Crazy antics, eerie mysteries and awkward villains are all showcased in Dan Gregor’s (“How I Met Your Mother,” “The Comedians”) new comedy-thriller, “Most Likely to Murder.” The film stars Adam Pally as Billy, a loser busboy who dreams of living a life of cool cars, wild parties and plenty of alcohol.
The PHOENIX sat down with Pally and Gregor to discuss the film.
“Most Likely to Murder” is Gregor’s first feature film. His background in writing allowed him to bring Billy’s story to life in an unconventional way. Gregor made it his goal to direct something that differs from traditional murder-mysteries.
“There’s so many things now to watch that it does need to feel different,” Gregor said. “We wanted to find a way to mash up two different genres.”
Upon returning home from his job busing tables in a Las Vegas club, Billy finds has greatly changed since he left. Namely, the high school nerd, Lowell (Vincent Kartheiser), is now dating his ex-girlfriend.
After getting drunk and heading home from the bar, Billy manages to witness strange happenings through Lowell’s window, only to find out the following morning Lowell’s mother had died that night. This leads Billy to conduct several alcohol-induced investigations alongside his best friend Duane (Doug Mand), in an attempt to prove Lowell is a murderer, hoping to win back his ex.
Gregor said his and Pally’s background in comedy definitely influenced the film’s script.
“Making a comedy was our first goal, but we also wanted it to be a little intense and real,” Gregor said.
Pally said he and Gregor were friends long before they began working together. The chemistry between the duo allowed for an “easy” production process and cohesive final product.
Pally said there were several challenges during the production of “Most Likely to Murder,” many revolving around the portrayal of Billy.
“I think the biggest challenge with Billy is the difficulty that comes with your main character being completely unlikable,” Pally said. “Billy, a lot of times, does things that are not typically likable. So the challenge was to keep the audience on your side while doing these things that they wouldn’t do.”
Billy gets into plenty of trouble and screws up several relationships throughout the movie, all while chasing what is he considers to be justice.
“To me, those are the realest people,” Pally said. “As altruistic as we all think we are, no one is just one way. That was what I was the most excited about.”
Lowell, the film’s antagonist, was reminiscent of Danny McGrath (Steve Buscemi) from “Billy Madison” (1995). While not a direct inspiration, according to Gregor, he said he did follow a similar path regarding character development.
“That idea of recontextualizing the person that got picked on in high school or didn’t have the easiest time, making them a fully-fledged person, was really important for us to figure out how to grow [Lowell],” Gregor said.
Gregor said a lot of the film was inspired by his past experience with bullying.
“My experience was an important part of it,” Gregor said. “I went to a very small middle school and I was a mean kid. I was big for my age and I was good at picking on people. Then I left eighth grade and went to a big public school where I knew no one, and within a week I was getting bullied … That really was the emotional starting place of this story of how we revisit those parts of ourselves.”
The idea of bullying is the undertone for “Most Likely to Murder,” as the relationship between Billy and Lowell is largely based on their experiences in high school, where Billy would often pick on him and create explicit rhymes to degrade him. The film’s title references senior superlatives. However, Gregor said there’s more to it.
“It goes back to the whole idea of how you see people when you’re young and incorrectly label them,” he said.
Having the audience decide who’s right and who’s wrong was one of the key points of the movie. Creating characters, each with trivial motives was one of Gregor’s stylistic strong suits.
“A big goal for this project was making [Billy], who is arguably the villain of the movie … able to land that balance between being an ass or a hero, and Pally did such an amazing job of finding that very small middle ground,” Gregor said.
“Most Likely to Murder” will be available May 1st on Digital and On Demand.