Jennifer Kaytin Robinson drew inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock, Clueless, and Scream while making her Netflix comedy Do Revenge, starring Maya Hawke and Camila Mendes. But when it came to designing the popular boy who would serve as the film’s main antagonist, she was mindful of not giving into the classic push-you-into-a-locker high school bully trope.
Do Revenge follows Hawke as Eleanor, a transfer student who quickly befriends Drea (Mendes) after realizing that they have both been wronged by different people at their school. In an effort to restore justice without getting caught, they decide to enact each other’s revenge on their respective targets.
One of those targets is the aforementioned popular boy named Max, played by Austin Abrams. He’s handsome, preppy, and untrustworthy — the plot is set into motion when, at the very beginning of the film, Drea accuses him of leaking her nudes on the internet for the whole school to see.
Jennifer Kaytin Robinson — who also co-wrote Thor: Love and Thunder with Taika Waititi — says she knew Abrams was right for the role of Max as soon as she saw his audition tape.
“He’s wonderful,” she told MovieMaker in a video interview, which you can watch above. “I don’t know that he was what Netflix was envisioning, because I think that in their mind, Max was kind of more of the Jacob Elordi type, like a jock.”
But she and her co-writer Celeste Ballard didn’t want the character of Max to be that stereotypical type of mean boy.
“Jocks will always have a place, but I feel like jocks were almost, in the teen movie space, it was always the same type of guy. And I’m like, does that guy even actually exist?… I’ve never met that specific guy. It feels very much like a movie trope. And so something that I really wanted to kind of up-end in this film is taking those characters, the kind of archetypes that we see in the teen movies, and try and subvert them in different ways,” Robinson said.
Instead of making Max a jock, she makes him a waifish, blonde misogynist hiding in the clothing of a politically correct, performative-feminist man-child. In Do Revenge, Max starts a club called The Cis Hetero Men Championing Female-Identifying Students League, which is one of the movie’s funniest punchlines because of cringey, yet believable, that truly is.
One good way to write a convincing mean kid in a high school movie is to make the smart and calculating in their meanness.
She says Cruel Intentions was another inspiration because the villains are “so smart and conniving and manipulative.” Ryan Phillippe’s character in that movie is comparable to Max, she says.
“It was finding that character that has sex appeal and feels like you’re like very interested in him, but that has like mystery to him and kind of an intrigue to him and just feels really smart. I really wanted all the characters to feel like they had agency, honestly, in kind of the worst ways in this film.”
You can watch our full interview with Robinson in the video above.
Do Revenge is now streaming on Netflix.
Main Image: Jonathan Daviss as Elliot, Austin Abrams as Max, and Alisha Boe as Tara in Do Revenge courtesy of Netflix. Courtesy of Netflix.