There are very few films that have had an impact on those who’ve seen it then Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, first at Cannes and then at Fantastic Fest a few months later. The reaction wasn’t always positive, but it was a movie that was very hard to forget since it was so uniquely original.
While it must have been a tough act to follow, what Dupieux–known among musical circles as electronic recording artist Mr. Oizo (pronounced “wazo”)–came up with was Wrong, an equally odd comic tale starring Jack Plotnick (“Reno 911”) as Dolph Springer, a man who wakes up one day to find his dog Paul is missing. In trying to find Paul, Dolph goes on a journey that puts him into contact with all sorts of eccentric characters including one Master Chang (played by William Fichtner), a pet detective (Steve Little from “Eastbound & Down”), a French-Mexican gardener, and the pizza parlor phone girl (Alexis Dziena) who sleeps with the gardener thinking its Dolph.
Way back in January 2012, what seems like a lifetime ago, ComingSoon.net was at the Sundance Film Festival where Wrong premiered, and we took the opportunity to sit down with Dupieux to talk about his movie. (Incidentally, since this interview, Dupieux was back at Sundance this year with the follow-up to Wrong called Wrong Cops, and he’s already finished his next film Realité, although there’s no word when we may see either of those.)
ComingSoon.net: I know this is something you’d been thinking about when we spoke for “Rubber” which was last year? Or was it the year before? Quentin Dupieux: It was probably two years ago. I don’t know. I’m still confused.
CS: I know, it’s all blending together with how time flies. So did this just come out of an idea of a guy who lost his dog and you worked things out from there? Dupieux The first idea was to make something about an empty space, like something missing. Usually, I just pick up the good ideas, I don’t know how. I just have this good filter. I see ideas and I pick up the good ones, so I tried to write a few scenes about this guy missing his dog and it felt great. I was excited about it, so I decided to keep on (going). That’s how I work. I usually start with a blank page, “Okay, let’s go. This,” and then after five pages, I’ll keep it somewhere but this time, it was like I wrote it from A to Z.
CS: Just sat down and wrote it from beginning to end? Dupieux I’ve been changing stuff, of course, but I did it in a month, it just came out.
CS: You’ve been doing movies and short films for a long time and they’re very visual so as you write, do you start drawing out ideas? There are quite a number of striking visuals in the film, just like in rubber. Dupieux That’s just the inspiration on the set. I never plan anything and because I’m shooting with this small camera and no lights, I have time on the set, so I can go “Okay, we’re shooting here, what’s the best angle? What’s the best way to make this scene?” I do everything on the set, but when I was doing short films and promos, I used to draw of course, to prepare myself, but now I don’t want to say that I’ve done a lot of stuff because I’m young and this is only my third movie, but now this side of the job comes naturally. I’m more worried and give more time to the actors. I love to work with the actors, I love to talk with them, because I know that the camera is something that I will find, I’m not worried about the camera.
CS: You do your own cinematography too. Dupieux Yeah, yeah, that’s part of the job for me. No, not the job, the joy. I have to do it myself and the best thing is when I’m shooting, nobody sees what I’m shooting. We don’t have a monitor, we don’t have any other screen. I’m the only one viewing the movie while we’re shooting, which creates something really interesting, because I used to do commercials and also my first feature film, we had the classic set up, like 35 (mm) camera with video monitor and ten people watching the video, and this creates let’s say an embarrassing situation because while you’re trying to find something, you know a lot of people are watching you, and they’re just waiting, watching, so it’s a bit like being naked, so now I think I’m getting better as a director, because nobody watches me.
CS: I find that interesting because there was less time between “Rubber” and this movie than there was between your first movie and “Rubber.” Dupieux I’m going to speed things up.
CS: But it’s amazing to me that you’ve also finished albums in between, because it takes a long time to make music as well. Dupieux Yeah, yeah.
CS: So are you just a workaholic that you have to be working all the time? Dupieux But you know what? I also have time to chill, and I’m not working that much. I just decided to do it this way. For example, after months of writing, you can decide, “Okay, I’m going to give it to someone else, ask for some advice, rewrite stuff, trying to make it perfect.” The thing is that you realize that perfection isn’t that interesting, I decided, “Okay, I wrote it, I should keep it like this, because it’s good like this.” Of course, I can make it better, I can try and work three more months on it to make it better, better, but what’s the point? I like it like this. Let’s do it.
CS: Is it easier to get financing now after “Rubber” because people can understand your vision and what you want to do? Dupieux Yeah, well let’s recreate the story: My first feature was a flop, so it had been quite difficult to do another movie after this one, after “Steak” but then my friend Gregory Bernard, producer of “Rubber” and “Wrong,” he just found some money and said, “Okay let’s do Rubber’ ” and we had a very small amount of time to do it, but that was part of the excitement. Okay, let’s do a movie in twelve days, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, you know?
CS: Twelve days, that’s pretty amazing. Dupieux Yeah, that’s how we did it and now, I have to say I’m addicted to this. To me, the idea of working three years on a movie is a nightmare. A nightmare.
CS: You have some bigger name actors in this including William Fichtner and Alexis Dziena who we’ve seen in quite a few movies. How did you go after them and had any of them seen “Rubber” and knew going in your style of filmmaking? Dupieux It was different for everyone. For example, Bill who plays Mr. Chang, never heard about me. His agent just sent him the script and he just loved the script without knowing anything about me. I’m quite proud of it, because I’m pretty sure that he receives a lot of scripts.
CS: I’m sure. He’s a busy guy. Dupieux Yeah, and I think Alexis knew “Rubber” or maybe just the trailers, and I also think she knew my music and she also loved the script.
CS: Mr. Chang is a pretty specific character and I’m not sure that anyone besides Bill could have pulled that off. Dupieux I know. I’ve been lucky. We knew we needed someone with a big charisma like this for Mr. Chang so I’ve been super-lucky to get Bill.
CS: What about Jack Plotnick? Dupieux He’s just a genius. He was in “Rubber” and I knew when we did “Rubber” I had to do more with him. In “Rubber” he had two or three scenes and this scene where he dies, just pure genius. He’s dying for three minutes. And then working with him was such a joy. The communication between us was so perfect that I knew I had to give him the first part, so I wrote it for him. “Wrong” has been written for Jack.
CS: Your movies have a very deliberate pace and the dialogue is delivered in a specific way, so is it hard to explain to actors like Bill and Alexis that there’s a very specific way you want the dialogue delivered? Dupieux No. Strangely, they all get it, probably because we just met. I think the script speaks for itself. What you saw on screen is exactly no improv. We just shot the script, so I think they just got it.
CS: But it has to be delivered in a specific way. Some of the lines only work because they’re delivered in such a deadpan way. Dupieux I know, I know. I think my script must have some kind of rules and when you read it, you know how it has to be. For example, Bill told me that he loved the part, he loved the script, but he knew he had to find something special for the character so he came up with this crazy strange Indian-German accent, which suddenly creates the character, so I guess this comes from the stupid gag is that he’s named Master Chang and he’s a white dude. So I think for this point, Bill must have thought “Okay, I need to create something.” Honestly, they’re all perfect in the movie. I think they’re all perfect in the tone, so I guess I’m getting good at directing actors because I don’t see anything in this movie they’re all tuned.
CS: Yeah, it does seem like they’re all on board. With these movies, you’re definitely working outside reality although there are semblances of real situations. Even sight gags like the clock changing from 7:59 to 7:60, we’re seeing a normal world that’s outside reality. Dupieux I have to say that reality is fantastic and I don’t see the point of shooting reality on screen unless you have something you want to tell to the world. Like for example, something terrible happened to you and you need to share this experience with the world, that’s fine, so let’s do it and let’s try to be realistic. I understand this but my vision, when I go to the movies, I just want to be somewhere else. It should be like a trip and it doesn’t have to be crazy but just for example, let’s say even if I hate “Pirates” movies when you watch a pirate movie, you’re in a different world. I think movies should be like this or if someone needs to share something, like a personal experience, and put it on screen, that’s fine with me, but trying to reproduce the reality, I think there’s no point. To me, the best movie ever is a dream, something where you don’t understand everything but you feel something, because that’s the power of dreams. When you suddenly wake up and you’ve been through something you don’t understand, but you were feeling different stuff from real life.
CS: It’s funny you should say that because I have some pretty crazy dreams and if I’m watching a movie and it’s not as interesting as my dreams, I figure I’d be better off at home sleeping. Dupieux (laughs) I’m with you. Totally with you.
CS: The last time we talked about music since that’s obviously a big part of you life and you mentioned you weren’t really comfortable doing the score for “Rubber” so you collaborated with someone. For the score for “Wrong” you collaborated with someone else named “Tahiti Boy.” How did you find that guy and how did you approach the music differently this time? Dupieux That’s really funny. I was editing the movie, I was finishing editing, so obviously when I edit the movie I need music, because sometimes you’re stuck. You can’t edit without the music because it makes no sense, so I had to do it myself. Basically I did the whole movie, the first version of the editing, was covered with a few demos I did, so I did first all the music myself, but then I knew that it was too much like wanking, because I wrote it, directed it, shot it, edited it. I knew that I needed some kind of input from somewhere and then I was giving away my old analog equipment on Twitter. I was moving and we were changing flats in Paris and because now I’m making music on the computer, I just found all these old great drum machines, but I had like five of them and they were there for nothing because I would never use them again. I’ve been excited by these drum machines like ten years ago, but now they don’t mean anything to me and I thought, “This is sad having these great drum machines for nothing.” They were covered with dust, so I said, “Okay, I’m going to give them away on Twitter” so I just said, “Hey guys. I have like the 808, 909, 606 and they’re for free. Who wants them?” Randomly, I picked some guys and I gave away my drum machines and I found this guy I knew from another friend and he said “Yeah, you should give him the 808” which is the best. The friend told me “This guy is great. Give it to him because he will use it, he will make music with it.” I had this meeting with this guy, he’s in Paris, and I made an appointment, “Yeah come and meet me at this café at 2:00 tomorrow.” The guy comes and I’m with the drum machine in the bag and then we talk a bit and then two days later I’m like, “This guy should do the soundtrack” randomly, because the feeling was nice and we had a good conversation and I knew he was the right guy. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. I just had a very good feeling with this guy and I was right. He started working on the soundtrack and he did a great job.
CS: I get the impression you’re someone who does a lot by instinct. You get the idea for something and you go for it. Dupieux Yeah.
CS: Since you’re doing so much by yourself, do you ever do something and wonder “Maybe this is too crazy and I need to tone that back”? Do you ever question what you’re doing or do you decide “That’s what I’m doing.” Dupieux No, I mean I started shooting short films when I was 15, so I know when I’m doing something good. I don’t know why but I know it and when I’m confused, I can talk with the actors, with my producer, and we find a solution very quickly but usually, for no reason, I know this is good. And to answer your question, they trust me because when you know something and feel good about something, everybody trusts you.
CS: As a filmmaker, how important is commercial success to what you do? Dupieux That’s the only thing. I just want to be able to make another one and another one and another one, so like I said, my first movie was a flop.
CS: What do you consider a flop? That no one was able to see it? Dupieux No, because it was like a real movie in the industry. It cost a lot of money and so the distribution had big expectations for the release in France and nobody liked the movie, so that was a problem. If you know my story and my music, I did this stupid hit at the end of the 90s, “Flat Beat” with the Flat Eric doll and I directed the Levi’s commercial, too, and that was huge. In Europe, we sold three million copies of the record, we sold some puppets. I had this experience so the only thing I’m looking for is that I want to be able to do more movies. Of course, if “Wrong” tomorrow is a huge success and everybody loves it, I would be very happy, but I’m not looking for this.
CS: Are you going to release a soundtrack for “Wrong” as well? Dupieux Yeah, it’s done, it’s done.
CS: Are you going to wait for a theatrical release to put it out? Dupieux Exactly. We will try to put it out a month before the movie release, but it’s done but we did it with the David, Tahiti Boy, the same guy, so we just transformed the soundtrack into a record, just like with “Rubber.”
Wrong opens in select cities on Friday, March 29, following its run on Video on Demand. You can see where it’s playing theatrically (and download that soundtrack) on the Official Site.