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CYRUS

Wanted: A Cast That Thinks On It's Feet
When the time came to cast CYRUS, the filmmakers found they had access to some of Hollywood's most familiar faces for the first time. But rather than meet with an army of "name” actors, Mark and Jay came to the table with very specific ideas about who they wanted to work with.

"They didn't work off big lists of people who could play each role,” says Costigan. "They didn't say, ‘Which stars can we put in our movies?' They said, ‘Who are our favorite actors and how do we bring them to our movie?' They focused on the one actor they believed could play each part.”

It takes a certain kind of actor to work with Mark and Jay Duplass. The list of qualifications is brief, but precise. "They like to keep things moving; they like to keep shooting,” the producer says. "That meant the actors had to find the truth of the characters, but they also had to be quick on their feet and great with improvisation. That made for a short list. It also made this movie feel unique and true.” 

The brothers also needed to know that the actors they hired were familiar with their previous work. "It was really important to us that they liked our movies,” says Jay. "We wanted to work with people who appreciated our way of working. They needed to be comfortable in an environment where you don't always have the answers, so you're free to discover things on set. That takes a lot of courage and patience.” 

The film's central character is John, a divorced, 40-something film editor who has remained close (perhaps unhealthily so) to his ex-wife. "He hasn't moved on,” says Jay. "When he finds out that his ex is getting remarried, he kind of loses it. She forces him to go to a party where he, amazingly, meets Molly, played by Marisa Tomei.”

John C. Reilly, who plays John, brings an earthy, everyman quality and keen comedic sensibility to his work in films that include STEP BROTHERS, WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY and the musical extravaganza CHICAGO. "When you first see John C. Reilly in our film, you think, ‘Oh, the shlubby divorced guy,'” says Mark. "You feel sorry for him, but what we really like about this character is that he's a flawed individual, and there are good reasons he's divorced. He moves with intelligence, but it still doesn't prevent him from getting into a lot of trouble.”

As appealing as the role of John was, says Reilly, the part was actually secondary in his decision to sign on to the film. His primary interest was in working with a pair of startlingly original filmmakers. "My wife is a friend of Mark and Jay,” he says. "When she described their process to me, I was fascinated. They shoot something one day, then they look at it that night and see what they have. That determines where the film goes the next day. 

"In this case, they wrote a great script in terms of the story,” continues Reilly. "But what I really admire is that they have almost no ego about their writing in terms of changing the dialogue. They're very clever that way. I think improvisation creates realistic-sounding dialogue and they relied on us for that. If something seemed contrived or just worded funny, they would say, ‘Well, just, say it how you would say it.' They respected the actors' instincts.” 

Reilly's enthusiasm for the Duplasses' process made him an invaluable addition to the production, says Mark. "Certain actors love they way we work. Certain actors hate it. We showed our movies to all the actors who auditioned and John, in particular, responded. In turn, we were really inspired by him in this role.” 

Reilly's performance as a middle-aged man grabbing at what may be his last chance for happiness is touching and honest, adds Mark. "Every time you turn the camera on John C. Reilly, he does something inspired and totally rooted in truth. And he does something a little bit different every time and it comes from<

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