Interview: Morris Levy (2014) Affluenza

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he hidden perils of privilege seem all too obvious to those who don’t have it, yet the youth who grow up amidst wealth and power seem oblivious to the danger. Affluenza (2014) is a film that explores this concept in rich detail, following the exploits of an everyman who infiltrates this exclusive society before it comes crashing down. Affluenza stars Nicola Peltz, Gregg Sulkin, Ben Rosenfield, Grant Gustin and Steve Guttenberg. Producer Morris Levy entertained a few questions regarding his experience working on the film.

Since is Affluenza is about elite youth, the cast had to be composed of talented, young actors. Casting people who have little life experience can always be tricky, because they can’t provide the perspective that an older actor has. So it’s important to keep an eye on up-and-coming talent.

“Yes, but also sometimes you get a feeling and you take a chance on someone without knowing,” Morris Levy says. “We cast Nicola in our film Harold and knew she was incredibly talented and I called the people at William Morris and said they should took a look at her and the rest is history.” Peltz booked the summer blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction just months after wrapping Affluenza. As for the rest of the young actors, Levy credits his director. “Kevin Asch brought them to the table as he had a good feeling about each one, and he was right on.”

It’s obvious that Levy is very pleased with the cast he got, because he has nothing but nice things to say about his actors. “I think Nicola as she’s shown in her past projects, has both beauty and talent. I really think the sky is the limit for her and she loves to work. Ben is a great actor and his roles can be on par with Jesse Eisenberg. Gregg has all of the elements to be a heartthrob and is very versatile, not just the rich good looking boy next door. I feel with Grant that he can go so many different ways. He’s become the character, The Flash, but took a different turn with his role in Glee. He’s definitely multi-faceted.”

Despite the strong young cast, Levy did not forget to credit his seasoned actors as well, like Steve Guttenberg and Samantha Mathis. “The young actors look up to them, especially Steve Guttenberg who is such a big star and with all of his films continually playing on cable and TV. Besides being a wonderful actor, he’s very gracious on set and very approachable. Samantha exudes the same energy and is so wonderful at her craft.”

Ironically, when Levy learned of the project, he wasn’t completely sold on the genre. In fact, he only agreed to meet with director Kevin Asch about the film as a favor to a friend who knew Asch’s manager. After meeting the director, however, Levy was convinced. “When we met, he was so focused and in tune on what he wanted to do and how he saw the film and I was very impressed. That’s what sold me and I came on board.”

On being a film producer, Levy calls it “a tough and delicate balance”. He says, “You need to give the director leeway in order to get his vision that you originally believed in on screen. If we’re over budget for certain reasons, I’ll check different aspects of the production and see where we can adjust. It’s a fine line, but usually works out.”

Affluenza opens in theaters and On Demand on July 11, 2014.