David Cross has been a comedy kingpin on the alternative scene for more than two decades, having co-created HBO’s legendary “Mr. Show” before taking another wildly popular turn as Tobias Funke on “Arrested Development.”
All the while Cross maintained a thriving career as a stand-up comic and author.
Yet it wasn’t until now that he felt the inspiration to write and direct his own feature film, the off-beat, character-driven “Hits.” Using a top-notch cast including Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder and “Veep” co-star Matt Walsh, the film follows a man whose frustration with potholes and other small-town minutiae leads to a frenzy of attention from battling hipsters and the national media.
Meanwhile, his teen daughter is obsessed with becoming a star of any kind, whether as a singer on “The Voice” or by being caught in a sex tape.
Opening today in limited theaters nationwide, it’s also available as a downloadable, pay-what-you-want BitTorrent bundle – a move he sees as following in the footsteps of Radiohead and Louis CK. He’s bringing his work directly to a larger audience than a bigger studio release would likely achieve.
“We want as many people to see this film as possible, which is my interest,” says Cross. “Their interest is, ‘We want to make as much money as possible,’ So, that was not—or never was—my goal with this. We could have gotten a paycheck, and cashed a check for $100,000 or whatever it would be after everything was divvied up.
“But I’d rather roll the dice and not get that and have a million people potentially see it as opposed to taking the paycheck and literally, what, 150,000 people see it,” Cross adds. “I didn’t feel … they couldn’t sell it, I guess. They couldn’t market it, they couldn’t sell it, and they weren’t confident that it would be the kind of movie you’re describing or have the life that you’re describing. So, that was part of the inspiration for that.”
Cross says an early test screening before a group of industry insiders, including comic writers, revealed an unlikely problem. “Hits” was too funny, burying the story under layers of humor.
“So we took a lot of the comedy out, and it was hard to do, but I think it was the right thing to do. It’s still funny, but it’s not broad; it’s more subtle at times,” he says.
Those comments and much more – including how Cross snagged his cast, the surprising sympathy he has for his characters and how the balanced tone Cross achieved in this dramedy – on a special episode of “Kozversations” podcast on www.radiotitans.com, with the Cross episode to be found at www.radiotitans.com/kozversations-2.
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Carl Kozlowski is a veteran film critic for and the entertainment editor at the alternative newspaper Pasadena Weekly, in addition to being the film critic for Catholic News Agency and Movieguide. He also is a professional stand-up and the winner of the America’s Funniest Reporter title from the Laugh Factory club in Hollywood. He is the founder and head of the podcasting site Radio Titans.