One of the few films in theaters right now, The War with Grandpa, has a super interesting story behind it. Based on the book by Robert Kimmel Smith, the film has a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, Laura Marano, Oakes Fegley, Rob Riggle, Cheech Marin and Jane Seymour.
Here’s the description: Sixth-grader Peter (Fegley) is pretty much your average kid-he likes gaming, hanging with his friends and his beloved pair of Air Jordans. But when his recently widowed grandfather Ed (De Niro) moves in with Peter’s family, the boy is forced to give up his most prized possession of all, his bedroom. Unwilling to let such an injustice stand, Peter devises a series of increasingly elaborate pranks to drive out the interloper, but Grandpa Ed won’t go without a fight. Soon, the friendly combatants are engaged in an all-out war with side-splitting consequences.
The story’s path to the big screen was through Tre Peart, then age 8, who had a movie idea based on the book after he read it. His parents, Marvin Peart (Brookdale Studios) and Rosa Peart (Marro Media Company) financed the film and they produced it with him. It is one of the first family films to go into theaters during the pandemic.
Shadow and Act spoke with the family about how all of this came together:
How did this project first come about for you all?
Tre Peart: I was in third grade reading an assignment for English. It was called The War with Grandpa. There is a rule my mom made that said if I wanna see the movie, I must read the book. After I was done enjoying what is still one of my favorite books to this day, I was ready to watch the movie, as I had completed my side of the deal. After almost an hour of searching, I couldn’t find a movie! I was so disappointed. Then I started thinking, how am I gonna be able to watch this movie? Then it came to me that my parents were in the movie business! What a coincidence right? So I told my mom, and she read the book, and then we came together and made a pitch to show my dad, something that my mom had to teach me how to do. Then we managed to convince him. Fast forward seven years, it’s finally coming out!
What are the ins and outs of bringing a book to the big screen?
Tre Peart: It is simple, but can be very complicated depending on the situation, and book. In our specific scenario, it was very simple. This book came out in the ’80s and sold 1.3 million copies at the time when we reached out to ask the publisher if we could option the book. And once we reached a deal, we were given the green light to start putting this thing together.
How was it like working with Robert De Niro?
Tre Peart: He is wonderful to be around. Seeing him work, and the way others worked around and with him was honestly so special. It felt like everyone was at their best, or striving for their best each time he was filming. He also left me a note on the first day congratulating me and saying good luck “to the youngest executive producer he’s ever worked with” That sure was special.
What is the experience like releasing a film during the pandemic?
Rosa Peart: We are certainly experiencing a different way of what we are used to. There will be no premiere and all the interviews conducted have been virtual or print. But nonetheless, still excited to be able to reléase this movie and only if it can be done in a safe way.
Marvin Peart: It’s tough, despite finding the right date, its more important to reinforce people wear a mask, social distance and go see this great family film in a safe way.
Because it will be a while before blockbusters are released in theaters, do you think family-skewing films are at an advantage right now?
Marvin Peart: [They] are for a couple [of] reasons. One, lower budget family films can make a return at the box office, due to their lower breakeven thresholds. Secondly, families have had a chance to rediscover what family means to them during these tumultuous times and can enjoy a family film together.
Rosa Peart: Yes. During these trying times, we need an escape and this movie is it. The whole family can come out and enjoy a movie together in a safe and responsible way.
With Marsai Martin and others, more and more younger producers are working on projects. Tre, what do you hope that other aspiring kid producers learn from what you did with this film?
Tre Peart: On a side note, me and my family have been watching black-ish, the show Marsai stars in, since it came out earlier in the decade. We love and relate to the show so much. We can’t wait for the rest of the new season. Now to answer the question, I hope they learn that anything can happen with anyone involved at any time in your life! I am 100% sure that when I was born my parents never thought that they would be making a movie with their son. Nor when I was first reading this book, at any point did I think that me and my parents were making a major motion picture starring one of the most iconic actors of the past 50 years. With social media, it is a great opportunity to put yourself out there and have people see your work. As you meet more content creators, it creates all the more opportunities for someone important to stumble upon something you made and think “Oh this person makes some great stuff. I need to get in touch with them!” From skits to a developed movie, there are many ways to get where you want to be. My way being one of them. Don’t let up and see where it takes you.
The War with Grandpa is in theaters now.