Clea DuVall Talks 'The Intervention,' Directing and Favorite Films of 2016
Clea DuVall Talks 'The Intervention,' Directing and Favorite Films of 2016
Clea DuVall recently sat down with us here at TheMovieNetwork.com to tell us about her new film The Intervention which hits theaters and On Demand August 26th. Clea has had a wonderful career with movies like Argo and Girl, Interrupted. She has also acted in dozens of TV shows including: American Horror Story, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles and is well known as Marjorie Palmiotti on Veep. Her new film, The Intervention, is a wonderful story about four couples who spend a weekend at a lake house in order to confront one of the couples obvious marital problems. Their good intentions soon backfire as each couple faces their own imperfections and face the harsh reality of being in love, or not in love. This film is her writing and directing debut and it has done very well on the festival scene this year. Here is what Clea had to say about the film.
Nick Leyland from TMN: Was doing your own project something you've been dreaming of for a long time?
Clea DuVall: Yeah, I love film sets, I love crews, I love, you know, I love the whole experience. Even when I'm working as an actor I like to stay on set and watch what everybody's doing and feel really engaged. And I always knew that I wanted to play a bigger role or a different role on set. Being a director is not an easy job and I don't think I would've been up for it any sooner.
TMN: Is it hard to be in charge all the time? [chuckle]
Clea: I had so much faith in my crew and my cast and everyone was so talented and I really wanted to give them all the space to bring as much of themselves to the process as possible. I was in charge, but it didn't feel like that. It felt very much like a collaborative, creative environment, for me at least. I hope people felt that way too.
TMN: I've always wondered that about actors working together. I've read that with some musicians, when they get together everyone puts aside who each other is and just works. I remember John Lennon used to say tha about his solo workt. Is that kind of what it's like on set?
Clea: My favorite kinds of sets are ones that are like that. I think when you get into the territory of almost a classist system on a set, it feels less collaborative and less accessible and you kind of feel just... It's just a different experience and it doesn't mean that it's negative, it just feels different. And I thrive in the environments where I feel everyone is equal and we're all there and we're all working toward a common goal.
TMN: You could probably tell that almost by the first day on set, huh?
Clea: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
TMN: This film is really cool. Sometimes I get uncomfortable watching confrontation scenes and this film has a lot of it in it. But I really enjoyed it because it actually forced me to do it. How could you even write for that? Does it mainly have to be in the moment?
Clea: Something that someone said to me when... 'Cause I started writing 10 years before I ever tried to get a movie made, to teach myself the process of scriptwriting and structure and all the different components of that and wrote several very bad scripts and made a lot of really, really poor choices story-wise. But I would always give the scripts to people and get notes and try to make them better and it was really, really helpful for me. There was one person who gave me notes on a script and he said "Don't be afraid to give your characters problems. Don't protect them, just let them get in trouble, let people be mad at them. Let them make mistakes." And so I really, in this, when it is a movie about relationships and relationships are complicated. They can be so uncomfortable and loving people is uncomfortable. And I think I really allowed my characters to, in the process of writing it, just let them make mistakes and let them get in trouble for it and cause trouble. I didn't wanna let anybody off the hook.
TMN: Did you base your character on yourself at all?
Clea: Absolutely. I feel like as an actor... When I was younger I played parts that were more like me. But then as I got older I found that I wasn't getting to play myself, which I thought would be kind of fun, which it turned out it was so much harder than a character that was really different from me. Especially playing myself opposite my two best friends, was very bizarre and surreal and then it made me feel so self-conscious oddly. But I still, I like how it all turned out in the end. But I think I underestimated how hard making a film can be.
TMN: I can imagine a difficult two-step process in making a film that you write and direct. First, you have to get your ideas to come across on paper and then you have to get those ideas to come across on film. That must be difficult.
Clea: Yes. I don't like to know material too well 'cause then I feel like a robot. So I kind of have a loose idea of it. I read it and I know it but I don't drill it into myself 'cause I still want it to feel natural and organic. But having written something and worked so hard on a script and spent so much time with those scenes, it felt impossible at times to make it feel spontaneous.
TMN: What do you think is the overall message of The Intervention?
Clea: I wanted the audiences to connect with someone, whether it be where they're at now, where they've been, where they hope to be. Basically, I guess the message is "You're not alone." Everyone has challenges in relationships and marriages are hard, friendships are hard, familial relationships are hard and it's okay. It's supposed to be like that and it's going to be okay. And even if it's not, you are going to be okay. 'Cause I think relationships are such a big part of most of our lives and it can be really scary when they start to not work. And that just because something is not working in that moment doesn't mean that it's broken.
And sometimes something that feels like it's working maybe isn't right. There's someone else who understands you and I think, at least for me, the moments in my life where I feel overwhelmed by a situation, when I can connect with someone else who has had a similar experience, and hear that even if they didn't get through it, just they understand how I am feeling, makes me feel so much better.
TMN: And to pull that off for this film, you needed to have a good cast and you did have a good cast. You had Jason Ritter, and Melanie Lynskey and Cobie Smulders. What was your reaction when all these people jumped onboard?
Clea: Well, Melanie is my best friend and I wrote the movie for her and Natasha (Lyonne) is my other best friend and Jason is my friend and Alia (Shawkat) is my friend. I was so happy they all wanted to be a part of it 'cause I admire them all so much as actors. I felt really relieved to know that I had that foundation of incredible actors and then finding the rest of the people I felt a little nervous about because you're making a movie for no money. You have no time. Everybody's living together. There are no trailers. It's a thousand degrees. There's nothing [chuckle] glamorous happening and people who are gonna be okay with that is really as important. And the fact that I got Cobie and Ben (Schwartz) and Vincent (Piazza), who are not only extraordinary actors but incredible human beings who worked so hard and did so well, and I think made their characters come alive even in a more exciting way than I could've ever hoped.
(Clea DuVall and Melanie Lynskey in The Intervention)
TMN: You guys didn't all live in that big house, did you?
Clea: I was living in the house with our DP and then everybody else was living in houses around that house, but we ate every meal together. There were no restaurants around us. There was nowhere to go and we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together and worked six-day weeks and it was very intense.
TMN: Well, you had to be pretty positive with your reactions at Sundance, right?
Clea: Yeah, it was really... I was very, very relieved, is probably the best word.
TMN: Was there a couple of awards that you won or were nominated for?
Clea: Melanie won an award for acting, which I was so thrilled about, and we sold it right the night of our screening. We sold the movie in our first screening and that was such a huge relief and the reviews were mostly positive. I didn't realize how stressed out I was about all of those things until we were in the clear.
TMN: I wanna know what are a few of your favorite films of 2016?
Clea: I loved Midnight Special. I thought it was so beautiful and I love Kirsten (Dunst). I'm so happy to see her in so many things lately. What else has come out this year? I'm drawing a blank. Oh, I loved The Lobster. The Lobster, I thought was so funny and interesting and unique and I was in love with it.
TMN: Was that with Colin Farrell?
Clea: Yeah. And he was so good along with Olivia Colman. She is so brilliant and so funny and John C. Reilly who has the coolest career of all time.
Clea: I recently was in a hotel room. I was there all day. I had something to do in the morning and then something to do in the afternoon and I spent the entire day just in the room and I was working on something and sometimes I just have my TV on. And for some reason they played Stepbrothers, the movie Stepbrothers at least 12 hours, if not 24 hours. But it was there. It was on TV from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep and I just left it on and he was so funny. I wasn't sitting watching it for 12 hours but it was just on in the background and I just wasn't changing the channel and I was so... Stepbrothers is such a silly comedy but he is just... I don't know, I love him, I would love to work with him someday.