You'll never go swimming in Staten Island after reading this
Paul Rudd first came to fame as Alicia Silverstone's love interest in the classic teen comedy Clueless. He's gone on to become quite a famous character actor in film and has an extensive theater repertoire as well. Diggers is the bittersweet story of clam diggers in seventies Long Island. Rudd stars as "Hunt", a thirty-something digger who loses his father and comes to the realization that their way of life is over. The film is written by and costars Rudd's longtime friend and creator of "The State" comedy troop, Ken Marino. Rudd and Marino can be seen again on screen this summer in the biblical comedy, The Ten.
How do you get into character as a clam digger?
Paul Rudd: You naturally feel that you're a part of a real setting. You're on a boat, you smell the sea, you're sucking on clams all day. You're wearing those clothes. It's all part of the environment.
Are there any more local clam diggers or did the big corporations totally wipe them out?
Paul Rudd: Back then, they said you could walk from boat to boat on the bay; there were so many clam diggers. The truth is that's hyperbole, but there were a lot of guys out there. Now there's less than a hundred licenses a year. They really are done.
Was there a real rivalry between the local diggers and the guys that worked for the companies?
Paul Rudd: There was conflict. At the end, when we sink the boat. They would do that. People would go into the dredge boat area and throw fences in the water to fuck them up. It was a constant back and forth. But now there's no clams. It's no longer what it was. It wasn't just the corporations actually. There were many factors. They were over-fished, weather shifted, and lots of pollution.
Did you dig up any clams? Those diggers looked pretty heavy.
Paul Rudd: We did it. We went out with a bunch of guys in Staten Island. They're pretty heavy and cumbersome. To actually get it to a point where you know what you're doing is difficult. The hardest part is pulling it out of the water. It's heavy. You can easily cut your hands because it's not a straight pole. The pieces click together. There's teeth on the rake as well. The guys that do it have the rhythm down. We just watched them.
Did you actually swim in Staten Island water?
Paul Rudd: Yeah, the scene where we jumped off the boat is in Staten Island water.
Was that scary?
Paul Rudd: I think my foot touched a severed limb underwater, other than that it was fine. I did have a thing growing on my thigh...but it kind of went away on its own. I don't know what it was. It was soft...it didn't feel like the rest of my body. Could be sushi, weird stuff happens when you eat sushi. (laughs)
There's a great scene where Lauren Ambrose tells you that she doesn't want to see you in New York City, and you're basically a fling. Is that the turning point for your character in this film?
Paul Rudd: Yes, it's like him breaking away. He's a cutter, a townie, a carnie, you're not good enough to be with me.
This film is set in the 70's, but really could have taken place at any time. It didn't seem that the time period was that pertinent to the story?
Paul Rudd: I think that "Anchorman" and other comedies play that up more. "Anchorman" is kind of cartoonish. It's blatantly overdone in every aspect. We went back and tried to be very specific about the look. It's a broader take. Not everybody had that 70's look. We tried to really embrace what it was really like back then. I think it looks more authentically 70's than other films. (pauses) Of course I wouldn't know. I was born in 88. It was really all the research that I did. I looked at a lot pictures. (laughs) I interviewed my parents.
The shoot was twenty-one days, which is incredibly short. Did you feel pressured on set to get everything done in time?
Paul Rudd: That's a short amount of time to shoot a period piece with a lot of locations and technical considerations. You lose a lot of time when you shoot boat to boat. The tide's moving, there's wind; it was difficult. And it was in the middle of a heat wave. The film takes place in the fall. We're all wearing rubber, all the clothing was wool, and it was over a hundred degrees. Then there's the crew as well. We're working in confined spaces. There's no air conditioning. It was tough. That being said, the essential thing that got us though the shoot was all the actors and crew bonding. We all had a love for the script. If there was even one actor who threw a hissy fit, the film would have been gone. Everybody was in it for the good of the movie.
A question about the release of the film, it premieres one week in theaters, goes to DVD the next week, and then plays on HDNET the following week. Are you worried that releasing it across all platforms might actually take away audiences?
Paul Rudd: It may help it because it's only coming out in fifteen or twenty theaters. It does seem weird to me. Maybe it's just a new way of doing things.
Was there any improved dialogue?
Paul Rudd: Not really, we all liked the script. There wasn't a need to add anything. And we didn't have the time to really go off and just add anything.
Katherine Dieckman [the director] said the film wouldn't have been financed if you hadn't been the lead...
Paul Rudd: I didn't know that.