Interview: Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed)

Interview: Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed). By Simon Miraudo.

-- IMG_0401.CR2

Though the similarities between Mark Duplass and James Brown are seemingly few and far between, Duplass is a genuine contender for the late soul legend’s “Hardest Working Man in Show Business” crown. He and his brother Jay made a name for themselves with their ultra-low-budget indie The Puffy Chair, which helped kick off the mumblecore movement, and led to them teaming up with big name stars in the acclaimed Cyrus and Jeff Who Lives at Home. In front of the camera, he’s established himself as one of America’s most appealing leading men (Your Sister’s Sister) as well as a memorable supporting character actor (Zero Dark Thirty) and a reliable comic talent on TV (The League, The Mindy Project). 

Check out Simon Miraudo’s review of Safety Not Guaranteed here.

He stars in Colin Trevorrow‘s Safety Not Guaranteed as Kenneth, a small town weirdo who believes he’s invented a time travel machine. After placing a wanted ad seeking an assistant for some time-skipping adventures, he attracts the attention of a cynical journo (Jake Johnson) and his young intern (Aubrey Plaza). Mark Duplass was kind enough to answer some questions via email ahead of the film’s premiere at the Perth International Arts Festival (it runs from January 14-27).


SM: I understand you and your brother stepped in to produce the film when director Colin Trevorrow was having trouble securing finance. What was it that initially intrigued you about this story and that personal ad?

MD: The script was practically flawless. And I fell in love with Kenneth and his wide-eyed optimism.

SM: Had you already been approached to star as Kenneth, or did you request (or impose) that once you were on board as producer?

MD: It evolved organically between me and Colin. We wanted Kenneth to be sad and funny, and not just a cliché or an over-the-top douche. It happens to be what I love to do and am very passionate about.

SM: Kenneth is definitely stuck in the past, even down to his outfits and haircut. Was that something you brought to the table?

MD: Most of Kenneth’s style was in the script or in Colin’s head. Even down to what he calls the “Cosby sweater” that Kenneth wears.

SM: I greatly enjoyed your musical performance in the film. Did you have any part in writing Big Machine with Ryan Miller?

MD: Nope. All Ryan. Love that guy.

SM: I spoke with Lynn Shelton for Your Sister’s Sister, and she only had rapturous things to say of your improvisational skills on set, and how you’re always keen to “go off map.” Did you have similar opportunities with Safety Not Guaranteed? Any particular moments where you got to take Aubrey Plaza off map (or vice versa)?

MD: Yes. We did some, though not nearly to the extent of Your Sister’s Sister. In particular, there is a moment between Kenneth and Darius in Kenneth’s car where he asks her about her favourite song. That was something entirely improvised.

SM: Your films are saddled with the ‘mumblecore’ moniker, and not entirely unreasonably as you were at the forefront of a pretty vibrant movement. But is it becoming something of a burden in the new decade?

MD: Yes. I make micro-budget movies, but of all genres and sensibilities. I don’t consider myself a mumblecore filmmaker who only makes movies about bored people talking about their feelings inside an apartment. (Though I do make some of those!)


SM: You’ve come a long way since The Puffy Chair, but that is more and more frequently recognised as one of the more significant debuts of recent years. I seem to be meeting more and more people who similarly adore it. Do you find you’re still approached about that movie specifically?

MD: Yes. It’s so funny, that was a tiny movie made by people in their mid-20’s who had very little idea what they were doing. But we happened to be in the right time in the right place. We were very lucky.

SM: Whatever happened to that Pitchfork picture with Jonah Hill?

MD: That was reported by someone who had bad information. It’s something we have discussed doing, but it was never going to be “our next film” as it was reported. That stuff happens though, no biggie.

SM: How do you find the hours to write, direct, produce, and star in all those movies while also working on The League? Does that shooting schedule afford you enough free time, or are you increasingly consumed by work?

MD: I’m in my trailer right now, five minutes out from shooting my next scene on The League. At lunch I’ll be doing a rewrite. Tonight I have interviews and a script to read. This is my life!

SM: I know you’re likely sworn to secrecy under punishment of death regarding Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, but can you tell us if you were able to employ your improvisational skills on set there? It’s obviously going to be a dramatic movie, but was there room to move in the script?

MD: I just got shot at for even reading that question. It’s gonna be awesome. All I can say for now.

SM: You’re probably asked a lot when (and where) you’d like to go back in time to, but I’ll refine it. If you could see any singer or band, any time, who would it be and when?

MD: Early Buckingham/Nicks rehearsals in England before they joined up and made Fleetwood Mac. They were so raw and pure. Either that or Van Halen playing high school parties in Pasadena. Or maybe Bob Dylan playing in the same clubs that Lenny Bruce just verbally violated moments before. Yeah. That would be nice.

Safety Not Guaranteed plays the Perth International Arts Festival from January 14 to January 27, 2013.

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: