Tao Ruspoli’s feature debut Fix was clearly a labor of love for all involved. Shot over 18 days on a small budget primarily with a handheld camera, it features Ruspoli himself as the person behind the camera documenting a trip to get his brother Leo out of prison and into rehab before 8pm. If they don’t reach their destination, Leo will spend three years in prison. It is based on a real day in Ruspoli’s life where he had to do the exact same thing for his brother (named Meo in real life), only in the film his brother is played to strung-out perfection by Shawn Andrews (Dazed and Confused) and Ruspoli’s girlfriend is played by his real-life wife Olivia Wilde (Thirteen on TV’s “House,” upcoming Tron Legacy).
We sat down for an exclusive chat with Olivia about the adventure of making this energetic little film.
ComingSoon.net: Your husband said that you only knew each other for six months before you got hitched, but it took four years to commit to making a film together. Was it really as dramatic a commitment as he made it out to be?
Olivia Wilde: You know, I think it’s scarier in anticipation than it is in reality. Most people would say they wouldn’t want to work with their romantic partner. In the end it’s kind of a great experience to work on something creative with someone you really respect and admire, and with whom you have a great flow of communication. Especially if you’ve been with someone for a number of years, you hardly have to say anything and they know what you mean, what you need, what you want, what you don’t like. That speeds up the process of making choices. We were really lucky in that we share aesthetic tastes in many ways. We have a similar vision for the film. I’m very close to Tao’s little brother who the film is based on, his real name is Meo. I think it made a difference that I was familiar with the real story and I had a lot of personal investment in it becoming the great film that we wanted it to be. We came up with the idea together. Tao and I had wanted to make a film together for a long time. We kept saying, “What’s our story going to be, what should we do? Who’s a really interesting person we know? We know so many wacky people,” and I thought, “God, you know your brother… just spending one day with your brother is like a movie.” He said, “Yeah, it’s true!” I said, “Is there any one day that you remember with him that was, like, crazy?” And that was the story that “Fix” is based on. They added my character just for dramatic purposes.
CS: That and it’s good to have an A-List actress on hand, part of your palette.
Wilde: (laughs) Yeah, throw it in! It was kind of cool to be there for its conception, be there for its premiere, and watch everything that happens in-between. I really thought I knew what needed to happen for a film to be born but its much more difficult than I imagined.
CS: How close was Shawn’s portrayal to Meo?
Wilde: It was so fascinating to watch because Shawn studied Meo as much as he could. He hung out with him, watched a lot of footage. Tao is a documentarian of everyday life all the time. We could name any day in the days we’ve been together he could probably show you footage and pictures of that day.
CS: He’s just a compulsively creative person?
Wilde: Yes, compulsively creative and just likes to document. It’s so different from me, I have no pictures of anything that’s happened to me except when Tao was there. Because of that we have endless amounts of footage for Shawn to watch. He did that, and came away from it saying, “I don’t want to mimic. I think I’ve got to boil it down to what I think makes him tick and create something new.” He did. He created someone very different from the real person. Equally fascinating in many different ways, and brought with him a sense of humor and play and fun that the real brother has and turned it into a very different character. That’s what a real artist does. It’s great when actors can be great mimics but also when they can create something original.
CS: It’s also an advantage that the audience isn’t familiar with Meo so Shawn has that liberty.
Wilde: Yeah, and he’s such a complex person that I don’t think the greatest mimic in the world could copy him anyway!
CS: Shawn has a kind of wired energy.
Wilde: I think it’s probably the most accurate portrayal of an addict that I’ve seen. A lot of times in films you see, particularly heroin addicts, portrayed as very heroin chic in the Calvin Klein sense, kind of lazy ways. “Trainspotting” was great too because Ewan McGregor also portrayed that wired desperation and A.D.D. energy, unbridled, wacky ups and downs. It’s not easy to play, and I have respect for any actor including Shawn who can pull it off well.
CS: I saw Meo’s picture in the press notes. Is that him appearing briefly as one of the biker people?
Wilde: He is one of the biker people, the blonde! (laughs) He has a three-second cameo.
CS: Shawn hands him some money.
Wilde: Yes! I think it’s great that he has his cameo. It’s cool.
CS: You guys were shooting unconventionally, on weekends.
Wilde: Yes, no hair and make-up, no trailers.
CS: You had one production vehicle?
Wilde: We had what was then nicknamed “The Gam” and then it became “The Fixmobile.” It is a 1975 GMC RV and it is pretty frickin’ cool. It’s all original ’70s interior. The editor was in the back editing WHILE we were shooting. It was pretty wild.
CS: Was it a little bit like Francis Coppola’s “Silverfish” that he used to shoot out of?
Wilde: Oh yeah, The Silverfish… probably not as nice! (laughs) It definitely had a great energy to it. It would follow whatever car we were shooting in at the time. We shot a lot of the movie in the Impala that had no air conditioning. In order to capture the sound we had to roll up the windows so we were all at 120-degrees for most of the movie, trying not to look too sweaty on film but of course we had no hair and make-up and no monitors or playback so it was a leap of faith every time we shot something.
CS: That’s good, though, we can sense that. With things being shot in HD now the audience has more of a bullsh*t meter and can tell when something is trying to be vérité but looks a little too primmed and primped.
Wilde: Yeah, and they can sense, “Wait, why did her make-up get magically retouched for this shot?” Ironically… (laughs)… I was shooting seven-days-a-week the whole time because I would shoot “House” during the week and then “Fix” on the weekends, and because I was sleeping so little and stressed trying to make it work I had this BREAKOUT on my skin. Normally on a production they say, “Oh we’ll cover it up, we’ll fix it in post.” Not on “Fix.” My husband was like, “This is fantastic! I’m so happy! I hope you stay with a lot of acne the whole movie!” I was like, “What are you talking about? You’re my husband, you’re supposed to make me look beautiful!” He’s like, “No this is great! The character should have this flaw. I’m gonna try to feature it!” So only on your husband’s movie do you get that. Apparently I stayed in a constant state of exhaustion and stress for the entire shooting schedule because magically there was continuity in acne.
CS: You were shooting with some real-life people?
Wilde: The scene in Watts, which is my favorite scene in the film, there are no actors other than the main characters.
CS: Was that kind of a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment?
Wilde: Oh yeah, yeah. It’s so amazing. They were so amazingly hospitable. This community that does not allow cameras, not to mention outsiders, into their community… Not only did they welcome us and invite us to their barbeque and let us film, they also became creatively involved and wanted to improvise with their characters. We’d give them certain plotlines we were trying to carry through that scene, that we were trying to sell this pot to get money for rehab. It was such a wonderful LA moment that these new friends we made in Watts were suddenly picking up the plotline and running with it. They were so natural. It made me think of De Sica and “Bicycle Thieves,” one of my favorite films that was made with no actors. You can feel the sincere portrayal of these characters who were not far from who these people really were. You could see it in the lines in their face. Had we tried to fake the Watts scene, like many other scenes in the film, it would have been a disaster.
CS: What was your favorite single shot in the film?
Wilde: The little boy throwing the basketball. There’s a four-second shot, most people don’t notice it, where this 3-foot little boy is trying to throw a basketball and he’s never going to make it. It breaks my heart every time I see it.
CS: Some kind of metaphor, maybe?
Fix opens in New York on Friday, November 20.