In retrospect, it’s a bit of a miracle that “The Kissing Booth 3” was made at all.
Not because 2018’s “The Kissing Booth” was initially a standalone movie — before the summer rom-com, about a high school student who falls in love with her best friend’s brother, became an unexpected hit on Netflix. And not because of the pandemic; this last chapter was recorded earlier, in 2019, at the same time as ‘The Kissing Booth 2’.
With workdays like wrestling in huge inflatable sumo suits, making montages in a water park and racing go-karts in Mario Kart-esque costumes, it’s remarkable that Joey King and her colleagues, who had a ball in the process, were able to focus enough to get the job done.
“If you put us in a room and you expect us to get a lot done that’s productive, it’s going to be tough,” King, the 22-year-old star of the franchise, said in a video call. “We’re like 12-year-old boys.”
The final film of the trilogy, which begins streaming Wednesday, follows King’s character Elle through her last summer before college as she juggles dating her boyfriend, Noah (Jacob Elordi), and checks off the aforementioned antics with her boyfriend Lee (Joel Courtney) in a last-ditch effort to complete their childhood bucket list.
One of her next projects has a different vibe: King described “The Princess,” which she’s shooting in Bulgaria this summer, as an action movie, “‘The Raid: Redemption’ meets Rapunzel.” She sat down for a video interview (energetic as ever, it’s worth noting, at 6 a.m. local time) to discuss the end of the series that defined this phase of her career and how Elle’s coming of age mirrors hers. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What was it like shooting the last two films in a row?
We actually shot them at the same time – meaning we would be shooting scenes from both movies in one day. It was so confusing.
How did you keep everything straight?
I can’t give myself that kind of credit because I didn’t. I knew exactly what I was doing every day, but when I was on set and my director [Vince Marcello] would come and say a note or something, I was like, “Wait, are we in movie 3 now?” He says, “No, we’re still in movie 2.” It’s not like they were very similar, as their storylines take crazy different turns. But it was quite nice to get them married together.
Was this movie — along with “The Kissing Booth 2” — the first project you did?
It is, which was lovely. I’ve been more into producing lately; I’m actually also producing “The Princess”. But it was very special for me to start those films, because I’ve been doing them for so long.
I’m a bit of a sponge. On set, it was more of me to absorb things from Vince and say, “So why did we make that decision?” Just ask more questions. He was so willing to work with me even more and ask for my opinion. I felt like I had a voice on set, but my voice really came in on the back half of filming. I had a lot to say about what the final product was, and I’m also very much involved in the marketing process. I’m very passionate about both things, and I feel like I’m one of the target audiences. It’s nice to be able to say something about something I’d like to see at the end of the day.
The core of these films is a coming-of-age story. Have you found similarities with your own experiences at this stage of your life?
I have always felt very connected to Elle. I remember receiving the script for the first movie. I called my team and said, “When can I audition for this? I want this so bad.” And they said, “You don’t have to audition for it; it is an offer.” If I had to audition for that, I would have done anything to get that job.
So when I started playing Elle, I felt like: [she] and I were very much alike. Her vibe, her sense of humor; I felt very good about it. And the same goes for the second and third movies, if not more – I experienced many important life moments in her shoes.
How do you think you’ve changed since then?
I’ve changed so much. It’s actually quite unbelievable to me. I never thought I would change as a person, and I was so wrong. That’s the beauty of being young. My outlook on life changed – my outlook on family, on relationships, on career. So that’s why, if I feel like I’ve really been through so much with Elle, it’s because I’ve changed so much as a person and learned so much.
I became a little more present. I started to meditate. I found a very incredible relationship [the director and producer Steven Piet]. Obviously I have always loved my family, but I have discovered a deeper appreciation for them. And career things too: I started to focus more and more on what exactly I wanted to do and how badly I didn’t want to do certain things. And that was really interesting, just to feel a little bit more empowered in my own capabilities to make decisions. I’m actually quite an indecisive person. If you take me to a restaurant, I have no idea what I want. And that’s even when we decide where to go. But when it comes to my career, my brain switches to a decisive mode. That is a new development for me.
You’ve had such a range of roles at this point – “The Kissing Booth” is very different from “The deed.” [King was nominated for an Emmy for her performance in the Hulu true-crime drama, as a young woman convicted of killing her mother.] When it comes to fine-tuning what you want to do, do you hope to maintain that kind of variety? Or do you have a preference for certain roles?
Personally, I like to keep a wider reach, and I never really have a specific “this is what I want to do next”. I want to stay excited about it. I like the fact that they [“The Kissing Booth” and “The Act”] were opposites. And I hope people are excited to see me in different kinds of roles because I’ve decided very carefully that this is what I want to do.
This was, as far as we know now, the last “Kissing Booth”. But if the opportunity arises, do you see yourself returning to Elle and this story in the future?
I started these movies when I was 17. We were like, we hope people like it – if someone even sees it. We didn’t know what a big impact this would have. I’m never tired of playing Elle. It’s so much fun. Seeing this story wrapped up like a pretty bow, I think it’s going to be a little hard to come back to after that. We made this ending exactly what I think it should be. Selfish, do I want to play Elle again? Absolute. But I think the story is in its final chapter.