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Mark Duplass of ‘Baghead’ Answers More Questions

26 Dec, 2008 By: Billy Gil

Mark Duplass

In promoting their films, writers and directors inevitably face the same questions, day after day. Writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass, indie upstarts behind Sony Pictures Classics’ Baghead, circumvented some repeat interviews by recording a special feature in which the Duplass Brothers interview themselves, asking themselves their own most-asked questions while holding their babies. The special feature was included on the Baghead DVD, which came out this week from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, at $28.96.

The film follows four friends — two guys and two girls with complicated entanglements — who are struggling to make it in Hollywood as actors, writers and directors. They decide to hightail it to a cabin for the weekend to write a low-budget horror flick about a murderer who wears a bag on his head. However, their fictional character, who appeared to one of the girls in a dream, begins to pop up and wreak havoc upon them.

From the special feature, viewers can glean that the Sundance Film Festival favorite was mostly scripted and was shot on a budget of $1,000. They can learn that the inspiration for Baghead came while the brothers were shooting their film The Puffy Chair and someone asked what could be scary in horror anymore, because of the severity of films such as the “Saw” franchise, and someone else answered “a dude with a bag on his head is staring at you through your window.”

“Everybody laughed, but then later that night, people kind of had some nightmares, and at breakfast the next morning, people were like, kind of pissed off cause they were like, dude, that was actually really scary,” the brothers explain on the special feature. “So we got really excited about the laughing, scaring combination … that that could bring up.”

We asked Mark Duplass anything else we could think of.

HM: Are the characters in the film modeled after specific people you know or more of an amalgam of personas?

MD: We started with character archetypes, almost caricatures. We’re going to have the hottie guy who’s been on “CSI” like four times but wants to get a good role, his chubby friend, the young girl who just got to Hollywood and the older woman … who’s going to be put out to pasture. … The characters define themselves almost in relation to each other. Greta [Gerwig], the actress who played Michelle (the young actress), is a lot smarter as a person than we originally envisioned Michelle to be, but it was something we went with. … A lot of it relies on natural chemistry and people defining their characters.

HM: Are the two male characters Matt and Chad (the two actors) based on you two?

MD: I don’t think so, specifically, but that being said, Jay and I can both identify with a lot of the characters. Our father is a very type A, driving individual, and Jay and I both have that tunnel-vision drive to be successful. Likewise with the Chad character (the chubby friend), that feeling of like, ‘I just may be too sensitive to survive in this world. I have a chance of being crushed here, so I have to be careful,’ is maybe something we get from our mom. … In terms of specific dynamics between the two of us, there’s not much that I can see there. I’m sure people who know us could have a field day with us.

HM: This movie is about relationships, but on the surface it’s about people trying to make a horror movie rather than a relationship movie. Was that sort of irony an integral idea to the movie?

MD: I think so. The initial impulse was just like, ‘let’s try to make a horror movie with the most ridiculous lo-fi villain possible. But Jay and I quickly realized we are hopelessly ourselves. It’s about close-ups, minutiae and dynamics between people and those they love. There’s no way that any genre movie we ever made would not be a mix with relationships.

HM: How involved were you with the DVD, specifically the special feature in which you answer your own FAQs with your babies? Is this something you’ll continue doing with your children on future DVDs?

MD: I don’t know. That kind of popped out of nowhere. I actually have not even seen that footage, so I’m kind of curious how it looks. Jay and I try not to overdo things like that and try to make them representative of where we are in our lives. For The Puffy Chair, it was Jay and I driving around to Hollywood meetings because that’s what Jay and I did for a year. I’m assuming the kids will be a big part of that for the next 18 years. I think it would be really awesome to have one of the girls when they were five or six interview us with their own questions.

HM: Did you draw any inspiration from particular horror films for the horror portions of the film?

MD: I wish I could find a way to say this without sounding pretentious, but Jay and I try not to draw from films. The truth is the major aesthetic of this film drew more from the way Judd Apatow and John Cassavetes shoot their movies — surround yourselves with friends.

Baghead is a little bit of a backlash to modern torture horror movies. Horror films have gotten to a place where they’re gross, mean and shocking, but not necessarily scary. We wanted to break it down to its more simple form and see if we could get some good scares out of it.

HM: What can you tell me about your next film The Do-Deca-Pentathalon?

MD: We haven’t released the film to the world yet; it’s still in the editing phase. It probably won’t come out until next year. We’ve actually had to halt post-production because we are about to shoot our first studio movie in January (tentatively titled Safety Man, starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill). We will probably take it to film festivals in either late 2009 or 2010.

I’m actually at a production lunch meeting as we speak. There are all these people around helping us do things, and it’s amazingly different. We usually work with a cast and crew of one to 20 people. Now we have people who look for locations for us. It’s incredible!

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