LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matthew Lillard’s filmography runs the gamut, from playing a killer in the original ‘‘Scream’’ and the goofy Shaggy in the ‘‘Scooby-Doo’’ movies to showing a more dramatic side of his talent opposite George Clooney in ‘‘The Descendants’’ and Clint Eastwood in ‘‘Trouble With the Curve.’’
This week, he adds directing to his resume with the release of his first feature, ‘‘Fat Kid Rules the World,’’ starring Jacob Wysocki as a lonely, suicidal teen who forges an unlikely friendship with a charismatic, junkie drop-out (Matt O'Leary). The two literally save each other’s lives, which may sound corny and feel-good, but Lillard shows a deft touch and finds just the right balance of absurdity and uplift.
So we asked him to take over the Five Most space this week with a personal list he suggested himself: movies that impacted him so greatly, he remembers exactly where and when he saw them. Here he is, in his own words:
— ‘‘The Blair Witch Project,’’ Park City, Utah, Sundance Film Festival, 1999: My sister Amy worked as an independent film publicist. She was hired to release ‘‘The Blair Witch Project’’ at the Sundance Film Festival. I was at the festival that year with ‘‘SLC Punk,’’ and one night, my sister invited me to attend a midnight screening. She purposely didn’t tell me anything about the film so when I sat down, I had no preconceived expectations. Afterwards, as the lights came up, I sat there, bug-eyed and completely shell-shocked. The rest of the room was sitting in the same silence as I was. It was epic. I distinctly remember looking down this row of people sitting next to me, all strangers, and asking the question: ‘‘What the HELL was that?’’
— ‘‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,’’ Wellington, New Zealand, 2003: I was in New Zealand shooting ‘‘Without a Paddle’’ and halfway through production we had a three-day break ... for the world premiere of Peter Jackson’s ‘‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.’’ To commemorate the film’s success, Jackson and his team were throwing a premiere party to end all parties. There was a parade that stretched over a mile long that included armies of elves, orcs, armored knights and everything in between. The ‘‘one ring to unite them all’’ stood atop the premiere theatre and cast a shadow over guests as they filed in. Abraham Benrubi, a co-star from ‘‘Without a Paddle,’’ and I were lucky enough to score premiere tickets. We sat directly behind Jackson and his cast. As the lights came up, Benrubi and I both had tears in our eyes and were blown away by the moment. I was a kid who lived in his imagination, and those books helped define the man I am today.
— ‘‘Training Day,’’ San Francisco, 2001: I was in San Francisco the Friday before my best friend’s wedding, and my wife and I wanted to blow off some steam and see a movie. It was the opening weekend of ‘‘Training Day,’’ and we were one of the last few people to get tickets to the 10 p.m. screening at the Kabuki Theatre near the Mission District. As the lights dimmed and the movie started, I heard a low rumble somewhere toward the back of the theatre. A huge fight had erupted between two groups of men. As the lights blasted on, someone screamed, ‘‘He has a knife!’’ The entire audience started to panic and struggled to get out of the way. The skirmish was over as quickly as it had begun, but the effects of a dude swinging a knife lingered. The manager of the theatre came in as soon as everyone had settled down and offered to restart the movie or give us a rain check. My wife and I chose to stay, and the adrenaline mixed with the violence of that film left us both shaken.
— ‘‘Aliens,’’ Orange County, Calif., 1986: I was with my dad standing in line to buy tickets for over an hour. A packed theatre and the rush of excitement as the lights went down, James Cameron’s ‘‘Aliens’’ was totally perfect for a 16-year-old boy. I laughed; I freaked out; I thought it was bitchin'. Early in my career as an actor, people asked who inspired me. I would always say Bill Paxton in ‘‘Aliens.’’ Running for your life and playing the given circumstances for what they are and still being able to get people to laugh is no easy task. Paxton represents the hero we'd want to be, scared yet strong. In the end, he makes the ultimate sacrifice. I took it all in, sitting with my dad. Just me and my dad.
— ‘‘Fat Kid Rules the World,’’ Austin, Texas, South by Southwest Film Festival, 2012: It’s the movie I directed. It’s a bit selfish to include, but the world premiere meant the world to me. I optioned the book ‘‘Fat Kid Rules the World’’ 10 years ago and getting the story to the screen was no easy task. We premiered it at the SXSW Film Festival and the night was a huge success. When you screen your movie for the first time, that movie flies away and you don’t ever get it back. The night we premiered the film, I don’t remember what I wore or who was there. I don’t remember a single thing that was said at the Q&A or what I had to drink at the after-party. When I think about that night, I think about hugging Jacob Wysocki’s mom and dad and seeing the tears in their eyes. I remember my wife holding my hand as we walked to our car to leave. It’s probably the best memory I have as an artist, and I'll keep it until the day I die.
What are your fondest moviegoing memories? Share them with AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire
And with Matthew Lillard: http://twitter.com/MatthewLillard