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Drake Doremus' 'Douchebag' at Sundance

OC stage prodigy-turned-filmmaker Drake Doremus brings his 'very personal' movie to Park City, Utah

As a little boy, Doremus helped Crazies performers with their lines, says Kerr, who concedes her son was “very unusual.” How unusual? His first word was “rebate.” At 3 years old, he made his own costume and mask to sing the complete Phantom of the Opera for Kerr and his stepsister. Asked at 5 what he wanted for Christmas, Doremus replied, “A leaf blower.”

That was around the time Kerr divorced her second husband, Drake’s home-builder dad. Their boy was then shuttled between his parents every other weekend, and Kerr often found herself struggling alone as her other two children were already out of the house.

“It was very painful,” she recalls. “I had this child and had to start all over again. Going back to comedy was a very helpful choice for me.”

Doremus' mother, Cherie Kerr, in her DePietro Performance Center in Santa Ana
John Gilhooley
Doremus' mother, Cherie Kerr, in her DePietro Performance Center in Santa Ana
Jones had to be coaxed back to Southern California to finish filming Douchebag
John Gilhooley
Jones had to be coaxed back to Southern California to finish filming Douchebag

Comedy was Doremus’ choice as well. He produced, directed and wrote the first of several original plays, Presidents Are Funny, as a third-grader. It was performed for every class at Harbour View Elementary School in Huntington Beach.

Doremus was so committed to pursuing a stage career after seeing the Broadway production of Rent that he convinced Kerr to let him drop out of Fullerton High School his senior year so that he could write plays and musicals. She cut a deal in which he could take high-school-equivalency courses in the morning and do theater work in the afternoon.

When she came home at 2:30 p.m. one day after Doremus had earned his diploma and found him lying on the sofa in his boxers, eating ice cream and watching movies on TV, she threatened to kick him out of the house if he did not find a job. He instead applied to the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles and, at 19, became the youngest member of his class.

“I rounded up every friend I had to write letters of recommendation,” Kerr says of the AFI application process, “but he got in on his own. He’d produced an impressive body of work.”

Doremus is now the first member of his AFI class to have a film screen at Sundance.

When talking about her son, Kerr worries about coming off like she’s taking credit for his success. This is particularly true when she describes how he showed her an early Douchebag scene but explained the project was on hold because his buddy Jones had moved to New Mexico. Unbeknownst to Doremus, Kerr later got Jones on the phone and said that scene convinced her he should return to finish Douchebag and further pursue acting.

Kerr, who has written 11 books, including Charlie’s Notes, a memoir about her dad, is tenacious—a quality that has apparently rubbed off on Doremus.

“He has the drive and discipline to get things done,” she says. “He’s talented, too, very much so. But it is his ability to say, ‘I don’t care what the odds are, this is going to get done’ that I am way more proud of than anything else.

“I tell him, ‘Just don’t go Hollywood on me.’”

   

BROWER HOME. CORONA DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA. FRIDAY, JAN. 15, NOON.
The tri-level, 1970s modern home of Jones’ grandparents—Ed and Pauline Brower—features an all-white living room with a black grand piano next to one wall and stunning views of the Corona del Mar coastline and Catalina Island through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Another room in the home has been converted into an art gallery that displays colorful landscapes painted by Ed, who was the U.S. Assistant Postmaster General during the Nixon and Ford administrations from 1972 through 1976 and later the CEO of Pacific Scientific Co. in Newport Beach.

Up a few steps from that is a large family room with a billiards table on the north end and a big-screen television on the south side. Sitting at a bar table in the middle of the room, Jones says he has spent most of his time here since relocating from New Mexico to care for Grandma and Grandpa. Once they retire for the evening, the 25-year-old loves nothing more than holing up in the family room and writing.

He is the son of actors who met while studying in New York. Born in New Jersey, Jones was about 5 years old when his parents split up and he moved with his mother to Irvine because she was originally from Orange County and her support system was here.

“It was extremely safe,” Jones says of Irvine. “Periods of time I would be angry we lived there, especially when I went to LA. Irvine has no character.”

Fortunately, he fell in with other kids who liked “the escape” of staging shows and making movies. When he was a 15-year-old sophomore at Woodbridge High School, a friend in a play called Subway that was written, produced and directed by 16-year-old Doremus convinced him to run the lights for the show at the DePietro.

“I volunteered to do it until he got someone else,” Jones recalls. “It was a no-budget play. Drake did the sound at each performance, so we were in the booth together for the run of the show. That’s when the bonding began.”

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