Writer/director Andrew Bujalski (“Computer Chess”) is making his bones quickly. He’s only made four independently financed feature films, and his fourth is his biggest and best yet. A dynamite cast helps, but Bujalski’s tentative move towards the mainstream doesn’t tamp down his funny and observational sensibilities. His latest, “Results,” stars the criminally underused Kevin Corrigan (“Pineapple Express“), Guy Pearce (“Memento“), Cobie Smulders “(“The Avengers“), Giovanni Ribisi and Anthony Michael Hall in the weirdest role you will ever see him in.
“Results” is centered on the culture of self-improvement. The comedy focuses on two mismatched personal trainers, self-styled guru/owner Trevor (Pearce) and irresistibly acerbic trainer Kat (Smulders), whose lives are upended by the actions of a wealthy client (Corrigan). As their three lives become inextricably knotted, the plot go from complicated to super messy, and as our review says it’s “funny and well observed.”
During SXSW, we talked to the filmmaker about casting the main characters, the challenges of building a bigger movie with a bigger story and cast, and his film’s charming end-credits scene. There are some mind spoilers near the end of this interview, so here’s your soft warning. “Results” lands in select theaters and VOD via Magnolia Pictures this weekend.
I want to thank “you” for putting Kevin Corrigan in the movie and giving him one of the greatest roles he’s ever played.
I hope so.
I wish he had more work —he’s insanely underused considering his talent— and now this movie is a favorite of mine because of his character.
Thank you. I feel the same way. I’ve been a Corrigan fan for 20 years, at least since “Walking and Talking.” That was the one that really knocked my socks off. I remember watching that movie and sitting there as the credits started to roll and thinking, “I’ve got to find out the name of the video store guy, because that’s my favorite actor.” I’ve followed him ever since, and got to know him a little bit a few years ago. I think it was just one of my bucket list things —”I want to work with Kevin someday”— and just selfishly, just as a fan, I wanted to let him do more than he usually gets to do.
This is the first time you’ve worked with some pretty big name actors. What was the process of getting everyone on board?
Before I really knew what I was doing, I was thinking about actors I’d like to work with. So I thought about Kevin, which shows you how commercial my brain is. You’re supposed to sit down and think, “What can I do with Brad Pitt?” Then I thought of Guy, who I’d had breakfast with years earlier, and had found just fascinating. As soon as I pictured Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan in a room together, I started to laugh.
That was kind of the spark, which is not a very wise way to try to do a project like this, because the chances that you’re going to actually get those two guys’ schedules to line up and do this thing was pretty low. So it was a great blessing that I actually got the two guys who I wrote it for. And I then started to figure out what am I going to do with Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan, and gradually and pretty organically and intuitively, it did not start with high concept and work its way down. It was the opposite. It started with just images and ideas and built up.
Pretty early in that process, it was evident I’ve got these two guys who are such a funny pairing because they’re so dissimilar, yet in other ways, do have some kind of odd, maybe unexpected commonalities. First and foremost, for both a lot of their power as actors comes from the fact that they’re both inscrutable. So I started to think that if I’m going to tell a story about two inscrutable guys, I need a woman in between them who is going to bring a whole different energy, somebody who can bring a warmth but can also bring an explosiveness. Then I’ve got something.
Smulders is particularly terrific in this film.
I agree. So I started to conceive of that character, but I didn’t know who was going to play her. It was a great blessing to find Cobie and complete that puzzle.
So the film is set in Austin, Texas but Guy uses his native accent. Was that pre-planned?
I think he was assuming he would do [an] American [accent]. It doesn’t say in the script, but I liked [that he used his own accent] for a couple of reasons. One was because I liked the idea of him not having to think about doing an accent.
The film is sent in Austin, Texas, but in 2015, this is a city of transplants. I’m not from here and my wife’s not from here, but my kids are from here. It made a certain kind of sense to have somebody from very far way —there’s something about the kind of immigrant’s optimism that made sense to me for the character. So I talked to him about doing an accent, which I think was counter-intuitive at first, although I did not really put this together until Sundance. Guy is such a consummate actor’s actor that even though he was doing an Australian accent, I don’t think that’s actually his accent. I think he still did a character accent.
Now that you’ve made a film with some bigger actors and a little bit bigger of a scale than your previous work, what were some of the hiccups or challenges that you faced that you haven’t before, if there were any?
Every movie brings it’s own hiccups and challenges. It’s a different atmosphere on set, and there are more people around. By professional standards, this would still be considered a very scrappy indie production. Still, when it rained, you would go, “oh fuck!”
You’ve just got to soldier on, regardless.
“What the fuck are we going to do? We don’t have a budget!” There’s not a contingency day, and it was still quite indie in that sense. But it was bigger. The military analogy has always seemed very apt to me. There’s a reason why they call working with a tiny crew “guerrilla filmmaking.” That’s how a guerrilla army operates: it’s like there’s a few of you, and you go out and you rush in and you work fast with the element of surprise. Then you get bigger, and my job becomes less like the fucking guy in the jungle, and more like the general sitting at the table having people bring coffee to him, which is a hard thing to adapt to. Frankly, I’m more comfortable and probably more constitutionally suited to be the guerrilla guy. I mean, I’m getting older.
That happens to people. Getting older.
It was funny on this shoot —it was a big enough crew that when we started shooting, there were a lot of young people around and I didn’t know all their names yet. They were all treating me respectfully, and it freaked me out. That takes some getting used to. Then the trick becomes “if I don’t have a hand in absolutely everything that’s happening and if there are people whose jobs that are to do certain things, then how do I make sure that that doesn’t [get out of control]. Because at worst, what can happen is that the process directs itself. A director can become obsolete when a shoot gets big enough and everybody’s good at their jobs. There were certainly times in this movie where I felt obsolete, or probably was obsolete.
The trick is that you don’t want to over-compensate. You don’t want to get in there and say, “I have to put my stamp on everything, so I’m moving this piece of furniture over here, and Guy, in this scene, I want you to do it with an Irish accent.” You can start to fuck with things just because you feel that you need to, but the director’s job always really is to watch what’s happening, and if something is not right, then to be the guy who is aware of that and tries to figure something out. But when things are right, you are just supposed to fucking sit there and let them happen. A lot of the times, that is the job.
The end credit scene reminded me of the final scene in Paul Mazursky’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” Is this scene supposed to be connected to the plot, or is it just a giant celebration of completing the film?
Well, it’s both. It’s funny, I got interviewed last week, and the interviewer said, “was that an homage to ‘Inland Empire‘?” I said, “No, not consciously.”
To me, when I make a movie like this, I needed that ending. I was doing a very weird romantic comedy, but it is a romantic comedy. I had to go to a happy place, but because of what we were doing to stay true to everything in the story and everything that I was trying to do thematically, it couldn’t not be a strange funny place. I would laugh about the ending with Robin Schwartz, who was the editor on the movie. Robin actually acted in my previous movie “Computer Chess.” That movie has quite a strange ending. I’m convinced that this one is actually ten times stranger, but it may or may not seem so on first glance.
In the end, who do you think the real heart of the movie is about? Kevin Corrigan’s Danny, or the connection between Trevor and Kat, or both?
Oh boy. All of the above and like five other things. I couldn’t choose between those two, but we’ve got this oddball structure where it’s not obvious who the protagonist is, and that’s something that as I wrote the movie, I kind of do choose. I was like, “This is a tough structure to do.” It’s certainly going to be a tough structure to sell, but the movie needed to be that.
You have Kat and then you have Trevor and Danny, which to me is like this one weird organism. So those are the two leads, the girl and the two guys who may be one guy. It’s a remake of “Persona.”
“Results” opens on May 29th.