Machine Gun Kelly and Mod Sun on Bringing Back the Stoner Comedy
With their new movie Good Mourning, Mod Sun and Machine Gun Kelly have set out to revive the stoner comedy, a tradition that dates back to the days of Cheech & Chong, but more recently has flirted with extinction. The movie, which was written and directed by the longtime friends and collaborators, follows the actor London Clash (played by MGK) as he faces a painstaking dilemma: choosing between pursuing the love of his life or auditioning for a role that could jumpstart his career. The sprawling cast features a motley crew of Gen Z stars (Dove Cameron, Rickey Thompson), ‘90s icons (Dennis Rodman, Tom Arnold), friends (GaTa, Pete Davidson), and lovers (Avril Lavigne, Megan Fox). With Good Mourning currently available for streaming, Mod Sun and Machine Gun Kelly recently sat down for a debriefing on this joint career milestone (pun very much intended). —JACKSON WALD
MOD SUN: Hello, Colson Baker!
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Hello, Mod Sun.
MOD SUN: How are you feeling today?
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Don’t ask what you already know [Laughs]. Did you think when I texted you “Do you wanna write a movie?” that we were actually going to write a movie?
MOD SUN: I think that because you texted me at 11:11, we were going to write one. Did I feel like we were ever going to be able to make one and find someone to give us the opportunity to make one? It was iffy. Very iffy. What would you say is the reason we named this movie Good Mourning?
MACHINE GUN KELLY: That’s interesting because while life imitates art with how we wrote this from a real place, about a real situation, the text itself did not involve Good Mourning. I don’t remember how we stumbled on that. When you say “Good Mourning” out loud people are gonna hear it the easiest way, which is as a greeting. As you and I both know, with art, the best pieces are the ones that are layered like an onion that you have to peel back and look deeper into. That’s what is so beautiful about that phrase. Most people just take it at the first layer, but if you peel it back, and you see there’s a “U” in the spelling of the title, that leads to you having to ask questions and then realizing that it’s not what you thought it was. That’s the intention of why we put all those twists in the movie; while it’s easy to just take it as its first-layer of “Oh, haha stoner guy comedy,” it really is a story about someone choosing love over their work ,or someone doing the right thing, and then because you do the right thing, you actually get everything. Halfway through the movie, you’re scared that he’s not going to get his dream job because he’s chosen the relationship, or he’s going to get the dream job but not the relationship, and in the end, you see he gets both because he made the right decisions. So, we named it Good Mourning because that term alone is layered and that requires a deeper sense of awareness. We don’t want it to just be a doofus comedy. It’s supposed to be something that has depth to it.
MOD SUN: It’s also super interesting that “Good Mourning” essentially means good sadness or happy sadness. It’s crazy that the end of the film revolves around something that’s terrible but actually brings them both happiness.
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Do you feel like we will ever release a version with the original ending that we shot?
MOD SUN: I want to so badly, bro! We wrote this amazing ending that had a twist that was so twisted that no one understood it. There is definitely a cut somewhere in this world with a whole different ending.
MACHINE GUN KELLY: I really enjoyed it, but it went over people’s heads. Apparently, they weren’t ready to peel that layer back. How did you feel when I wrapped the movie I was shooting right before, and we had four days left until we started shooting and had only one-fourth of our cast casted?
MOD SUN: I felt like we were a little in over our head, and that the one thing we had to do was just show up every day. We continuously said that to each other. Every morning, we’d meet up and drive to set together, and we’d be like, “All we got to do is show up.” It was definitely scary. We had to fight to make everything work every single day.
MACHINE GUN KELLY. A big plot point was London Clash, who is the main character in the movie, going through the journey of trying to find his girlfriend on a day that he feels like she’s breaking up with him. He also is in a pickle between the break-up and the biggest audition of his acting career, which is for Batman. In the middle of filming, the financiers told us that we couldn’t use the word “Batman.” Can you please share some of the alternatives that we had before we did end up finally clearing Batman?
MOD SUN: Well, we’re really looking at you and asking, what could be believable for you to play? I think the one that we went with was David Bowie.
MACHINE GUN KELLY: What’s funny is that in real life, four or five years ago, I did audition for the Bowie biopic. I think it was called Stardust. But I never sent in my tape. I smoked the wrong strain of weed and rewatched it and I was like, “I’m too insecure. I can’t do it.” I did the bolt. I did the Ziggy Stardust. I had a dialect coach help me master his exact way of speaking. I did all of that. Then, I did the audition, was about to send it in, and I was smoking this weed in Europe and rewatched the tape and was like “Oh, I can’t send this.”
MOD SUN: That’s crazy. You never told me that. Who surprised you the most cast-wise?
MACHINE GUN KELLY: One of my favorite memories was watching GaTa do the scene where he had to fill in for London at the lunch meeting. There were these lines that he was uncomfortable saying, but I enjoyed watching him be receptive and open to the idea of really getting into a character. He’s brilliant on Dave, but on Dave he’s GaTa, who is real, and in Good Mourning, he’s Leo, who is just a character. He realized the fanbase of people watching the movie laughed because of how extroverted Leo is and how open Leo is with what he wants to say. That was an honor to watch because it meant that he trusted us because he knew he was going to put something on screen that, if it was whack and wasn’t a good decision, it was going to live on-screen forever. But we did it and it got a billion laughs on set. Who surprised you the most?
MOD SUN: Not to sound cliche, but definitely you. We all saw you do so amazing in The Dirt and just kill every role that you’ve played. In The Dirt, you were playing a real person. I know that you do a lot of research and development. I saw you being able to study someone and do it so well. In Good Mourning, it was almost like watching you create a character out of nowhere and be able to see you become a rounded actor. There are moments that you’re probably watching and you’re like, “Dude, why am I not the funny one in this?” But you are! When people watch it, they pick up on that and find you hilarious. There’s this breakup scene in the movie where, watching it, I remember being like “God, this is my best friend. He’s amazing.” Do you think we did a good job making this movie?
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Absolutely. I’m confident that the best of the best couldn’t have made this movie. I’m not saying we made a movie that’s a hundred percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m saying that we made a movie that is like a Phoenix. It was out of the dirt. The financiers of this movie were like, “This is not going to be possible.” We start filming tomorrow and three-fourths of the cast isn’t cast. There are scenes where we have entire locations like hotels and airports rented out and you have no cast for this. We had script revisions that we ended up out the window because we were like, “We know what the story is, so let’s just let the actors write their own words.” We ultimately just wanted to do justice to youth culture and the stoner comedy genre that has been missing for some years now. I’m tired of hearing people who aren’t stoners or aren’t the youth speaking for us or trying to have dialogue that’s trying to be relevant on purpose. It’s corny. I feel like what we did is so necessary, and ultimately if we made someone laugh, then our job is done. I’ll tell you what, in the face of death the last thing I want to do is cry or be serious. I want to crack a smile and then call it a day.
INTERVIEW: Who do you stalk? You can both answer.
MOD SUN: Bob Dylan.
MACHINE GUN KELLY: My fan pages.
INTERVIEW: What ’90s movie do you know by heart?
MOD SUN: Memento.
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Van Wilder. Baby Boy.
INTERVIEW: What’s the last thing you got in trouble for?
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Walking behind a bar to pour myself a drink.
MOD SUN: Smoking a cigar at a dinner table.
INTERVIEW: Which show do you watch the most?
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Atlanta.
MOD SUN: Arrested Development.
INTERVIEW: Do you get shy on camera?
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Fuck yes.
MOD SUN: No.
INTERVIEW: Where do you keep your dirty videos?
MOD SUN: On a VHS tape
INTERVIEW: What do you do when no one’s watching?
MOD SUN: Cry.
INTERVIEW: Since the movie is about stoner culture, who’s the best joint roller?
MOD SUN: I would say me. He’s going to say himself.
MACHINE GUN KELLY: It’s going to be tough. He rolls them the quickest, but they look like a broken twig in the forest.
MOD SUN: He’s a perfectionist.
MACHINE GUN KELLY: My joints look camera-ready.
INTERVIEW: How do you get attention?
MOD SUN: By not seeking it.
INTERVIEW: How are you going to celebrate the release of the movie?
MACHINE GUN KELLY: Get stoned.
MOD SUN: I’ll be on tour and I’m going to find it at any theater I can go to watch it. That’s the dream.