Paul Rudd turns into a schmuck in Our Idiot Brother, also starring Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, and Zooey Deschanel. Buzzine sat him down with two of his "sisters" to talk about how the family dynamic in the movie is similar to their own, including personal stories of upset in their family life, and how they found a realistic family bond to get into their characters, which may have invovled baby poo.
Izumi Hasegawa: Obviously, the quality of the script probably helped make your decision, but was there also something more? Perhaps you saw your own family reflected in this story?
Elizabeth Banks: This movie is fairly autobiographical for me. When Jesse called me about the movie after I'd read it, I was laughing, like, did he somehow go to my home? I am the oldest, bossiest daughter of a family of four; I have two sisters, one of whom is a divorced mother of two, and one of whom lives in Brooklyn with four roommates. She actually just moved in with her boyfriend, so we're real hopeful that this is the one; and I have a 26-year-old brother who sells pizza and maybe something else while delivering those pizzas. So yes, I really connected to the film in a deep way.
Paul Rudd: I have a sister. My family dynamic wasn't really represented in this family. I've wanted to work with Jesse [Peretz] for...God, over ten years. We did a movie together, years ago, called The Chateau, and since then, we've always tried to find things to work together on and develop, but this was one I didn't even know about. And then he gave me this script, and I loved the character and I loved the story, and apart from wanting to work with Jesse, I just thought it was a great part, and I just connected to the guy. That was the main thing for me.
IH: Considering the re-shot ending, was it exciting that so much effort was being made to get things perfect, or disheartening because you would have to go back to Ned's horrible haircut?
PR: For me, it was just: do I have enough time to regrow the beard? I liked this idea that TJ and I were going to have more of something to do, and I thought that the ending was the right way to go, so I was very excited at the idea that we were going to get to try something else and see if it worked even better. I like what we actually had at Sundance -- that was pretty cool, but it definitely didn't tie it up as much as this does, and I was excited that the Weinstein Company believed enough in the movie that they wanted to get it 100% right. It was good. I liked it.
IH: Ned's biggest flaw is his honesty. Do you feel that it's a good policy to be honest, especially with relatives? Do you think it's a good idea to sit back and let everything go, or are you more inclined to speak up?
PR: I suppose it really depends on the family member and what it is you're withholding. It's an idealistic way to live, and I think we try to strive for that kind of open and honest way of living, but the world doesn't really function like that. Families don't really, I think, function like that. It's a balancing act.
IH: Have there been times when you've been in a family doghouse? Is there any particular instance you'd like to share?
EB: I once forwarded my middle sister – the Liz in my life, who married a not-great guy – I forwarded an e-mail – I can't remember exactly how, but basically I was like, "When we go to the wedding, we're just going to make the best of a bad situation." And my sister ended up on the e-mail forward and wrote me back reply-all, "I really wish I didn't know this is how you were coming to my wedding." Needless to say, I was not in my sister's wedding, nor was my other sister, but it's all worked out and we're all best friends, and that dude is no longer in our f*cking lives. I was right!
IH: What do you guys think an ideal life would be, if you could choose it in reality?
PR: This is always the thing – do you answer what you truthfully feel, or do you try to come up with some funny little bon mot?
EB: In your ideal world, you would only have bon mots at all times.
PR: That's true. My life would be one funny bit. What would it be? Whatever it is, it would only allow you to be completely present in that moment at all times. Suck on that, everybody.
IH: What kind of bonus features can we expect on the home entertainment release?
EB: A lot more penis. You're gonna find out what Jeremy's book was about.
IH: In many ways, the women drive the story forward, and yet they're all exceedingly broken. This is a world where there's very little place for honesty and being yourself; it certainly doesn't help you get ahead, and it certainly doesn't help your family. What did you learn playing these roles, and what would you like audiences to take away from your portrayals of them?
Emily Mortimer: I think that all of what you said is true, but they are more confused and f*cked up and lost than we all are. Particularly with my character, I really felt that you're catching her at a moment in her life when she's particularly vulnerable, but that doesn't mean to say that she forever is lost. I really related to her. I've had such deep vats of sympathy for her, partly because I had just had a baby myself. My baby was the same age as the baby that I had in the movie, and there's such a strange moment in a woman's life when you've just had a baby, where you've completely forgotten who you are. You just don't really exist for a while, but by necessity, because this little thing has taken up all your time and effort, and all you're good for is keeping it alive, and you look completely different from how you've ever looked before -- much worse than you ever normally look -- and your brain has gone to complete jelly, and that's all all right for a few months, but then there's this strange moment where you're expected to rejoin the world, and it's terrifying. You feel so vulnerable and lost, and you don't know which way is up, and to combine that with something really hideous happening, like your husband deceiving you... I felt like I so knew all that she was going through, but I don't feel that it's any sadder or more difficult or stranger than anything that people go through, that we all are going through every day in some ways. I just love Jesse's take on all these people, which is that they may be in moments of pain and confusion, but ultimately, if you just put your faith in humanity and optimism and everything, it might be all right in the end.
IH: Independent films focus on dysfunctional families quite a bit. The challenge seems to be to rise above type, to rise above the characters and elements that we've seen before. Is there a danger for the audience that, because we all come from dysfunctional families, we will leave your story and go into our own during the course of the film?
PR: I think that's the point of it, and what makes watching a movie enjoyable is if you can relate to it in some way. Even in the tagline, "Everybody has one," which I think is debatable, by the way... Yeah, I can relate, that's me, that's my situation, or that's similar to my situation, and it makes me think of my situation and I can escape into this one, or I can somehow inform my decisions that I will make in my own [life] -- it's not just pure escapism. I think that's good.
IH: Did you get a chance to spend time together and create the family bond? What did you do? Do you see Paul as a little or big brother to you?
EB: Big brother.
EM: Much older brother.
PR: I remember we were all kind of born around the same time. Quadruplets.
IH: What about the sisterly bonding?
EM: It was very easy. It required very little in the way of Method-ing or homework or anything, because we are all members of families, so that thing of unspoken love and then spoken irritation and bickering is so familiar to all of us that no practicing was needed.
EB: And made it really easy because she came to set with pinkeye on the first day, and it was repulsive and made us not want to touch her.
EM: It was so awful!
EB: It was like she did it for us. She did the work for us.
EM: At which my brother that night waited 'til my first day of work to tell me that it meant that I'd had poo in my eye. Baby poo in my eye.
EB: We all knew that. We knew that when you came to work.
EM: Which was in Knocked Up...
PR: Except it wasn't baby. But yes, it is. That's, I guess, how you get it. Textbook.
EM: It was so depressing, and they all gave me a very wide berth for a number of days, which felt right.
IH: How is Jesse Peretz as a director?
PR: I've worked with Jesse a couple of times now. I feel like I know Jesse fairly well. I think he's a great director, and one of the things I knew immediately upon reading this script was that his take on it was going to be the same take on it that I had. As far as relating to just me and my character, he's a hippie, and there's this thing with marijuana and there are all of these external things, and it's called "Idiot Brother," but none of that is a focus. Neither one of us would even think about that while we were shooting it. It's more about somebody that isn't cynical, that makes a very conscious decision to live his life this way, and that was the basis of the character. Crocs are funny, but that doesn't define who he is, and the long hair and the beard and all of that. There was already a trust with Jesse directing it because I knew that, inherently, he was going to try to get across what I would want to try to get across. There's also something, I believe, in this character that I play -- there are qualities that are very inherent in who Jesse is. Jesse is the most universally liked person; he's very gentle, he's very sweet to everybody, and when he's directing, sometimes I feel like he feels bad giving you direction. Like, "No, man, your choice, that was great, I loved it! Yeah, let's just do that!" when inside, I almost feel like, "Don't want to do that!"
EB: Make the opposite choice!
PR: But he's so good, he can somehow, through that very cool way, make you think as if you've come up with an idea, when he's really leading you to it, and then you love him at the end of it.
EM: It really was such a gentle, kind, lovely set to be on, and it's not always like that. Between Jesse and Anthony Bregman, who produced it, they're both among the few people that make it really seem like a noble profession, and you go along, and the people they collect together – not just the actors, but everybody on the set, from the runners to the ADs to the costume design – everybody is not only incredibly good at their jobs, but also decent and unpretentious and kind, so the vibe was just heavenly and such a pleasure to be around.
IH: What moments stuck out as poignant for you?
PR: There's something about "Sometimes you just want to sit and play charades with your family!" That, despite all the battling and fighting. It was such an emotionally charged moment and scene, and kind of heartbreaking because, at different points, we all sometimes, as hard as it can be, just want to play charades with your family, but you're unable to.
IH: Elizabeth, your character is also a journalist. Did it make you understand the profession more? Have you ever been in an interview and felt you revealed too much?
EB: The manipulation of a good reporter. I understand wholly, in this media age, why it's really important for all of y'all to find your nugget or your POV or your special quote, and I still don't care, even playing this character. It's an ethical dilemma on a daily basis for y'all, I'm sure. You deal with it in your own ways. Hopefully you'll have a brother like Ned.
IH: You've now starred in movies with the words "Idiot" and "Schmucks" in the title. Is that something that concerns you now when you choose films, or are you actively seeking these roles?
PR: [Jokes] This spring, I have "The Dumbass" coming out, which I'm really looking forward to. Everybody has one. It's a one-man show. Yeah, I didn't notice that. Is there a theme to be had here? I guess it's just a happy accident.
IH: The character of Cindy has a faux-hobo-bohemian attitude, well-defined by her wardrobe, and especially her glasses...
PR: Hipster Urkel.
EM: Everybody had glasses in [the] movie. I think [Jesse's] got a thing for girls and glasses. [His] girlfriend had glasses.
PR: It's sweet you would call her my girlfriend. But she did -- the princess did have glasses.
EM: I loved my costume. The costume fitting made me laugh so much. When he got out the most depressing-looking dress you have ever seen, the most sexless thing you've ever seen -- a sack -- and then you got close up to it and it had a price tag on it, like $1500, that's exactly what those women wear in pubs. Spun something from India, like the shores of the Ganges, and they sell them for thousands of dollars in those boutiques in Brooklyn, and they are so miserable. They're just awful, awful clothes, but it was brilliant. It was perfect.
The Weinstein Company's 'Our Idiot Brother' is released on August 26, 2011.