By: Kayla Caldwell
ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME, directed by Andrew Gaynord, feels like a fever dream at times - or more like a nightmare. Are Pete’s (Tom Stourton) friends master prankers, playing a painfully cruel joke, or is he just out of touch with what his university friends are like today? Decide for yourself when it arrives in theaters and on digital.
Ahead of the release, we got a chance to chat with co-writers Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton, the latter of whom also stars in the titular role. Scroll on to learn more about what inspired this cringeworthy masterpiece, get a little insight into Fig (Georgina Campbell), and to read what the co-writers hope you take away from ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Well, first of all, I'm 31, and I feel like you did an excellent job capturing nightmare, social anxieties. How did this project come about?
TOM STOURTON: Well, sort of by having those similar experiences, really. It's always funny when people say that, I think we're sort of simultaneously flattered and happy that we've achieved that, but also kind of sorry as well, if it's triggering. The actual idea came from an experience I had where I went to a wedding, and I hadn't had much sleep. It was old university friends, and I got panicked throughout the course of the day that I'd been invited to the wedding as a joke. Which wasn't true, but...
CREEPY KINGDOM: But what a nightmare.
TOM STOURTON: Yeah. Right, exactly. It felt like a kind of nightmare, and what felt interesting is sort of having a nightmare set in someone's head, almost. You know, it's all about Pete's sort of point of view and being stuck in his own head, and just playing with those stakes, but with a comedy.
TOM PALMER: Yeah, and I think a lot of the humor came from the fact that, you know, that feeling Tom had of, "I've been invited as a joke, and this is going to be a big sort of reveal at a wedding." It's sort of rooted in a lot of narcissism and setting yourself as the protagonist at someone else's wedding. That kind of felt fertile territory for making this film that sat somewhere between this horrible dystopian horror idea of, "Okay, what if there was one weekend where all those feelings we all get suddenly were true. This time it's actually real. And what if actually it was just really embarrassing, and you had totally made it up in your own head, and just playing around with wrong footing, the audience as to never know which kind of narrative this is sitting in, is definitely part of the kind of intrinsic tone to it.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Certain scenes, I feel like I reacted to so viscerally, like when Pete is buttoning his shirt, and then unbuttoning it, and then it's this whole agonizing moment, just for Archie to say like, "God make an effort."
TOM STOURTON: Yeah. Good, good. That moment was entirely the director. The script before Andrew came on board was very dialogue heavy, and he came up with some really good, interesting film visual beats, and he had the idea of just really slowly zooming in on a man, just kind of losing his mind about whether the top button or the other, you know, is the right thing to do or not.
TOM PALMER: I think that scene was also a real focal point for the score as well, when our composers were coming up with different versions of how they were going to... what music was going to accompany this strange sort of tail spin of an individual. What we realized was there's something so fun about having just a trivial thing, just kind of doing up some buttons, but when you put it against this really horrible, kind of horror, violin and unsettling strings, it just turns the moment into this kind of surreal and frightening significance. And again, that seems like a nice sort of focal point of what the tone is.
CREEPY KINGDOM: One of the reasons I feel like it works so well is because of the acting for Pete. You can see all of the tension on your face and in your body language. What was it like getting into the headspace of Pete, having kind of a breakdown?
TOM STOURTON: Yeah. How did I get in the headspace? Well, I mean, I'd love to say that I committed, went full method, and made everyone be horrible to me throughout the shoot. Actually, everyone was really having a good time, and we were living in that house, kind of as a gang. If I'm honest, it wasn't a huge stretch of a performance. I'd say that the way that I was reacting in those scenes is... I was just drawing on my own character quite a lot. But I guess that's what you do as an actor anyway.
It was important to chart. So we were just talking actually about how there were originally more breakdown, tear moments. And we were like, actually, no, the tears, you know, we've gotta pace. We can't have too many crying scenes, because there needs to be a kind of build. It wasn't shot in sequence... so it was important to be aware of at what stage of unraveling I was. I think we sort of did the last, you know, big freak out pretty late on. And that helped. So having had like three weeks being tired, and all the rest of it... It just helped that we were all mates, and I just trusted Andy basically to be on it - and Tom was behind the monitor as well, and they were just honest and helpful.
TOM PALMER: Yeah. And definitely that last scene. I mean, as Tom said, we shot it at the end of the shoot, and it was an eight page scene, and we shot it in two days. You know, so we just lived in that one room for two days... I was pretty much having a breakdown by then, so hopefully it was influencing Tom's performance to some extent.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Another character I wanted to talk about is Fig. She's so interesting. She's tough, from the critique on the staircase, to that moment where it seems like Pete's actually having fun, and they're drinking and chatting, and she just says, "life is too short to care about anything."
TOM PALMER: Yeah, well she was one of the first characters we wrote actually, that staircase scene. It felt like someone we could really picture, and also just so much fun having someone that on the surface is saying something very kind at all times, but actually if you see the words on paper, they're just, like, incredibly cutting and way too honest, like more honest than you would want a friend to be. You know, "you've just been a bit crap this weekend."
TOM STOURTON: They're quite hard to fool, as well. I mean, it's interesting, the cast note was like, "I really like her. I really respect her. I think someone that's able to be that honest is sort of admirable." I don't know how I feel about that. I think I prefer friends that are willing to lie to me a lot more.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Or at least soften the blow.. Pete's face was like, it felt like he had just gotten slapped.
TOM PALMER: Yeah. But she does do it with a kind of smile, there's a hint of a smile on her face, and she gives such a great performance in that moment. I always think you can hopefully just kind of tread the line of like, maybe she's just a bit drunk and trying to be friendly, and maybe some of that's in Pete's head or whatever, but obviously hoping people can never be exactly sure what's just happened.
CREEPY KINGDOM: What do you hope people get out of ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME?
TOM STOURTON: I hope it just pulls you along, and it feels original. You know, again, everyone who likes it seems to simultaneously say, but it's under my skin, and I found it deeply stressful. So I just hope that people are into that as an experience.
TOM PALMER: Exactly. And I hope it leaves you with some questions and wanting to discuss things, and wanting to pick over a few bits with some friends or like even replay some moments just to see the different storylines going on simultaneously. That's what I hope for.
ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME releases in theaters on March 11, 2022, and on digital March 25, 2022.