Of Baghead, the Duplass brothers’ painfully funny and (as per usual) laudably true-ringing follow-up to Sundance favorite The Puffy Chair, co-auteur Mark Duplass says, with a laugh: “Once we made the movie, and we knew it was good, we were like, ‘Great. Now how the fuck do we talk about this movie?’ Because it’s the worst synopsis in the world: ‘Four would-be actors go to the woods to try and write a script that will start their careers.’ And it’s just like, that sounds like the worst thing I can imagine.”
Duplass, of course, is selling the film short. Exquisitely awkward and persistently, uniquely entertaining, the Texas-shot Baghead is at once an eagle-eyed (but good-natured) nudge at the plight and culture of the striving actor, a refreshingly well-handled ensemble/relationship piece, and a reasonably creepy alone-in-the-woods gasper.
If all that doesn’t get your dander up (because you really should see both Baghead and Chair, and at least Wikipedia “mumblecore,” if all these names are new to you), consider: Baghead is the film Tropic Thunder might’ve been if it’d had 1/1000 the budget and about three times the subtlety.
And of course, if that doesn’t do it, there’s always the ol’ Brief Nudity (BN).
Or maybe, just maybe, a Current chat with the brothers Duplass’ll do the trick.
I read that there was an offer to do `Baghead` with a studio. ... What would that have looked like? I mean, I guess you said “No,” so —
Mark Duplass: We didn’t get that far down the road, but our suspicions were that, first of all, making a movie about struggling actors with name actors in it `chuckles` is kinda tough. Jay put it best ... watching Tom Cruise struggle desperately to get into an after party doesn’t really make sense. ... I don’t think it plays. You know? ... And then ... the adherence to one genre a little bit more was something that ... you know, they would’ve liked. …
Jay Duplass: The initial discussions definitely leaned in those directions.
MD: With the way Baghead was shot, the way it was made, it was going into a movie with a group of people that we loved and trusted, all of us saying, “We’re not sure this is gonna work; we’re gonna give it our best shot.” And a studio doesn’t really wanna hear that. `Chuckles.` You know? They want you to come in and tell them, with confidence, in your suit, how you’re gonna nail this movie, and we were in no position to be able to do that ... and we really didn’t wanna have to justify it to anyone. We like going in not knowing, and that’s what gives us that spur-of-the-moment, “anything can happen right now,” you know? ’Cause we don’t really know what’s gonna happen.
But ... you have studio deals or something, or I heard that there’s, like, a movement toward that …
MD: We do. We — we’ve signed quite a few deals where, you know, we’ve either sold a pitch of a script that they’ve hired us to write, or we’ll sell a script to them that we’ve written, um, and that we are slated to direct. That can take anywhere from five months to 150 years ... Jay and I’ve discovered some things, like, normally, the way movies get made quickly is you being really open to casting. ... And for us, like, we don’t care about anything else in our movie — set design, camera work, production design — we just really need great, sensitive actors who trust us and wanna be with us. So, for us, it’s probably gonna take us a little while to get together a studio movie, ’cause the cast is just, it’s everything … acting and story are everything to us. ... Some bigger, uh, movie stars, ... have come to us and said, “I love what you guys are doing, I wanna be doing this thing.” So, I don’t think that, you know … name actors are necessarily never gonna fit; it’s just a question of finding the right people who respond to the material.
The first five minutes of Baghead … when they’re in the `film-festival` Q&A, I was just completely sold, and I laughed really hard; but then I was like, how am I gonna do this interview?
MD: Yeah. `Laughs.`
Because, you nail — like, the guy, the disaffected dude going like, “What was your budget?” You know, I was like ... “But, I’m thinkin’ that.”
MD: “That’s what I’m thinking!” Yeah. Well, this is great that you say that, because —
JD: Well, ’cause, we’re makin’ fun of you, but we’re also makin’ fun of us.
I agree ...
MD: What we’re doing here right now, is like, um, you are asking us questions about how great we are, and we are telling you how great we are.
MD: `Laughs.` And it’s just so hilarious how we do that.
Just trying to sweep away the irony.
MD: Yeah. `Laughs.`
JD: `There’s a` desperate need to make fun of that. `Laughs.`
MD: You gotta call that out at some point. ... But at the same time, it feels amazing. Even though you know how stupid it is.
That’s `what was` cool about it, was that you’re making fun of it, but at the same time, it’s so clearly not malicious …
MD: That’s great that you feel that, ’cause that’s important to us, is like, you know, a lot of times the words “satire” and “parody” come up with this movie, and we feel like there’s an element of that, but the key thing for us is, like, we’re in love with all these people we’re making fun of ...
OK, I’m not going to ask what the budget was, but I was wondering … where does most of the money go?
MD: Yeah, food. ... Everybody makes $100 a day on our movies. It’s communism. ... We design our scripts so there’s really nothing expensive. ... And if anything happens to sneak in there, we make a pass before we go into production. Be like —
“Huh. A spaceship.”
MD: `Laughs.` Yeah. Mmm … I think we can do this `in` a van.
JD: Maybe a Volkswagen …
MD: I’m feelin’ this. I’m feelin’ this. Any — anybody for a Dodge Neon rental car? Anyone? •
Baghead is scheduled to open in San Antonio Friday, September 5.