Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement on ‘What We Do in the Shadows’

What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious peak into the lives of modern-day vampires who are just trying to live their eternal lives in peace and darkness. Set in Wellington, New Zealand, the movie comes to us from the kiwi comedy duo of Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement, the latter who you might recognize from HBO’s Flight of the Concords, and as the villain in Men in Black III. The movie, which borrows from Christopher Guest’s signature mockumentary style, is at times grotesque but often genuinely funny and at times moving. We caught up with Waititi and Clement to talk about the making of the film.

Why  did you shoot this in a mockumentary style?
We wanted to do a mockumentary on something that you couldn’t really film in real life, so it was a more natural approach to a quite well-established genre.

How did the idea to make a movie set around the world of vampires come about?
Well it wasn’t at the peak of the big vampire craze when we started talking about it. That was in 2005. It wasn’t really scripted, so we just worked with some ideas. We started asking each other some questions, like, “When you turn into a bat, what happens to your clothes?” And, “How do you make someone a vampire?” Those kind of things.

Was there any sort of hope that this vampire fad in film would help you guys get the movie made?
With getting money. At the time when vampires were the hottest thing you could have in film, that’s when we were looking for funding.

Did the films being released at that time, obviously including the Twilight films, influence the script at all?
Yeah, a little. There are little references to it but we did have a part where one of the characters thought he was going to sparkle—and why wasn’t he sparkling?! It didn’t make it in the edit, but we filmed it.

This movie obviously has been compared to the films of Christopher Guest. Did you use those films as an inspiration?
Yeah, absolutely.

With streaming nowadays it seems like the kind of movie that will have a wonderful life on something like Netflix and on people’s computers.
Yeah. But because we put a lot of work into the special effects and stuff we’re hoping that some people will see it on the big screen.

Was this an idea that you ever considered shopping around in Hollywood to try to make it on a broader level or was it always going to be something that just you did?
We ended up doing that on one of the most depressing days of our professional career. Because of the audience, some people were open to it, but when you say vampires you’re probably cutting out a significant amount of people. Vampire comedy, even more. But we did talk to a number of people but they wanted us to use certain people and we had our people that we wanted already.

What is your plan following this project? When you’re working on this thing and then a year later you’re finished?
We’re writing together. An anthology for TV.

An anthology like something in the style of True Detective or Fargo?
Like Twilight Zone.

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Jay Baruchel Riffs on Fake Dates, ‘Semen Incidents’ and Other Woes

Love sucks. That much is clear—otherwise it wouldn’t have spawned so many downer pop songs or plotlines over the years. FXX’s latest venture into such well-tread territory, Man Seeking Woman, takes the conceit to a whole new level, turning the most polarizing of emotions into a living, breathing nightmare. The comedy stars Jay Baruchel as Josh Greenberg, a hapless temp returning to the dating world after getting dumped by his longterm girlfriend. What follows are blind dates with actual trolls and nuclear- level anxiety over texting. The 32-year-old Canadian actor of Undeclared fame tackles the role with an understated acuteness, playing the straight man in a world gone mad.

It’s a lot of work because this show is incredibly ambitious. We do basically a crazy little movie every week. I’m so in love with what we’re doing. Every day I get to show up on set and be with funny people doing funny shit. It’s hilarious and weird and definitive and unlike anything else on television. I think everyone that watches will have at least one experience in their personal life that they see reflected on our show. And if not, there’s a whole bunch of monsters and aliens and explosions and all sorts of crazy nonsense. It’s a cartoon come to life.

I can’t give away too much, but I’ll say I’ve done a scene with Adolf Hitler, and I’ve been covered in semen. But things are looking up.

A fair bit, but he’s more of a sad sack than I am, I hope. He can’t win. His game, his job, everything kind of sucks for him. He’s the prototypical everyman in some ways. He’s a living embodiment of a huge part of me. Hopefully a lot of people will see themselves in him, too. He’s meant to go out there and get his ass kicked by the world so that the audience doesn’t have to.

I was about 18, going to a children’s theater group production of a British drawing room play with a girl I’d soon find out had a boyfriend. In fact, he was there with us. He wasn’t a huge fan of mine, let’s be honest. But I was privy to all sorts of great conversations about condoms and birth control between the two of them. That was a good time. That was an evening that never ended.

That’s the moral of the story. Make sure you both know you’re on a date.

It was the craziest year of my life. I was 15. Some of it was really cool, like hanging out with the guys from Universal Studios’ stunt show in Orlando, Florida, or spending three nights on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier—and then being launched off of it to fly back home was pretty cool. But it wasn’t all great. Often I’d find myself in, say, Bristol, Connecticut, at the Otis Elevator Testing facility, at five o’clock in the morning, having to find a way to pretend I gave a shit about how they test elevators.

Then Elisha and I did our jobs.

By Anna Fitzpatrick. Illustration by Klando.


David Cross On His Directorial Debut, Hipsters, and the Nature of Fame

David Cross’s directorial debut, Hits, explores the darker undercurrents to our current cultural consciousness, tackling a wide range of topics indicative to the 21st Century, including the eerie phenomenon of reality television, frustrated libertarians terrified of Obama’s “socialism”, and hipsters gentrifying Brooklyn. It’s a stark portrayal of our collected awkwardness that effortlessly interweaves the new and the old, showing how ridiculous both have become in the wake of the almighty Internet. Cross exposes his characters as shallow numbskulls, but also has tremendous sympathy for them as lonely people who are victims of their present environments, a testament to his abilities as a filmmaker. We sat down with Cross to discuss the death of the Middle Class, corruption in Washington, and how America has transformed into a nation of self-deprecating narcissists.

Where did the idea to make Hits come from?
I don’t know how the idea initially occurred to me. I knew I wanted it to be the first film that I did because I knew all the ideas I wanted to flesh out and fully realize.

A lot of recent movies out there have attempted to satirize millennials, technology, and hipsters. What do you think makes your film different?
If you gave me specifics, I could say, “this is different from this because of that.” I don’t think it’s technology as much; it’s more cultural. It’s not like Black Mirror or anything like that. In this world, Liberty New York, and in our world, technology is pervasive, which is good and bad, but technology is the thing that allows Katelyn and Cory, and the rest of the kids in it, to take this shortcut, which didn’t necessarily exist until about twenty years ago.

What makes them want that shortcut? Because with the invasion of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis, millennials are growing up in this society that places less and less value on them. They may view the shortcut as a necessity because they see no other option.
But that’s simply not true, even if they may feel that way. 9/11 was a tragedy, but it was no less of a tragedy than the Great Depression or World War II or Vietnam. The sense of hopelessness we see in any generation applies if there are certain things to it. I don’t think the [kids in the film] think about it that much and I don’t blame them for not thinking about it. It’s not like when I was eighteen years old I thought of my life and world in those types of terms. You just sort of do what comes naturally, and what’s natural is that my generation has created this world for them. We’re the ones to blame because we created the YouTube generation; that’s the product of the world we gave them. As much as I have contempt for Katelyn and some of the other characters, I understand it. I don’t fault her because that’s the world she lives in. The idea that you would [fault her] is absurd. That ship has sailed; we’ll never go back.

Do you think there’s a place for the Middle Class anymore in America?
Yeah. There has to be. People get that, at least I hope they do. It’s crazy: the widening gulf and disparity between who has money and who doesn’t and how much money those who do have money have. But as long as the Middle Class, or the Lower Middle Class, or the Poverty Class keep voting people into office that don’t have their best interests at heart, the more it’s going to be like this. It’s always boggled my mind.

That all starts with local politics. I feel like nowadays it’s very easy to bemoan the decisions happening in congress because it exists as this abstract figure of Washington corruption. But really, it’s happening in our own backyards and that’s what we need to pay attention to.
Yes, but I think that goes hand-and-hand with, maybe not the Senate, but certainly our Representatives. There are so many opportunities to get to know the representative of your district and for the most part, they’re craven and crass idiots. They’re just buffoons; demonstrably dumb, anti-intellectual.

So it all starts with educating the public.
Often times, one doesn’t look through [emotional issues] them with a pragmatic filter, especially if you’re religious, [regarding] gay marriage or teaching evolution at school. If someone runs a campaign and says, “The guy who’s telling you how [my policies] are going to kill small businesses is demonstrably untrue. Here are the figures. Here is the information. I want to implement these policies which help the Lower and Middle Class,” he doesn’t win! And then people like Scott Walker get elected.

Towards the end of Hits, one of the protagonists completely explodes and says all of these vile, racist things. Whereas he had initially been romanticized, now we really see what’s lurking underneath.
I think that’s a problem too. That’s a statement and I feel very vindicated by the fact that we shot that movie in the summer of 2013 and then we went to Sundance in January 2014 and about three and a half months later the Cliven Bundy stuff happened.

So you think that darker mentality really exists in a lot of Americans?
I wouldn’t say everybody, but it’s scattered throughout the movie: he’s listening to Alex Jones, he gets his news from Fox News, if you look at his desk there’s a lot of libertarian stuff – there’s The Weight of the Taxpayer and The Turner Diaries. It’s there. He’s a simple guy, he’s not a bad guy. He just kind of lost it in that one moment. He’s not an Alex Jones ranting guy, but that’s who he listens to. I think he’s the kind of guy who’s half a step away from chem trails.

I really laughed during the scene just because of how true and how accurate it was.
Well, that’s Cliven Bundy. Everybody ran to support him and Fox News, had him on and it was like, “He’s our hero because he represents us and then ten days into it, he comes out saying, “The negro doesn’t like this and they like that.” Whoah…oops.

On a different note, when did the concept of a hipster develop?
I think the ’50s, right?

How do you think it’s evolved?
Barely. Youth culture, unfortunately extends into older people. Doing something to make a distinctive mark or separate yourself from “the masses” is usually associated with the artsy guys, whether it be visually or with film or writing or whatever. The term “hipster” is applied to the same archetype.

Earlier we were talking about technology being used as a short cut. At what point did we go wrong as a country where our youth became fascinated with this Kardashian-like notoriety just for the sake of having it?
I don’t know, but I would guess it really started happening, in earnest, with The Real World. That is sort of when it started. The Real World begat all those other reality shows and people got famous for being on those reality shows because they did something and then posed for Playboy. Then they go on TV to promote things. I suppose The Real World started that idea of false reality, of a pre-packaged, very heavily edited look at life. And now it’s ubiquitous and it’s the norm. Bravo wouldn’t exist without those awful, terrible people that are willingly exploited. Terrible, terrible people are on TLC.

They love humiliating themselves and we love watching it.
I’ve talked about this before, but you have a lot of people, some hipsters, some not hipsters, but people who watch Jersey Shore or Real Housewives of Atlanta or Honey Boo Boo and they tell you they’re watching it ironically and they blog about it. They have a career blogging about and making fun of Real Housewives, and they do recaps of every episode. There’s this smug elitism to it; this cultural elitism. The whole thing is, “You’re perpetuating this. This thing you report to hate and you think is such a bad example of our culture, that exists because people like you talk about it with detached irony, yet you’re still supporting its very existence.

Text by Davis Richardson. Photo by Aliya Naumoff.


Actor Jake McDorman On the ‘American Sniper’ Phenomenon

If we need to tell you who Jake McDorman plays in American Sniper, then it means you’re one of three people in the country who haven’t seen one of the biggest surprise hits in Hollywood history. By now, we all know the story of Bradley Cooper’s searing war drama, but here’s a quick refresher. Cooper plays Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in U.S. history who was credited with nearly 200 kills during his tours in Iraq. McDorman, who’s been racking up credits in movies and TV for over a decade, plays Kyle’s friend and fellow SEAL, Biggles. His performance is both lighthearted and heartbreaking, a testament to McDorman’s range as an actor. We caught up with him recently to talk about the unexpected phenomenon American Sniper has become, working alongside Bradley Cooper, and what we can take away from this incredible story.

Did you ever anticipate these kinds of numbers for American Sniper?
I try to never anticipate anything, really. It’s so far out of my control at that point.

What was your reaction when you first saw the numbers?
I think it took me awhile to believe it was happening. You get looped into these email chains of everyone involved with the movie saying ‘holy shit. we broke this record, we broke that record.’ But those statistics weren’t anything I followed beforehand. So it took me awhile to realize, wow. People are really responding to this movie. And that’s so great. That’s all we can hope for.

There’s been a lot of drama surrounding the release of the movie.  Have you been paying attention to it?
You know, I haven’t really. So much of my responsibility is invested during the filmmaking process. Every actor on screen is portraying a real person in this movie. And all of us had some form of contact with that person or the people close to that person while we were making the movie. Some more than others. I think the drama that would have gotten my attention would’ve been if those people had felt exploited or marginalized in any way. And thankfully their reaction to the film has been very favorable.

How do you think Chris Kyle would react to the phenomenon the movie has become?
Well I can’t speak for Chris Kyle, but I would hope he’d be proud of the awareness it’s brought to the struggle our veterans go through readjusting back home as well as on the battlefield.

Bradley Cooper gives a career best performance. What was it like working alongside him and witnessing his commitment?
I only really met Bradley Cooper at the premiere in New York. And I know that’s such a trite thing to say. That kind of comment always surrounds these immersive performances, but it’s true. He was so committed. Obviously physically, but also emotionally. There was a fluidity from on set to off set. It never felt like he was being switched on and then switched off. He just was.

What did you learn from him in terms of acting?
One thing I learned from this project and working with Bradley in particular was to avoid playing into the drama of the situation. It’s very easy to make that mistake given the subject matter. To look at a scene or an event and label it as sad or overwhelming. That’s a testament to his work understanding Chris. These guys’ didn’t have time to reflect. It could actually get you killed.

Tell us about the character you play.
I play Ryan Job who was part of SEAL Team 3 with Chris Kyle. He and Chris formed a very tight bond while in BUDs training that lasted through their tours in Iraq. Ryan is one of the people that the book American Sniper is dedicated to along with Marc Lee and Chris’ family.

Has the movie’s overwhelming success affected your day-to-day life in any way?
It hasn’t too much. I’ve had a few people come up and recognize me from the movie. Those encounters are different than anything else I’ve been recognized for because of the subject matter and weight of the film. It’s a very different conversation than getting recognized for a comedy or television series.

In preparing for this role, what was the most interesting thing you learned about SEALs?  To become a Navy SEAL you have to endure the most rigorous training process ever designed. As physically grueling as it is, it’s almost more about mental discipline. Some 300 people sign up and only 35 people make it or something ridiculous like that. We show some of that in the film.

Have you heard of the “fake baby” controversey surrounding the movie? What are your thoughts on that?
I have heard about this. My friend sent me a College Humor video on Youtube where the baby keeps changing from one doll to another then into a watermelon and so on. I can honestly say when I watched the film I didn’t notice it. And all movies have a bit of Scotch Tape holding them together if you look hard enough. There’s a crew member in a black t-shirt walking through Gladiator. There’s a white van driving through Braveheart.

What is it about American Sniper that has struck such a chord with audiences?
My hope is that the movie illustrates the effects war has on the people who fight and the people at home. There are parts of soldiers’ personalities that they have to sacrifice or compartmentalize to survive the conditions of war. It’s without those parts that can make it difficult for them to readjust back home. It’s like this pendulum that’s swinging from one extreme to the other. It’s a war movie that isn’t about the war. It’s about the person.

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

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The Duplass Brothers, Together Forever

Welcome to New York, it’s been waiting for you!” screeches Mark Duplass as we sit down in his Midtown hotel room. I’ve just told him and his brother Jay, the writer/ director team behind HBO’s new TV series Togetherness, how Taylor Swift’s ode to the Big Apple wouldn’t stop playing as my cab inched slowly through Manhattan traffic—a hellish scenario. Mark knows plenty about Swift’s music, thanks to being a father. Everything else he and Jay know about parenthood and married life is the basis of Togetherness, which presents a terrifically earnest but hilarious look at the difficulty of wanting the same things as one gets older. Here, we talk about the new show, their affinity for Los Angeles, and, of course, masturbating in bed.

The show opens up with Mark’s character, Brett, masturbating to his wife’s backside in bed. How much of the show is drawn from real life?
Mark Duplass: I haven’t masturbated in the bed yet, next to anyone. I’m still smart enough to wait until they leave the house.
Jay Duplass: Oh, I’ve definitely masturbated in the bed with Jen [Jay’s wife] in the bed.
MD: In the bed? Incredible.
JD: I’ve asked permission.
MD: To do this?
JD: And been granted permission to masturbate in the bed. It’s hard to pinpoint specifically what is exactly real and what isn’t, but almost everything has a reference to our world.

The show is set in Los Angeles, which all of the characters seem to struggle with. Are you more or less L.A. than, say, Brett?
MD: I’m more L.A. than Brett, for sure. What’s so great about Brett is he is incapable of being anything other than himself at any given moment in time. He’s a truly pure human being. Jay and I, for better or for worse, have learned to shuck and jive in any situation. We will take the temperature of someone when they walk in a room and just be that way.
JD: We’re adaptive.
MD: Brett is not adaptive, and that’s part of his big issue.
JD: That being said, I am probably similar to Brett in my relationship.
MD: You’re way better than Brett. If Brett’s a 10 on the squirrel scale [Ed. note: In one episode, Brett leaves a party to record the sounds a squirrel is making—as everyone outside stares at him], you’re like a six and a half. And sometimes an eight. And after two Crown and Sevens, you’re like a two.

Togetherness has an unaffected quality, similar to documentaries. Are there any documentaries you’re fond of?
MD: A recent one is Mistaken for Strangers, which bears a similarity to one of our favorites, American Movie. They share the DNA of intensely flawed people with huge hearts, and very, very little skill sets to achieve their big dreams, but yet you find yourself rooting for them. I think that everyone in Togetherness, to a certain degree, is fist-pumping for greatness in their own way and they’re having a really hard time getting to it. That’s what we’re drawn to.
JD: My recent favorite is Cutie and the Boxer. It’s about these artists trying to maintain their relationship, trying to be good to each other, but also trying to do something really hard with their careers and lives. That leads back to people living on the fringes of L.A. who want it so bad, even though it might not be good for them personally. Everything is such a struggle.

Mark, do you wear glasses? It’s a great touch—Brett looks like such a dork with them. MD: No, but I used to. I had Lasik done like an idiot in 2000 in New Orleans, the least technologically savvy place in the universe. We talked about Brett early on and Jay was just like, “There’s still, like, 10 percent of you that is an ex-high school jock and we need to just take that out.”
JD: My phrase was, “Mark is too quarterback-y and we need to beat that back.” And the glasses–it was your idea.
MD: But fuckin’ season two, man, I’m gonna Superman out. I’m gonna go in that booth, and come out dick swingin’, guys. It’s gonna be huge.


Text by Jeremy Gordon. Photography by Shane McCauley.

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Arcade Fire’s Win Butler On the Celebrity All-Star Game and His Favorite Jock Jam

Next Friday, a roster full of famous people will descend on New York’s Madison Square Garden to take part in the 2015 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. One of those famous people is Win Butler, lead singer of Arcade Fire and die-hard hoops fan, who’ll join the likes of Kevin Hart, Common, Nick Cannon, Ansel Elgort, and more on teams that will be coached by Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony and Spike Lee on one side, and ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on the other. We caught up with one of the world’s few genuine rock stars to see how he’s prepping for the big game.

What’s up? Are you already in New York?
New Orleans, escaping the winter of Montréal.

What’s new with Arcade Fire?
We toured last year, so I’ve been enjoying having some downtime. I’ve been DJing under the alias DJ Windows 98 and kind of doing shit on the side, but it’s really just for fun. I just love music, so any excuse just to get out and listen to music and be open to other influences — that’s the kind of stage I’m in right now.

Any influences you’re particularly open to right now?
I’m deep into African and Haitian music that not a lot of people would have heard of, but out of the Montréal scene Grimes and Mac DeMarco.

So, how did you get picked for the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game?
There was talk of me playing last year since I was in New Orleans for the All-Star Game, but it didn’t pan out.

I noticed that your fans began tweeting #LetWinPlay after an interview you did with SLAM back in August. Did the NBA reach out to specifically because of their efforts?
I’d like to think that I qualify.

Of course.
I played in high school, and I play in leagues in Montréal — pretty much wherever I am. When I’m on tour, I’ll play pickup games anywhere in the world. Eastern Europe, Chicago — wherever.

Does anyone ever look up and realize, “Ohhhhh my god, I just got destroyed by Win Butler”?
Once in a while I get noticed. The rock world and the basketball world don’t really intersect. They’re parallel worlds — that’s something I like about it and the friends I have there.

How have you been prepping for the All-Star Celeb Game itself?
I’ve done a couple charity games for Matt Bonner from the San Antonio Spurs, and we’ve played ball together in the past. He’s been my main NBA buddy over the years.

Do you have any entrance music picked out?
I always thought “Born To Run” would be a funny song for warmups.

Any goals you’ve set for yourself? Baskets? Obnoxious victory dances?
It’s a team sport, so I just want to win.

Any plans if you do win?
Matt and his brother [Luke Bonner] have a charity thing [for their Rock On Foundation] called Alt-Star, where I’m going to be DJing after the game at the Bowery Ballroom.

Are you going to hit up the actual All-Star Game on February 15?
No, I’m going to be in the audience at “SNL” for some big 40th anniversary special. But, I did see the game last year in New Orleans. Holy shit, seeing Anthony Davis in person — that’s the kid right there. I haven’t seen anyone like him, maybe, since Kevin Durant, someone with that kind of freakish athletic ability and that size. Going back further, he reminds me of Hakeem Olajuwon. I grew up in Houston when the Rockets were doing really well. I’m just a fan of the game.

Text by John Walker.