John C. Reilly & Jonah Hill – Cyrus

July 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the dark comedy “Cyrus,” John (John C. Reilly) and Cyrus (Jonah Hill) vie for the attention of the same woman – John’s new girlfriend and Cyrus’s mother (Marissa Tomei).

During an interview with me at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival in March, Reilly and Hill sat down to talk about Reilly’s singing talents, how Hill was able to make his character funny without getting to creepy, and whether they’ve ever had any luck when it comes to hitting on women.

John, you’ve had to show off you singing abilities in past movies like “Walk Hard,” “Chicago,” and even a bit in “Magnolia.” What was it like to have to forget all that and sing as badly as you possible could in “Cyrus?”

John C. Reilly: I don’t sing in this movie. I don’t think I sing. Do I?

Jonah Hill: Yeah you do. (Singing) Don’t…don’t you want me.

JCR: Oh yeah, that. I forgot that. What movie is this? “Cyrus,” oh yeah.

JH: Great singing scene.

JCR: Well, I tried to sing as best I could without sounding like a professional singer, which my character is not. That was actually a very difficult scene to shoot because it was really embarrassing. All these extras are standing around not reacting and me trying to get people involved in the song. It was like excruciatingly embarrassing, actually.

JH: Yeah, as it is to watch.

JCR: Yeah. You know like the full body sweat? You’re so embarrassed your whole body starts sweating at once. It’s like, “Whew, OK!”

JH: I was so impressed though because John, he’s a professional singer. He’s got like a beautiful voice. So, to me, it’s always impressive when people have good voices, when they attempt to sing badly, you can usually still hear that they have a great voice in it. I thought he was amazing because I’ve heard him sing and he’s incredible. To hear him pull that off and actually sound like he has a bad voice was a really great acting coo on his part.

Jonah, how did you confront this role that could have easily turned more awkward than it already was? I mean, there’s a distinct line between Cyrus and his mom, but how did you manage not to cross the line into total weirdness?

JH: I just kept on thinking, “What would happen if someone tried to take away the thing that was most important to you in the entire world?” What would you do to stop that from happening? Whoever it is, whether it’s your mom or your girlfriend, or your best friend, I just treated Marissa’s character like the most important thing in the world to me and didn’t pay attention that she was my mom. I never let that enter my head. She was just the most important thing in the world to me. I didn’t think, “Oh, it’s my mom” and treat it like that. It just happens to be my mom, which makes it weird.

John, we see how socially awkward you can be during the party scene when you’re talking to girls. How good were you at flirting and making small talk in real life when you were single and trying to meet women?

JCR: I was not good. I was not good at it. I would always have to become friends with people first and kind of go at it that way. I was never somebody who could go in with the right line or talk to strangers very well. I got better at it since I had to do it more for work. But as a young person, I was concerned about seeming phony. I remember when I finished acting school a lot of people were like, “You gotta work it. You gotta like schmooze.” I was like, “Ugh, that sounds just so phony and terrible!” I think it’s just a journey that you take. You grow and you learn how to open up to people and be confident in yourself. I think it was more about my confidence when I was younger.

What about you Jonah?

JH: I always think about what you were saying, like if you had to “schmooze” or “schmoozing” or flirting or hitting on a girl. It’s one of those things, if you could ever see a video of yourself doing it you would blow your brains out because it would be so uncomfortable to watch yourself put yourself through that and lose all yourself respect.

JCR: And that’s…

JH: …what you watch in this movie. (Laughs) Thank God you have a lovely wife and a family. You don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Mark & Jay Duplass – Cyrus

July 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

Known for helping pioneer what is referred today as the “mumblecore” sub-genre with their first two independent movies “The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead,” filmmaking brothers Jay and Mark Duplass move a little more into the mainstream with their third feature “Cyrus.”

Comedian Jonah Hill plays the title character, a 21-year-old man-child who tries to sabotage his mom’s (Marissa Tomei) relationship with the new man in her life (John C. Reilly).

During my interview with the Duplass brothers at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival in March, the two talked about working with more established actors and what happens when they actually disagree about something during production.

Was the experience different working with more established actors?

Jay Duplass: The hardest part is their schedules. (Laughs) That’s basically it.

Mark Duplass: Yeah, they’re busy.

JD: Yeah, they’re really busy human beings. But honestly, working with them personally, the one thing that we learned when we started dealing with really established actors is that they’re there for a reason. They’re really, really good at what they do. Mark and I were really blow away with what they bring to set on a daily basis.

What is your mind set like having to handle the relationship between Cyrus and his mom and how do make it awkward without going into that creepy tone?

MD: The way we make movies, a lot of stuff is open to interpretation for audiences. Some people look at “Cyrus” and think it’s vastly inappropriate. Some people look at it and think, “Hey, I can see that relationship. I have something similar.” And we love that about it. If you’re weird like those guys then you’ll feel like your home. If you’re a little less weird than them they’ll just be a little off and interesting to be with. Whatever you take is fine with us.

You’ve talked in the past about these 30-minute walks you take in the middle of production that freak out your producers. Can you tell me a bit more about those and is there always a conclusion or answer to them?

JD: Yeah, sometimes we don’t really have a full-blown conclusion but we always come back with something we’re gonna do whether or not that something that we feel is great or whatever. But the most important thing that Mark and I try to maintain is that we’ve added all these crew members to our process [and] we still want to just check in with each other and make sure that we’re connected about the piece of art that we’re making and what’s really happening in front of us because it’s so easy to just get caught up on the set and go with the flow on this massive beast that a film set is. We just want to make sure we’re staying true to the core elements, which are the characters, their relationships with one another, and how that story is unfolding.

What happens when you two disagree on one of these elements?

MD: We rarely disagree, honestly, but when we do it usually becomes obvious in the next five or 10 minutes that one of us is right. There is a very distinct lack of ego between us.

JD: It really all comes down to who’s more inspired about their particular idea. We may have a difference of ideas, but we’ll start talking it out and it becomes obvious at a certain point that somebody’s really on to something. It’s not necessarily that they’re even right or whatever, but it’s like that’s where the love is and that’s where we always go.

Would you ever think about doing separate projects, or is that blasphemy?

MD: That would be blasphemy, but more importantly our mother would cry.

I could see your two movies opening up on the same night and she’d have to make a decision on which one to go to.

MD: That would be terrible, yeah. But we do have our things that we do on the side. Jay makes little, small doc portraits and I do some acting stuff on the side, so that’s a good way to keep it healthy.


July 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marissa Tomei
Directed by: Jay and Mark Duplass (“Baghead”)
Written by: Jay and Mark Duplass (“Baghead”)

If anyone remembers Jonah Hill’s voluptuous role in the 2006 comedy “Grandma’s Boy,” it would be hard to imagine him playing a character any more attached to a teat (in this case literally) than he was for a majority of his screen time in that movie.

But in Jay and Mark Duplass’ “Cyrus,” Hill manages to do just that. Although he’s not hanging from a breast like a little piglet in this one, his awkward albeit loving fixation on his mother is more than enough to make even Sigmund Freud blush. In “Cyrus,” the Duplass brothers give us a modern and hilarious take on the Oedipus complex analyzed in dark-comedy form. For the Duplasses, it’s the first mainstream-ish movie of their careers.

Taking the advice from his ex-girlfriend Jamie (Catherine Keener), borderline desperate John (John C. Reilly) decides it might be time to move on with his life after their breakup seven years ago. Revealing just how socially incompetent he is at a party, John is somehow charming enough to get the attention of Molly (Marissa Tomei) before the night ends despite his best attempts to be oafish and a bit creepy.

When John decides to surprise Molly by visiting her house, he is a bit shocked to learn that her sensitive 21-year-old son Cyrus (Hill) still lives at home and clings to his mother (also his best friend) like a jumbo-sized baby. Although John wants to cut the cord, Cyrus is unwilling to allow a new man to come into his mom’s life. To make sure he won’t take a backseat to his mom’s new love interest, Cyrus makes it his mission to sabotage their relationship until John concedes his place in the peculiar love triangle.

While the Duplass brothers stick to the “mumblecore” genre they helped pioneer with their first two films “The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead,” the duo has a lot more to work with in “Cyrus.” The positive results of an increased budget and casting more established talent is evident with Reilly, Hill, and Tomei leading the way. The film, however, still comes down to the unique and talky narrative and odd characterizations the Duplasses are able to deliver.

Most impressive is how the Duplass brothers take their time with “Cyrus.” There is never a sense of eagerness most mainstream comedies of this nature have to get to the next gag or joke. Instead, it all flows without exaggeration, which is very effective especially with Reilly and Hill riffing off one another in perfect sync.

If you can handle the weird, incestuous atmosphere that lingers throughout, “Cyrus” is a must-see summer comedy that doesn’t fit the broad summer comedy mold by any means. The Duplasses have transitioned well into the big leagues and have done so, it seems, on what made them such a delight to begin with.