Filed Under: Interview
John C. Reilly's fly is totally open.
|John C. Reilly in Cyrus
We're talking about his new movie, Cyrus
(read Shaun Brady's review
), and my eyes happen to wander down to his crotch-al
region, and there I can that see his open button fly. Oh crap
, I think. Do I say something? To him? To his publicist? What if my eyes do deceive me and it's not open at all? Cool it, Eichel, this makes total sense:
It's John C. Reilly, the consummate Mr. Cellophane, one of the foremost actors to play innocent man-children who just want to lead a good, happy life but hit roadblocks along the way. And that's exactly what Reilly plays in Cyrus
. He just wants to date Marisa Tomei
's transcendent Molly. It's his first big romantic move after a divorce seven years ago and he's finally found someone who will drunkenly sing the Thompson Twins
with him at a party. But there's a problem: Molly's got a 21-year-old son the title character, played by Jonah Hill
who wants nothing to do with Reilly's affable fuckup. So I let it go. I don't tell John C. Reilly that I think his button fly is open. Because that's the way it should be.
You've talked about how the movie changed based on your perceptions of your character, which is how I've heard the Duplass brother
s work. Do you have any examples of how the movie was changed from the page to what you see on screen?
John C. Reilly:
The story generally held together in the same way. But it was more like the tone of things. One example is there's a scene early on after [Marisa Tomei
and I] have slept together, I invite her to over the house and I cook dinner for her. Originally what was written in the scene is I cook dinner for her and then she comes over two hours later than she said she was going to come over and I'm disappointed. I'm sort of miffed that she's late even though she never said what time she was going to come over. I said, "Guys, this is not the way to have a first date. Even if the person is late, you look the other way." They were like, "Yeah, you're right. This is stupid, why would he be mad?
" It became this romantic moment where asks her if she thinks its working and whether we can make a go of it early on. It became one of the first of many vulnerable moments for them.
Because the Duplass
brothers work on the fly, purposefully keeping their shoots fast and loose, how do you prepare for that? How did that change how you normally work? Especially after you got into the swing of how things were going to move.
My only preparation for this movie was feeling, "OK, what do I need to do to prepare today?" And honestly, most of the days, I would feel like I just have to prepare to feel totally unprepared
. You just have to kind of get yourself into a good mood and get the creative juices flowing and keep your mind open. Just let go and surrender to the moment and forgive yourself for not being prepared. That was the same way with the directors, too. They would say, "Look, it would feel better for us to say, 'We know exactly what we're doing. Here's what we're going to do today.'" And that's what the crew especially expects from them. What are we doing today? Literally, why have you brought us here?
What is it we're going to shoot? A lot of times they would say, "We don't know and we don't want to know. We want to turn the cameras on and discover what's going on between you." Of course, using the script as a guideline and some guidance from us. That really gives the movie the quality that it has. You see us discover these little beats, these moments in real time on camera.
So, you're this guy who criticizes Marisa Tomei
and her son, but you have a similarly inappropriate relationship with on-screen ex-wife Catherine Keener
, because you also leach off of her. Every
time this guy has a problem, he runs to his ex-wife.
That's true. Everyone in this movie has problems with boundaries, I'd say, but you know, she's not feeding me my lunch with a spoon
. That's funny because that's something a lot of people point out. That relationship between you and your ex-wife is not appropriate either.
It's not appropriate for her husband, certainly. He's sick of having me around. It's more truthful for a lot of people than you might think. Friends are hard to find, even though you have a different history in your past, you tend to hold on to people. But yeah, it's a little dysfunctional. The cool thing about this movie is that when people do things that are slightly inappropriate or needy, they're doing them from a place of love. Even Jonah's character, who is doing these devious, manipulative things
to try to break up me and Marisa, he's doing it because he loves his mother and he's afraid of separating from her. It's a really a interesting movie in that way. There are no evil intentions behind anyone's
weird behavior. Everyone is looking for love in one way or another.
Branching off your relationship with Jonah in the film, when you played against him in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
, it was supposed to be funny; you're expecting the laugh. But in this movie, you laugh at these moments that you never really expect to laugh at.
I didn't really worry too much about that. I wasn't thinking, while making Cyrus
, "What style of comedy is this?" I wasn't looking at any playback or dailies. I wasn't looking at photographs or anything. I was just trying to be there in the moment. The truth is, most good actors don't consider themselves dramatic actors or comedic actors, they just consider themselves vessels for whatever the character is
. So if you really commit yourself to being there in the moment and playing truthfully what is going on in the scene, if the circumstances are ridiculous then you're in a comedy. If the circumstances are more serious, then you're in a dramatic thing. You're not like 'Oh, I know what I'll do! I'll use Gesture #23 a tried and true comedic gesture!
' You're just trying to be honest, you know? And then the comedy kind of takes care of itself itself if its meant to be funny.
You have this theater background, where you need to act based on the size of the room. But the Duplass
' camera work is all really close.
With them, and this was true when I worked with Robert Altman
, you kind of forget where the cameras are. You're encouraged to work in this way where you just ignore the camera altogether, which you kind of should anyway. Most movies, if the camera's stationary, you can't just get up and walk around. With Altman and with this movie, the cameras are so free-flowing that you just stop worrying about it. They'll let me know if I'm out of the frame. I just have to keep going and connecting with the character. There's a great kind of joy and freedom in that. You don't have to worry, "Now the camera's on me!" You're just in the place of "Well, I might be on camera right now. I better keep this reality going
." It was great with Altman when we did A Prairie Home Companion
, it was the same thing. There was six cameras roving around on cranes and you just never knew, so you got to live in this fantasy place about being the character all the time. It was fun.
I'm really interested in your next project, We Need to Talk abut Kevin
[about the aftermath of a Columbine-style shooting, told via the letters of the perpetrator's mom played by Tilda Swinton
to his dad played by Reilly]. I'm gonna go all fangirl
on you here because I loved the book and think Lynne Ramsey is straight up incredible.
I just finished that. We just wrapped in Connecticut a few weeks ago. It's really good. There's this guy named Ezra Miller
, who plays Kevin as a teenager. Lynne struggled for awhile to get the money together, to get it set up.
It's not an easy project.
No! I said, "Lynn, I'm going to patient waiting for this to come together
." You need to find an infant, a toddler, a six-year-old and a teenager. Just finding one kid who's good could take a year. But she did! She found all these kids and they look like the same person growing up. I'm really excited about that movie.
I've never worked with a director that decisive before. Part of it was that we didn't have a lot of money so we had to work really tight. I can't tell you how many single takes I did on that movie. She'd be like, "Good! Check the gate!" Without even asking the DP or anybody. She has a real eye of an artist.
Was that in direct contrast to what the Duplass
brothers were doing?
Yeah, it's a totally different style of working. I still improvised a little bit, and tried to give the character a little more emotional depth that was in the book. He's not quite three-dimensional in the book because it's all told through the memories of the mother.
I kind of thought he was an asshole in the book.
Yeah? Eva comes off as a little rougher.
No one really comes off looking good in that book.
What makes the movie so beautiful and so sad is that everyone is just trying their best and it's not good enough. I think the movie's going to be kind of a poem to American failure
. Especially my character: He just tries and tries and tries to be the optimist with this little boy and he's not happy and he loses the battle to stick with this kid. And he just gives up
. It's such a gut punch. It's one of the saddest things I've ever done. It affected me in a really deep way. Because I have kids and there are a lot of days when you feel like you're failing these kids.
And that's a huge sign when you've failed a child, when they go on some sort of crazy killing spree.
Yeah. Well, or is it? I don't know.