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A Conversation with Co-Writers Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton on “All My Friends Hate Me”

I had the chance to speak with writer/producer Tom Palmer and writer/actor Tom Stourton about their new film All My Friends Hate Me, a brand new psychological horror comedy. Palmer and Stourton have had a long partnership, directly collaborating as the comedy duo Totally Tom since 2010.

All My Friends Hate Me centers around Pete, a paranoid young man who reunites with his friends from university for his birthday. It was an absolute delight speaking with Tom and Tom. Their close relationship, fostered by years of collaboration, is palpable, and it’s clear they’re passionate about the story and that they enjoyed working together on the film.

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Transcript:

The following has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

Image courtesy of Super Ltd.

Treading the Genre Line on All My Friends Hate Me

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me today!

Stourton: No problem.

All My Friends Hate Me – the title might suggest one thing or another, but how did you go about striking the balance between horror and comedy?

Stourton: That’s a good question, yeah. We always wanted to play the joke as straight as possible – the funniest version of the joke would be one where everyone was playing it like it was a drama, in the lead-up to the punchline, or the rug-pull. You do as much work as you can on the script, and we were very lucky to have such a talented director and editor striking that balance in the edit. A lot of stuff was cut in order to do that, and moments were expanded.

Palmer: A lot of it is always trying to use juxtaposition; so when something funny is happening, like when it turns out Norman is listening in, we played it and shot it like a horror with that slow reveal behind him…but ultimately, it’s a comedy moment. Or, equally, with something that’s meant to be scary, like the dream, which has some strangely funny moments, that’s meant to be horrible, but it’s also played comedically as well, with the way that [Pete] runs away. It was always about juxtaposing performances and score, and using every trick in the book to always wrong-foot the audience.

The Inspiration Behind All My Friends Hate Me

I absolutely have to ask…have you guys ever been to a reunion as bad as this one is?

Stourton: Not yet! But it was actually loosely based on something that happened to me a few years back, when I went to a wedding and I hadn’t had much sleep because I stupidly went to a party the night before. I didn’t know the couple that well anymore, or at least I felt like I drifted apart – which is similar to Pete’s situation – but I became paranoid that I had been invited to this wedding as a joke, and that everyone was going to laugh at me during the speeches. Tom pointed out to me how narcissistic that was, but that seemed funny – how a horror movie can play out in someone’s head. The stakes are all there, and you’re in there with him and his internalized nightmare.

Palmer: I was always amazed at how many people have seen the film and said to me “That reminds me of this one weekend I had.” Apparently, a lot of people are having those experiences.

Image courtesy of Super Ltd.

Casting All My Friends Hate Me

And when it comes to the characters, the players in this reunion, everyone is just so perfectly cast. How much did the actors bring to the characters, and how much was written before the casting process?

Palmer: I personally think that there are so many game-changing moments when actors read for the parts, and for someone like the character of George, we were looking for someone very different from the actor who eventually played him, Josh McGuire, and I remember that when Josh came in to read with Tom, he did one scene, and suddenly we knew that that was the character. We realized how important it was that he have a much likable energy to him than some of the other routes we were thinking of going. I would put a lot of it down to the actors and what they brought to their interpretations of the characters.

The Serious Matter of All My Friends Hate Me

When it comes to genre – as we mentioned, the film treads the line between horror and comedy – I really enjoyed the comedy aspects…however, it does touch on sensitive subjects at some points throughout. Was this something that happened naturally in the development process, or did you know beforehand that there was to be some element of seriousness?

Stourton: It’s all about the stakes, and it felt true to life in that regard. Social anxiety is a really unpleasant thing that people have to endure, and what was important to us is that Pete is a complex character, but you had mixed feelings about when he experiences social anxiety. To go back to the idea of narcissism, and the fact that Pete is really making it all about him – it was interesting to play with the complexity of that. Is he a bit self-centered, and inauthentic, and is he hiding something? But at the same time, hopefully you’ll find yourself rooting for him a bit. This guy’s going through something we can all relate to, and it was important to continue looking at complex characters, rather than making it about a larger topic.

Tom and Tom Take on New Roles

You both wrote the film, but you each had different roles going forward. How was the development and filming process different for each of you, one of you approaching it from an acting and writing perspective, and the other mostly from writing?

Palmer: It so transpired that I ended up producing it, which was a task I had never done before, and certainly not on that scale. I was very nervous about it, and thought that it was going to be hell, to be honest. I really loved it, and I had no idea how much fun it could be on a creative level, to sit in on those discussions, like “What is that shirt that Pete’s going to wear in that scene?” and “What type of car should this person be driving?” All those nuts and bolts elements that the different departments bring was such an amazing thing to witness, bringing a sort of organized chaos and adding to the story in the tiniest way, and then seeing it all pay off in the edit and in post-production. That was my main takeaway.

Image courtesy of Super Ltd.

Sympathy for Pete

Throughout the film, I was constantly asking myself how I would react if I were in Pete’s shoes, thrown into this situation. How do you guys think you would fare?

Stourton: A lot of my decisions as an actor were based on me doing the same thing, asking how I would feel and what facial expression I would have. I’d probably call my mum up, actually, to whinge, but the challenge in the film was to keep it plausible that he would stay there. There’s enough bread crumbs there for him to occasionally find his feet and think that he’s nailing it, before wrong-footing himself again. Hopefully, you’re not sitting there and asking why he’s not jumping in his car and just driving off. What about you, Tom?

Palmer: We talked about that a lot – why wouldn’t he just leave? It’s always quite a big thing to say to someone “This isn’t funny anymore, I don’t like this joke, stop it,” because it’s something so risky and exposing to do. We kept assuring ourselves that he would keep playing it out for another hour, like maybe it’s going to get better, maybe it’s all in your head, maybe you’re overreacting. I think that probably would be the dominant voice in your head, telling you to calm down. It’s just in this case, things are getting weirder and more absurd. Hopefully, we did help achieve that sense and give enough relief to Pete, with enough allies now and then – a nice conversation with Claire, some comforting words from George, which is just enough for him to hope that maybe this weekend is taking a turn into something nice.

Tom and Tom Get Timey-Wimey

As we get near the end of our time, I have to ask: I find it fascinating that you guys were both in Doctor Who, many years apart. Have you guys ever compared experiences?

Palmer: You were a Viking, weren’t you, Tom?

Stourton: I was a crap Viking! The sort that wasn’t entrusted with an ax, and wasn’t allowed to fight. So “Viking” is a stretch.

Palmer: I was a horrible bully with a Vickers machine gun, so what does that say about us? But really, we were so lucky to be a part of that. It’s an incredible show, and I had an awesome experience on that set. It’s nice occasionally going to conventions and seeing the [show’s] proud following.

Stourton: Maybe there’ll be an episode where our characters are brought back and they meet – that’s what they do, right, they bring back old characters?

The deepest cut! I want to thank you guys again for sitting down with me today. I love the film, and I’m thrilled that I got to talk to you guys!

Palmer: Thank you so much, Rowan.

Stourton: We appreciate it. Cheers!

Image courtesy of Super Ltd.

All My Friends Hate Me will be released in select theaters on March 11, 2022 and on digital on demand platforms on March 25, 2022.

Please read our review of the film here: All My Friends Hate Me in a Darkly Funny Reunion Thriller (Review)

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