How a 23-year-long game of Tag wants to steal hearts all over the world

Raffi Boghosian

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Sure to be one of the summer’s most endearing and lighthearted comedy hits, “Tag” is coming soon to a theatre near you. Written by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, this outrageous yet heartwarming story is based on the real life antics of a small group of friends who have played the same game of tag for over 23 years.

Originally examined by Russell Adams in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, this elaborately planned game takes place annually and even requires a few of the friends to travel cross-country. The film begins in the final days of May, the only month in which the childhood friends officially play their annual adult bout of tag.

The gang's off-the-record organizer, Hoagie, played by Ed Helms, talks his buddies into a scandalous holiday excursion by explaining that their companion Jerry, played by Jeremy Renner, is intent on retiring from the game upon getting married. But here’s the rub. No one has ever been able to tag Jerry. And retiring from the game untagged? That’s unacceptable.

Congratulations on this incredible movie. Personally I really did enjoy it because it took me straight back to my childhood. We used to play this actually in schools in the Middle East but of course on a smaller scale, not this extreme. I’m going to start with you Mr. Jeremy. Being in this movie, did it take you back to your own childhood?

Jeremy Renner: Not so much my childhood. I think is just kind of reminds me of like all of the… I mean because you have to realize what we do for a living is make believe, you know, and that’s a very childlike sort of mentality. I just wanted to be a part of this movie because, not so much the game tag, I didn’t really give a crap about that to be honest with you, but the lengths they went to play this game. It’s like, this is like a sport! And then, what it ultimately really meant is the aggregation of these beautiful souls and the friendship and the love, celebrating this childlike experience. I’m like, dude, this is it. I’m in.

Nowadays we don’t see the kids interact with each other anymore. We see them too busy with social media technologies. Do you think social media is sabotaging our life and taking the great memories away?

Ed Helms: Yes. Someone I respect very much once described social media as poison. And that person is sitting right there. (points to Jon Hamm)

I should have asked him this question!

Ed Helms: I kind of agree although I actually am engaged in social media somewhat, but uh, yeah, go for it. (points to Jon Hamm)

Jon Ham: To your point, the idea of connection is very involved in social media. People think that they’re connected and they like things… but it’s all virtual. It doesn’t give you the same kind of real connection that being in the same place or moving and playing and actually connecting with a human being face to face because social media at the end of the day is really anonymous and it’s fake. Everything’s filtered and you can write horrible things and just be anonymous. You can’t do that when you’re interacting with someone face to face. It’s a genuine interaction. It’s a genuine connection. That’s what these guys, the real guys that play this game that the movie’s based on, have. And you can see it in them. They’re joyful souls and it’s really nice.

This movie is based on a true story. Did you guys get the chance to meet the real men the movie’s based on?

Ed Helms: We did. Yes. We met the guys. They came to set and visited and they were so excited that we were making a movie about their lives. And it really, I think for us, just reinforced what a great story this is and what a great concept tag is as a mechanism to bring friends together and keep friends together over decades.

What parts of this film happened in real life?

Hannibal Buress: I think them showing up to Jon Hamm’s character’s job to tag him. I think they’ve done a lot of showing up to work.

Jake Johnson: The funeral happened. One guy got tagged at his dad’s funeral. Ed’s character, who dresses up like a grandma, that’s based off one of the guys. So actually, kind of a lot.

For you, what attracted you the most to your character and were you a fan of this game prior to shooting this movie?

Jake Johnson: Yeah, I played it as a kid. What attracted me to the character was I thought he had some really funny stuff and I got to do the love triangle with Rashida Jones which I was really excited about and what I really love about the movie is that, just what you said, it pulls you back to your childhood and the people you care about and I think that’s a nice thing, especially right now, to make just a nice, fun movie.

Have you guys by any chance played tag on set?

Leslie Bibb: No. It’s funny. I think because the movie is so physical, like, for all of those guys and you’re running around so much, there wasn’t any of that. You’re like, conserving your energy because, you know, when they yell action in like, this one scene, Isla literally attacks Jake and she like mows him down and you can’t play tag in between. You have to conserve your energy for that mowing down!

Tell me more about your upcoming project Beach Bum quickly, and working with Matthew McConaughey.

Isla Fisher: It’s really fun. It’s Harmony Korine directing it. He did Spring Breakers and we shot it all on location in Miami and I play Matthew McConaughey’s wife and it was just such a great experience working with him. He kind of stays in character throughout, which I love because it helps me with my accent and Snoop Dogg and I got to sort of… we did a lot of fun scenes together and it’s a super, super fun movie. And I can’t wait to see it. I haven’t seen it cut together yet.

How did you prepare for your character and also allow me to ask you about the injury? Is it true you were injured on set?

Jeremy Renner: Yes. Yes. Yeah, I broke both of my arms and I was completely unprepared for that but yeah, we got through it. It was all fine. It’s all good.

Ed Helms: It was a fight scene with me and uh, I don’t hold back…

Jeremy Renner: He kicked my butt.

Jon Hamm: It got a little real. It got a little real. Helms will cold cock ya…

Ed Helms: I broke him. And I’m sorry.

Jeremy Renner: It’s okay man. I still love you.

“Shukraan” in Arabic means “thank you” so thank you!

Ready to experience your heaping spoonful of feel-good, nostalgia-inducing, big-screen fun? Your wish is this film’s command! Tag will be released in Middle Eastern theaters on June 14th, 2018.

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