The Do-Deca-Pentathlon Exclusive: The Duplass Brothers on Brotherly Competition

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Jay and Mark Duplass are hitting a creative high and tell us exclusively all about it. Mark has been acting his tail off lately with turns in Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister’s Sister and his new gig in the Kathryn Bigelow Bin Laden movie.

Steve Zissis in The Do-Deca-Pentathalon

The brothers collectively have written or produced several films out this year including Jeff, Who Lives at Home and now The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, out currently on VOD and in theaters July 6. The story follows two brothers who became estranged after their last teenage annual Do-Deca-Pentathlon ended in a draw.

What’s a Do-Deca-Pentathlon you ask? A 25-event contest where brother tries to best brother until the “greatest” brother is declared. How much does art imitate life? “We really want to win,” Mark admitted. But it was when the duo decided to go after a film career that they joined forces.

In their new film, two brothers (Steve Zissis and Mark Kelly) reunite for one of their birthdays. Quickly the competitive spark is fired.

Our favorite filmmaking brothers sat down for an exclusive interview taking us inside their filmmaking gifts as well as a quick word on their next project, a remake of the 1970s classic Same Time, Next Year.

Movie Fanatic: Were you guys as competitive as these guys?

Mark Duplass: We’re really well matched because our dad taught us the games, so we both knew the same tricks. A lot of brothers find themselves that way. The thing with me and Jay is once we decided to tackle the film industry, something changed in our dynamic. It is that if we’re going to try to accomplish this Herculean task of being successful filmmakers, we are going to need to join forces.

Movie Fanatic: Where did the crazy idea for this story come from?

Jay Duplass: It’s actually biographical of two brothers who grew up down the street from us in New Orleans. They really invented a Do-Deca-Pentathlon, a 25-event competition to which no one else was invited. For us, we’ve always talked about this idea. It wasn’t until we came up with the concept that they would be estranged and then reunite to reignite the games and ruin a family weekend, we thought, “Now this is a movie.”

Movie Fanatic: Filmed four years ago, what are your emotions now that it’s finally coming out?

Jay Duplass: We were nervous going back to the film because there were two things: I hope this thing is still good. The second thing was we’re now moving into studio films, how is the world going to perceive this film? Is that a step backwards? What ended up happening, people are seeing this as a third film in the unofficial trilogy of The Puffy Chair and Baghead. It was just about the art. When we went to re-edit it -- it rejuvenated us.

Movie Fanatic: Films such as this, and your recent release -- which our Jeff Who Lives at Home review raved about -- are such inspiration for budding filmmakers. Are you comfortable with that? 

Mark Duplass: It comes back to us a lot. We’re aware that a lot of young filmmakers are looking to us. It started in the 1980s with the Coen brothers when we realized the first time that human beings made movies. It made us realize that we could do this for a living -- which is not obvious to a middle class kid from New Orleans. It’s meaningful to be able to inspire and try to help them find out who they are and what they have to offer in filmmaking.
Jay and Mark Duplass Picture

Movie Fanatic: There’s some Olympic synergy here, filmed during the last summer games in 2008 and now released as the London games start in 2012...

Mark Duplass: It is a really cool counterpoint to the Olympics. This movie is not a parody of any kind -- these guys have the same spirit. They may be less equipped than our wonderful Olympic athletes, but the heart is right there.

Jay Duplass: The attention is more pin-pointed. Olympic athletes compete against anybody. These guys just want to beat one person. It’s so laser specific.

Mark Duplass: These brothers don’t care if they’re good at these events. They just need to be better than the other.

Movie Fanatic: You’ve been asked to do Same Time, Next Year. What can you tell us?

Mark Duplass: We are excited. We are also terrified because we have to do it justice. But, we love it so much and Scott Rubin, who’s producing it, loves it too. He has such great taste and integrity that we’re hopeful that we can get this thing rebooted in the right way. We’re very early in the stages and we don’t know what we’re going to do with it. But, it’s a huge prospect.

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