Phil Hay '92 and Matt Manfredi '93, creative collaborators and friends ever since they met at IMPROVidence auditions 20 years ago, are now the prolific screenwriters behind last weekend's box-office hit "Clash of the Titans."
The duo has worked on other major films, such as "Crazy/Beautiful," which starred Kirsten Dunst, and "Bug," an independent comedy that won multiple festival awards.
"Clash of the Titans" arrived in 2-D and 3-D theaters Friday, and as of Sunday evening, made $61.4 million in ticket sales throughout North America, according to the New York Times.
"It's really exciting," Manfredi told The Herald on Thursday, the morning after the film's premiere — which he compared to a family reunion. "When you work on a movie for so long, you become like a little family," he said.
The movie is a remake of a 1981 film by the same name, based on the story of the Greek mythical hero Perseus. Hay said he grew up watching the original, and his goal for the script was "to get a sense of movies we loved as kids." He hopes audiences take in the "childlike exuberance on the screen," he added.
Manfredi and Hay had known director Louis Leterrier for a long time when he called and asked if they wanted to write the script. "From that point, we just kind of locked ourselves in a room with Louis Leterrier," Hay said.
"We worked very closely with Sam Worthington," the actor in the lead role of Perseus, he added. "It was really interesting trying to take in his perspective on the character."
Manfredi's favorite part of the process was seeing the script come to life on the first day of filming in London, he said.
For Hay, the highlight of working on "Clash of the Titans" was seeing Liam Neeson, who played Zeus, yell "release the Kraken" for the first time. The line refers to a villainous sea monster.
"The eternal Dungeons and Dragons–playing geek in me was excited," Hay said.
Manfredi said he and Hay argued over who got to type this line into the script, adding that "to watch (Neeson) say it during that rehearsal was pretty thrilling to us."
They may have made it to Hollywood, but Manfredi and Hay still identify with their alma mater.
"We met at Brown University, which you may have heard of, in Providence, Rhode Island. It's a liberal arts college," Hay said facetiously.
"I remember getting my dorm assignment mailed to me," Manfredi said. "I just couldn't find Perkins."
The advantage to Manfredi's freshman dorm assignment, though, was the opportunity to form friendships that he still maintains. "You gotta stick together out there. It's cold," he said.
And though he did not marry someone from Perkins as Brunonian folklore goes, Manfredi vividly remembers meeting his wife outside Rites and Reason Theatre.
"Our close group of friends is really from our days at Brown," Hay said.
Brown's philosophy has helped Manfredi foster his way of thinking and his approach to his career, he said. "You're just kind of thrown in here. You're forced to kind of find a passion and what interests you," he said. "We are so fortunate, as I'm sure you guys are now. The professors at Brown are amazing. They're so interested in your well-being."
Manfredi, an American civilization concentrator, said he also "made some spectacularly bad art."
"That's not true, Matt!" Hay interrupted, citing a rock with a golf club protruding from it on the Main Green as a counterexample. "Conceptually, it was amazing."
Hay said he "dabbled in a lot of stuff," such as cognitive science, linguistics and modern culture and media, but ultimately concentrated in English literature.
"For both of us, our experience at Brown was so much about doing improv, doing plays, going to plays, doing weird art projects," Hay said. "You put up a play and 50 people are going to show up for sure," he added. "Once you get out of college, you realize that's not necessarily the case."
Their filmmaking career, according to Hay, is an extension of the projects they have been doing since college. "We almost approached it like another fun thing we could do as a team because we liked working together so much," he said.
At this point, "our voices … on the page have become exactly the same. That's not only creepy but great," Hay said.
"That is creepy, though," Manfredi added. "We spend so much time together."
Asked which "Clash" character he would prefer to be in real life if he could, Manfredi chose Apollo. "He was the center of a lot of the myths I read as a kid," he said, adding that if he were the sun god, "I'd just hang out on Olympus for a little bit."
"I'm going to go with a small character named ‘Ixas,' " Hay said, to which Manfredi responded, "Then I'm going to smite you from Olympus."