French-born filmmaker Quentin Dupiex elicited quite a stir in 2010 with his low-budget “Rubber,” an absurdist horror comedy about a psychokinetic tire that roams the dusty American Southwest, exploding the heads of those who get in its way. His new film, “Wrong,” centers on a depressed suburban man (Jack Plotnick) who awakens one morning to find out that he’s lost the love of his life, his dog. His journey to find him quickly spirals into a surrealistic trek populated with bizarro characters. For ShockYa, Brent Simon recently had a chance to speak with Dupieux one-on-one, about the films he devoured growing up as a kid, “Wrong,” and the spin-off it inspired, which he’s finishing editing now. The conversation is excerpted below:
ShockYa: I was rather thunderstruck by the inventiveness of “Rubber.” You’ve done quite a bit of music as well, but was film something you were always into when you were younger?
Quentin Dupieux: Yes, I’ve been obsessed. When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with what we call now the B-movies — like any kind of dirty, weird and low-budget stuff, without knowing it was low-budget, of course. (laughs) I was renting movies and watching these kinds of movies all the time — as well as mainstream stuff like “Back to the Future,” like any normal teenager. But I was obsessed with some movies like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and I would try (to recreate) the same in my yard with my videocamera — like, by inviting some friends over, and trying to shoot scenes with ketchup (as blood), nice stuff like that. That was when I was 15 years old or so. And then a little later I got into writing stuff and shooting more structured short films.
ShockYa: When you talk about the films that you were obsessed with, like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” did you watch them 10, 15, 20 times?
QD: Yes, yes, yes, of course — but without trying to understand. I was not consciously looking at editing or framing or anything like that, I was just fascinated without even really knowing why, for some stupid reason. When you’re young when you see something that is maybe evil or forbidden, it’s pretty exciting. So I feel like I saw every movie from the 1980s, the good ones and the very bad ones. Like with ” A Nightmare on Elm Street,” the first one, I think I watched that 200 times.
ShockYa: I think one of the fascinating things about “Rubber” was the debate surrounding it. Almost as interesting as the movie itself was reading or listening to different takes or reads on it. How do you most broadly describe your films — meta-horror tales, comedic thrillers, or — ?
QD: To me they’re just comedies, but not in the current sense of what we call comedies these days. I’m just trying to have fun. And of course yes, my movies contain some other stuff, but my approach is most directly about comedy. I like to write funny scenes and make them work. I’m not trying to be too smart, even if I know that in the writing process sometimes I’m doing some more deep stuff, just because I think it should also be a part of comedy. To me, I’m a comedy man.
ShockYa: It occurs to me that with both “Rubber” and “Wrong” that there are scenes that you could take, break out and show in any given film class, [that] would stand alone as a short film. How do you process ideas — do you have a macro sense of the story you’re wanting to tell, or are you drawing from bits and scraps of maybe different notions you’ve had, if that makes sense?
QD: I know what you mean. Basically I have no method. It’s very stupid, but it’s something like painting — when I’m tired, writing comes by itself. I just write and feel inspired exactly like a painter. You just suddenly feel “it,” and then I have this vision about a scenes and everything works in my mind, which means I’m not thinking. I know I’m writing something good when I’m not thinking too much or trying to be smart, trying to be clever, trying to build a story. I know when something sounds good, and when something doesn’t… I don’t know how to explain this. It’s a very simple process. (laughs) Basically when I know something sounds good, I trust my instincts.
ShockYa: What do you make of man’s special relationship with dogs, which has popped up on FX’s “Wilfred” and also works its way into “Wrong” and informs it a little bit as a jumping-off point?
QD: I’m interested in dogs, but just in a very simple way. I always find it amusing to watch any kind of dog because I think they’re funny and almost like a very weird version of us. (laughs) I don’t have a dog, for example, [it] was just a random choice to write in the story for “Wrong.” I think the movie could have been the same with different missing element — the dog is missing here, but I think it could have been the same with something else.
ShockYa: What was the casting process like? You worked with Jack Plotnick previously.
QD: I basically wrote the main part for Jack, because when we did “Rubber” together I think he came only for three days because he had a very small part. I was blown away by his talent. The dying scene where he gets poisoned and is dying for like three minutes? He did exactly this during his casting session, a thing I watched on video. He was amazing just auditioning, and I knew this guy was a different animal — that he had something really special. So after “Rubber” I decided to write something for him because I knew he was a strong actor and it was incredible to work with him. So basically that’s what I’m doing. And so when we shot “Wrong” we had this slow scene with a cop, Mark Burnham, and during that process I loved him so much that I decided to write a movie for him, and it’s the one I’m editing right now, “Wrong Cops.” It’s just an entire movie about this cop character that you see in the beginning of “Wrong.”
NOTE: In advance of its theatrical release via Drafthouse Films, “Wrong” is now available on VOD via iTunes, Dish, DirecTV, Indemand, TVN and ATT.
Written by: Brent Simon