Mark Duplass on Being a Dick to Ben Stiller
When we sat down Humpday heroes Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard, Duplass was on a career high: He'd just held a successful first screening of an untitled Fox Searchlight comedy he'd directed starring Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill ("They're, like, amazing as performers), and he was eager to talk about Greenberg, the upcoming film from Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) in which he stars opposite Ben Stiller. So how did the mumblecore leading man and the Night at the Muesum star get along?
Who do you play in Greenberg?
DUPLASS: I play Eric, the ex-best friend and ex-bandmate of Roger Greenberg, Ben Stiller's character. [Roger] comes out to LA to house-sit for his brother for a while, and we try to rekindle our friendship but there's kind of a fucked-up past there.
Noah Baumbach has really been dipping into mumblecore lately -- Joe Swanberg's muse Greta Gerwig is in Greenberg too, and Noah produced Joe's last film...
DUPLASS: He's a mooch, you know? That's essentially what it comes down to: He's not talented. [Laughs] No, he's very different [than a mumblecore director]. I see why he's interested, because he has a realist aesthetic and he appreciates all the minutiae in a performance, but he is also a very exacting director. He knows what he wants and he hears the cadence of the dialogue in his head. It was not an improv fest on Noah's set. It was really great for me to try something different. I actually kind of don't think I'm as good in that environment as I am when I'm let loose to use the two or three skill sets I have as a writer/director/actor to sculpt something, you know? So it was a challenge.
LEONARD: I just wanted to mention that I ran into Ben Stiller at a party the other day and I brought up Mark, and Ben Stiller's response was, "That guy intimidated me." And I said, "Really?" And he was like, "Yeah, he was great, he was perfect, he was a great actor, but he really intimidated me."
DUPLASS: I went method on that one, I was just a dick to him the whole time. [Laughs] No, actually I didn't know that, but Greta also told me a really funny story which I thought was awesome...I really connected with Ben well -- he was very respectful, and you never know what you're gonna get with a huge movie star. He was so nice and he was asking me all about my Searchlight movie, and I was telling him about how I was having some concerns, like, "Do my friends think that my brother [who co-directed] and I are selling out by doing this big studio movie?" Which is valid on some level. And he was just kind of taking it in and was very sensitive.
Then I saw Greta a few weeks later and she was like, "I was talking to Ben the other day and he was telling me about your concerns of being a sellout on your Searchlight movie," and he was so mystified. And she did such a good impression of him, which I can't do: "Yeah...it was weird hearing that. In my world, if you do a Searchlight or a Focus movie, that's how you get your indie cred back!" [Laughs] ♦