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Interview: Best Buds Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin on Their Bro-mantic Comedy ‘The Climb’

Sony Pictures Classics

The buddy comedy The Climb has been around for a long time. Since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival way back in May 2019, it played at Telluride, Toronto, Sundance, and a number of other festivals. Its March 2020 release was pushed back to November, and now the film is finally available to watch at home. Awards Radar had the highly entertaining opportunity to speak with Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin, who star in and wrote the film (Michael also directed). Read on for a very funny conversation that’s indicative of the real-life dynamic between these two that helped shape a truly enjoyable and winning film.

Q: How much does the friendship in the movie between Mike and Kyle reflect your own relationship?

Michael Angelo Covino: It’s a mirror image.

Kyle Marvin: (laughter)

Michael: There is not a single thing in the film that is not a perfect replica (laughter).

Kyle: It’s who we are. No, I think we chose characters that we were both interested in and proceeded to make them the most cinematically entertaining. It’s not our personalities or who we are. Some of what we wrote was drawn from our own mixed-up personal relationships. We mostly chose characters we wanted to portray, although I guess pieces of us inevitably end up in the characters.

Q: What are the differences between the short you first made and this feature film?

Michael: The short film was always the feature. We were trying to put it out there to get people confident about the feature.

Kyle: The DNA strain is very similar because it’s the same thought process. The way we crafted all the scenes is the same. What we were trying to accomplish and how we wanted to explore the relationship. The great thing is that, when we got the confidence from people that we could be the ones to execute it, then we got to dig into the characters and push the boundaries of what we thought was possible, both from the physical comedy side and the character exploration.

Michael: The short film was a very simple idea in that it was just a guy who reveals to his best friend that he’s slept with his ex-girlfriend, and the other one’s out of shape so he chases him up the hill but can’t catch him. We loved that as a great opening scene to a movie, but it’s also in itself a really strong idea that leaves you wanting more. What excited us so much about continuing this was the characters and who they were to one another just felt like they had so much more to explore. We knew from the beginning that this person gives more and this person takes more from the relationship. That’s probably always going to be the case, and yet they’re probably never going to get rid of each other because they’re just connected at the hip from such a young age. This feels like a very real relationship that we understand from our lives because we’ve seen it or experienced it from either side.

Kyle: To some degree.

Michael: That was very exciting, because once we knew that, we could explore how messy we could get within that, and how these guys will transform or not transform and process it and overcome these things emotionally to still come back to each other.

Kyle: And really what the feature gave us was time. It allowed us to stretch this relationship over a long period of time and let the audience really travel the journey, which I think is a big part of the DNA of why people find it so fascinating. You take these big leaps in time, you’re sort of time-traveling with them through their relationships and it gives you this big view of a relationship in a quick period of time as an audience.

Q: I know this film has been described as a bro-mantic comedy. Is this a genre you like and that other films exist in? What do you hope to see for its future?

Michael: It’s been described as it, so now I love it. I’m like, great, if that’s what our movie is, I’m down. I don’t think we ever thought about descriptors or categories for the film itself. I know that there have been a lot of those films that I’ve loved from the past, Dumb and Dumber being one of them. There are endless films about broken friendships that are darkly comedic that we both are massive fans of, but it was never explicitly at the forefront of our minds. It was more that we had a feeling about how we wanted to feel. We had a tone and a feel for this movie that we wanted to straddle. We want it to be a bit heartbreaking and sad and bittersweet, but we also want it to be surprisingly funny at moments and incorporate aspects of slapstick comedy, and really be a celebration of the type of film we love.

Kyle: I think also that friendship is a universal thing that spans culture and sex and all those things. It’s funny because we’ve been on the road with this for so long. Women come up to me and say, oh my god, I have a Kyle in my life. People see in this relationship their own relationships regardless of the “bro” or male side of it. It’s a more universal conversation.

Q: This film has been around for a long time…

Michael: Yeah, we made it ten years ago.

Kyle: (laughter)

Q: Is it a nice thing to have people constantly rediscover it?

A: It’s way better than having people constantly not discover it. If we were to complain about the lifespan of this film, we would be full of shit. How can we complain? The situation is what it is. Obviously it’s not ideal that we didn’t get the release we originally intended. It’s such a blessing that we get to move on and write new films and work on our new projects, but at the same time get surprising e-mails from people we admire who are like, we just saw your film and we loved it. It’s a really fun and gratifying experience.

Kyle: Yeah, we’re just stringing out our gratification. We got all our Christmas presents, but we’re opening them slowly throughout the year.

Michael: Great metaphor.

Kyle: Thanks.

Q: The film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award last year, and now you’re part of another awards cycle.

Michael: Yeah, we’re going to try to get another Independent Spirit Award this year, because we didn’t win last year. We’re hoping that if we get nominated this year, we’ll be a shoo-in. It’s sort of like the hall of fame ceremonies for sports and baseball. You’re on the ballot each year and eventually you get inducted. Yeah, I don’t know. Things that you have absolutely no control over, you can sit and you can think about it, and really hope. You can go, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it would be cool. And then you get surprised, or you get not surprised. That’s the beauty of awards, it’s icing on the cake. You made a movie, people seem to enjoy it, I have no idea if it’s awards-worthy. I hope it is, but I don’t know.

Q: Are you avid cyclists, and how do you really feel about biking?

Michael: I got into it for the outfits. I just wanted to wear the lycra and the spandex. But then I really got into cycling.

Kyle: I was not into cycling prior to the film, and now I’m fully addicted. I’m also now wearing spandex, less attractively than Mike, but equally committed.

Michael: We ride a lot together.

Kyle: It’s funny, because we were trying to get in shape while getting out of shape for The Climb, so part of the writing process was we would ride our bikes. We need a little break, get on our bikes, ride from our office, and come back to sit down and write. If you work like that, it becomes almost like therapy.

Q: I used to bike to work in New York City, but I’d avoid hills at all costs.

Michael: Yeah, I get that. If you have to go to work, the amount I sweat on a bike, I’d never want to climb a hill. As long as I don’t have to go anywhere or be presentable, I love nothing more than climbing hills.

Q: Obviously, this was a very fun process. Is there a favorite moment you have from making this movie?

Michael: My favorite moment was probably the premieres at Cannes because that was when we actually got to celebrate and it was less work and more party.

Kyle: It was also nerve-racking all the way until that moment. We had still been living with the film and we had been working on it up to the last minute. I don’t think you’re ever satisfied with a film – maybe someone is – but I’ve never had the experience where I feel like, this is the perfect film. You’re constantly like dialing it up, trying to perfect it more, asking is this one thing bugging anyone else? This Cannes moment was a true answer of okay, people like this movie. We loved it, but who knew?

Michael: From shooting, a moment that stands out for me was the kidnapping scene. We pulled up, jumped out of the truck, tackled Kyle in the snow, threw him in the back of the truck, and then drove away. We were just sort of stealing the shot in someone’s driveway, in a snowstorm up in the Adirondacks. These people saw us do this and I guess the location managers didn’t flag them down. They called the cops to report a kidnapping. They came out to the shoot on the ice. They tracked the truck from the plates. It’s sitting in the parking lot, and they come out to ask if there was a kidnapping here. We had state police on the set with us. They’re out there looking and don’t realize that it’s part of the same thing. It was a funny thing that they were looking for an hour for someone who got kidnapped and it was just Kyle.

Q: Michael, I was surprised to see you in a different kind of role in News of the World.

Michael: Me too, I thought for sure I was going to get cut. That was sort of like getting dunked in a film school. I got thrust into watching how you make a big-budget western with Tom Hanks. It was just eye-opening and amazing. Everyone on that set is like the best of the best. All of the department heads have won Oscars and they’re amazing. I just got thrust into that. I remember I showed up and I was supposed to have a week of horse training, and they moved the schedule around. I got a call from the second AD. They were like, did you land? And I said yeah. Great, you start shooting tomorrow. I look at the scene and it’s my walk-and-talk with Tom Hanks. And I’m still working on my accent and haven’t done any horse-riding. And I’m like, oh great, here we go. They drove me right into wardrobe. I’m meeting with Mark Bridges and he asks if I’ve spoken to Paul Greengrass about the arm, and I’m like, what arm? He said, oh yeah, your right arm is dead from a war injury. Oh wait, now I have to shoot a gun with my left hand? It was the funniest being thrust into your biggest acting experience ever and having to adapt and have fun with it. With those movies, it’s such a big production and you figure it out and you roll with it. It went great. I got on set and I met Tom Hanks, and he’s like the nicest, most humble, amazing guy, and Paul is the sweetest, most talented director. They just work with you and you try things. It was really amazing to see how collaborative and welcoming and professional they all are. It all worked out, at least from my perspective. I always wondered, how is this going to turn out? For me, I’m way more used to being behind the camera. You get this level of control when you are looking at the footage all the time. When you put your performance out there and you have to step away from it, it’s just a different experience.

Q: Thanks for chatting today! Good luck with this film and your next projects!

The Climb is out on Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD on January 19th courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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