JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME
About The Production
Filling the House
With their feature-length films "Cyrus," "Baghead" and "The Puffy Chair" -
not to mention a spate of short films - Jay and Mark Duplass have established
themselves as endlessly creative filmmakers who continue to mine extraordinary
stories from (what many people would term) ordinary life: a recently divorced
man dating his dream woman, while trying to cope with her nightmare of a son; a
group of actors trying to make their careers by creating their own horror film;
a man, accompanied by his girlfriend and his brother, driving to pick up an eBay
purchase as a birthday present for his father.
And now, with "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," Jay and Mark return not only to
focusing their camera on a group of 'everyday' people, but also to a part of the
United States they know intimately - their childhood home. Known for their
in-depth, character-driven films as much as their low-key, cost-effective
filmmaking, the brothers experienced a case of life imitating art for their
latest feature film: in their signature style, Mark and Jay brought their own
families with them as they moved back into their parents' home while filming
on-location in Louisiana for "Jeff."
Jay Duplass states, "We grew up in New Orleans, in a middle class,
hard-studying, hard-working environment, where our electives in high school were
Greek and Latin. We believed in the kind of life where you just work your ass
off and you get it done, but we were also obsessed with the arts and film. But
it seemed very outside to us, very magical. We never dreamed we would be in the
positions that we are in now. For both of us, we want to be Jeff. We want to
believe in magic and in the universe."
Mark Duplass picks up, "We admire people who live their lives like that, even
when it's repeatedly punching them in the face. So, for this film, we were
excited to have two brothers, who thought in polar opposite ways, and watch the
conflict and the humor that would come out of that."
The script had been written by the brothers about five years ago, then put in
a drawer - not to be forgotten, but kept as their "special project, for making
when the time and the place were both right," offers Jay. "Mark and I lived in
Austin, Texas for a long time, and we were friends with several people who spent
about six or seven years in college, and then moved laterally from college into
efficiencies and basement apartments throughout the city. Then, they proceeded
to philosophize about the nature of existence, the nature of their place in
existence, the nature of destiny, and sometimes, that philosophizing was
accompanied by some herbal enhancement."
Mark is quick to point out, "Jay and I feel that the movie is not really
about a stoner, but more about taking one of these sort of neo-philosophers and
sending him out into the universe, where they rarely go, watching him interact
while some of his theories potentially start to come true. We've always been in
love with characters who are lovable losers - sweethearts, naively hopeful about
everything in life and trying to do their best, but also crippled by their
inability to really do anything. It's heartwarming for us to see that guy go out
into the world and engage in a bunch of little adventures."
The 'adventure' for "Jeff" as a film began when the brothers partnered with
Jason Reitman of Right of Way Films, Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith of Mr. Mudd
and the team at Indian Paintbrush - "the perfect combination of producing
people. Our goal was to make a movie that had magic to it, by people who
believe, and one that wasn't really cynical or sarcastic. In many ways, 'Jeff'
is a movie about fate versus chance. Here is a guy who believes, maybe more than
he should, that his life has a great destiny ahead of him, while his brother,
Pat, doesn't believe in anything. It was a great exercise for us to put these
two guys together and see what happens to them on one eventful day."
Mark confesses that this was their first script written without specific
performers in mind for the parts created. So, they looked to the serendipitous
process of casting - what the universe would bring them - while searching for
actors to bring their characters to life. Because of their unique and focused
filmmaking process (one that relies heavily on creating in-the-moment realism
through studied improvisation), those who have been lucky enough to collaborate
with the Duplass brothers are also quick to spread the word about the wonderful
experience of working on a film with Jay and Mark.
For the brothers, an actor's willingness to immerse in the process far
outweighs marquee value. Jay states, "Mark and I started with the philosophy,
that we only want to work with people who are incredibly nice, and who are
excited to try our sort of unconventional, unorthodox way of working, which does
involve a lot of improv and finding our way in the moment."
The writer/directors worked with producers Jason Reitman, Lianne Halfon and
Russell Smith, who were eager to collaborate on the involved process of casting.
When the team discussed Jason Segel potentially playing the title character, Jay
and Mark met with the comic actor, and it was "immediately obvious to us that he
understood the character of this hopeful person. He really got our sense of
humor and what we were trying to accomplish. Jason Segel has a huge heart, and
he's a very magical and special person, which we felt made him the right choice
"I met Mark and Jay when they offered me this movie," recalls Jason Segel.
"They came to me with the script and we had dinner - and they're two of the
nicest guys I've ever met. There's a scene in the script that calls for this
sort of action stunt. And I wanted to do it for them. It's not like you're
working with some other director and you think, 'Hey, let a stuntman do it.' For
Mark and Jay, you want to do it for them."
Segel also totally 'went for it' when it came to finding the truth behind the
words of the Duplass' funny and touching screenplay: "The script is fantastic.
And if they didn't want us to go off page, there would be no need to. But one of
the things they encourage is to just try to be in the moment, and they'll let
takes run and run and run. Mark said something to me after Judy Greer and Steve
Zissis finished this fantastic scene together. I told Mark how good I thought
the scene was and he said, 'Yeah, there's nothing better than just letting
people be themselves.' And I thought, 'What a brilliant sentiment from a
director.' We actually did more improvising in the dramatic scenes than we did
in the comedic ones. The dramatic scenes were really about trying to get Ed and
me to dig deep as brothers, talk about what it's like, reasons why we disliked
each other - it was pretty intense," says Segel.
According to Segel, "When you find Jeff, he's 30-years-old, my age, and is
living in his mother's basement because he can't really hold down a job and he's
obsessed with the idea that everything happens for a reason. He had a tragedy in
his life and has had a hard time moving past it, until he can figure out why
this thing happened. I see him as abundantly optimistic, with a real underlying
sense of sadness and confusion. When I read the script, I felt a little bit
scared as to whether or not I'd be capable of acting it, and believe it or not,
that's my first criteria in choosing a part. I like to be a little bit scared of
whether or not I'm capable of it. But going through it, mostly with Ed, it was
nice to be doing it with someone who felt as equally new at it. I felt like I
had a real partner in crime."
The universe - well, the Hollywoo
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