Full disclosure: I was extremely nervous to interview director Quentin Dupieux. This is coming from a man who has sat in the same room with the likes of Liam Neeson, Ryan Gosling, and Gerard Butler, yet this prolifically unique French filmmaker/musician (Mr. Oizo) had me jittery and full of butterflies before the interview, which I hope didn’t show too much!
Why though? Why would I fret so mightily about talking to Dupieux? Um, have you seen his films? His concepts may seem random, strange, pointless, and perplexing, but in fact they are intelligent, deeply meaningful, geniusly connected, and so detail focused I can’t help but marvel at what he does. He thinks on this mystical level of heightened enlightenment, and I’ll be honest, I was terrified at the thought of trying to sync myself with Quentin’s special brainwaves – especially after watching Wrong.
Life’s all about taking chances though, and when I was presented with the chance to interview Quentin Dupieux, all the nerves in the world wouldn’t let me say no. How did I do? Read on to hear Quentin talk about his unique style, his repeat casting of actor Jack Plotnick, and how he defines his one-of-a-kind movies. Enjoy!
We Got This Covered: First off, based on how intricate your stories are, I’d like to ask where your writing process even begins?
Quentin Dupieux: I’m just trying to be honest with myself, trust my feelings, and trust my instincts instead of trying to be clever or follow the rules of script writing. The best condition for me to find good ideas for my scripts is to try to think of nothing and trust in that moment. When I’ve finished it for that 20 seconds when my brain realizes something happened here, that’s the kind of state I’m looking for in my writing.
We Got This Covered: What about all the intricate details you always throw into scenes, for example when the clock in Wrong keeps going from 7:59 to 7:60. Are those ideas all scripted, or are they thought up on the spot as you’re shooting when you can visually see the layout of the scene?
Quentin Dupieux: Those are all scripted. About 85% of what you see is scripted. On the set sometimes you have to find a new idea because something might not work so you find something new, but mainly the big ideas in the movie are all in the script. Then when I shoot the movie, all the details are right there in the script.
We Got This Covered: That’s interesting because some of the more “weirder” material, as viewers might call it, feel like improvisation on the fly. Do you ever work with improvisation?
Quentin Dupieux: No, I actually don’t like to improvise on the set, not even just a line. There is very strong logic in my writing, even if it looks “random,” or even “freaky,” but there is definitely a logic. You have to respect it because this isn’t a movie where anything is possible. It’s very dangerous to cross a line where suddenly everything is possible and you’re not watching a movie anymore, you’re watching someone act out random stories.
We Got This Covered: I’m happy you mentioned the logic that goes into your writing, which I can definitely attest to, but if you were forced to describe your unique filmmaking, how would you go about doing that?
Quentin Dupieux: I think the world of my movies, basically they are my babies, I love them, and in the way you love your child, you like to think everyone else loves it the way you do too. You think everyone sees your child like you do. For me they are the best movies ever made, that’s how I’d describe them! [Laughs]
I feel like maybe I’m trying to please myself when I’m making a movie, I’m not even trying to think about the audience because I don’t know how to do it. I’m not trying to be arrogant or disrespectful, that’s just the way I work. I’m trying to surprise myself and if I like something, the point is “OK, I did good!”
I can’t really describe my movies except to say they’re just like funny nightmares.
We Got This Covered: Quentin Tarantino once said that he writes parts and Christoph Waltz just immediately fits into the role and his universe, without him even trying to write for Christoph specifically, and I think you and Jack Plotnick have the same kind of dynamic. He’s starred in both Rubber and Wrong now, so what draws you to working with Jack?
Quentin Dupieux: The first step in the process was that I wrote the part for Jack [his character Dolph], so when you write the part for someone, that’s already 50% of the job. I knew Jack, I worked with him before, so it was really easy for me to write and think of him at that time. It was smooth, it was kind of easy for him to understand my script because he’s done it before.
It was easy to work with Jack because his brain works hard and he just thinks things like “Where I’m sad, should I cry for real? Am I really sad? I think the movie would be more interesting if I’m sad for real.” We took that and thought OK, [Dolph] is really effected by his loss, he’s really sad, and we’re not going to play with it, OK.
We Got This Covered: So we look at your movies, and thinking of the risks you take yourself, how important do you think it is for filmmakers to take their own risks when making their own movies?
Quentin Dupieux: I don’t know if my movies are important, I just think that there are so many movies that are the same all the time. As a viewer, I need to see different stuff. Recently I watched a movie, and I was really, really, excited watching it. It was like watching the first movie ever made because it was fresh, new, and they weren’t trying to make what we call “movies.” You watch it and you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s really a good feeling. We need to have that bit of space where we can find something else. We need that freedom.
We Got This Covered: I notice whenever your characters talk, it’s almost like they’re reading the stage notes along with their dialogue. How does that play to your specific style?
Quentin Dupieux: The tone of the dialogue and the tone of the actors is like the main character of my film. Of course you can give that to someone else and make them sound stupid, or serious, or funny, but the tone I like is very deadpan – you don’t know if it’s supposed to be funny or serious. I like a lot of stuff where you don’t know what it is, probably because I hate the obvious. If I watch a comedy, and the actor is pretending too hard to be funny, where you can see in his face that he’s supposed to be funny, I don’t laugh. It’s not funny at all. That goes for the very serious movies as well.
I think life has more layers. It’s not just funny. It’s not just serious. It’s not just sad. It’s everything at the same time, every time. If you’re having fun with you’re friends, it’s not just about fun. It’s about layers.
I think movies sometimes are very stupid in that sense where it’s just one layer.
We Got This Covered: So getting to your future projects, when can we expect to see Wrong Cops and what was it like working with comedians like Eric Wareheim and Jon Lajoie?
Quentin Dupieux: Oh I had a really good time with Eric Wareheim, that was tons of fun. He also played in my next film, because I shot Wrong Cops and then I shot Réalité, and Wareheim came again. It’s the same thought as before, you just find someone with the same perception of life and you just fall in love with them.
With Wrong Cops, I’m just finishing editing right now, and it’ll be ready for Cannes where we might premiere it.
I’d like to thank Quentin Dupieux for this exclusive interview, and be sure to catch his film Wrong when it opens March 29th at the following locations, or just watch it through any Video On Demand service if you can’t catch a screening!