Sunday, July 13, 2008

For the Price of One: A Chat with Mark and Jay Duplass

After the second SIFF screening of Baghead, Prost Amerika's Steve Clare and I interviewed writer/directors Mark and Jay Duplass at the Egyptian Theater. Born in Louisiana and based in Texas for several years, the brothers now call LA home.

Having seen their first film, 2006's The Puffy Chair, and read a few interviews with
the pair, I expected them to be open and friendly. They lived up to their reputa-
tion, and Steve and I enjoyed speaking with the fast-talking, down-to-earth duo.

Though they look different, Mark and Jay sound so similar on tape that I can't guarantee the accuracy of the identifications below (some words also got lost in the noise surrounding us). As they note, however, mis-attribution happens all the time.

A unique horror/comedy hybrid, Baghead opens at The Varsity on Friday, 8/8.

The filmmakers and their cast at this year's Sundance

Mark: Just so you know, if you happen to misquote us, we really don't care.

Steve: Thanks for that.

Kathy: That's one of the nicest things I've ever had anyone say. One of the funniest interviews I conducted was with the Brothers Quay, on the phone. How do you tell the difference? They look alike, and they sound alike. I decided not to worry about it.

Jay: We actually don't look anything alike, but we have...

Mark: The same voice.


Steve: It's not the theme of the film, but it's a bit that I like. When Matt
[Ross Partridge] and Chad [Steve Zissis] are talking, [Chad says] 'Dude, you've
got game. You've got all the girls, give me a chance.' Now despite my looks, I've been there. I've been in both positions, so you know I've got to ask: Have you
been in either position, and was the other one to blame, by any chance?

Mark: That's interesting. It's weird that that moment... Although a lot of stuff in
our movies comes from us, that wasn't really something I ever experienced.

Jay: I've definitely experienced it. [laughs]

Kathy: What about Steve?

[Steve's character harbors a crush on Greta Gerwig's Michelle.]

Jay: Steve has definitely experienced that, but you know, Steve understands
his size and where he's at in his life. He's incredibly self-aware, and he's just
a funny guy. Steve is actually amazing with women, because of the way he...

Kathy: He's so charming.

Jay: He's so charming, and he's a pretty charismatic guy. That
actually came at that moment, and it came from them knowing
what the situation was, but that specific dialogue came from them.

Kathy: Speaking of Greta. Was that her idea, putting barrettes in Steve's hair?

Mark: That was her idea. We didn't even talk about it; she just did it.

Kathy: I like his facial expression in that scene. Even the audience was
making cringing noises. I think they were coming more from the men.

Steve: The two men seem to have more of a bond than the two women. Now,
we're not told that they're greater friends in real life, so we wouldn't assume that.
I'm wondering if you picked up on the idea that men just get on better with guys than women do together, because they're more competitive, and they don't
like to talk about being competitive, whether it's unwritten or not.

Mark: The idea was that Matt and Chad were close friends in their past, but
we liked the idea that Catherine [Elise Muller] was the older version of Michelle,
that she was Michelle...years ago, so it's in the nature of their relationship.

Jay: It isn't a commentary on friends. In general, we base our characters on people we know and things we've seen them go through, and we steal and pick things from here and there. Those were just two dynamics we thought were particularly enjoyable.

Steve: Catherine is very Texan, isn't she?

Jay: She's amazing.

Mark: She isn't from Texas, but she's definitely got some brutality to her. [laughs]

Steve: I recognized her character as a very Texan female. Lastly, on
the subject of girlfriends; here's the problem with a girl that adores him,
but wants to be his friend. Have you ever experienced that, someone
who wants to see you as a sex object, but just likes you too much?

Jay: Constantly. [laughs]

Click here for part two

Click here for my review of Baghead, here for Joe Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs with Gerwig and Mark Duplass, and here for David Jeffers' take on The Puffy Chair. Recently, I also filed a report from the set of Lynn Shelton's Humpday, which feat-
ures Duplass. Images from First Showing and indieWIRE (photo by Brian Brooks).


  1. Cool convo Kathy...but I am chuckling a little about Steve's comment: "I'm wondering if you picked up on the idea that men just get on better with guys than women do together, because they're more competitive..."
    Really. Men aren't competitive with each other? REALLY? :)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Amie. I probably shouldn't speak for Steve, but...I think he was getting at the idea that women can be more covert regarding their competitiveness, though I may have misunderstood. He also said something about "subtext," but I cut that part out, because I couldn't hear the rest of the sentence.