I’ve never had occasion to talk with an actual movie star before, so I was thrilled (and fairly intimidated) to get the opportunity to lob some questions at John C. Reilly, who, of course, stars in Jay and Mark Duplass’s much-discussed new feature, “Cyrus.”
“Cyrus” has yet to play in Madison—I’m looking at you, Orpheum and Sundance—but I’ve read a fair amount of hype for the film and am eager to see how the Duplass brothers’ style has evolved with a bigger budget ($7 million, according to Wikipedia), wider distribution (courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures) and a cast of known entities (Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener) at its disposal.
I should apologize to the other journalists with whom I shared the interviewing time; I was unfamiliar with the format of the conference call and just kinda asked all of my questions in one fell swoop. My bust.
I asked Reilly whether he was familiar with the Duplass brothers’ films before he agreed to collaborate with them on “Cyrus.” He said he’d seen “The Puffy Chair” and his wife, an independent film producer, had met them at a film festival.
If his demeanor during the call is any indication, he felt the Duplasses’ “honest” approach to storytelling suited his off-screen personality especially well. Indeed, when another journalist asked where Reilly drew inspiration for his character, John, he replied “my own life.” Reilly said he more or less identified with John and would react to many of the bizarre situations he encounters in the same way.
Reilly said that what most surprised him about working with the brothers Duplass was their on-set bravery, their on-the-fly-ness and their willingness to deviate from their own script freely and often. He said that none of the film was rehearsed and that the whole thing was shot in order; the Duplasses told him they wanted to change the story to suit the developing dynamics between him, Hill and Tomei.
Although these methods might easily be called unusual (at least as far as American cinema with big-name movie stars is concerned), Reilly said his preparation for the role wasn’t exactly unconventional. Rather, he said he prepared in a private, entirely personalized way—which makes perfect sense for someone who came to think he was playing a variation of himself.
Regarding his experience working with the Duplasses and Hill, Reilly said he learned that “just because you’re uncomfortable doesn’t mean things aren’t going well.” With “Cyrus,” the Duplasses aimed to harness this awkward energy and translate it into something painfully true to life.
Finally, I asked Reilly whether he felt that the Duplasses’ naturalistic, mock-cinéma vérité style has a future in mainstream cinema (i.e. Hollywood). Reilly said it’ll largely depend on the sort of numbers “Cyrus” does at the box office; he also said that “all movies have their audience” and that the Duplasses’ “truthful,” “honest” cinema will always be in-demand.
The words “honesty” and “truthfulness” recurred throughout the conversation. It’s clear that in “Cyrus” the Duplasses and their collaborators sought to keep art’s inherent artifice to a minimum. Hopefully Madison audiences will get a chance to see the results sooner rather than later.
Many thanks to John C. Reilly for talking with me and to all those who made the interview possible.