Director Jesse Peretz discusses Our Idiot Brother on Blu-ray
Paul Rudd stars in the charming hit comedy Our Idiot Brother, which finds one wayward drifter disrupting the lives of his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer) after a stint in jail.
Here is our conversation.
Talking to Paul Rudd, he explained that there were a couple of different dogs playing Willie Nelson. Also, it was pretty hot during the shoot, so you didn't always get the performance you were looking for out of them...
Jesse Peretz: At the end of he day, it's hard to get an animal to do what you want it to do. If you talk to people who work on sets, who work with animals, there is always that depressing reality about how much trial and error there is. How much edit room, and how many hijinks during the takes there are, that you have to cut together to get the emotional trajectory of this animal. Its always frustrating, hard work to make that happen.
It had to be frustrating when you learned that there would be more than one dog playing Willie Nelson...
Jesse Peretz: There was really just one dog...for most of it. I don't like to dwell on it. The dog does figure as a prominent character and its nothing I am particularly psyched for audiences to be thinking about, "Oh, there are three different dogs playing Willie Nelson."
I have a dog that looks a lot like Willie Nelson. I'm interested in that aspect of the film. Because at the end of the day, the dog is, probably, the key relationship in the film. That's the love story in this particular romantic comedy...
Speaking of looks, I love Rashida Jones in the movie, and her style is very hip and fresh. How did you hit upon her particular look for Cindy?
Jesse Peretz: Interestingly enough, Cindy's look was based on one of my good friends, who is actually...She is less than five feet tall, Chinese, and super butch...A chain wallet, I don't know...I had this really firm idea in my head about who this character was going to be. For me, with Rashida Jones, it took a leap. I am such a huge fan. I love Parks and Recreation. And we've known each other for a long time. But I remember when my casing director came up to me, and she said, "What about Rashida Jones to play Cindy?" My initial response was, "No way! She is one of the most beautiful women I know. How could she play such a butch character?" But then, I thought about it more. I knew she'd find another version of this character. Rashida fundamentally has that toughness to her. This super decisiveness. I let go of this idea that I had, and I talked to Rashida about how she interpreted the character. I ended up so-loving the way she played Cindy. Obviously, the style is a little different than what I had in my head. She and my costume designer really nailed a specific look for her. It helped to push the idea that she wasn't playing a caricature. She really carved out her own character.
My favorite part of the movie is when Cindy and Ned go to free the dog. The chemistry between Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones is just so inviting and, for lack of a better word, kind of magical. I wanted to see more of them together. Do we get to see more between them on the deleted scenes?
Jesse Peretz: I wish! We set out to make an ensemble movie. Which is always this frustrating thing. You fall in love with your characters, and you want to see more of them. Certainly, in our early drafts, there were a hundred and forty pages, so there was more of them together. But the nature of having an ensemble movie is really about being economical with each of the characters. They have to handle the various storylines in such a way, so that the movie doesn't end up becoming this long, winding thing. I wish there were more scenes between the two of them. But there really aren't. I did love the chemistry that the two of them had. Its funny, too, thinking about the fact that they so famously played fiancés in I Love You, Man. And how different these two relationships are, which they are playing within just a few years of each other. Both of their characters, and their relationship, are just so different.
Its interesting that you bring up that movie, though. When I watched them here, they're union as a couple in I Love You, Man was so far from my mind. It's night and day. Most of this cast has worked together, quite a bit, in the past. How valuable was that for you, as a director, to have that preexisting friendship and camaraderie already established on set?
Jesse Peretz: It was one of the reasons this movie happened. I was friends with a lot of these cast members. Paul Rudd and I go so far back. We were always such good friends. Then, whichever actors had never worked with Paul...He is such an actor that other actors enjoy, and want to work with. Just as a starting point, that is what caused the movie to be able to happen in the first place. Once we all got on set, it was...Just day after day...Such a joy to get this opportunity to play, and hang out, and try to get each other to laugh. The actors had so much respect for each other. They enjoyed making each other laugh more than anything. It went beyond just thinking about making a movie. It was also about being in a situation where they could play with each other and make each other happy.
I don't know how much input you have on the special features section of the home video release, but when you have that type of environment on set, how come we don't see bloopers or outtakes on the Blu-ray?
Jesse Peretz: I don't know. There are deleted scenes, aren't there?
Yeah. A couple. But why isn't there more behind the scenes footage of this cast goofing around, making each other laugh?
Jesse Peretz: I didn't get that much input on the nitty-gritty of the DVD release. I knew what the deleted scenes were going to be. We did throw some bloopers onto the end credits, there, so you do get a sense of it. Its there.
I totally forgot about that. Now, when I saw this in theaters, Katy Aselton got quite a few cheers when she came on at the end. Why did you see her as the perfect female doppelganger, or match, for Paul Rudd and his character?
Jesse Peretz: From the things that I have seen her in, she just seemed like someone that could play that character. She seemed like she could thread that needle of being someone who an audience would feel...Someone the audience could project on, "Oh, my God! She is beautiful, she is open...I want him to be with her!" At the same time, she could project that she was open, and crunchy, but without seeming, in any way, like his ex-girlfriend. I don't know...I think Katie Aselton is really funny, she's a great actress, and I feel that she has that...In my mind...70s, All-American quality to her. Which is what Ned is a little bit of a throwback to. That post-50s way of thinking...
Now, I'm not sure if this has become a topic in Hollywood. But I am noticing it more in both film and television lately. Characters, like Ned, seem to only have a few select pieces of clothing. They repeat wear shirts and other items. They don't have a whole new wardrobe from scene to scene, which plays realistically to an audience, especially in this current economic climate...
Jesse Peretz: I do totally agree with you. But, ultimately, what it comes down to is...People are hardwired. They break down a script. And you have screen days. Someone tries to figure out how many different days are accounted for in the script. They don't need to be consecutive. So, a movie might have thirty-four screen days. The way costumers were taught to do costumes is that there is a different wardrobe for each of the screen days. Then there is a decision made, in this case, and I can only speak for us...We really made a decision with Paul Rudd...His character would only have this knapsack. It would be unrealistic for him to have a different change of clothes every day. On the other hand, with Rashida Jones, our costumer got so into painting a picture of who Cindy was...With her sense of style...Even though she is playing a more butch male type of character, we still didn't do repeat costumes with her, because we didn't have enough film days for her character, to use all the awesome stuff that we were psyched to have. I'm not sure if that answers your question. But...