I love the films of Patrick Brice—all two of them, both of which are coming out right now. His first film is, as the title might imply, an terrifically freaky little number called CREEP, starring Mark Duplass and Brice as two men thrown together under unusual circumstances, only to have things get especially scary. The film premiered at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival (which is where I saw it), and is being released on iTunes today until it premieres on Netflix in mid-July. It’s a decidedly low-budget affair (Duplass and Brice are the only actors, Brice shot it, and the two improvised almost all of the dialogue.
Since CREEP’s SXSW debut, Brice (as writer-director) and Duplass (as producer, along with brother Jay Duplass) have made another, quite different film called THE OVERNIGHT, which I first caught at its premiere at this year Sundance Film Festival. The film remains the single funniest thing I’ve seen all year to date, and it’s the story of a young couple (Adam Scott, who also produced, and Taylor Schilling from “Orange Is the New Black”) who have just moved to Los Angeles with their young son and don’t really know anybody. By chance, they run into the father (Jason Schwartzman) of a boy that their son seems to play well with at the park, and he invites them over for a pizza party and playdate, with he and his French wife (Judith Godrèche, from such films as RIDICULE, THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, THE SPANISH APARTMENT, and STOKER).
The night starts out harmless enough, but once the kids are asleep, things take a turn for the unexpected, and suddenly what didn’t seem possible seems very possible. Each of these four characters is damaged in some way and is looking for the evening to repair them in some small way, and it’s all very tense and funny and exploratory, with Brice balancing the mood and tone of the piece beautifully with a screenplay whose complexities are subtle but damn-near perfect.
At SXSW back in March, I had a chance to sit down with Brice and Godrèche in a bar in downtown Austin and we dove into the film, and its many twist and turns. At first, it was just Brice and I, but then Godrèche soon joins us, as does another one of the cast members, unexpectedly and all too briefly (I actually was scheduled to talk to him the following day). Please enjoy my chat with Patrick Brice and Judith Godrèche…
Capone: Before we start, in addition to what I do at Ain’t It Cool, I also am a programer for something called the Chicago Critics Film Festival, and we just booked this film for our closing night in May. I hear you might be coming to Chicago for it.
Patrick Brice: Oh, really? That’s awesome. That’s news to me. But that’s good news [he did indeed make the trip for the festival].
Capone: Several of us saw it at Sundance and loved it. And I saw CREEP last year and was blown away by that. I was interviewing Mark Duplass about another film last year, but all I wanted to talk about was CREEP. What’s going on with that? I know there was some talk about shooting two sequels and releasing all three in one year. Is that still the plan?
PB: Yeah, so all I can say is there’s going to be an announcement in the next couple of months about it, but there is forward motion happening.
Capone: It played at the Chicago International Film Festival in October, and I went back to see it again as like a refresher. It’s a cool movie. This is your second year in a row at SXSW, which is rare. A lot of filmmakers don't come two years in a row. Is the experience different for you this time, now that you’re a veteran of the process and the nerves that go along with it?
PB: Yeah, I am someone who is always inevitably going to get completely nervous about the unknown, so the last time I was here around this time, I was completely freaking out not knowing what was going to happen. CREEP is such a specific, odd movie, and we had no idea how people were going to react to it—truly no idea how people were going to react to it. So the fact that it was here and that it was a SX-Austin audience, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to see the movie. I feel like the audiences here are ready to enjoy themselves, as opposed to Sundance where it almost feels like a work vacation for a lot of people. It’s great, but here it’s much more about having a good time. So in terms of my feelings about screening a movie tonight, I couldn’t be more optimistic. I’m just excited. It’s going to be great.
Capone: People have already expressed their love of the film in other places, so it doesn't have that added burden of being a world premiere. With CREEP making its way around festivals last year, when did you have time to write and shoot this?
PB: So I actually wrote this before CREEP was released. I wrote this in late 2012. Because CREEP was such an odd, specific process making that movie—Mark and I spent a year doing re-shoots and re-tooling it, and once Blumhouse became involved, that pushed it more into the horror world. While that was happening, I was trying to figure out what was next, that’s when THE OVERNIGHT came about. It’s basically Mark saying, “If you want to make a small movie, I’ll produce it for you. Just write it cheap.” [laughs] So that’s when I wrote the script, and then we shot it in April of last year.
Capone: Did I read somewhere that you shot it in just a couple of weeks?
PB: Yeah, it was 12 days. 10 nights. It was insane. You go crazy. We were shooting 10 pages a day.
Capone: What was extra unnerving about the whole story is that these people have kids that are nearby.
PB: That are asleep in the house the entire time, yeah.
Capone: It just makes everything that’s happening seem a little weirder, for some reason. If it had just been two couples in the house, it would have been a crazy LA story. But that’s a very specific inclusion. Why did you want to have that as a part of the equation?
PB: I knew I wanted the movie to end in the way that it did, so it was essentially a process of reverse engineering and trying to really make it so that you believe this couple would stay in this house the whole night with all this crazy shit happening. So the one major thing at first that I thought of was having them be transplants and having that thing when you first move to a new city, you might find yourself hanging out with people you normally wouldn't hang out with, but you think that this is what I need to do to fit in. Having kids just spoke to what a lot of friends of mine, who are in their 30s and have their first kid or second kid, are going through,7 where you’re having to really reconcile your social life and being a parent. Then most people end up being a parent more so, so you end up making friends based on who your kids are friends with in a way, which might not always be the person that you would choose.
Capone: There’s also a low-level tension throughout the whole film because we have no idea where things are leading, but we know they’re leading somewhere. When you’re moving through your two weeks of shooting, how do you maintain that?
PB: I knew I wanted to take this opportunity to inject narrative tension and comedy. I always think that’s great when that ends up happening. I’m a big AFTER HOURS fan and ADVENTURES OF BABYSITTING. I was thinking about a lot of these movies that take place over 24-hours, and you’re actually with the characters on the plot level as much as you are enjoying the jokes or the gags. So there’s that, but there’s also the performance style from all the actors.
One of the things I really like watching this movie is people laugh at the jokes, but they’re also giggling at the characters the whole time. They’re having their expectations hopefully subverted when it comes to these characters and what they’re going through. So that was the nice thing about playing it at Sundance, there was this low rumble of giggles that would happen, and then the joke would happen, and people would laugh, and it was like people were feeling uncomfortable for the most part. [laughs] On the page, the script reads fairly broad, but it came out of conversations of all the actors. [Judith joins us.] Judith was actually the first actor to read the script and maybe the second or third person to read it. You do a lot of bigger-budget comedies in France and a lot of broader stuff. So I was nervous showing you because I didn’t want you to think this was going to be like this stupid thing.
Capone: I feel like with Jason’s character, of course he’s married to someone French, because an American wouldn’t be good enough for his level of pretension. How did you get that script and become involved?
Judith Godrèche: I was in touch with Mark Duplass, with whom I really wanted to work. And, he came up with that idea and said, “There’s something that I think you would be right for.” Did we meet first, or did I read the script first?
PB: You read the script first.
JG: Yeah, he sent me the script, and, honestly, I never laugh loud when I read. I laugh in my head. Each page that I was turning, I was like, “I can’t believe this is so funny and so well written.” Because I’m offered a lot of comedies to read in my country. And I was really amazed, because I think what he accomplished was very delicate. It’s outrageously funny and excessive sometimes—out of the box and wild. It’s never either caricatural or heavy or manipulative in terms of comedy. There are funny comedies, but they’re really well made, and the joke arrives at the right moment. I thought this movie was completely organic. One of the reasons why people are laughing so much is because what’s happening is so subtle. It’s huge and small at the same time. And I’m not just talking about the dicks.
Capone: But also talking about the dicks.
JG: But it’s a very, very rare combination, and I’ve read so many comedies, because I live in LA now, so I receive a lot of comedies, because of course that’s what people are inspired by is the last thing they saw you in, and I love comedies, and reading them makes me admire his writing even more and what he accomplished. He’s very special. And knowing that he’s super young, and this movie is going to open so many doors for him. I know he’ll make the right decisions, because he has something that he should protect from this “supermarket” of comedy.
Capone: As much as it is funny, there are also a few very serious threads through it. This idea that this is like their one last chance to really live is embodied in Adam’s character. Those are very real issues.
JG: In the last screening where I was, which was at an agency, it was only people from the business, who are tougher.
PB: They’ve seen everything.
[Jason Schwartzman pops in after he wraps a nearby interview.]
Capone: Hey, man.
Jason Schwartzman: You son of a bitch, am I coming over here next to join you?
Capone: I’m actually talking to you tomorrow, but you can stay if you want.
Jason Schwartzman: I was going to get all cocky and sit down, but forget it now. [A publicist quickly runs in an whisks him away to his next actual interview.]
JG: The nice thing was, those agency people were laughing super loud, then suddenly there was complete silence. Everybody noticed it and told me, “Wow, the movie really captures you in a way that it’s not like only funny.” People were suddenly shutting down, listening and being completely captured. So I think it’s a human journey. It’s not a goofy comedy. It’s a human journey where people are moved by it. Some moments, me even though I’m in it, I’m looking at Adam like, “Wow. This is super moving, and this character is really interesting and complex.”
Capone: As much as you're absolutely right, I’m going to guess that 90 percent of the people that walk out of this movie are going to be talking about penis size and dancing penises. I realize prosthetics were a part of this, but even so, how did you get Adam and Jason to agree to do this? Why is that scene important?
PB: I just saw the image. I saw it in my head. I was laughing my head off as I was writing the script. But also, I didn’t want anything to exist that wasn’t grounded in the characters, so it had to make sense in the story. We knew from the get-go that we were going to be using prosthetics from when I first wrote it, because I knew there needed to be this exaggeration. I was even okay with them looking like prosthetics. I almost wanted it to be this heightened thing.
Capone: So that’s the broad comedy, but the more subtle, disturbing comedy is of course Jason’s work room, his painting studio. And you have these glorious paintings as your wallpaper behind them during the whole scene, to accompany the weird seduction that’s going on.
PB: Oh, those guys are so good. I wanted it to feel like there was this simultaneous grooming going on with Judith and Taylor, and then with Jason and Adam, but I also when you’re watching Judith and Taylor, I didn’t want you thinking, she’s going to try to hook up with her. I wanted to take any opportunity I could to pull the rug out from under you but in a small way.
JG: One of the things that makes the film extremely, how can I say…I’m thinking of a French word…enjoyable to watch is that even though it’s extremely creepy, and you take the creepiest subject and the craziest idea, it’s never creepy. Why? Because it’s Jason Schwartzman playing it. Whatever he does, it’s never going to be creepy. There’s something about him that’s so genuine.
PB: There’s a sweetness. He can’t kick it.
JG: It’s like, whatever he does, whatever he talks about and shows on the wall like in this scene, it’s never creepy, because there’s something childish about him, which I think also inspires Wes Anderson. And that’s how he’s able to do so many different roles without ever being too heavy on the characters. I think this childish aspect of him as a person makes him like a grown up child. There’s something very genuine that makes the movie also feeds the story a lot. Even in the sex scenes, there’s something extremely innocent about having sex with a lot of people in this movie.
PB: Yeah, it feels like kids. I wanted it to feel like adults were the kids on this playdate.
Capone: The point where that sex scenes starts, it feels more like a mass comforting, because everyone is feeling a bit broken and emotionally exposed and drained by the end of night. They are all just helping each other.
JG: I think it’s also like, “Whatever we’ve said, whatever we think we were going to do, whatever we don’t want to do, whatever we want to control in our life at a moment, whatever is happening is out of our control—the moment, the feeling, the sensation, that one moment. And this is what cinema is about, I feel. When suddenly there’s something happening that’s not so mechanically thought out. It’s real cinema, even in the way it’s shot. I don’t remember Patrick telling me who to kiss first or what to do. I don’t even remember the way we shot it. I feel like it was extremely late at night…
PB: Or early in the morning. [laughs]
JG: Yeah, and we knew what we were going to end up doing, but I think there’s something extremely poetic happening there.
Capone: CREEP was largely improvised. How scripted was this film?
PB: It was entirely scripted, but there was some improv in it.
Capone: Talking about Jason coming across as inherently sweet, but the last couple of things I’ve seen him in, he’s been playing very unlikable guys, including the movie he has here [7 CHINESE BROTHERS]. It was really nice to see him not just play someone confident, persuasive, and seductive, as he does here.
PB: Yeah, but he’s also like Pan at the same time. He’s this guy saying, “I’m taking you on this journey.” And normally that type of character wouldn’t be one of the main characters.
Capone: Is this a cautionary tale, or is this a loving look at people remembering that they can still do something strange and unexpected in their lives. Are they in over their heads, or are they actually celebrating a moment in their life that they may not get back?
PB: I think what you said is really very eloquent, actually [laughs].
JG: Your questions are answers [laughs].
PB: That’s what I was hoping for. I love the idea of taking a moment in a character’s life when they learn something as a starting point. If you condense this film down, it is about these two couples going through these crazy experiences and having these revelations in one night, but if you condense it even further it’s about this moment in this guy’s life where another guy helped him overcome this challenge that has been a problem for him his whole life. And I know it’s like the most simple, base, dude issue that I could have possibly chosen for that, but still I wanted it to be about these two guys helping each other,.
Capone: Where did you shoot that?
PB: It’s like up on top of this hill in Hollywood. That’s why in some of the exterior shots you see like black around it, because it’s literally on this hill. That’s what was partly so great about being up there with this small crew is that we were this group of nasty kids staying up all night.
JG: And we ended up having sex together [laughs].
PB: That was the best part.
Capone: I don’t watch “Orange is the New Black,” so I haven’t seen Taylor Schilling work before. How did you know she could handle this?
PB: We had no time in rehearsals for anything; we didn’t even have time read the script together before we started shooting it. We just like showed up. So for me—and this is just how I am, and maybe how I’m going to continue to be—it was just meeting all the actors and having conversations with them about the specific tone that I wanted to take with the film and explaining how it was going to be shot, and the feeling I wanted to get out of it. I met with Judith, she’s brilliant, she totally got it. I met with Adam, Adam’s brilliant, he totally got it. And then Taylor, the same.
I had only seen maybe one season of “Orange,” and I hadn’t seen any of her movies. On “Orange,” she’s much more controlled in her performance than she is in our movie, and so for me, it was actually meeting Taylor and getting Taylor’s personality, which is very goofy. She has a great laugh. One of the things I love about the movie is that her laugh permeates the whole movie She’s an inviting performer And the same with Jason. Knowing these guys got what I was trying to do, and it was a hunch, too. It was a tonal hunch. Normally when you see movies, they aren’t shot that way. They’re not using only practical lighting and handheld cameras, throwing these broader gags in there,.
Capone: So other than the announcement that we’re going to be getting sometime in the next couple of months [regarding CREEP], is there something else you’re working on that you can talk about?
PB: I’m writing a couple of things, nothing specific. Basically, the response to THE OVERNIGHT has been completely overwhelming and has opened a bunch of new doors, which is what Judith was talking about—me being cautious and not directing some studio comedy.
Capone: What is your feeling about directing something that you didn’t write?
PB: I’m reading scripts right now, and I think if I found something that I could interject myself into, that’s something I’m completely open to. But I also keep listening to that inner voice.
JG: Exactly. Protect that inner voice, because you have one. He obviously did everything on this—wrote and direct—so he’s an author. In comedy, I think that should be protected. It should be protected everywhere.
Capone: So you’re living in LA. What are you doing next?
JG: I’m writing a pilot for HBO, with the guys who created “Big Love” and “Getting On.” That’s why I stayed, actually, because I just came to shoot this film, and then I was going to go back to France, but I sold this show to HBO, this pilot. So this is what I’m doing.
Capone: When do you think you’ll be shooting that?
JG: Oh, I don’t know, because we’re still writing it. It was very inspiring. It’s like everything is very funny how everything is related. I don’t really believe in destiny, but somehow, it was strange timing and almost as if it was meant to be. THE OVERNIGHT is in the same spirit of what I’m writing. It’s very, very different, but it’s the same energy and very funny, but very honest and organic and fresh. It’s funny how everything is happening and somehow related.