The Ross Brothers Made a Road-Trip Movie. They Didn’t Come Back the Same. | Interviews

Watching your films, I think about Greil Marcus’ term about the old, weird America—you’re often examining these aspects of American life that aren’t always shown. How much are your movies about that other, less-represented America?

Turner: It’s the unseen part of the glacier. It’s an ongoing conversation about American mythology, American individuality, regionalism, the colloquialisms of particular American experience.

Bill: There’s so many great storytellers in our family. My dad’s brother would be over all the time, and he is pretty notorious for being a good-time guy. So when we were little kids, he would be over and he would tell us these wild stories about all these colorful characters. He would always say his favorite people were all stars, luminaries and notables. I think it instilled in us to be on the lookout for characters—they aren’t just in movies, they’re all around us. I don’t think we’ve ever sought out normalcy. We’ve always been like, “What’s this over here…?” That was instilled at a very young age by the wild characters that we grew up around.

Do you envy the teens in your movie because of the time of life that they’re in? 

Turner: Hell no. That passage is so difficult. It’s excruciating in its wonder. You have no idea where you’re going, even if you do, because you’ve never done any of these things before, and there’s no certainty. You don’t have anything on the résumé to show for those first 18 years, really, and you only do it once that way. There are the many gauntlets of life that we go through at different passages, but that one you just do once. The leaving home, the discovering autonomy, seeing yourself in the other, finding your identity, figuring out how it works—there’s so much ahead of you at that moment in time that, god, it’s daunting. 

But it was so fucking fun and messy [when we were that age]. We had great friends and incredible adventures and low lows and high highs. Everything was felt intensely before we got jaded and calloused and all that shit. You can’t keep that up forever. 

Bill: While we were shooting, the girls [were] so much more mature than the boys. [Laughs] I’m still very close to the women that I grew up with, and I texted them throughout the shoot: “Was I a complete idiot when we were teenagers?” And they were like, “Oh, yeah, absolutely.” I was like, “Why the hell did you hang out with me?” They’re like, “Well, you were a lot of fun.” I look back on that time fondly, for sure, but I am very happy to have grown and learned some things about life. Growing up doesn’t have to be boring.