In director David Gordon Green’s character-driven dramedy “Prince Avalanche,” actors Paul Rudd and Emilie Hirsch play Alvin and Lance, two road workers whose job it is to paint the yellow lines running down the centers of highways. The narrative, which is loosely adapted from the Icelandic film “Either Way,” is set in 1988, but parallels the aftermath of the Bastrop County fires that occurred in late 2011. In the film, Alvin and Lance are assigned to repaint the traffic lines on an isolated country highway that was destroyed by the wildfire. During their summer working together, the men create an unlikely friendship despite their contrasting personalities and work ethic.
During an interview this past March at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Green, Rudd and Emile sat down to share some of their experiences during the making of what Green calls a “hip-pocket project.” All three walked into the interview room talking to each other about the time change (it was March 10, Daylight Saving Time).
“Prince Avalanche” is currently available on iTunes and Video On-Demand.
David Gordon Green: Why is there even a Daylight Savings? Let’s just stop it.
Paul Rudd: There are petitions to get rid of it.
DGG: It must be a corporate reason that they don’t.
Emile Hirsch: Someone’s gotta pay for that extra hour.
PR: I thought [Daylight Savings] was good for the economy – like it goes up a few percentage points. They did away with it for a while, but then it came back.
EH: Arizona doesn’t have [Daylight Savings].
PR: Arizona doesn’t have it? That’s SO Arizona!
EH: That’s so weird that someone says, “We’re changing the time.” The time shouldn’t be able to be changed.
DGG: Do you guys know about the history of weekends – like when weekends were created? It divided the country between the people who believed in weekends and the people who didn’t. There was this aggressive campaign about how everyone shouldn’t work seven days a week. But that’s something we just take for granted now – weekends.
EH: The idea that we’re changing the time, that’s insane. “It’s not 3 p.m., it’s 4 p.m.” Like what the fuck?!
PR: “Don’t worry. We’ll changed it back later on in the year.”
David, this is definitely your most intimate film since “Snow Angels” six years ago. Was this type of storytelling something you wanted to get back to after making three studio films (“The Sitter,” “Your Highness” and “Pineapple Express”)?
You know, through that period of time I always had a “hip-pocket project” – something that I knew I could do down and dirty and quickly in case the pieces on a big-budget studio movie didn’t come together. I was really frustrated with this one particular movie I had been trying to get made for five years. It kept falling through. I thought this was the perfect time to pull out a hip-pocket movie. I went through the ones I had kind of been developing over the years, but a lot of these projects are about timing. I can’t claim [“Prince Avalanche”] was a lifelong passion project. It was a whim that turned into a very signature piece of commitment and collaboration and trust with a group of artists. This was not something that has lived with me for years and years. It was very strange, but it was a beautiful antithesis to the traditional development process.
EH: I’m going to want that $10 bucks back.
DGG: (Laughs) Yeah, [Emile] paid me $10 bucks.
Paul, you’ve always been great at witty improv. Was it more of a challenge to let those quiet moments happen in this film?
PR: You know, there is a way these characters speak that is a little strange to me. It sounded to me, at times, like an American version of an Icelandic movie, really. The dialogue had these weird turns of phrases and that kind of thing. So, if we were having some sort of improvisation, the challenge was to adhere to those rules and rhythms and not veer away from that. There really wasn’t a lot of improvisation, was there?
DGG: Not in terms of big, broad strokes, but there was a lot of interpretation.
PR: Yeah, and I liked all the nuance and minor-key approach to all of it. I liked working that way. I wanted it to be contained. I wanted it to be dramatic. I wanted the humor to be character driven and not jokey. It didn’t seem any more challenging than anything else. That being said, it’s always kind of challenging. You don’t want [the film] to be bad.
So, the line “you got a little caulk on you” wasn’t supposed to be jokey?
EH: When [Paul] was saying that to me in the scene, I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t know what caulk was. I had never seen caulk before.
PR: That’s not what I heard, Emile.
EH: No, but he kept saying that to me in the scene. He was like, “You got a little caulk on you. You got a little caulk on you.” And I was like, “What the fuck is he talking about?”
PR: In the film, you can tell he is making me laugh really hard. That’s why in that scene I turn around and I start laughing. You can hear me laughing.
DGG: We kept that scene in.
PR: Yeah, we kept it in because it made me laugh. Afterward I was like, “Man, I probably shouldn’t have turned away too much.” Now, that was one of those challenges you were talking about. I think if I was doing one of those lines like, “You’ve got a little caulk on you” and started laughing and it was in another movie, I probably would’ve made it a bigger jokey thing. But in this, I wanted it to not be a joke. But that’s still what happened.
EH: I didn’t know what caulk was.
PR: Now you’re familiar with it.
Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman
Directed by: David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”)
Written by: Danny McBride (“The Foot Fist Way”) and Ben Best (“The Foot Fist Way”)
It may only attract an audience who giggles whenever they hear the word “balls,” but “Your Highness” doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a sloppy dish of vulgarity with a mix of frat-boy and deadpan humor served up as a mindless medieval parody. Call it a guilty pleasure if you’d like, but “Your Highness” is as funny as it is un-ambitious. Comedian Danny McBride and Academy Award nominee and winner James Franco and Natalie Portman are so committed to the stupidity, it’s refreshing despite some one-trick pony jokes. Plus, it’s a little dispairing to see that director David Gordon Green, who has given us some great indie dramas like “All the Real Girls” and “Snow Angels” earlier in his career, has decided to change routes, at least for his last couple of films. He may find success if he decides to stay, but it’s an unfortunate loss to indies.
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride
Directed by: David Gordon Green (“All the Real Girls”)
Written by: Seth Rogen (“Superbad”) and Evan Goldberg (“Superbad”)
It might not take much to entertain a group of giggly potheads, but when it comes to stoner comedies, the best are the ones that can entertain even the most levelheaded audiences. Although there will always be an infantile “Harold & Kumar” to cancel out more developed efforts like “The Wackness,” the stoner comedies of today seem to be growing back a few more brain cells.
With a perceptive indie director like David Gordon Green (“Undertow”) leading the way in “Pineapple Express,” smokers and non-smokers alike have something to applaud. Not only is this Green’s most accessible film to date, it’s his first shot with an action/comedy hybrid and he makes it his own.
In “Express,” Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”) plays Dale Denton, a weed-loving process server who witnesses a murder while smoking a doobie outside the home where he is supposed to serve papers. In his frantic state, Dale tosses the joint and screeches off just before the killers, Ted (Gary Cole) and Carol (Rosie Perez), realize that someone has seen them.
Although a bit too coincidental, Ted is able to track down Dale because the roach he throws out his car window is filled with a rare type of marijuana known as Pineapple Express. He knows what it is because he is the drug kingpin who has smuggled it into the city and handed it over to only one supplier, who, in turn, has only one distributor.
The seller is Saul Silver (James Franco), a full-time pot dealer who spends all his time at his apartment watching old TV shows and finding inventive ways to get high (he creates a “cross joint” that must be lit at three separate points for maximum puffage). Dale and Saul’s business relationship is brand new, but Saul quickly befriends him probably because he is the only one that understands his carefree ways.
Dale turns Saul for help when he sees the murder and the duo hightail it out of Saul’s apartment in fear for their lives. From here, “Express” becomes a buddy comedy with a lot more wit and unusual performances, especially from Franco, whose comedic timing is brilliant. As Saul, Franco shows his flexibility as an actor and always keeps that likeable smirk on his face.
As another Judd Apatow production, “Pineapple Express” is a hilarious and, at times, very violent kick in the pants that combines genres just as well as any other comedy this year. Sure, it might be lacking in plot, but it’s never lacking in pot (and that makes the half-baked humor all the more bizarre).
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Michael Angarano
Directed by: David Gordon Green (“All the Real Girls”)
Written by: David Gordon Green (“Undertow”)
In only two films in the past four years, director David Gordon Green (“All the Real Girls”) has proven to have one of the most intriguing viewpoints of any young filmmaker behind the camera. Add the heart-wrenching “Snow Angels” to Green’s short list of accomplishments.
The story follows the intertwining and rocky relationships between Annie (Kate Beckinsale) and her ex-husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell) and their four-year-old daughter lost in bickering; Arthur Parkinson (Michael Angarano), a shy high school kid with an innocent crush; and his parents, Don (Griffin Dunne) and Louise (Jeanetta Arnette), who are recently separated.
Based on the novel by Stewart O’Nan, “Snow Angels” is rich in characterization and impressive in its metaphorical delivery of painful human emotion.