We caught up with our old friend Mark Duplass for an exclusive chat about his time making Tammy. Duplass had the pleasure of appearing as Bobby, one of star Melissa McCarthy’s first true love interests in the comedy that the star co-wrote with her husband Ben Falcone, who is also making his directorial debut.
Duplass gave us his thoughts on why he thinks audiences so identify with McCarthy that it has her on a career trajectory that is rarely seen in Hollywood. The writer-director-actor-producer also chimed in as to what most impressed him with Falcone as a first-time director and Duplass has worked with many. Turns out there was a quality that Falcone has that is priceless when it comes to a newbie helmer.
And given that Duplass writes, directs, stars and works in TV and in film, we wondered how creativity calls him and how he decides what to do next.
Movie Fanatic: You had a front row seat to the magic of Melissa McCarthy. What do you think it is about her that audiences love her, people want to work with her and she’s truly having a huge Hollywood moment of late?
Mark Duplass: It is the lack of sarcasm and cynicism and a big heart in her humor is a big connection point with people, either consciously or unconsciously. What it is for me, I laugh my ass off in Dodgeball and I enjoy those things. But, they are built on making fun of people and tearing people down and they’re a little mean. When Melissa sort of brings to life a character like Tammy, who is pretty much the easiest person in the world to make fun of, she loves that character. I think that makes a big difference.
Movie Fanatic: You mention the heart in the film, which was evident even from that first Tammy movie trailer, and I think a lot of that comes from the relationship she has with your character. What about that relationship did you see in Melissa and Ben’s script that you wanted to play this guy?
Mark Duplass: The character of Bobby on the page was pretty simple and that relationship was one that we hoped would work. But, once we got into a conversation about it, we really wanted to work hard at making it a credible and interesting relationship. I think there was a responsibility to bring something to one of Melissa’s first onscreen love interests, to do something interesting with it. We talked a lot about how Tammy is insane. She is totally screwed up. She thinks she’s smarter than she is. What is it going to be that is going to bring Bobby to her? Bobby’s got his (expletive) together. We distilled it and we thought that at the end of the day, it’s the thing that is special about Melissa -- and Ben too -- which is when you have someone that doesn’t have an ounce of cynicism in their body, you can’t help but fall in love with them.
Movie Fanatic: As someone who has written and directed, 1) what was your takeaway from working with Ben Falcone and 2) what most impressed you?
Mark Duplass: The big thing for me when I’m working with a first time director, which I’ve done a lot as an actor and as a producer, is do they have the confidence to admit what’s best? And that is so crucial. They need to make things a conversation. The biggest problem I have with most first-time directors -- myself included -- is being overly confident and shouting out marching orders so that people will know what you’re doing. Ben did a great job of admitting he didn’t know when he didn’t know and talking with everyone about what’s going to make this scene the best. Not only does that make him easy and fun, but ultimately it makes a better movie.
Movie Fanatic: How nice was it to reunite with Susan Sarandon after Jeff, Who Lives at Home?
Mark Duplass: Awesome! It’s so fun just to be with her in this movie. Melissa and Ben called me at a certain point and asked me about my experience working with Susan, and I had nothing but amazing things to say about her. I immediately called Susan and said, “You have to do this. They are the nicest people in the world. I can guarantee you this, even if the movie sucks, you will have a beautiful, fun few months with these guys. You got to do it.”
Movie Fanatic: We’ve talked many times. You write, direct, act, produce -- work in TV and film. How do you know what to do next and how does that creativity call you?
Mark Duplass: It’s interesting you ask that because I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and I do have two kids and I have not enough space in my life for all the projects I want to do. That is new for me because my whole life I’ve been struggling as an artist, just trying to get something made. So, my instinct is that now that I’m at a place in my life where I can make stuff with people who want to make it with me, I feel that I’m at the buffet for the first time. I just want to eat the (expletive) out of everything. If you eat too much, you’ll throw up [laughs]. That’s what this new phase of my life is all about. I’m trying to be more selective, but at the same time, I feel creatively fertile right now, and trying to strike that balance is interesting and it’s a new conflict for me.