Ahoy, squirts! Quint here, still going strong with this insane weekend of interviews! This time we have proof that I, undoubtedly, have the best job in the world. Has Obama gotten to chat up two women as beautiful, sweet and talented as Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer at the SAME TIME?
Well, maybe. But I want to pretend I’m special! And it was quite intimidating sitting down with these two. Being a fat nerd it’s not all that common for me to entertain gorgeous women, let alone two at once. I’m sure there’s a wildly inappropriate joke I can make here, but I’ll leave that to the professionals in the talkbacks.
This is another Sundance interview for a film that screened under the title My Idiot Brother and has since been retitled to Our Idiot Brother. The Weinstein Company picked this Paul Rudd-starrer up at Sundance and has it slated for an August 26th release, so this is a fairly early interview despite me dragging my ass and posting it two months after Sundance.
This was one of my favorite flicks of the festival, one that I think still has enough quirk to stand apart from the average studio comedy, but will also play like gangbusters for the masses. In the film Paul Rudd plays a Chauncey Gardiner type, a love and let love free spirit who causes chaos in the lives of his uptight sisters when his hippie girlfriend dumps him and kicks him out of their little weed farm.
Elizabeth Banks and the two lovely ladies I chat with below play Rudd’s sisters, each one with their own set of difficulties. Mortimer’s character is trying to save her marriage to an egotistical documentarian (played by the great Steve Coogan), Deschanel’s character is terrified of commitment, and Banks’ character is so desperate to prove herself as a journalist that she’s willing to step on anybody to get her way. Then Rudd comes into the picture and shakes things up.
That should be all the set up you need. I started the conversation referencing my set visit to Your Highness. Enjoy the chat!
Zooey Deschanel: We were just talking about YOUR HIGHNESS.
Emily Mortimer: That sounds so great, I can’t wait.
Zooey Deschanel: It should be really funny, I hope.
Quint: I love the R-rated trailer that came out.
Zooey Deschanel: Oh yeah. It’s so dirty that movie. I just can’t wait.
Quint: And the scene that we were there for was hilarious, with Theroux going so wildly over the top. “Magic, motherfuckers!”
Zooey Deschanel: Oh yeah, Justin Theroux is out of control funny. He is so funny. Have you worked with him?
Emily Mortimer: No, but I’ve met him once.
Zooey Deschanel: He is fucking hilarious.
Emily Mortimer: That whole thing just sounds brilliant.
Zooey Deschanel: It was super fun.
Quint: Cool, well I really love the movie. Sometimes with these bigger cast ensemble things you see them here at Sundance and a lot of times they just don’t really come together. It’s like they don’t find that right balance between commercial and original.
Emily Mortimer: Yeah, it’s a really hard balance to strike and it so often goes off the map with these genres, so to make one that works is a real feat. It’s deceptive, because it doesn’t seem like it would be as difficult as it is.
Zooey Deschanel: It is. Yeah, especially like drama/comedy and then the line between indie and mainstream.
Quint: This concept could have been very goofy.
Zooey Deschanel: Anything where the title is the plot… (laughs)
Quint: That’s right, but what I loved about it and why it feels kind of right for Sundance is that each character, especially your two characters, feel like they are the star of their own movie that we are not fully seeing. And they would be completely different movies if we followed those characters.
Zooey Deschanel: I like that!
Quint: You have the crumbling marriage drama with Emily’s story and then the gender bending romantic comedy with Zooey’s.
Emily Mortimer: I was thinking that watching that actually, that a lot in both of our cases happens off screen, but somehow it’s okay. You totally feel that you have gone through a journey with those characters without having to see every second of the plot progression.
Quint: Was that on the page? Did you get the sense that these particular characters were more fleshed out than normal?
Emily Mortimer: There was a story to tell, yeah. There was a person that you kind of understood whose story you could get into.
Zooey Deschanel: I definitely like the complexity of my character and I feel like that’s the case with all of the sisters, that the conflicts that are arising are coming out of stuff that’s much deeper than just the surface.
Quint: Yeah, there’s a lot of “between the lines” in this movie.
Zooey Deschanel: Definitely.
Emily Mortimer: And what was interesting about the way that we shot it was that we arrived, although we all kind of knew each other in a way and had had some contact with each other through Jesse (Peretz), because Jesse is basically… We were saying earlier how he’s kind of the most popular person anyone has ever been or met and so he sort of pulled the whole thing together just by being so lovable and loved.
So we all knew of each other through Jesse, but we hadn’t really hung out properly and because of the way the thing was shot, you turn up on set and it’s… There’s no money, it’s very quick and low budget, and so you turn up on set and there’s no time to talk or rehearse or anything, you just are thrown into the thing. Somehow I think that that really adds to the relationships between all of the brothers and all of the sisters. It’s not something that we are consciously playing, because we haven’t really discussed it; you’re just going on your instinct and it’s just something that’s there. There’s a sense of family.
Zooey Deschanel: The chemistry just happened.
Emily Mortimer: Without having worked it at all, which I think is what family is like anyway. You’re not aware of your relationship with your brother or your sister.
Quint: You just fall into it. I actually was going to bring that up. Each of these characters couldn’t be more different from each other. It’s almost like they are points of a star where none of them are really close to any of the others, but whenever you see them together suddenly the vibe is just there and clicking. It feels like a family. It’s exactly what you were saying how you just fall into this group.
Emily Mortimer: I think people in families define themselves in opposition to each other very often. That’s why brothers and sisters are so different from each other because they have set out to be different, because it’s the only way of surviving.
Quint: That’s true and that comes across in the movie.
Zooey Deschanel: Yeah and I felt like it was really well cast. Like, I felt like we all looked like brothers and sisters, you know what I mean? It was cool like all of us brunettes with light eyes. You know, it was really fun… like my favorite scene to shoot and my favorite scene to watch, just because I loved shooting that scene was the charades scene.
Emily Mortimer: Oh yeah, that was great.
Zooey Deschanel: It’s different for everybody, but you know over the holidays when you end up all together with your family and then one person’s in a bad mood and one person’s in a good mood and one person wants to play a game… I feel like those are the things that make for family drama, yet it’s so fun to watch and play, because it feels like everybody has had those moments.
Quint: And in that particular moment your characters are all kind of fed up with (Paul Rudd’s character), he’s kind of fed up with you guys, but at the same time it feels like the needling that your characters were doing would have, in any other situation, would have come across as playful, but because you guys are so tired of him it really feels harsh.
Zooey Deschanel: Right, but you are so much harsher, I feel, on your siblings than anyone.
Quint: Well before they break us up here, I really like the relationship dynamics that you both have, Zooey with Rashida Jones and Emily with Steve Coogan. Coogan was unbelievable in the movie…
Emily Mortimer: I thought so, too. He was great.
Zooey Deschanel: He was so funny, I know. He went full…
Quint: “Frontal?” (Laughs) Is that what you were going to say? (Quint note: Coogan does in this movie. Take note, wiener lovers!)
Zooey Deschanel: (Laughs) Yeah.
Emily Mortimer: He plays the perfect asshole, doesn’t he?
Zooey Deschanel: But he’s such a nice guy in person. Oh my gosh, it is so funny how great he is at playing just like a total dick, yet he’s the nicest and most fun guy.
Emily Mortimer: He’s amazing. He’s such a sweetheart and so brilliant.
Quint: Since he is such a nice guy off camera did it take you off balance a little bit when he turned up the asshole knob to 11 when the cameras were rolling? Did it feel like playtime or was there any point where you were just like “Man, you kind of hurt my feelings there… I know we’re just doing a job, but damn.”
Emily Mortimer: I was feeling that all the way through the movie, in a lot of moments, because it was… I was in a similar position to my character in that I had a baby that was pretty much the same age as the baby in the movie, when I shot the movie, and there’s something really vulnerable about having just had a baby in real life. You’ve sort of forgotten who you are somehow and it’s also quite antithetical to making a film, being a new mother. It’s such a different set of skills that are required, like a completely opposite, and so to come into that environment and leave my little baby at home and go off to this movie set… I felt quite vulnerable and yeah having Steve just ram it home to me on a daily basis…
Quint: It looked like there was some genuine pain in your eyes, that’s why I asked the question, especially with the opening scene where you are trying to be attractive to your husband…
Emily Mortimer: Oh, I know! (laughs)
Quint: Which is an amazing introduction to the relationship. “What have you done to your vagina?” I don’t think I’ve seen that in many movies…
Zooey Deschanel: (laughs) I know, aw that sucks!
Emily Mortimer: But you know what? In fact the writing was really good too, though he improvised a lot of that scene, but the whole emotion of it is perfect, because it’s so vile, but I think it’s really believable. When you are in a dead end marriage and the love is gone, people say that kind of shit to each other, you know?
Quint: He doesn’t think about it. To him, he’s just being honest. He doesn’t think about the hurtfulness of it, yeah.
Emily Mortimer: It’s a way of deflecting having to have sex as a way of making her feel silly and turning it into a joke whereas she’s really in this serious business of trying to keep her marriage alive.
Quint: Emily’s relationship with Steve is pretty much unsalvageable, but there’s something tangible to fight for in your character’s relationship with Rashida.
Zooey Deschanel: I think the thing is with my character, Natalie, she has a great person, but she just has so much trouble making a decision and committing to something that I feel like her arc is her coming into the ability to make a decision and be like “Look, I have this amazing person. I’m going to stick with this person.”
So all of the stuff that ends up happening to her, a person who doesn’t take life very seriously and then a lot of serious stuff happens to her because of the choices she makes by not taking life as seriously. It ends up in a roundabout way making her sort of make a good decision in the end. I feel like that time in somebody’s life where they are having trouble deciding between growing up and living in a house with like 20 other people and having a real job and all of that kind of stuff, those moments are big. I guess the challenge was making her sympathetic even though she’s doing something totally shitty to a person that’s really a loveable person.
Emily Mortimer: But that’s what people do.
Zooey Deschanel: Exactly.
Quint: And you don’t play her slutty, which I think with a lot of people that would have been a natural instinct. I like what you were saying about her big issue is that she can’t make a choice, even including her bisexuality.
Zooey Deschanel: Yeah, everything about her confusion in general, I think. Everybody makes fun of her for being a slut, but I think it’s just because that’s how she connects. She thinks that’s how you connect to people and she doesn’t really know how to connect to people other than sexually. I think it’s her growing up and realizing “You don’t have to connect to everyone sexually.”
Quint: Alright, well I really appreciate you guys coming over and taking the time to talk.
Zooey Deschanel: Yeah, it was nice to see you. Maybe I’ll see you with YOUR HIGHNESS.
I want to make it clear that when talking about Deschanel’s character’s bisexuality, I meant that it symbolically represents her character’s desire to be a completely free spirit out of fear of commitment, not that she just can’t make up her mind. Don’t want to offend any GLBT readers by insinuating their sexuality is a choice, which I absolutely don’t believe.
With that out of the way, I hope you guys enjoyed the chat. Keep your eye out for the Our Idiot Brother post-summer superhero craziness! It’s a good one, I promise.
More interviews coming as the day continues, including with Our Idiot Brother’s own Paul Rudd!