On what was certainly one of the hottest days Toronto had during the summer, Turbo Kid stars Munro Chambers and Laurence Leboeuf were keeping cool in the cafe at the TIFF Bell Lightbox when I arrived for our interview. It was appropriate weather, since the film is about a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland facing a water shortage —something that was starting to hit home once I stepped out into the afternoon sun. Turbo Kid features Chambers as the Kid: a young man who is simply trying to survive in the post-apocalyptic world of 1997. He soon meets Apple, played by the perpetually smiling Leboeuf, a girl who is cheerier than any person should be post-apocalypse. When they stumble across a murderous group led by Zeus (Michael Ironside), they’re forced to fight for their lives, which becomes a bit easier when the Kid finds a turbo blaster belonging to Turbo Rider, a hero he has read about in comics.
Despite the lack of clean water in the film, Chambers and Leboeuf always seem to look perfectly clean and well groomed, much like they appear when I arrive at the café. There had to be a secret — some sort of post-apocalypse trick we could all use to look our best in the end of days. It’s Chambers who finally reveals it: “I think the Kid’s secret is bubbles. He has a bubble machine that he uses at the beginning of the film to wash his face. [They’re] full of vitamins,” he offers with a laugh.That’s not the only secret Turbo Kid holds, but it’s the only one that Chambers and Leboeuf are willing to offer. “We wanna keep it that way — keep the surprise,” Leboeuf says. Surprise is an understatement when it comes to this film. The crazy revelations it offers can be shocking, and there’s no shortage of twists and turns in this strange homage to the kinds of apocalypse films fans will remember from the ’80s.
I’ve never read a script that was anything like this. I’ve never seen a film that was anything like this. It has that genre feel and that ’80s world a little bit, but it has this adorable, cute love story and this coming-of-age story; I think that’s why it resonates with people.
The film is packed with little references, both via dialogue and visually, to some of the genre films from the ’80s. However, Chambers was born in 1990, while Leboeuf was only five years old that same year, so many of the references aren’t familiar to them. That didn’t pose a challenge to Chambers, who discusses how he approached the film: “We had a feel and there was definitely an homage to those kinds of films, but what I like, and what we did with it, was put a modern twist on it. It’s very tongue-in-cheek inmany of the scenes and we wanted to keep that authentic; we wanted it to have a 2015 feel to an homage of ’80s films. That’s kind of what we did and I think that we achieved that. Leboeuf adds, “It was mostly the directors who were hardcore fans of these movies and had grown up on them. It was their fantasy and their dreams to put all of those little references in.”
The directors behind this incredible film and its numerous references are François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell, a group that works together as Roadkill Superstar (RKSS). It’s obvious they’re hardcore fans, as Leboeuf pointed out, because even days after watching the film you’ll find yourself realizing another reference. The end result is something very familiar, but also unique, something that Chambers feels has helped the film gain such positive reactions.”I’ve never read a script that was anything like this. I’ve never seen a film that was anything like this. It has that genre feel and that ’80s world a little bit, but it has this adorable, cute love story and this coming-of-age story; I think that’s why it resonates with people. It has that modern style and it is an homage, but it’s not. It is tongue-in-cheek but it’s not because there are grounded moments. I think that’s a tribute to our cast and the writers and directors,” Chambers says.
For Leboeuf, the initial reaction was even stronger, as she talks about signing on to do the film. “I said,‘yes’ before even reading the script. François [Simard], one of the directors, sent me a picture of myself that he found on the Internet. He put Apple’s helmet and the make-up under the eye, and it looked so out of space and it’s called Turbo Kid. I looked at it and that was it.”
We knew we were making something unique while we were filming it but I had no idea. People are just falling in love with this film that we fell in love with while we were filming.
Chambers’ experience was a little more typical, as he talks about how he came on the project. “I went through the audition process. Not only was the script really interesting but seeing the passion that RKSS had — the way they talked about the film, and film in general, and the way they talked about approaching actors and directors on the floor, and how it would be collaborative. I like to be around people who inspire me and who are inspired and passionate, and that’s exactly what RKSS are like.”
Chambers reveals another secret about about the role and why he wanted it. “For me, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a superhero. I think that’s why, for this film, I tried to take this character and let it speak to those guys who always wanted to be a superhero.” Chambers adds with a laugh, “and also just try to kiss the girl.”
Both aspects that Leboeuf and Chambers connected with combine to make an experience that many of us haven’t seen in decades, but it’s hard to gauge that while filming. When asked about the response the movie has been receiving and whether they imagined it would be like this, both Chambers and Leboeuf can only admit to shock. “We were at the premiere [at Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal] and I’m driving down, going to the theatre, and I see this huge line-up going around the building,” explains Leboeuf. “I’m like, ‘what’s going on there?’ and then my agent looks at me and goes, ‘it’s for Turbo Kid.’ I’m like, ‘are you kidding me? Wow, that’s amazing.’”
“It’s really the little film that could,” Chambers says. “We knew we were making something unique while we were filming it but I had no idea. People are just falling in love with this film that we fell in love with while we were filming. There were no expectations.”
We were at the premiere [at Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal] and I’m driving down, going to the theatre, and I see this huge line-up going around the building,” explains Leboeuf. “I’m like, ‘what’s going on there?’ and then my agent looks at me and goes, ‘it’s for Turbo Kid.’ I’m like, ‘are you kidding me? Wow, that’s amazing.’
Genre fans will also feel better knowing that very little CGI was used in the film, something that hardcore fans are frequently upset with. Chambers discusses the few CGI effects that were employed. “The only things that we really didn’t see were the gas in the sky and the turbo blast — those were the only things that were CGI. Everything else was mannequins and blood effects. The blood boys were amazing.” “They’re troopers,” Leboeuf adds about the effects team. “It was amazing to see them work. I was saying at one point that it was more amazing to watch the directors watching it being filmed because they’re behind the monitors laughing and crying.”
Of course, when the directors get caught up in how fun it can be to make the film, it can cause strange and hilarious moments. Chambers explains how co-star Aaron Jeffery (who plays badass cowboy and reluctant hero Frederic) was the unintentional victim of the directors getting lost in the world of the movie. “[In one scene], Aaron has his hand cut off and then it gets stabbed and there’s all this blood going off, but it’s freezing cold [on set]. He’s got all this blood poured on him but it’s absolutely freezing and they’re there and they keep going. He’s going on for, like, five minutes and the directors are just watching, and they forget to yell,‘cut’ because they’re so immersed in it.”
Viewers will find themselves in the same position while watching Turbo Kid. It’s hard to take your eyes off the screen. With great performances from Leboeuf and Chambers, as well as the film’s many secrets, you haven’t experienced anything quite like this. Fortunately for fans across Canada, we’ll have the chance to watch the crazy ’80s throwback when it hits theatres on Thursday, August 27, 2015 for Sinister Cinema presentations at Cineplex theatres across Canada, before opening on Friday, August 28, 2015 for an extended run at Cineplex Yonge Dundas and Carlton Cinema. Be sure to catch this fantastic Canadian film.