Quentin Dupieux has dabbled in a great many things over his years in media, be it music, movies, or shorts. With his new movie Wrong Cops coming to select screening December 20th he took the time to sit down with us in Los Angeles to let us inside his head and pick his brain about challenge, working with Marilyn Manson, and how his new short became a full on movie.
Where did you get the inspiration for this movie, where did it come from?
Inspiration is everywhere, like I always say. You can’t really decide where. You can’t just go in to a zone in your brain and try to find ideas, because that is not the way that it works. Usually ideas come to you. If you are open to the writing process, usually you don’t need to think about it. The good ideas just arrive. You are doing something else and (snaps fingers) O this is funny I should write this. Usually I am not, like, thinking. I am not trying to write. That’s my writing method. I trust my instinct first. Usually I don’t have to think about it. Ideas come to me.
When you are doing a production like this, what is the most challenging aspect of film making that you actually come across.
Let’s say it’s challenging on many levels. First, I have to deal with something really strange, sometimes, for example, that was the first time working with Eric Wareheim. We knew each other a little bit but that was the first time working with him. So the weird thing is Eric arrives at the set at 8:00 and at 8:30 we are fast and have to shoot quickly because obviously I think we shot this movie in 17 days, so we have to shoot allot to get everything done so Eric arrives on the set, and we don’t know each other well, and after 30 mins of prep we have to shot, and that is weird. Let’s say that’s challenging, every first day for an actor, we have to find a connection, we are not robots. Especially when I work with someone I really like as an artist. Eric Wareheim is a good example because I really respect him. I love what he does, so when he arrives on the set, that’s a challenge. Make sure we gonna shoot good stuff, even if we do not know each other well. Then on the second day it goes perfect and everything goes easier. That’s the first challenge I think.
The other one, which I like, because that is something I really like to deal with is the short amount of time we have. We have 5 things to shoot today and we are going to jump in to 3 locations. This is the way I like to work because I hate to be waiting on the set that’s why I am not using any artificial lights, that’s why I am operating a camera myself. Just because this way we are always shooting shooting shooting, and that’s more fun. I am just like a stupid kid. I want to spend more time playing with toys. But that’s not the real challenge because that is what I do every time I shoot a movie. I never had like three months to shoot a movie. It’s always around 20 days, 22, 15 for rubber. And then another challenge on a movie like this, on Wrong Cops especially, because the script was written very quickly and that was the idea behind it, I wanted to do something fresh without polishing the script, without thinking too much about it. So that is another challenge, is to make sure we are not filming shit. Because when you write a script in 3 weeks, everything in not perfect, some dialog is not very good. Some things are useless, and during the shoot, time is precious, you have to make sure you are not spending five hours on a bad scene. So that’s I think that is the biggest challenge on a movie like this, because you can lose so much time doing something that you won’t use, after you edit. That’s the biggest challenge.
I think that it is a very different process than normal movies. You have time to shoot, you have time to reshoot. You just follow the script, because it has been written by five guys and they have been thinking about it, so you trust in the script. On a case like this you have to be super carful because time is so important. It’s better to spend two hours on a good joke, than two hours on a car driving for example. Sometime you have to get rid of a scene. We don’t have time for this and it’s not funny and I am not going to use it. It’s a little tricky but I love to work like this because I love this time limit the money limit. Usually I get more creative when I am doing this. Like something is written and production says we can’t afford this location, we can’t afford this stunt or whatever, so I have to come up with a new idea to make something. To find something cheap or quick.
So kind of touching back on the challenge aspect which I find interesting, so when you are working with these films, challenge and self-challenge is a big thing for you correct?
Yea, that’s where basically where I found the good energy, it’s a different job. That’s why I don’t like calling myself a director because that’s a different job. I am supposed to call this a movie but to me it’s not what we call a movie. It’s more like, even if it’s stupid and full of jokes and not serious at all, it’s more like an artistic experience. And even if it looks like a movie, there is like some story line and some characters, it’s not really, because the way that its done is so different, to me it’s not a movie.
Usually you don’t go out shooting when the script is not perfect. I mean no body does that any more. I am just excited like this. If you say to me you have 20 million, and you are going to shoot in four years, write the script, I am won’t do anything, because that’s not exciting. To project myself in four years, I am bored already. I rather shoot for a little bit of money, and shoot very quick and soon.
How difficult was it to assemble the cast?
There is like different type of actors in this movie. For example you have Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie these people we just offer the parts. So we just send the script to their agent, and basically say we have no money but we just need you for a day or two. Would you do it? When they like the script, they come. Just like Will Fichtner, came on my movie Wrong. He just enjoyed the script and said I love it lets do it. As easy as that. And for the smaller cast, I have this great casting director, Donna Morong, she tapes like 20 or 30 people per roll, and I just watch everything carefully, and I usually find gold. For example , Mark the lead cop, Mark Burnham, he was casted for the previous movie, Wrong, and he was here for just two days for the small cop scene. He was the same character in the other movie. That’s the guy you find, you watch 20 cops trying to be cops and trying to you know. And you’re like ok ok ok next next next and then suddenly boom, there’s like this guy and he’s so strong and even with a bad video camera and a green wall, he’s incredible and you feel like watching a movie. That’s basically how I do it.
Casting sessions are super hard, because the sound is terrible, the image looks like shit, the actor is not dressed, the lighting is terrible. Everything is Terrible, there is no location and there is only a wall behind them. So it is the worst version of your script, and when it’s bad it is really bad. It looks like the worst movie every, but when the actor is really good, someone like mark for example, in this session. Suddenly you don’t care about the image, you don’t care the sound, you don’t care about anything because the guy is super strong and he is already the movie. Usually when I find someone like this, I know he is the one and he is better than the others because there is no competition. Because it’s boring to watch casting sessions. It is usually painful because like I said, not because of the actors of course, just because it’s like a bad version of your dream. You think movie, you want it to do go, you want to go to nice locations and you watch the scene with really bad you know, everything is bad about it. I love to bring back some people I already know. For example, Steve Little, he was in my movie Wrong too, he was the detective. The first time I work with an actor is nice and we are trying to find a connection, but then the actor comes back on the next movie, it works instantly. From the first minute we have a connection and everything is perfect. That’s why I like to find good actors that work and like the way that I work. That’s half of the job that’s done. When you know an actor, when he knows you, and he likes your stuff, when you love to see them on screen. That’s half the preparation.
Talk about Marilyn Manson.
He’s good. The Manson thing is already acting. I know the guy in real life, and he’s not acting like a rock star he is just a guy like us. He’s actually really funny. He has some really good jokes. He is just a little crazy. He is special for sure. He has a brain that nobody has, but he is not the guy you see on stage obviously. To me that’s how I see it. I may be wrong, but to me the Manson thing he has been doing for 20 years or maybe 15 years. That’s acting, so he knows how to perform. I knew when we started to shoot this, I was of course a little anxious because we did not know each other very well. But I knew, we did the first shot and he was a character. He was not a guy trying to be a character or whatever.
And since then we have shot another thing together and he was the same. We just created a new character away from what we did away from the Manson thing. He is a really good actor. Honestly he’s like really surprising and talented and very good with improvisation. Usually I don’t like when actors improvise. There is like a tiny space in my movies for improvisation. Just because sometime, I don’t like the sound of it. You can recognize when it is improvised. When an actor goes on the ride and tries stuff, you can feel it’s not the same tone. You can feel it comes fresh out of the brain. It’s not the same vibe, but Manson is really good at it. To me he is a really good actor, and I am not saying that because he is a friend.
You mentioned improv and why you are not fond of it. With so many comedic talents on the film, I know American actors tend to be very open to improvisation, Is that a French thing.
No, sorry let me resay that. I don’t like improvisation when its verbal because my movies are written with precise dialogs. So when someone says something that they are not supposed to say, I don’t like it and usually I shut down the camera. Because to me it is not the movie it’s something else. But improvisation could be many other things. For example, Wareheim, a guy like Eric Wareheim is really good at finding funny stuff to do on location, without saying anything; body language, weird action, and weird behaviors. So I am not against this. I love this, I love to be surprised and I love to be filming and then boom something has happened and that was not planned. I don’t like when we go away from the script.
Having worked with someone like Manson, gave you a little bit of a different beast while filming, as he has had a kid and he is slowing down, do you feel that he will be more open to doing films, especially with you going forward.
Yea, yea, Like I said, we have already shot another piece together already. To me yes, he is totally into my world. Exactly like Steve Little, exactly like Eric Wareheim, all of these people. When I love someone I can make like 10 movies with Manson. I love the guy, and I love to see him on the screen. I think he is really good. For him, I know he did a really short beat in East Bound and Down, we saw him recently, he was doing a bartender.
I think he enjoys doing that. But then he also enjoyed with me, because it was like in a way easy. We are like a small crew so we are like a family. Even the crew, everyone knows each other. I think it was enjoyable for him, because nothing looked professional. I don’t know if you follow me. I can’t picture, knowing the guy, I can’t see him working on a huge motion picture, because I think he is going to get bored and hate everyone.
Wrong Cops used to be a short, can you talk about the transition to becoming a feature.
Super easy, we did what we call a Chapter one, but now in the movie, you saw it, Chapter one is almost gone, I just kept like 20% of it. It was supposed to be a promotion for my new album coming out and because I really don’t like music videos. I used to do some ten years ago. That’s not something interested in, new music videos, that’s not something I like. So I decided to do something different. So I wrote this what we call a short film around my music and Manson contacted me because he enjoyed Rubber so much he wanted to work with me. So I wrote this part for him and suddenly I have this 15 minute short film about music, so we did it in three days. I think we loved it so much and we had a great response online, so we decided to do more. So this was like a chapter I decided to write six other chapters.
The idea was to do like Monday, Tuesday, and until Sunday. That’s how I wrote it, but when I put everything together like this, how it was written, it was not really good. It was a little bit boring. It was more like watching seven short films. It was not really intense, some things were great, but the movie was not working as a movie, so I went back in to the editing room and I spend 20 more days. I reshuffled everything, and I tried different combinations to make it more into a movie because the idea of the mini-series was not really working in a cinema and the idea was to put it in a cinema.
We would like to thank Quentin for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk with us and give us an interesting insight into his world of movie making. You can catch Wrong Cops December 20th in select Los Angeles and New York showings as well as later on VOD.