Interview with the Duplass Brothers, part 2

We pick up the conversation as the topic turns to incest and the sexual chemistry between Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill.

PK: Did you feel like there was a line you shouldn't cross with the potential eroticism. Did you have discussions about where to take it?

Jay Duplass: It's interesting, Mark and I don't really try to talk much about it because we don't want to intellectualize the process that much. We try to create stuff from the gut and try to just go forward and create moments on set and we try a lot of different things and explore a lot of different areas. But once we get into editorial,  that's when we really start talking about exactly what's happening, how far is it going, we're obviously pushing a line with different tones and we're trying to do a bunch of different things with a movie with this relationship angle. There's a comedic side to it but there's also a little bit of mystery and a little bit of thrill to it. So we definitely do manage the tone a lot more in the editorial. But in terms of the writing and the shooting, we really with our gut and try  capture as many inspired things as we can on set.

PK: The casting of Jonah Hill kind of diffuses it, I mean, he's a very attractive, funny, but not conventionally sexy guy. So watching him instead of some hunky guy like Taylor Lautner or Robert Pattinson from "Twilight?"


Mark Duplass: We cast Jonah very specifically because of the person that he is, and his desire to go with us on this ride. Jonah is he is a dark person, and you might not know that when you watch "Superbad" and other movies he's been in. He's very introspective and he's very emotionally aware. He's very grown up for his age. So that element, in combination with the fact that he really wanted to do a movie with us. He understood the process of our films, he was not afraid of it at all, he was ready to go into the pit of improvisation with us and that level of pump is 50 percent of the battle for us. We really need people who are excited to be there with us and trust us. We're not those directors who are going to go on set and tell them exactly what to do. We are going to explore it and it takes a certain kind of person to be ok with that.

PK: Did you write this screenplay for the two lead actors?

JD: We wrote it initially for John [C. Reilly]. It's no coincidence that the character's name is John. When we started we didn't initially write it for John. But we named the character John because we were just playing around with the imagery of John C. Reilly doing these things. And as the weeks progressed when we were developing the story, we realized that every time we imagined him in the role, the movie got funnier. It got emotionally more intense. All the elements that we liked, the tragic elements, the emotionality of it, the humor of it, the awkwardness- everything just amplified with John in that role. There seemed to be no downside to it. And beyond all that, he's such a loveable and pure intentioned sort of guy. And there's a lot of questionable things that this character does, and we knew that, if John was playing it, people would be along for the ride with him a lot more.

PK: Starting with urinating in the bush.

MD: Exactly.

PK: It's probably the cutest meet cute of the year.

JD: Cutest urine scene we've seen as to date. But that was literally the motivation behind it. We were just tickled by the idea of him doing all these things. Probably a couple months into the writing process, we realized that we didn't want to do this movie if John wasn't going to do it. So, luckily he did it.

PK: What was your inspiration for choosing Marisa Tomei?

JD: She came after we cast Jonah, and a lot of it was about finding a woman who was strong enough to keep her presence inside of this film once you have the two forces of nature that are John and Jonah. The character of Molly is unaware for a portion of this film about exactly what's going on. And that's one of those roles that can turn into one of those really bad cuckold roles that are just not developed and not interesting. Marisa is smart and strong and demanding to be heard and seen. We wanted somebody who would take control of the voice of her character and take responsibility and be tough, frankly. She's the Brooklyn girl, ya know?

PK: She also has a kind of girlish thing. When she comes into the house when Cyrus is there performing his music and she doesn't know that John is there and she just sort of joins in. It's just really sort of magical. Was that spontaneous?

JD: It was written in the script.

MD: But how she did it was all her.

JD: It was written that she would come in and enjoy Cyrus' music and dance. That's what we needed. The way that she chose to do it was all her. We believe in giving actors that room.

MD: There's a lot of ways you can do that, and the way she did it, she let herself look dorky and vulnerable and like a little girl, kind of, you know, being totally embarrassed by it when it was exposed. She's got amazing instincts.

PK: Did you test screen this at all?

MD: A ton. It's a big part of our process.

PK: Even before you did this movie?

MD: We never did the official studio test screening before this movie. But we, quote-unquote, "test" it on friends, friends of friends, try to get as many people as we can who don't know us and our style to see this movie to get some objective eyes on it. The goal is, okay, this is what we think the movie could or should be, and we play it to people, and we realize that we're missing half of these moments. They're not landing the way we thought they would. It's either because they're too subtle and didn't read or because they were too obvious and our audience got ahead of us. We want our audiences to be actively engaged, but we don't want to get so far ahead of them that they feel out of the loop. So, it's very hard to find that little nuance in it for us. We really try to put it up as many times as we can, and we learn a ton from it.

PK: In this case, you're trying to broaden your audience, I assume.

MD: Yeah, we are.

PK: Doesn't that dissipate your subtlety a little bit?

MD: No, it doesn't.

JD: We actually use the testing process to enhance our subtlety. Ultimately, what we're trying to do is communicate the subtlest form of plotting or of something that's funny or of something that's a passive aggressive move that someone does with someone else. We do a lot of improvisation, so we have varying levels of intensity in communication of all these things. We're trying to find that subtlest form that will communicate, that will read. So that when the audience is there, it's a very active viewing experience, where they know that they have to be on their toes, they have to be watching very closely to see these little things. I think it's empowering. That's what we want when we go to a movie. We want to be feeling like, "I need to be right on the tip of my seat, because, if not, I'm going to miss something."

PK: You almost have to see it again.

JD: Yeah.

PK: So do you have a lot of repeat viewers?

MD: We've had a lot of repeat viewings from our previous viewings. That might be because they get them on Netflix and it's free to watch them multiple times. We'll see how it goes in the movie theater.

PK: I've never read anything about your background. When you decided to make movies, did you both decide at the same time? And what movies or movie makers inspired you to do that?

JD: We grew up as movie fans. Our parents took us to movies on Christmas day. We didn't go to mass, we went to movies. Mark and I were a product of the advent of cable television and HBO coming into our living room in 1984. In the mid-80s, we watched everything that came through that tube several times over and over again.

MD: In particular, multiple viewings of a film has been very helpful to us. Learning innately and instinctually what the pacing of a film is rather than studying it and intellectualizing it. Jay and I can sit down at this point and write a preview and script in a couple of days because we just know, after watching "Kramer vs. Kramer" or "Romancing the Stone" 147 times, our bodies know how to pace movies.

PK: This is kind of a combination of those two.

MD: Yeah. Little adventure, little fun, lots of crazy stuff, and kind of sad.

PK: And Michael Douglas.

MD: And Mikey D.

NEXT: Making films even Kobe Bryant will love.

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