Lewis Pullman knows the power of a good summer movie. His last film, Top Gun: Maverick, practically saved the summer box office. That long-awaited sequel starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, and tons of jet fuel, had audiences flocking to theaters again and critics wondering if moviegoing wasn’t dead after all.
When the actor, who can next be seen in The Starling Girl (in theaters now), was asked about his own list of go-to summer films, Pullman’s picks are less concerned with the spectacle associated with summer blockbusters – the fighter jets, the explosions, the near-death rescue missions – and more focused on the feelings and memories these movies create. He remembers the ritual of renting movies at Blockbuster and Rocket Video, watching them with his dad, actor Bill Pullman, and the rest of the family, and dissecting them afterward over ice cream.
“It was as much about the conversation afterward as it was about the movie. It’s almost like the movie was the appetizer to the discussion,” he tells UPROXX. “That’s where I really grew my love for movies. My brother and sister, mom and dad, all just talking about our favorite parts, what we wished had happened, what our favorite performances were, and what we would’ve done differently. My parents were always pushing us to think critically. So going to the movies was like church for me.”
Pullman’s latest, The Starling Girl, is a loaded coming-of-age drama about a young girl named Jem (Eliza Scanlen) growing up in a religiously strict community. It’s another summer offering, albeit one his fans likely wouldn’t expect. After playing brooding cowboys and lovable cockpit pilots, the actor embraces his dark side so to speak, playing a youth pastor named Owen whose friendly façade hides his sinister nature. And when he starts up a taboo relationship with young Jem, she’s the one who suffers the most.
“I think the hope was that maybe there are some people in the audiences who have participated in a relationship like this and who have acted like Owen has,” Pullman says of why he took the role. “Hopefully we could make Owen approachable enough so that they could see themselves in him a little bit and be reflective of their actions. Because I think if he’s just a pure villain, they would walk out and say, ‘Well that’s not me. I don’t have to relate to that guy. I would never do anything like that.’ And they would maybe miss an opportunity to look within.”
Below, UPROXX invited the actor to share his favorite summer movies and why he thinks they deserve a watch.
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Alfonso Cuaron’s sexy, smart, subversive tale about two teenage friends in Mexico looking to make the most of their summer via a spontaneous road trip with an older woman is Pullman’s out-of-the-gate rec for a great summer watch. “[It] makes you want to get outside, it makes you want to travel,” Pullman says. “[It] makes you want to get in the sunshine.”
Dazed And Confused
“That one’s a blast,” Pullman says of the Richard Linklater coming-of-age comedy that gave Matthew McConaughey his iconic turn of phrase. The film follows a group of high school freshmen in the 70s enjoying a night of keg parties and pool hall clashes and all kinds of firsts associated with young adulthood. “You want to hang and stay up late with friends [to] watch it.”
Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn odyssey boasting a breakout performance from Mark Wahlberg might seem like another surprising choice for a quintessential summer movie but Pullman’s here to sway you. “Boogie Nights is all about finding your purpose, even if that means being a porn star,” he explains. “It’s all about the possibility of who you can be and what you can become.” Point made, but his strongest argument for Boogie Nights belonging on your binge-watch list is this: “Anything Mark Wahlberg with his shirt off is a great summer movie.”
The Sandra Bullock-starring action thriller with Keanu Reeves squaring off against a bomb-happy psychopath while riding L.A. public transport is another high-ranking blockbuster Pullman admits to watching over and over again. “I’ve got to pop Speed in,” he says of his summer movie choices. “It’s timeless.”
An Andy Samberg-starring comedy about an accident-prone wannabe stuntman? “I don’t know, I just love Hot Rod,” Pullman answers. “It’s a sunshine banger.” It’s also got an amazing cast and the same kind of comedic genius that can be found in other Lonely Island member-associated projects like Popstar.
In the spirit of honesty, we have to disclose that Lewis Pullman initially did not name this Roland Emmerich-directed action flick as a summer movie must-watch. It took a bit of memory-jogging and name-checking his dad’s epic, Braveheart-esque speech delivered before humanity’s final battle with extraterrestrial invaders for Pullman to add it to the list. “Oh, my God. That is the ultimate. I mean, you can’t even say it because it’s so obvious,” he jokingly explains. “July 4th, pop it on the big screen and sit back with a Bud… I’m backtracking now.”
The Starling Girl
Filled with impressive performances and insightful storytelling, director Laurel Parmet’s intimate look at religion and the constraints it puts on young women isn’t your typical summer watch but it might inspire you to put a new state on your travel bucket list. “We shot this in Kentucky and it was one of the most beautiful summers I’ve had because it’s so lush there,” Pullman explains. “It’s full of life. It has this vivaciousness. It feels like a fresh plot of land that is ready to have a whole new crop planted. And it translates into the movie. There are a lot of beautiful moments where Jem, Eliza’s character, is experiencing freedom and expression and agency and power. And I think those are all things that you want to kind of feel in the summertime.”
‘The Starling Girl’ is out now in theaters.