Director Jay Duplass: Jason Segel Is A Magical Person

11/09/2011 05:24 pm ET | Updated Jan 09, 2012
  • Jo Piazza Author of "If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission"

Director Jay Duplass and his brother, Mark, have met a lot of surprisingly philosophical stoners in their lifetime, so they figured it was about time to write and direct a movie about one.

The brothers Duplass first rose to prominence thanks to their independent features "Puffy Chair" and "Baghead." Then came their critically acclaimed fim "Cyrus," starring Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei.

The directing duo's next project, "Jeff Who Lives at Home," follows a philosophizing slacker -- played by Jason Segel -- who still lives at home with his parents.

Jay Duplass chatted with The Huffington Post at the Savannah Film Festival and he found it hard to mask his unfettered admiration for Segal while talking about film budgets, "The Muppets," and whether or not Segel and Hill really sit around and smoke pot all the time.

Jason Segel seems like such a fun person. How was it working with him?

He's a magical person. He is genuinely a magical human being who gives you gold on every take. He has a great attitude and is a total pro. He does party and have a good time, but he shows up on set on time and just kills it.

Was he your first choice for Jeff in "Jeff Who Lives at Home"?

He was really the only person. He's goofy and he's really smart and he sees the world the way Mark and I do. He instantaneously got that Jeff was going to be really funny and really sad at the same time, and it wouldn't be a problem doing both at the same time.

Jeff is a smart guy who smokes a lot of pot on his parents' couch. What inspired you to write this character?

Our love of this kind of guy. We went to the University of Texas and knew so many of those guys who move laterally from academia to basements and efficiencies to ponder the depth of the universe and their role in it and wear cargo shorts and smoke pot. We think you first look at those dudes and you laugh and think they're stoners and slackers, but then you have breakfast with them and you realize they are incredibly hopeful, idealistic, caring people who are trying to do something strangely noble. The movie's not about a stoner, it's about a neo-philosopher who has to smoke pot to philosophize. I'm not saying there aren't stoners who play video games all day, but Jeff doesn't play video games.

You actually had serious financing for the film, which had to be a relief. Does it make it easier or harder to do what you guys do?

It was nice to not worry about shopping it at film festivals, which makes you get the flu and diarrhea. But it is actually more stressful in a way because our natural way of filming and acting is easier to get on small sets, when there are just seven people around. Having a publicity campaign and marketing helps. Unfortunately, the way our film industry works is people only see movies with famous people in them. Mark and I have spent a lot of time cultivating relationships with people who have seen our earlier work. Actors come to us and say, "I don't know what you're doing but I want to sleep on your floor and do it with you." We say "Great!" and take them to lunch to talk about how we can exploit them.

"The Muppets" had its first screening here in Savannah. I find it a little amazing that Jason spearheaded the movement to bring it back.

Jason personally re-upped that whole franchise. That's no easy task. It's like he just said, "I know it has been gone for decades, but I'm going to do it." He and Jonah [Hill] really are the two hardest working guys in the business. I'm in awe of them. People think they're just toking it up all the time but they're working constantly.

Who's on your dream team of actors?

The Streep. [As in Meryl Streep.] She is probably the greatest of all time. We have always been excited by Robert Downey Jr. and the unknown crazy inside him, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He actually saw one of our early short films and reached out to us, and that was a big moment for us -- that someone with talent actually recognizes what we're doing.

I know everyone must ask, but how is it working with your brother?

The simple answer is making a movie -- much less a decent movie -- is so freaking hard, and we have screwed so many of them up earlier in our lives that having someone who shares your sense of humor only helps make the movie. It's a massive task and most directors go crazy. They're nuts. They go nuts. I think they go nuts because it is too much for one person. ... It is not a humane job and with Mark and I doing it together we can share the burden.


Jay Duplass