Let's talk about the projects you have lined up at this upcoming Sundance. You star in and executive produced "The One I Love." What attracted you to that film?
It was something that I curated for Charlie [Mcdowell, the director] who I met with and really liked. He actually reminded me a lot of me and Jay when we made "The Puffy Chair.” He was in a similar career space. I kind of brought him the concept of the movie and asked him if he wanted to flesh it out and make a whole feature out of it and he and his writing partner, Justin [Lader], did. So we kind of built it organically together.
This is Charlie Mcdowell's feature length debut. Did he ever ask you for pointers on set?
There was never any direct "Hey, help me out," but we definitely established something of a mentor/mentee relationship throughout the process. As we made our way through prep and through filming, it was more and more of me loosening the reins and Charlie taking control of the movie. By the time we were done shooting, it was very wholly his movie. It was a very rewarding process, we became very close not only as friends but creatively and it was a big collaboration. A lot what you see on screen were ideas that came from Justin Lader, our creative producer Mel Eslyn and from Lizzy Moss. It was this really fantastic filmmaking branch, so we were improvising some and shucking and jiving as we went along. It was a big, healthy collaboration.
What was it like to work with Elizabeth Moss?
She is incredible. She and I have very different approaches to performance, which gelled perfectly together. I have a bit of a filmmaker brain. When I am finished with a take, I’m thinking “OK, I should do the next one a little bit differently so the editor has this option and has this one.” Lizzy is just like an animal, she lives it and is it. I'm very close with our sound designer Sean O'Malley, and he shared with me something really amazing. One of our takes with Lizzy, he had a microphone on her chest and he had to move it because, while her heart was beating perfectly normal, when Charlie yelled "Action,” it changed. She and I were having a very intense moment and her heartrate just shot up double, just thumping, thumping, thumping. She was ruining the audio with her thumping heartbeat. I don't know anybody who embodies their character, who lives them that way. She's a gem.
You and your brother Jay are also executive producing another film at the festival, "Skeleton Twins," directed by Craig Johnson. You starred in his first film, "True Adolescents." How was this experience different?
It was totally different this time. I'm not in "Skeleton Twins," which is a big difference. I'm in a much different stage in my career than I was when I did "True Adolescents." When he brought me this script, I was lucky enough to be in a place where I could be helpful not just creatively but also as far as bringing a cast together and finding money for the movie. These are things that Jay and I can do now that we couldn't six years ago. I'm very close with Craig personally, we're good friends. I know that he knows how to make a movie, so I didn't have to worry about shepherding him the whole way; all I had to do was bring in the attention the project needed. He showed us the first edit of the movie and we helped him get it into shape. It was a really healthy partnership.
Both "The One I Love" and 'The Skeleton Twins" are about people who need to take a break and regroup from their lives. Is that a coincidence?
Yeah, I think it is a bit of a coincidence, although I'll say that the space Jay and I have been interested in predominantly are relationship-oriented movies, be they romantic dramas or romantic comedies or things like that. The thing that's unique about "The Skeleton Twins" is that you're going to see a star-making turn from Bill Hader, similar to when Jonah Hill came on to "Cyrus" before anyone knew he could do the dramatic stuff so well. Bill breaks out here in what he can do as a dramatic performer; that, to me, makes the movie special. What makes "The One I Love" stand out is that, on the surface, it's a relationship dramedy that I'm used to making, but there is a pretty significant plot twist early on that sends it into totally uncharted territory. It's a big departure and really exciting.
Any other films at the festival you're dying to see?
There's a ton I want to see! Most of the big movies that I know will get bought I don't see at Sundance because I know I'll have a chance to see them later on when they come out in theaters and VOD. There's a bunch of great, great little documentaries, world cinema and frontier movies that I'm trying to focus on while I'm at the festival because I won't get to see them if they don't score distribution.
When can we expected to see you and Jay's new HBO series "Togetherness"?
Good question. We're gonna start shooting over the next couple months. We're doing an 8-episode first season, and they'll put it on the schedule whenever we feel like it's right.