Katie Aselton discusses her directorial debut, on DVD January 11th.
The League's Katie Aselton has made her directorial debut with The Freebie, a new comedy starring herself and Dax Shepard as a struggling couple who resort to giving each other a free One Night Stand pass in the hopes of saving their relationship. Having garnered high praise upon its theatrical release this past summer, The Freebie is now available on DVD starting today. We recently caught up with Katie to talk about her working relationship with Dax, her thoughts on the Farrelly Brothers ripping off her movie, and what her and husband Mark Duplass are working on next.
Here is our conversation:
Everybody loves this movie...
Katie Aselton: Are you ready to take me down?
No. Not at all. Having made the movie, do you feel that people are more drawn towards it because it arrives at a more realistic level than most of the romantic comedies coming out of Hollywood nowadays?
Katie Aselton: I hope so. I will take that as a reason. I like real, honest moments. I like couples that I can relate to. I like couples that are human, who make stupid mistakes. Not just for comic relief. I like films that have an emotional truth to them. That being said, I understand why Hollywood makes those other movies. I like to go and get swept away. I like to get the happy ending every now and again. For me, in my first venture into filmmaking, I wanted to tell a very truthful little story.
Why did you automatically think I was going to tear the film down?
Katie Aselton: Oh, just because...I don't know! I think it would be funny if you came on and reamed me.
That's horrible. I wouldn't do that.
Katie Aselton: I have three or four more phone calls after you. I am waiting for it.
I don't think its going to happen. Every review I have read has been painfully positive. Everyone loves you and your husband. Is that weird? To see that much out pouring of love for you guys?
Katie Aselton: I love my husband that much too. I get it.
The love is there for you, too. Are you being loved by association?
Katie Aselton: Maybe. If that is the case, I married well. Right?
You did! Now, about the themes in The Freebie, I came across this old DVD last night for a TV show called Swingtown. And it takes place in the late 60s or 70s. And the idea of giving your husband or your partner a free pass seemed less provocative and shocking back then. Now, it draws gasps from a crowd. In regards to how people have reacted to The Freebie, how do you think our general view of relationships has actually regressed in the last decade?
Katie Aselton: We are in a very conservative time. Especially when it comes to how we view romance, and relationships, and marriage. Its weird. If you look at the history of time, there are weird ebbs and flows. We had sexual freedom, and then they tightened up the buckles. There are more constraints in relationships. It's interesting to me to watch people's reactions to the film in general. It's either on one side or the other. They can't possibly believe that a couple would choose to cheat on each other. A couple that loves each other. On the other hand, there is the super liberal group that says, "I can't believe that you are telling me that couldn't work for this couple." You can't really win. What I wanted to explore was a couple who thought they could do this, and couldn't. They wanted to try and be that couple, and they fell on their faces. It blew up. Society wise? I don't know. I think it has a lot to do with where our country is right now. When we are falling apart, people want to keep things together in the home. It's all very convoluted and tricky. Sex is tricky in general.
It seems like the poster for The Freebie is even a little bit taboo. Because we have these two naked people sitting on top of each other. Were you met with any restraint in putting out some of the advertising material for this movie?
Katie Aselton: Yes. Our very first poster showed more of my thigh. The MPAA rejected it. I can assure you, I have never been ruled too sexy for anything. It was very exciting for me. It made me feel really good. But that was shocking to me. At the same time, the poster for Love and Other Drugs is the exact same thing. Its Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway under a sheet. They are naked. It's confusing. I don't know all of these rules, and how they work. What is deemed too sexy, and what is not sexy enough. The film is not borderline porn by any means.
No, I wouldn't call it soft porn.
Katie Aselton: So, I don't know.
Let's talk about Dax Shepard for a little bit. David Koechner, who is a master at improv, has called Dax one of the best working improvisational actors around. Because he's not always looking for the joke. He seeks out the dramatic, and truthful aspects of any given scenario, pushing a scene in a new direction without punching for the laugh...
Katie Aselton: One of the serious misconceptions with improvisation is that it only exists in comedy. It only exists to find the really funny moments. But truly, to improvise is to be there, and be honest in the moment, to see where that takes you. Dax does that so beautifully. He was so open, and emotional, and available, and trusting. It was so easy to just be there with him. He is so quick. He is incredibly intelligent. He understood this story, the characters, and he understood the relationship in a way that I didn't think was possible. Not with another actor who just walked onto a project.
Did you ever find yourself getting lost in his performance while you were acting against him?
Katie Aselton: My god, have you ever looked into his eyes before?
Katie Aselton: You have? They're steamy, right? He has the most beautiful eyes. I would lay in my bed, the bed that I actually share with my husband, and I would look at him. I would say, "I am in. I am madly in love with Dax Shepard."
Wait a minute? You shot this in your actual, own bed?
Katie Aselton: It's bizarre, right?
It is a little bit bizarre. How does that go with washing the sheets? Are you guys bringing those same sheets back out at night?
Katie Aselton: Its not like I did him.
I know...But those are still your Dax Shepard sheets, there...
You just said they were. You just said you fell in love with him on those sheets.
Katie Aselton: I did! I feel in love with Darin.
Darin. Not Dax. That is very different. Now, I want to know, you've talked about bringing Dax on at the very last minute. What do you think he brought to the project that no other actor would have brought, even if he had of had time to prepare for this?
Katie Aselton: He created this character. That character was something...I had a version of Darin conceived in my head. I was very opened to whoever played it making it his own. But he made that character just come off the page. He made him so full. He filled him with everything. Truthfully, he gave me so much to work with. A relationship was born between those two characters. In my experience, working with the other actor I was working with, this would have ended up being me floundering, and trying to make this whole thing believable. With Dax I didn't have to try. It was just there. It was magical and awesome.
I've heard you talk a lot about this other guy who was cast before Dax came on. Does this guy know you are talking about him?
Katie Aselton: Here is the deal. It was Fred Willard. Wait, did you ask me if this guy knows who he is?}
I'm wondering if he knows he is the mystery person you always talk about in regards to the first person cast as Darin. For fans of Ms. Aselton, this guy has become a great mystery. Who was he? We all want to know, but at the same time, its kind of fun not knowing...
Katie Aselton: I hope he knows who he is. He did three days on the movie.
I didn't know that he shot anything...
Katie Aselton: He shot for three days.
Oh, obviously! The MPAA caught wind of Fred Willard's naked legs being on the poster...
Katie Aselton: They didn't want that, so we said, "Fred? You're out!"
How does Fred feel about this whole thing?
Katie Aselton: I don't think he remembers it.
It just kind of slipped out of his mind.
Katie Aselton: Exactly. You can walk up to him on the street right now and ask him about it. He wouldn't even know what you are talking about. With a project that is such low budget, you end up lugging the equipment yourself. You are eating peanut butter sandwiches on the floor. It was not glamorous. If you are doing a project like this, you have to love what you are doing, You have to be having a good experience. You have to be getting, as a filmmaker, what you need to be getting. This guy was not enjoying himself. He was not having a good experience. The rest of the crew was not having a good experience with him. As a filmmaker, I wasn't getting what I needed. Could I have made it work with him? Yeah. But when you are doing it, and you are sacrificing so much at this level to do this...You know, I don't have to cut off my ear to do this. I actually really love what I do. And I know so many people around me who love doing what they do, and they enjoy the process of doing it. I don't need to torture myself.
I wouldn't think that you'd want to put yourself through that type of situation. It's understandable. I enjoy the fact that there is a mystery surrounding who this guy is.
Especially if you let it slip that he eats peanut butter sandwiches. That goes against everything he stands for. With this story, I understand that you only had six pages for an 80-minute movie. How exactly does that work?
Katie Aselton: It sounds like it was super loosey-goosey and all over the place. But six pages had every scene that we were shooting. And every scene, below that, had the arc of what that scene would be. The only thing that wasn't written was the dialogue, essentially. Basically, the scene would just saw, "Darin and Coffee Girl connect over tacos. Or, it would be the kitchen scene, which was five paragraphs about all the information that needs to come out of the kitchen.
How does the script supervisor function with only six pages to work from?
Katie Aselton: We did not have a script supervisor. We had the smallest crew in the history of filmmaking. We had the DP. We had a second shooter. We had a gaffer. We had a sound guy. My editor was on set most of the time. My producer was there. And my quote-unquote costume designer, set designer, best friend, and wardrobe designer was also there.
So, basically, when you are shooting, you have your editor there for continuity purposes, and you retain all of this information yourself. You basically work as the script supervisor.
Katie Aselton: Yeah, basically. And we never left a scene in the middle of it to be picked up the next day. It wasn't a problem. In dealing with continuity, there wasn't any issue. It was almost like you are watching moments with this couple. Nothing is ever continuous. You are looking at chapters of their life.
I don't want to profess more love for you, but I have been watching The League since it first debuted in 2009. And having Kaitlin Olson on in the first half hour with It's Always Sunny, and then you in the second half, with the League, I truly believe these are two of the funniest performances on TV right now, male or female.
Katie Aselton: Well, thank you!
Has it been hard for you to push forward in such a male dominated show such as the League?
Katie Aselton: Not at all. I am being totally honest. I don't think anyone is going to believe me, but I am going to say this anyway. Our show is so not competitive. Everyone is so willing to give up the funny to someone else. Everyone is funny in their own right on our show. What is so fun for me, being the only girl, is that a lot of my funny stuff is just me reacting to the guys. Its easy, and that is what is really funny. Like me reacting to my husband, because he is such a doofus. A lot of the time, me just letting him be a doofus, and watching that, is really funny.
But with the Halloween episode, with the girl scout outfit, and then the outfit you had to put on later, I think you really upped the doofus level of that show. Beyond what any of the guys were doing...
Katie Aselton: I did really find myself in a frog costume.
It was an amazing episode. I thought, here is this super hot lady, and she is being the biggest dork I have ever seen...
Katie Aselton: Truthfully, I am a big dork. So this just allowed me to be myself.
Last question. I've heard that you and your husband Mark Duplass are in the process of writing a thriller.
Katie Aselton: Yes, I am thinking about it.
You are just thinking about it?
Katie Aselton: Well, we have a very loose script right now. It is something I am toying with in case nothing else falls in my lap. So...
Can you tell us the type of story you are setting up? Is this a traditional thriller? Is it going to be along the lines of what we saw with Baghead? Or is it like a Morgan Freeman, Along Came a Spider kind of thing?
Katie Aselton: No. I think it's going to be following the rules of the genre. I think I am going to try and keep it very thriller-esque.
Do you already have the story set up?
Katie Aselton: Yes I do.
But you can't talk about it, obviously.
No. That came out of the Freebie. I knew that. I wasn't sure I wanted to talk to you about that.
Its possible. They have talked about switching genres.
Katie Aselton: That's what I am saying. They are just waiting for me to make some stupid move and talk about what my story is.
How did you feel when you saw that they were ripping you off in the first place?
Katie Aselton: Here is the deal. I don't think infidelity is a new story. I don't think having one night off from marriage is new. I didn't reinvent the wheel with this story. I am not utterly shocked that they are doing Hall Pass. Am I bummed? A little bit. Someone sent me the script right before they started shooting. The character that one of them attempts to cheat on their wife with is named Coffee Girl. Which is the name of the girl that Darin gets with in The Freebie. Isn't that amazing? Really? Really? How does that happen?
Because people are thieves. They still stuff all the time. It may not have been the Farrelly Brothers fault, though. Someone gives it to them, they don't know...
Katie Aselton: Did I reinvent the wheel? No...
A little bit, though. This story just came out about lack of good storytelling in Hollywood. People need to look to movies like The Freebie. They'll see that there are still good storytellers out there, working, making movies...
They are making The Three Stooges next, so you answer your own question. That's all you need to know.
Katie Aselton: Yeah. That's fresh.