adam would like doing the YouTube thing and then Jose's character being the new guy and kind of trying to figure out where his path is and i thought i thought all those flavors might be interesting all together .
Q : Shirley (Krista), Jose (Nito) and Will (Adam) please can you say some words about your character and what commonalities do you have with them ?
Will Madden : So i play Adam Manigan who is a YouTube gun vlogger so he makes firearm videos about how to do home defense and responsible firearm safety and shooting and he's trying to make a living doing that he's living at home with his parents sort of you know not the most social guy sort of an isolated guy and kind of a little bit desperate and kind of at a sort of a crossroads of like trying to figure out what he wants to do and it puts him in kind of a vulnerable place and i guess i sort of can connect to it. You know just from the perspective of being an artist and hoofing it and kind of trying to find your way into something and grow with your craft and to see if anyone even cares you know trying to kind of make it all work in a way. So, i definitely could connect to him on that on that sort of artist level if you could call him an artist.
Shirley Chen : as Danny kind of alluded before, Krista is like a super theater kid she's in high school and i related to a lot of who she was and I think that was obviously really intentional on Danny's part because Danny kind of wrote Krista for the feature with me in mind and so kind of interjected a lot of my personality and i think interests in high school and so i really related a lot to her especially because throughout the movie she's experiencing so many new things for the first time you know stumbling her way through first love and growing which i think kind of everyone can relate to at least to some degree and so it's really fun to get to play her i just turned 18 too so i think a lot of what Krista's experiencing very much paralleled with what I was experiencing so it was just really fun to get to play her .
Q : Will and Danny, if my researches are good, you are brothers. Can you talk about your collaboration on this great movie ? Is this not too difficult or helpful to work together ?
Danny Madden : Definitely not difficult not for me. I like to say that when you cast Will it's like casting a co-writer you know it's like hiring a co-writer because he's gonna do so much work and just really get such a such a grip on who the character is and the world from which that character comes that and maybe we just we learned that growing up together you know that sort of pushing each other and going like kind of you know taking it all the way and so it's very fluid. There was i can't really think of a time where there was like friction where meaning like i was looking for something that he wasn't looking for or vice versa. So to me i think i would describe it as like a very fluid process.
Will Madden : . I would say that don't the only real challenging moments were not between us as collaborators but both of us going for the same thing and not quite being able to find it but sort of on the same page and the main thing is, i just feel when you work with anyone who know and trust and you know their work you just feel more willing to take risks and you feel much more trusting and it's like i know the kind what Danny's taste is i know what his standards are. I can trust that you know when i kind of mess up you know there's me no fear of that being in the movie so it's like i can really explore and that's kind of the best thing about working with anyone you know but particularly you know a family member.
Q : Jose, what similarities do you have with the character of Nita ?
Jose Angeles : oh so me Jose Angeles and Nito the character i played there's a huge difference i didn't go to panther high school like that's all i made i didn't grow up in Georgia well he actually moved into Georgia that's something that's similar we both approach Georgia as a new place like Georgia was like what kind of place is this. i've never been to Georgia you know so that was like the similarity that Nito and i were both experiencing something new just like the movie it was like super new to make that movie that was like the first movie i've ever done.
Q : Jose, do you feel that your personality is similar ?
Jose Angeles : i see personality wise like he was kind of like shy more of and me I’m like you know I’m not too shy like maybe at first i get shot but then later on I’m like I kind of break in you know I’m like alright i could be myself i could take off my shirt and stuff like that like when i get comfy right but like he was like he got into the wrong crew in the movie which was like dude that was super that was a person or a character trait that i've been through like going into like the wrong crew sometimes that getting into the wrong hands kind of thing and that led into you know the ending of the movie man that's deep. Vito and i had similarity like in character was that we both like skateboarding. I love skateboarding.
Q : Jose, before this interview, I have watch some of your skate videos done in Brussels, San Francisco and they are really awesome. In these videos there are also some great stunts. Can you tell us about your training and how you got to such a professional and awesome level ? Your videos are awesome.
Shirley Chen : Merci. So, like especially for the movie I was trying to look good to you on screen because you know being an actor, you're like a model all of a sudden you're like oh I’m gonna be in front of everyone. Shirley knows that i saw Shirley and Will checking themselves out don't lie you go in the mirror but i specifically would jump rope and Will remembers that and your dad remembers that i would jump rope like every day in the patio so jump rope cardio i talk about your background of like how you got like you did gymnastics and ballet and stuff. So my background with all that because then i did like the skateboarding stuff my background is like ballet so i did ballet for like eight years pretty like hardcore i was doing the nutcracker And i was a Russian dancer in that too and i did a lot of ballets i say ballet like very disciplined you know that was my discipline and then as far as like skateboarding I just go outside and do whatever you know that was my freedom i climb a fence if I can.
Q : Shirley, you deliver in this movie a such great interpretation. This is for first movie after some shorts. Where have a found a such energy and be so great in this movie ?
Shirley Chen : That's an interesting question i guess i've never thought of my performance or acting in that way so i really appreciate you talk about it in such a lovely way so thank you. In terms of where i find it I guess so i went to performing arts high school in Los Angeles. I was a theater major there and that's actually where Danny and Will found me and that's actually where Krista was shot as well like the high school scenes so i had grown up with theater training and actually even before that my mom moved with me to Los Angeles from Washington State to pursue acting so i kind of grew up knowing that's what i wanted to do but in terms of the performance itself i think the energy that Krista has i think was a product of kind of collaborating a lot with Courtney Dietz who plays Johanna Chris's best friend i think that instantly we really connected onset and very much got along the way that Chris and Johanna do in the film and so it was so fun to get to bounce off of her. One of my favorite scenes with her too is like the scene with the microwave and the marshmallow and that was so fun because it was like i think Danny also had a very specific memory of doing that as well with the marshmallow and the microwave and so i think a lot of like Krista's exuberance comes from you know. I guess Danny kind of knowing how to capture these like really specific and very visceral like you know moments between friends and me getting to play with that with Johanna and in terms of you know scenes with you know Jose as Nito as well with Krista i think a lot of like that electricity between them comes from Jose and it is real nerves on set in terms of approaching real romantic scenes which neither of us had done before and so a lot of i think their connection and that kind of like friction almost i think is actually rooted in real life.
Jose Angeles : Still feel them surely. I’ll still feel them and i've been copying that more thing when you microwave and the marshmallow and the chocolate and the graham cracker.
Q : Danny, please you talk a little about your work with Baldwin as an executive producer ?
Danny Madden : So, Alec Baldwin and his producing partner Casey Bader saw the short film Krista that we had done and they reached out and just said hey can we help you on what's coming up next and I said we're doing a feature and so it was just kind of great timing we were all preparing to go to Georgia to start making the movie and they just joined right on and he was such a supportive. They are such supportive executives and of course Alec has been such a great kind of supporter of the movie and he came and we did press in park city and it was really great to have his support and his enthusiasm with it. So, it's just like they came in and they really just helped us with the resources we needed to really finish the movie in the way that we thought it needed.
Q : Will and Danny, I am a huge Jim Cummings fan since I have discovered during the Deauville American film festival Thunder Road. He also plays a little role during one scene of this movie. Please Will, Can you talk a little about your collaboration as an actor in Thunder Road, The Wolf of Snow Hollow and Danny as sound designer on Thunder road and the so awaited The Beta test ?
Will Madden : I have played a small part in Thunder Road which was a lot of fun you know. He's an old pal Danny's from Emerson and i kind of met him then forever ago when i was 15 or something i worked on his first film years ago and then the most recent film Wolf of Snow Hollow which came out in October. i play a character we have a great a scene together and he's the best. He knows like exactly what he wants which is like kind of a real blessing from a director you know he has a very specific vision and then it comes down to like just trying to find the truth and play within that vision you know and i think him and i had a lot of you know experiences rehearsing and preparing for it and you know he's just like the energizer bunny he's just like a battery all day he's running around behind the camera in front of the camera over here over there and that's like that energy is contagious and he's just like the best one of the best presences you can have on a set i think in whatever capacity he's on ads always inventing things going for things so you know he's the man
Danny Madden : but to have him come down you know we've been supporting Gemini since 2005. We've been helping each other on each other's movies and stuff in whatever capacity makes sense at the time so he came down as you know an executive producer on this but he's hands-on and he said you know hey I’m going to come to Georgia for a couple weeks and help you film should i bring my cop uniform and i said that that's probably a good idea baby bring that and so when it came time for him to go you know for nina to get arrested but it's always fun to have those little things that you know and we're always kind of doing little like nods at each other he put in the background of Thunder Toad his character walks through her living room and there's a short film that will and I made playing in the background so we were like okay there's an opportunity the family's watching tv here let's throw thunder that's it's kind of i don't know it's a fun little kind of you know putting it's featuring your friends in there and you know Jim's just like he's part of the family you know i mean we're all helping each other out so .
Q : for all, What were the main difficulties you encountered during the making of this movie ?
Jose Angeles : the biggest challenge to me is always the script. it's always the memorization and knowing what kind of getting in Danny's like mindset too. I’m like oh how did Danny write this script and like how did he write this and how am i going to deliver it that was a challenge for me because it's mental tone.
Danny Madden : getting the tone together
Shirley Chen : i think for me this was my first time being a lead in a feature and on top of that you know also being thrown at some of the most like you know challenging pillars of being a lead i guess in terms of like you know tackling romance and then also tackling you know really heavy dramatic stuff as well and i've never really done that especially not at the same time and not enough feature film level and not as a lead so I think that those were kind of emotional moments that i knew i had to be prepared for and tackle so on the one hand you know the romance scenes i felt nerves which we've already talked about but in terms of the dramatic scenes i think i can't give too much away about the film but i will say that scenes with Will's character were tougher for me in terms of understanding where Krista was coming from and understanding how she would authentically be acting and reacting in these scenes which Danny and Will both worked with me you know a lot on and i think i learned a lot from that film experience especially learned a lot about how you know what types of methods for me getting into a scene work well and I realized music was a really good thing for me so a lot of times i would you know sit by myself with headphones on or i would and that would be like before a dramatic scene or something to get me in the zone or like looking at things that my friends had given me and kind of using my friends as versions of Nito for Krista you know so i think it was a lot of learning for me and i think i've come out of that being a lot stronger of an actor than i was when i started so i think that was for me. What about you Will ?
Will Madden : just there's always just quick challenges with any material but the big thing was logistically shooting schedule wise it's like the my first day was basically the finale of the movie between surely i met my character and then it was like three weeks of like nothing and then all of my stuff in like 72 hours more or less so like that was something i was not used to on a feature film schedule so adapting to that
Danny Madden : very high very tall ass for will acting alone at a computer screen and then doing a comedy scene and then drama and then coming back and doing another comedy scene and like it was that was it was a lot of emotional elasticity that we needed from all characters.
Q : Jose, can we expect to have one of you skate video in Paris next year ?
Jose Angeles : yeah if you help me, get me in there.
Danny Madden : that would be great
Jose Angeles : That's a fun trip. I've been talking to my buddies over here though in the bay area and we've been thinking about going to Paris so hey i might pay a visit (lol)
Q : for all, Which are your currents projects ?
Will Madden : I just acted in a feature film in New Mexico in January by writer director Pete Ohs who actually is also one of the editors on Beast Beast and he's been streaming his entire editing process on twitch every minute of it and he just finished a cut of the movie that i haven't seen yet but that was my most recent thing as well as the Wolf of Snow Hollow which came out a few months ago by Jim Cummings.
Shirley Chen : For me right after Sundance, i was working on a play at the Geffen playhouse in Los Angeles called Man of god it was starring in all Asian cast about a Korean American storyline unfortunately that had to close because of covid 19. and since then at the end of April I’ll be filming a short film with Johnson Chang and that's going to Tribeca film festival and also I’m currently a junior at Harvard so I am still in school doing zoom classes I think that's like my biggest task as of right now is finishing the semester..
Danny Madden : I’m just writing. I’m developing a few different ideas and just really starting to have a fertile mind when it comes to writing and figuring out what the next project is enjoys it.
Jose Angeles : just making a music actually i've been playing some music and I’m actually going to get a portable generator later so i can bring it to the park and then plug in my guitar amps and play at a park and make like a little Woodstock going on and then also i can use it for a projector to show the movie Beast Beast coming at you April 27th remember to subscribe, comment, and give a share and a thumbs up Boris.
Our review can be read here
Three intertwined stories of young people navigating identity, first love, petty crime and gun violence in a Southern American town. Brimming with energy and style, Beast Beast captures what it means to grow up in an age of technology and social media, where violent confrontations reawaken dormant passions and teenagers are faced with growing up too fast.
Written and directed by Danny Madden
Produced by Matt Miller, Jim Cummings, Tara Ansley, Benjamin Wiessner
Starring Shirley Chen, Will Madden, Jose Angeles
Cinematography : Kristian Zuniga
Edited by David Brundige, Pete Ohs, Mari Walker
Production companies : Vanishing Angle, Arsonist's Films, Persona Entertainment
Release date : January 25, 2020 (Sundance), April 16, 2021 (USA)
Running time : 85 minutes
We would like to thanks Shirley Chen, Jose Angeles, Will and Danny Madden and also Ivy and Ashlynn for this great interview. It was a great talk.