After filmmaking duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert launched their wacky debut “Swiss Army Man” at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, they went through the usual routine of fielding offers. The directors, who have gone by the collective moniker “Daniels” since their music video days, announced their surreal and playful style with the story of singing castaway (Paul Dano) and the farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) he befriends. That may not sound like the most commercial idea, but the film eventually grossed $5.8 million in release, along with rave reviews for blending outrageous toilet humor with poignant storytelling.
It also made them wary of studio properties that came their way. “My dad was so upset that we didn’t take the meeting for ‘Deadpool 2,’” Scheinert told IndieWire recently, and laughed. “I’m sure they took meetings with tons of people. But we were like, ‘We’re not right for that,’ and didn’t take the meeting.”
Scheinert was sitting at Kwan’s house while juggling phone interviews to promote “The Death of Dick Long,” which Scheinert squeezed in as his first solo directing effort while the pair work on their next collaboration. Set in Scheinert’s native Alabama, “The Death of Dick Long” revolves around two longtime pals (Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland) who spend a frantic day trying to hide their involvement in a friend’s accidental death. The movie unfolds like “Fargo” by way of “Dumb and Dumber,” mining for surprising bursts of emotion in an oddball saga of bumbling idiots.
Scheinert directed the story from fellow Alabama native Billy Chew’s script. “Obviously, when it comes to someone else’s material, I’m attracted to things like death of ‘Dick Long,’ not ‘Deadpool,'” he said.
20th Century Fox
But Daniels were also uninterested in franchise filmmaking for other reasons. “Dan and I legitimately think we’d do a bad job on that kind of movie at this point in our careers,” Scheinert said. “Directing’s really hard, but if you’re really passionate about it, it’s worthwhile to follow your impulses — whereas trying to continue a franchise or punch up someone’s script, or diving into some IP is a really challenging thing. It’s not us being like, ‘Ooh, we’re original filmmakers.’ We’re just trying to be self-aware about what we’re good at.”
Daniels’ next project certainly holds plenty of intrigue. Currently in pre-production, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has been described as an “interdimensional action film” in earlier reports, with Michelle Yeoh attached to star. (Awkwafina is in talks for another role.) “It’s not officially greenlit, but we’re so close, and we’re so bummed it took another three years to write it,” Scheinert said. “It’s about a 55-year-old Chinese woman trying to finish her taxes. It’s kind of like if Dan Kwan’s mom was in ‘The Matrix.’” He laughed. “If I were to pitch the real movie, it would take me 10 minutes. I’m so excited about it, but it is bonkers.”
A24 releases “The Death of Dick Long” on Friday, September 27.