Childhood dreams fuel ‘Son of Rambow’

Director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith have reason to feel giddy.

During a recent visit to San Francisco’s Clift Hotel’s dimly lit Redwood Room, they brimmed with undisguised pride over their latest venture, the coming-of-age comedy “Son of Rambow,” opening May 9.

It’s a far cry from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” their visually inventive 2005 adaptation of Douglas Adams’ oddball classic. Their new tale of childhood friendship forged during the filming of a homemade sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s “First Blood” has an irreverent charm all its own.

It also represents a seven-year labor of love for the British-born pair, who make up the London-based Hammer & Tongs production company.

“It’s been 17 years since we met at something called the Art Foundation Course in England,” says Goldsmith, who has also helped produce videos for Radiohead and Fatboy Slim.

The music-video-making pair’s first feature script resulted from the fact that Goldsmith related to how Jennings actually made movies inspired by “First Blood” when he was a child.

Jennings, who shot his first “Rambo”-inspired thriller, “Aaron 1,” at age 11, says, “I loved making short films as a kid, and the great thing about music videos was that we could shoot them and they’d be on TV that weekend, on MTV. He adds, “I don’t remember thinking, ‘Oh, we should make feature films.’ But things were moving along, going great, and we wanted to do more. It was the next natural step.”

“I wanted to create a story inspired by the movies I made as a child, which were influenced by all the classics of that era, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘E.T.,’” he says. “‘First Blood’ was the first film I’d seen that was intended for people out of my age group. There was a thrill in that, seeing something we weren’t supposed to see, but also watching this man capable of defeating entire armies, running around the forest, leaping from cliffs. I wanted to make a movie that captured that sort of childhood wonderment.”

With that in mind, the duo began developing an eccentric story of friendship, inspired both by their experiences and by famously odd couples in movies like “Harold and Maude” and “Midnight Cowboy.”

Two years in, Jennings and Goldsmith were approached with an offer to bring “Hitchhiker’s Guide” to the big screen. When they returned to “Son of Rambow” after a lengthy hiatus, they had a fresh perspective on their story and newfound directorial savvy.

In January 2007, their efforts culminated in a rousing debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Jennings says, “When it played that night, we went in with a great deal of fear, but by around the halfway point, we realized it couldn’t be going any better. By the end, it was crazy. We were relieved, of course. But then we had to sell the movie, and by 5 a.m. the next morning, it had sold in a bidding war. That was just the cherry on the cake. After all that time and effort, it came out just the way we wanted it to.”

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