drive through the familiar streets of Emerywood Forest and try to imagine the world in which Ben Best grew up. And it’s not hard. I raised my own son just blocks away. Tidy brick and clapboard homes, cul-de-sacs, crape myrtles, split rail fences, portable basketball goals.
It’s a good place to raise a family and a gold mine of ideas for a screenwriter with an eye for detail and a quirky sense of humor.
The son of Fred and Courtney Best, 33-year-old Ben Best is sharing his sometimes unpredictable and often outlandishly humorous insight into everyday life with us on the big screen. “The Foot Fist Way,” now debuting in limited theaters across the country, features the screenwriting of Best and Jody Hill and Danny McBride, two of Best’s buddies and fellow alumni from the Filmmaking School at the N.C. School of the Arts.
“The Foot Fist Way” (English for tae kwan do) features a Concord strip mall martial arts instructor, Fred Simmons (played by McBride), who has fallen on tough times and tries to redeem himself and his career. The film, which was shot on a shoestring budget in just 19 days, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival two years ago and caught the attention — and admiration — of comedic actor Will Ferrell. Ferrell liked the film so much that Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions bought the comedy. It’s the company’s first project.
Courtney and Fred Best headed to Hollywood last month for the “soft” opening of what Courtney fondly calls “Ben’s crude but hilarious movie.” Yep, a Hollywood premiere was held at the Ark Light Theater right on Sunset Boulevard.
OK, the humor can be crude — the film is rated “R,” and it’s typical of a Will Ferrell-genre comedy. Let’s call it “contemporary adult humor.” But who among us hasn’t laughed at Ferrell’s race car driver Ricky Bobby or had their toes slightly squashed by one or more comic geniuses? “The Foot Fist Way” works for the right audiences, and it has gained acclaim from some of the industry’s most well-known critics.
Variety magazine calls it “a film crying out to be discovered by midnight movie mavens.”
Rolling Stone says: “This hilarious, high-kicking nonsense cost two cents and looks it — hell, it was shot in 19 days, but you’ll laugh helplessly anyway.”
And the movie has been designated a Critic’s Pick by New York Times film reviewers.
For the 1993 graduate of High Point Central High School and the 1999 graduate of the School of the Arts Filmmaking School, the relative success of “The Foot Fist Way” is the culmination of years of work — work often for just the sake of writing. Best has lived the life of the struggling artist, taking temporary jobs to get by and then writing in his off time just because he knew that one day his ideas would find a home.
And find a home, they have. After Ferrell got a glimpse of “The Foot Fist Way” at Sundance, he took the writing threesome under his wing and helped them pitch a script to HBO. HBO liked it and filmed the pilot last summer.
Then the network ordered five episodes. Success at last.
But no, the Writers Guild strike sidelined Best’s writing efforts for a few months. Now, he’s back on track with the HBO series.
By summer 2009, you’ll be able to see the pilot and all the episodes of “East Bound and Down” (the working title).
Oh yes, did I mention that Best also has a cameo role in “The Foot Fist Way?” He plays Chuck “The Truck” Wallace, an action star unmistakably based on Chuck Norris.
And then there’s Best’s musical endeavors. He’s in two bands — Pyramid and Sea of Cortez. A self-taught musician, Best plays the guitar and mandolin and sings. Pyramid provided the sound track for “The Foot Fist Way,” and Best was recently in Albuquerque, N.M., to film a small part in the movie “Observe and Protect,” starring Seth Rogen and Ray Liotta, which his colleague Jody Hill is directing. His band Pyramid, is doing that soundtrack, as well.
Although Ben Best’s movies may not be made for children, his own story is.
From a boy who made superhero and spy films with his buddies in Emerywood Forest to a Hollywood screenwriter and actor — his is a success story all of us can love.
“There’s so much more in his head,” Courtney Best says. “He feels like he’s just starting.”
I certainly hope so.
Ben Best and his beagle, Bonnie, call Charlotte and Los Angeles home.
Contact Cathy Weaver at cweaverNR@gmail.com or at 883-4422, Ext. 243