Interview: 'Our Idiot Brother' Director Jesse Peretz On Paul Rudd, Emotional Truths And What He Loves Doing Most
When one thinks of actor Paul Rudd these days, comedy definitely comes to mind. But in the new Rudd outing "Our Idiot Brother" (out now on DVD/Blu-ray from The Weinstein Company and Anchor Bay Entertainment), thanks to Director Jesse Peretz there is also a definite dramatic sweetness that adds a unique touch to the surprisingly endearing film. The movie tells the story of joyful idealist Ned (played by Rudd) who ends up newly involved in the lives of his three very different but equally uptight sisters, played by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emil Mortimer. Add to that a supporting cast that includes Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones and the scene-stealing T.J. Miller with some serious laughs and you’ve got a warm-hearted comedy worth checking out. We recently got a chance to talk one-on-one with "Our Idiot Brother" Director Jesse Peretz, who talked candidly about everything from his inspirations for the script to the various different acting processes of his lead cast. (From Rudd to Deschanel folks!) Welcome former Lemonheads band member turned filmmaker...
DIRECTOR JESSE PERETZ!
Having come up with the story for "Our Idiot Brother," was there any part that was taken from personal experience?
Jesse Peretz: Uh...(laughs)...I mean in terms of the big ideas of the movie, there’s a couple people, but one person in particular who definitely became the major influence over the character of Ned. But in terms of things coming out of my own life, the only thing that really came out in terms of a scene is the scene where Ned is propositioned by the couple for a three-way that he can't seem to go through with! (Laughs)
Wow! Well, since you have such an eclectic cast I’m gonna throw out a name and you tell me what kind of approach you took as a director to each of their various acting styles – what makes them tick...
JP: Sure, absolutely.
First up - Paul Rudd.
JP: Paul was the person that I interfaced with the most in terms of the last few drafts of the script because obviously it was primarily his movie, but also because Paul and I have this past history together. We did this movie ten years ago called "The Chateau" and we come from the same sense of humor and same attitude about how to mix comedy and drama and find emotional truth in comedy. So for him the most important part of the script was to make sure– especially because he had to play the character who was the most naïve – that we were on the same page and he had a clear understanding of what his emotional motivation was. That definitely continued with him all the time; not really worrying about the comedy, but just making sure that we were making a story that had an emotional truth to it.
Next, the lovely Elizabeth Banks.
JP: One of the reasons why I think Elizabeth is so funny is she’s someone who understands that to be funny you have to risk being stupid and that you have to risk failing in your attempts to be funny. A lot of times people don't take risks in playing around because they don’t want to seem stupid and so they end up with a half-boiled version of what the comedic possibilities would be in any given situation. Whereas she was someone who would come into everything and try things and would totally go for it. I love that she doesn’t give a sh!t – she’s happy to fall on her face in front of people.
How about Zooey Deschanel?
JP: Zooey has some spark that is so hard to articulate and this thing that people are magnetically drawn to. With her it’s not about getting really heady about what the characters motivations are or where you land on the joke, but just letting Zooey be herself. And she also has a glow to her when you point the camera at her in the right way, where as an audience it’s so hard not to be totally seduced by her.
Next, Emily Mortimer.
JP: I love all these ladies, but Emily is someone I’ve been friends with for a long time and I just have so much admiration for her as an actress. Emily is much more someone who comes at material from, I think, a classic British actor sensibility. She’s closer to being method and closer to Paul’s approach of having a real need to understand where her character is emotionally.
How about the zany Steve Coogan?
JP: I couldn’t believe that Steve Coogan was game to take a small part in my movie! (Laughs) So I was mostly just happy he showed up! Steve showed up on the set everyday so hyped up and pumped with having completely thought about the comedy of the day’s work and having three or four different ways he could play every scene. Basically I let him play because he has an amazing instinct towards comedy and he was a guy I wanted to watch...and run from!
And finally in one fantastic role...Rashida Jones!
JP: It’s funny because Rashida’s character was very much based on a friend of mine who was much more of a butch Chinese girl, like a serious butch girl. And I’ve been friends with Rashida for ages – she was in a music video I did for The Foo Fighters and I’m such a fan of hers from 'Parks and Recreation.' But honestly it never would have occurred to me to cast her in that part. And I remember my casting director saying, ‘What about Rashida for Cindy?’ I took a beat and it really became clear to me that she would find a version of this character that would be awesome.
I really felt like the hidden gem of the film was actor T.J. Miller and his endearing relationship with Paul – how fleshed out was that character of Billy and what did T.J. bring to the table?
JP: Interestingly enough I had actually never heard of T.J. until we were in the casting process. But we had a sense on paper that he was going to be sweet and it was definitely part of the construction. It was one of those things that when we were editing and showing the movie to people that that relationship became much more satisfying to audiences then we thought it would. It was one of the main reasons after Sundance we went back and shot a new ending scene – it’s much more comedically and emotionally satisfying.
Being – as Paul spouts in the DVD disc doc – a ‘man of many talents’ what is the one thing you ultimately love doing?
JP: For me it’s definitely directing for sure. And I direct lots of different things, but obviously directing the movies is the most satisfying place and I ultimately I hope am given the opportunity to keep doing.
"OUR IDIOT BROTHER" IS NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD/BLU-RAY FROM THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY AND ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT.