When Tre Peart read a book at age eight that he thought would make a fun movie, he knew the right people to pitch: his parents, producers Marvin and Rosa Peart. When they agreed to make the movie, they knew the right person to add as a co-producer: Tre himself.
In The War with Grandpa, Robert De Niro stars as Ed, the titular grandfather who moves into his daughter’s house and takes his sixth grade grandson’s bedroom, forcing Peter (Oakes Fegley) into the creepy attic. Peter launches a series of increasingly audacious pranks to force his grandfather to relent, prompting a series of counterattacks.
Costarring Uma Thurman as Ed’s daughter Sally and Christopher Walken as his friend Jerry and directed by Tim Hill (Alvin and the Chipmunks and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run), the 101 Studios film opens in theaters Friday, October 9.
Marvin (CEO of Brookdale Studios / Chief Business Officer and Founding Partner of 101 Studios), Rosa (Co-Founder Marro Media Company), and the now-15-year-old Tre Peart spoke to Boxoffice Pro about having one of the youngest producers in film history, the project’s two and a half year delay from completion to release, and why they chose to release it in theaters despite offers from streaming services.
Tre, do you remember what you said in your original pitch to your parents?
Tre: I don’t remember specifically, but I remember I was very insistent on this becoming a movie. I had just read the book, and I was very excited to just watch the movie already, because my mom had a rule that I had to read the book before I watched the movie. I did say [in the pitch] that I wanted Robert De Niro in it. My parents looked at me pretty crazy, but then it happened.
You suggested De Niro at age eight? Were you a big Raging Bull and The Deer Hunter fan?
Tre: [Laughs.] No, but my parents were! I’d hear them talk about Robert De Niro all the time, they just loved all his movies, so I felt left out. I wanted to see a movie with him in it, but I couldn’t see any movies of his because they weren’t age-appropriate. So I decided, why not make him be in mine? Now I’ve seen Meet the Parents and The Godfather trilogy, and I plan on watching more.
This movie was originally scheduled for release in February 2018. [Originally to be distributed by the Weinstein Company’s Dimension Films, it was delayed after Harvey Weinstein’s late 2017 scandals prompted the company’s 2018 dissolution. 101 Studios acquired the film in June 2020.] What’s it been like waiting two and a half years for release?
Marvin: It has been quite the journey. Everything that could happen, did happen. Obviously, we didn’t see this pandemic coming. But we were very hellbent on seeing this movie come out in theaters, no matter how long it took.
Why exactly was it important to you to release this film in theaters?
Marvin: Prior to the onslaught of streaming companies, growing up, you wanted to be in the movie business because you wanted to see it on a great big screen. Since the pandemic hit, streamers approached us to take the movie off our hands and bring it into homes. We said, “We want to wait until theaters are safe to go back to.” We were willing to wait it out.
You waited a while. Peter’s character has a poster on his bedroom wall of Russell Westbrook wearing an Oklahoma City Thunder jersey. He’s been on the Houston Rockets for a year and a half.
Rosa: We wondered if anybody was going to notice that! [Laughs.]
Do you have any favorite stories from the set?
Rosa: The first day of filming, when I went in my trailer, there were flowers and a note from Robert De Niro saying, “Good luck with the movie, it’s good to be here.” I could have pinched myself. I never would have thought that I would be his boss!
Marvin: For me, I’d have to say the last day of filming. This movie has been through a lot, so getting it in the can was my most memorable day. Saying “That’s a wrap, people.” You know that scene from Cocktail, when Tom Cruise stands up on the bar and recites that poem? At different times on our set, I would get up and do a poem. But when the movie wrapped, I did it as a rap.
[Marvin then proceeds to bring the lyrics up on his phone and recites the entire rap, one lyric of which references having had disagreements with director Tim Hill: “Tim, in the beginning, we saw things a little differently / But as I began to trust you more, we became worry-free.”]
What were some of the disagreements you referenced having with the director?
Marvin: There were a couple drafts of the script. It was a lot “prank-ier” and tweenish. Tim had an idea of bringing a lot of heart. If you watch this movie, it has a ton of heart. We were just trying to find that middle ground of pranks and action and heart. Ultimately, we balanced it out.
Rosa: We wanted more pranks and jokes. There was a lot of back-and-forth. There was a controversial slap that I wanted in there, because in the book Peter steals his grandpa’s false teeth. Tim didn’t want that in there. ‘But it’s so important!’ [The scene ultimately wasn’t in the film, though a somewhat similar moment occurs when Ed’s friend Danny, played by Cheech Marin, gets his dentures knocked out during dodgeball.]
You just mentioned the original book. The author Robert Kimmel Smith died in April. Did he get a chance to see the final cut?
Rosa: He did get to see it. We kept in touch, and now we keep in touch with his widow as well. It’s unfortunate, he was so looking forward to seeing the movie in a theater. But he was ailing and sick, so we got him to see a digital version. He was very happy with the result, although we had to update his book a lot for the modern day.
Marvin: When Tre suggested we look at this for a movie, once we all read it and optioned the book, to our surprise the publishing company hadn’t addressed that title in quite a while. They told us the book had sold 1.3 million copies. We were like, “What?!” We were amazed that nobody had made that movie in all these years.
In the end credits, Marvin and Rosa, you’re both listed together on the title card along with a third producer, Phillip Glasser. But Tre got his own title card. Tre, was that your decision? Did you want to one-up your parents?
Tre: Originally, I thought that being listed first was the best. But then I thought coming later would add more pizzazz. “Wait for it… now the big name, Tre is here!”
What is your relationship like with your own grandparents?
Tre: My abuela would come over for months at a time, and she would stay in my room. It would get on my nerves. I never really said it to her, but I’d always ask my mom, “Why can’t I sleep in my room?” But I never had the guts to play any pranks on her. And if I had, nothing good would have come of it. No happy ending, like in our movie.
Here’s a final question. There’s a moment in the movie where Danny says “We’re walkin’’” without the ending letter “g,” and then the camera immediately cuts to Christopher Walken. Was that a deliberate joke or accidental?
Marvin: I think you read into a joke that wasn’t intended.
Rosa: No, I caught that too! [Laughs.]
AT THE MOVIES
What is your favorite snack at the movie theater concession stand?
Tre: That’s easy. Popcorn, 100 percent. Whether I’m watching a movie or not!
Marvin: Hot dogs with golden brown mustard. I used to eat two, now I only eat one.
Rosa: Popcorn and Kit Kats.
What is your all time favorite moviegoing memory or experience?
Marvin: In 1988, the movie Wall Street had just come out. I was just finding my business self, so I was eager to see this movie about this Wall Street raider. That’s my favorite movie of all time.
Rosa: 28 years ago, our first movie date was The Mask with Jim Carrey. On one of our anniversaries, Marvin recreated that night. He rented a screen at Tribeca and ordered what we had for dinner on our first date—but this time we brought Tre along.