April (Hannah Marks) and Nick (Dylan Sprouse) fall in love to the sound of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe." Two years later, they break up to the melancholy sound of "I Don't Want Your Love" by Annie Hart while weeping in pale blue graduation gowns, cross-country college acceptance letters looming over them. The entire span of a high school relationship, from exuberant rise to circumstantial fall, is crammed into the first five minutes of Banana Split, like the Gen-Z equivalent of Up's opening montage.
It's at Nick and April's end that Banana Split really begins. Banana Split, which premiered this past weekend at the L.A. Film Festival, looks at the fast and furious friendship that forms between April and Nick's new girlfriend, Clara (Liana Liberato), against their initial instincts. We see April fall in love twice: First, with Nick; then, after the relief of mutual understanding with Clara calcifies into lasting friendship. Banana Split, which was written by Marks, is a movie that understands, perfectly, the enormous pressure teenagers face while on precipice of a new home, new friends, new self — and the behaviours that might arise from staring at these stakes too long. Essentially, it captures the intensity of being 18, and uses the cadence of todays' 18-year-olds to do so. We spoke to Marks, Liberato, and Sprouse about the movie, and about how no one but Marks could've written it.
Refinery29: Hannah, you wrote the script for Banana Split. Has anything like this ever happened to you?
Hannah Marks: "This happened to me in high school. I had a really big meaningful high school relationship. When we broke up, he started dating someone else. I ended up meeting her at a party. We became obsessed with each other even though we wanted to hate each other. Unfortunately, the friendship didn't last the whole summer. It crashed and burned in real life. That’s where the initial idea came from. I spent a long time fictionalising it."
While it was happening, did you think, “Wow, there’s a story here?”
Marks: "Yeah. I wrote the whole first draft the night that after I met the girl in person. It ended up evolving so much after years and years."
After the first montage, I thought I knew what the movie would be about – a typical high school love story. Then, it veers in a different direction entirely. In your words, what’s Banana Split about?
Marks: "For me, it’s about female friendship and that first really important friendship you have in high school. How much that means, how much it can last a lifetime. Just treating that with as much respect as you would a boyfriend or a girlfriend."
Dylan Sprouse: "On the one hand, it’s a coming of age story for all the characters. They’re defining themselves through what they understand to be their romantic relationships, how those relationships persist into friendships, and what it means to them when they go away. That’s something everyone can relate to. And frankly, it’s funny."
Has this made you reflect on the friendships in your lives?
Marks: "For me, I got to cast Liana, who’s one of my very best friends. It was exciting for me to deepen my friendship."
Liana Liberato: "Absolutely. I feel like doing a movie about friendship with one of my best friends was a testament to how important it is to water your friendships. I've been with Hannah from training bras to first boyfriends, to everything. It wasn’t hard to wrap my mind around how important friendship is. The theme of the movie rings true."
Where did you meet?
Marks: "The Oakwood Apartments in Burbank. The child actor home."
Liberato: "Our parents were going to the gym. For some reason, both of us at 9 and 11 were like, 'We'll go to the gym, too.' Hannah hates this story. She fell off the treadmill and hit the window. It was really funny."
Marks: "Can I tell your embarrassing part of this story? There was an advertisement on the TV for Cold Case and Liana was like, 'I'm on that show. No big deal.'"
Liberato: "I was excited!"
Marks: "Well, you were saying I hit the window, so I had to throw it in."
Liana: "From that day forward, we were playing the Nancy Drew game on our PC computers and playing Jaws in the pool together."
Dylan, did you feel like the third wheel in the friendship?
Sprouse: "I feel like the third wheel everywhere I go. Just kidding. In general, I think we're all authentically friends with each other. I feel like I walked away from this movie friends with you guys — even though they never call me on my birthday. It wasn’t hard. The chemistry you both have was so authentic that it was easy to step in and work with you. "
Marks: "One of my favourite things is that you’re actually the title role. It’s your banana that we split."