Looking for a new movie to watch right from the comfort of your home? Then we have just the thing for you: Banana Split, the latest must-see coming-of-age movie, is out on digital download right now. Starring Hannah Marks – who also wrote the script – and Dylan Sprouse, it tells the story of April who spent the last two years of high school in a relationship with Nick. After their break-up, April mends her heartbreak by striking up an unexpected friendship with an unlikely candidate: Nick’s new girlfriend, Clara. Intrigued? We spoke to Hannah Marks and Dylan Sprouse about why this movie isn’t your average coming-of-age story, what they’ve been up to in lockdown and why we need to hear from even more authentic voices in the film industry…
Hannah, as the screenwriter you obviously know this story better than anyone else, so can you sum up the storyline in your own words?
Hannah: I’d say it’s about two girls who decide to secretly become friends by sharing the same boyfriend. That’s about as concise and simply as I can put it. In most rom coms you see, it’s about the girl trying to get the guy or the guy trying to get the girl. This is more about the friendship and hopefully more empowering because of it.
How would you describe the characters you play?
Hannah: I would say April is neurotic and passionate. She’s always making mistakes but, ultimately, I think she has a really good heart. She also has a ton of anxiety which comes through in every scene.
Dylan: At first, we see Nick going through a breakup – but then moves on really quickly and when his new girlfriend ends up being stalked by his ex, he finds himself in a really unique situation…
Are any of the other characters based on real people?
Hannah: I loosely based April on myself – she’s an exaggerated version of myself – and it’s fun getting to play those different sides of myself. Everyone in the film is kind of an amalgamation of people and some of the dialogue also comes from real life. My mom in the movie is pretty similar to my own mom.
Was it daunting to put this out, seeing as it’s so close to your heart?
Hannah: Yes, especially because the movie took so long to be made. I started it as a teenager and then we filmed it when I was turning 24, so it had a really long road to getting made. That just amped up the anxiety and anticipation but ultimately it was just such a fun time and such a dream come true that you forget about all that.
Seeing as you wrote this when you were a teenager, do you think we need more films with input from teenagers to portray a more authentic teenage experience on screen?
Hannah: Definitely – not just teenagers. In general it’s so valuable when the voice behind the movie is an authentic one that can relate to the story they’re telling. The more specific it is, the more relatable it will be.
Does the film reflect your own coming of age in any way too Dylan?
Dylan: Definitely, although the situation Nick is in is nothing I’ve ever experienced and hopefully won’t ever experience. I could really relate to him as a character though.
Did you look to any other teen movies for inspiration?
Hannah: Yes, we looked at Superbad a lot. That’s such a fun friendship movie about that awkward time before you go to college, so that was a big inspiration. Then a movie called Frances Ha with Greta Gerwig, which was a huge inspiration too even though it’s not a teen movie.
Female friendship is very important to the story, do you think it’s important that female friendships are portrayed in a more empowering and positive way on screen?
Hannah: Definitely, but I think what’s the most important thing is showing that it can be flawed and that mistakes are being made – because in real life, it might not be perfect either. That also means it’s still valuable and important and you’re still learning from it.
What was it like working with the rest of this talented young cast?
Dylan: This was probably the most fun movie to film for me because of the cast. We filmed in Syracuse, New York in the middle of winter, so there wasn’t a lot to do apart from hanging out together. I think that was amazing because you can really see that we all had a great bond when you watch the movie.
Hannah: Everyone was a friend of mine before, for the most part. Dylan and I talked over Skype before we cast him but otherwise I’d known most of the people in the cast for several years. We all grew up as child actors in LA, so it was super fun and easy to get along and it was really natural for me too.
Did Dylan or any of the other actors have an input on some of the storyline?
Hannah: I think we mostly stuck to script but everyone had a voice and we were always having conversations and were involving the story together. Dylan brought a lot of himself to the character, I mean he’s kind of a gamer in it and there were moments where he was being nerdier than the character on the page and he brought his real-life humour to the character too.
Did you have a favourite scene to film?
Dylan: I loved all the scenes with Ben, who is played by Luke Spencer Roberts. And there was a great dining scene with April’s family that sadly got cut – but it was so much fun because the actress who plays April’s sister was just so hilarious.
Hannah: I think my favourite scene in the film is a scene where Clara and I are rapping at a party. That scene was so much fun because we had practised that so many times but had to try and make it look unrehearsed. We had a lot of fun doing it.
Hannah, did everything go the same way you’d imagined it in your head when writing this story?
Hannah: The entire thing was different to what it was in my head actually because I wasn’t the director and we weren’t shooting in LA where the movie was taking place. We were shooting in upstate New York as Dylan mentioned. Everything felt really different but in a good way. It was really nice to have someone direct the movie that had outside perspective and saw the material differently than me because that allowed me to grow and expand and separate myself from the material which I was very, very close to.
What was it like multitasking being both the star and screenwriter of this film?
Hannah: It was really challenging – I didn’t get enough sleep that’s for sure. But it was also so fun because I’d been prepping for it for so long that it felt like I was ready to take it on. If I hadn’t been as prepared it would have been really hard…
Then Dylan, what was it like having your co-star also be the scriptwriter?
Dylan: It was super collaborative because of it. I asked Hannah if Nick was inspired by any real person and she gave me lots of pointers which was super helpful too.
Why should people watch this movie?
Dylan: Coming-of-age stories are so popular because people can relate to them. This film kind of flips the genre on its head, which makes it even more exciting. Then, with Hannah being both the star and writer, it was such a personal story to her and I think you can really see that on screen.
Hannah: I think it’s short and it’s sweet and it’s funny, so I hope people will have a good time. I hope it can be an escape from all the craziness in the world right now.
Who are other women in film you admire Hannah?
Hannah: Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVerny, Marielle Heller and Chloé Zhao are on top of my mind. They’re all incredible.
You’ve been on Rolling Stone’s 25 Under 25 Artists Changing the World and Forbes 30 under 30 in Hollywood – what does it feel like to receive that sort of recognition so early on in your career?
Hannah: Super exciting I’m not going to lie, I think it’s super cool. I makes me really happy. It’s definitely a huge honour especially because I respect all the other people in the list, so it’s pretty exciting to be included along them.
Is there anything else that’s been your personal highlight of your career so far?
Hannah: I hope it’s still ahead of me! A big highlight was premiering the first movie Joey Power (who also co-wrote Banana Split) and I made, After Everything, at SXSW in Texas. That was a huge dream come true.
What about you Dylan?
Dylan: My highlight was when I was travelling and filming the movie Turandot in China. I was learning Martial Arts and Mandarin for it, lost thirty pounds and gained loads of muscle in preparation and it was all an amazing experience all around. For me that was definitely the moment that has affected me the most personally.
How are you keeping busy in lockdown at the moment?
Hannah: I’m preparing a bunch of different projects and am writing loads – but I’m also just watching a lot of movies and reading and hanging out with my dogs and my boyfriend. My boyfriend and I were doing long-distance before all this happened – so we went from long-distance to quarantine, which is really nice.
Dylan: Luckily I’m always able to keep really busy too. I’ve been writing loads, talking to directors on video calls, hanging out with my girlfriend, playing video games, eating and probably not working out enough…
You’ve been posting about playing Animal Crossing on Twitter, what do you love most about the game?
Dylan: It just has everything. I’ve been playing with my girlfriend – we share an island – and it’s so fun to wake up everyday and transform your island. It’s just so wholesome. I’ve never played a game like this and it’s the best.
How do you think the film industry is going to change after lockdown?
Dylan: I wish I knew. I think the best thing is going to be all the content that will come out of this. So many people are working on new things while in lockdown, so hopefully we will have loads of great stories coming out of this.
What’s next for you once lockdown ends?
Dylan: I’ve got quite a few things coming up which I’m not sure I can talk about yet – but the biggest thing is the release of comic book that I’ve been working on for the past five years. That’s super exciting and a big dream come true for me.
Hannah: I actually just finished directing a movie, which wrapped in February. It’s called Mark, Mary & Some Other People and the characters are in their mid-twenties and as I get older and evolve more characters that I write. We’re editing that right now. I’m also attached to direct a movie called Turtles All the Way Down which is based on the John Green book – one of my all-time favourite books about a girl with OCD. It’s a beautiful story, so I’m hopefully going to direct that soon but I’m not sure when.
Quarantine Quickfire Questions with Dylan Sprouse
We asked Dylan some quickfire questions about his time in lockdown…
Joggers or Pyjamas? Joggers
Banana bread or homemade pizza? Banana Bread
Cooking or ordering food? At the moment – cooking
Animal Crossing or Pokémon? Animal crossing definitely
Movies or binge-worthy series? Anime
Earlybird or Night owl? Both – I don’t get enough sleep
Zoom or FaceTime? FaceTime
Banana Split is available on digital download from 8th June