“Eighth Grade” is getting schooled on Oscar campaigning. Elsie Fisher, the 15-year-old star of the film, never thought she’d be on the “awards wine-and-dine circuit.” “It seems too good to be true,” gushed the newly minted star at a recent A24 screening for academy members in New York City. The movie is about the angst of being an awkward 13-year-old, and Fisher can relate. “I struggled with anxiety and I didn’t know how to articulate it.”
Now Fisher thinks the marketing phase of the film is “really cool. I definitely didn’t imagine we’d be here when we were filming it because we had so much fun filming it’s like ‘Oh we actually get to make a quality movie too?’ If I get to do what I get to do and I have to talk about it for months afterwards, that’s great. The story is very personal to me.”
Writer-director Bo Burnham is 28-years-old, so he did research to better understand the lives of young teens in the social media age. He explained, “I watched kids online. And listened to them.” That sounds a little creepy, Bo. He laughed. “You do have to clear your computer search of ‘middle school pool party.'” And what Burnham didn’t know he asked his star. “It was very much a collaboration in pre-production and production,” she said. “He really did come to me for a lot of guidance because he’s never been a teenage girl. And he’s never been a teenager right now.”
That’s why Burnham didn’t rely on his own middle school memories. “I wanted to explore their current experience and their moment,” he said. “The internet and cellphones are very different. I had AIM instant messenger and a chunky Motorola cellphone that I would try to impress girls with by throwing it over my shoulder and showing it wouldn’t break. That move did not work. But what’s similar are the feelings.”
And the awards campaign trail that’s just beginning? “It’s absolutely incredible,” the director says. “The movie came out in the summer. I was just over the moon that it was going to be in any theaters or even be made in the first place, so this is absolutely incredible. It really is enjoyable to be able to talk to people about it. So far beyond expectations for the film. It’s a lot to process. I’m trying to enjoy it because I know this won’t happen for the rest of my life.”
What about a sequel? Burnham “would like to do a ‘Lord Of The Flies Fifth Grade’ with just complete chaos.” We will watch for that. And has Fisher picked out what to wear for any upcoming awards shows? “I’ll probably wear a suit. I’ll figure something out.”
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