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YouTube’s Smosh Guys on Making Their First Movie: ‘We Had to Learn How to Act’

For YouTube stars Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox — proprietors of popular comedy channel Smosh — embarking on a feature-length movie was worlds apart from their day jobs.

The duo star in “The Smosh Movie,” a madcap misadventure based on their YouTube personas involving an embarrassing video of Anthony that’s posted online right before his high-school reunion. Lionsgate has acquired distribution rights for the film, but hasn’t set a release date or determined whether it will get a theatrical window in addition to digital release.

Job number one? “We had to learn how to act,” Padilla quipped, noting that they had an acting coach to help them along. “In our sketches we’re just doing our own thing. In the movie, we’re each playing ourselves… but it was exaggerated versions of our lives.”

Naturally, both Hecox (above left) and Padilla found the experience of making the movie far slower than working up their weekly YouTube show.

“We really got time to focus on our characters,” Hecox said. “Usually in a Smosh sketch, we get 60 shots, 12 hours to shoot — we’re just going ‘bam, bam, bam.’ It was a chance to slow down.”

SEE ALSO: Lionsgate Acquires Rights to ‘The Smosh Movie,’ Starring YouTube Comedy Duo

The movie was jointly financed by DreamWorks Animation’s AwesomenessTV and Lionsgate-backed Defy Media, the digital media company that manages the Smosh channel.

The film’s budget was around $1 million, said AwesomenessTV CEO Brian Robbins, who’s producing “The Smosh Movie.” He’s has been down this road before: Robbins made the “Fred” movies for Nickelodeon, starring YouTuber Lucas Cruikshank.

“I look at this as not any stranger than plucking John Belushi or Dan Aykroyd off ‘Saturday Night Live’ and turning them into movie stars,” Robbins said. Across multiple YouTube channels, Smosh has more than 30 million subscribers. “That’s not a coincidence,” he said. “People will see how truly truly funny the boys are, and that they are stars.”

“The Smosh Movie” is billed as an updated version of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”; it was “kismet” that they lined up Alex Winter, who co-starred in the 1989 comedy alongside Keanu Reeves, to direct the movie, said Defy Media EVP Barry Blumberg.

“We want to stretch our legs and see if we can tell a broader story,” said Blumberg, who oversees the company’s content strategy.

With the film, the Smosh guys had to adjust to working with many cooks in the kitchen, according to Blumberg: “They’re 100% control of the process for the (YouTube) show. A movie is a much more collaborative effort, engaging other voices to come up with a more holistic point of view.”

That said, Hecox and Padilla, working with Winter and scribe Eric Falconer (“Blue Mountain State,” “How I Met Your Mother”), found many opportunities for improvisation. “We were punching up the script within a day of production,” Hecox said.

Shooting on the film, partially shot at YouTube Space LA, has been completed. Hecox and Padilla will screen a rough cut of “The Smosh Movie” this Friday, the first time they’re seeing the film.

As to be expected in a movie featuring YouTube stars, a number of other digital-native celebs will appear in the movie, including Jenna Marbles, Shane Dawson, Grace Helbig, Harley Morenstein, Mark Fischbach (“Markiplier”) and Dominic “D-Trix” Sandoval.

“We’re friends with a lot of them, and we were looking at the script and looking at ways to get them in,” Padilla said. “Sometimes we had them in mind when we were writing it, and sometimes we tailored it to them later.”

SEE ALSO: Digital Stars: Inside the 24-Hour Job on the Internet Stage

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