Mike White on How Keeping Up with the Kardashians Inspired His New Movie 'Brad's Status'

The 'Orange County' writer's latest film stars Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer and Michael Sheen
Mike White on How Keeping Up with the Kardashians Inspired His New Movie 'Brad's Status'
Courtesy of VVS Films
Everybody has insecurities, even critically acclaimed writers like Mike White.
"I do yoga, I read self-help books, I try to meditate, try to have the bigger view," says the Pasadena-bred writer, director, actor and producer responsible for Chuck & Buck, School of Rock and this year's Beatriz at Dinner. "But I also get petty. You can't Namaste all day."
It's a feeling tackled in most of White's films to date, but the most fully formed in his latest directorial full-length, Brad's Status (in select theatres across Canada now). In it, Ben Stiller plays Brad, a middle-aged father tasked with taking his 17-year-old son (played by Austin Abrams) on a tour of Ivy League schools on the East Coast. Forced to reconnect with old friends in an attempt to help land his son an interview with Harvard, Brad finds himself reflecting on his past and questioning whether or not he reached his full potential.
"[Brad] represents a certain thing to me — that part of yourself that has insecurities and ego needs and compares yourself to others and comes up lacking in your own mind," White says during a roundtable interview at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
It's moments like this, surrounded by journalists and with reviews rolling in, that he finds himself as his most insecure, the director tell us.
"I have that and I'm embarrassed by that side of myself. It's not the cool side of myself that I want to project to the world. But I want to have compassion for that person, too," he says. "It doesn't matter whether you have a lot of money, or not a lot of money, or are somewhere in the middle: you can get into that kind of thinking."
Not surprisingly, White thinks social media and the Kardashians are to blame, in part, for the anxiety he and his characters experience in this day and age.
Try to search for the filmmaker on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and you won't find him; his Instagram account is private, and presumably under a different name. Still, the times he uses it, he can't help but be sucked in by its voyeuristic powers.
"Suddenly I'm on some [account] looking at Ukrainian teenagers in parking lots," he jokes, "and I'm like, 'What the fuck am I doing?!'"
"To me, that is the issue of the movie, in my sense: thinking that those extravagant lifestyles are a barometer of some kind of success or that's something that should be elevated or valued, I think, is both personally crippling and globally destructive," he says. "Because if 7 billion people think they should be flying private planes everywhere, it's just not sustainable. Sorry, not everyone gets to party like the Kardashians."
Read our review of Brad's Status from this year's TIFF here.