The first thing you should know about Jeremy Sisto’s new movie Break Point, that he produced and co-wrote with writer Gene Hong, is that it is nothing like Point Break. At the same time, it very well could be because I have never actually seen Point Break. Second thing you should know is I have a list below of actual things to know about Break Point. But first, a summary: Sisto’s new dramedy focuses on two estranged brothers brought together to compete as a team in doubles tennis.
Jimmy [Jeremy Sisto] is the washed-up tennis pro who drinks too much and is volatile to the max. His brother Darren [David Walton] is a well-mannered substitute teacher who can’t seem to become an actual teacher and was recently dumped. Their father is a sensible veterinarian [J.K. Simmons] disheartened by the brother’s current relationship, but loving still the same. And Barry [Joshua Rush] is Darren’s former student, who wears hypercolor bermuda shorts and polo tees and devotedly follows the brothers around.
I met with Jeremy Sisto (and lost my Cranberries CD in the process, for real; I was very committed to this Clueless bit where I gave him Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? and told him he left it in the quad, and now the only CD in my car is Third Eye Blind’s self-titled album; it could be worse), and David Walton about tennis, dark times, young boys, and the importance of boring small talk.
The Original Script Was Darker
Jeremy Sisto: My instinct is always to go darker, especially back then. Gene [Hong] was intent on making sure I didn’t drag it too much in that direction. Our original conceit that we had was that the origin of the estrangement between the brothers had to do with how the mother died and how she was taken off life support. It was a darker thing. In the first two or three years of development, it was at a certain company that did great. They did great developing with us and it was a really great experience. One of the things they really pushed for, that me and Gene fought against, was to take that out. They thought the movie needed to be a little lighter and not too alienating with something that is too out there in the story. Ultimately, we ended up agreeing. It took us a while to get around to it, but sure, I definitely thought about how the movie would be with that and I think it would work equally, as well.
Walton’s Wife’s Small Talk Helped Him Get The Role
David Walton: My wife was talking to Gene Hong. They’re friends, and I don’t really know Gene that well. I met him a couple times. So, they’re catching up, they’re shooting the shit, and Gene’s like, “What’s your husband’s name again? Oh yeah, how’s David doing?” And she says, “He’s good. He’s out playing tennis,” and Gene was like, “David plays tennis?” And then I got a call from the agent, they sent me the script, I read it. I thought it was so good and funny, and then I went in and read with Jeremy and, two hours later, they’re like, “They want you,” and it’s all because of some haphazard bored conversation on the phone with my wife.
The Tennis Is Real, So Don’t Doubt It For A Second
Sisto: We felt that there was a blank space in the index of great movies where a tennis dramedy should live. Especially doubles tennis. We felt it was ripe for inner-relationship conflict and comedy. And so coupled with the idea that tennis is a very mannered game where behavior has to be just right in order not to insult the tennis gods, that there was an opportunity to have a character who enjoyed not following those, that offered a lot of comedic opportunities.
Walton: This is the best tennis movie by far. I think there are only three, though: Wimbledon, Match Point — the Woody Allen one, but I don’t think that’s really a tennis movie — and then there’s some other one. I do a double’s clinic, and they were talking about some bad tennis movies from the past. So, I think any time you’re the best of something, it’s good. Unequivocally, I can say this is the best tennis movie ever made.
Sisto: The tennis was amazing. I’m a boy, I love playing games with balls and racquets and hoops. So, to be able to do that and have it be part of my job was super fun. The first day out, me and David played in between every take, but, by the end of the day, we were exhausted, so we didn’t do that in subsequent days.
Walton: We played a bunch. Jeremy played like crazy beforehand, and right when I got the part, we started playing together. And we were nervous about how it would look, but I think it looks pretty authentic. But it is authentic. We’re playing. There’s no CGI ball or anything like they have in Wimbledon.
Sisto: Gene would hit out there, too, so it was pretty fun. On any set, if there’s a hoop, I’ll start playing. Then I’m all sweaty, and they’re like, “Why’d you do that?” then I have to re-do makeup. So, I shouldn’t be doing that, but, this time, I got a free pass.
Jimmy’s The Character Everyone Wants To Play, And Perhaps Be
Sisto: [My character, Jimmy is] just that character you always wanted to play. The character that I would never get. They always cast somebody else because it’s always sought after, which is the guy who is irreverent and says a lot of funny things. It’s just a character everyone wants to play. But you can’t be him all the time, that’s why, when I’ve had one too many drinks, I’m like, “This is who I would be if I didn’t care! If I just wanted to be whoever the fuck I wanted to be.”
Walton: When I read the script, I was like, “That Jimmy character’s fucking awesome. This Darren [character] is a fucking bore.” I was like, “Ugh, I didn’t want to play him. Jimmy’s so much more fun.” But I quickly got over that. And I liked playing someone different because I traditionally had been playing characters like that—outspoken, say what’s on their mind, super immature—so I liked the change up. And Jeremy, he’s such a good actor and I hadn’t seen him do a comedy, so I was like, “What is he going to do with this?” And then he’s just a fucking force of nature. I’m going to stop swearing.
Sisto: He doesn’t care if other people are amused by him. He really enjoys how he is, for the most part, in the moment. He obviously recognized that he’s lacking something very fundamental that he finds through the course of the movie. We also understand that his inability to accept his aging and maturing is something that is pretty difficult to him.
Walton: Tennis is so polite and structured and gentlemanly that, when you have those moments of outburst, it’s like, Wow, the contrast is so striking. Whereas opposed in hockey, if someone’s yelling or something, everyone’s doing that. So Jimmy, there’s such a huge presence when you’re behaving like that, that I think it amplifies everything.
The Film Is A Producing First For Sisto
Sisto: For the most part, everyone respected how much time I had spent on it, and so I was able to influence what I wanted to influence. And just to be able to re-write scenes in the day, to be able to show up and read through a scene that we had there for a long time, the dinner scene with the father—with J.K., myself and Adam [DeVine] and David, we went through it and felt like it wasn’t enough. It just didn’t feel like the scene had happened. We need a scene to happen. So, we sat down and wrote it up right there. And that’s hard to do, for me, it’s pretty confrontational with the writer to say, “It’s not enough for this scene. Can we write something else?” So, having that opportunity and working with a writer who’s a friend and who’s a great writer and works really well on his toes. On his toes? That’s a term. On his toes. On his heels? On some portion of his foot. On his pinky toe.
The Young Actor, Joshua Rush, Often Steals The Show
Sisto: [Barry] was a character I was very intent on having be a part of it, and Gene wrote in the first draft a very special and unique character that already was something that gave the script something a little different. And as we developed it over the four years, that was always the favorite character for everyone in the process. It just grew—it grew with the funny lines, people would come up with funny lines, we threw them in. The hot tub scene was something that came in three years into development, and it’s one of the best scenes in the movie.
Walton: Darren kind of puts him under his wing, but almost the Jimmy and Joshua [Barry] growth to me is the most beautiful part of the movie. Where Jeremy [Jimmy] says, “I don’t give a fuck about anything or anyone but myself,” and he ends up loving this kid and taking him under his wing and being his coach and being fully engaged. And that hot tub scene, it’s my favorite scene in the movie, where he’s telling this little kid what it means to be a man
Sisto: [In Rush’s audition] I wasn’t sure if he was playing the character or was the character. Because it’s just a videotape [audition]. So, we sat down and met him, and when I met him, I was like, “No, he is that smart and that unique.” He has a similar element that the character had on the page, but he has it in real life. And he’s super fun. Super fun to work with. I love him a lot. And I’m really excited to see how he grows up. I think he might actually change the world or something.
Walton: Darren, in this weird way, is like [Barry’s] mother. He brings the kid along because he feels sorry, but then almost lets Jimmy nurture him a bit. But Jimmy takes the horns with the kid, which I liked. Jimmy is being the perfect father, and I’m like the eye-rolling mother of this boy. I think I just said I’m a mother [laughs]. But it is maternal. Yes, that’s my role in the movie, the mother of the young boy.
(Break Point opens nationwide on September 4)