It's not often that you interview a writer or director and they say they're not a very good writer or director. Sure, many crack jokes in a self-deprecating way, but that's not what Quentin Dupieux does in the below interview. He's refreshingly candid about the extent of his skills, but it's important to understand that none of this makes him a bad filmmaker. It's just him acknowledging that he doesn't have the patience or the technical prowess it takes to be a traditional Hollywood director.
That's perhaps to be expected from the man who gave the world Rubber, a movie about a sentient tire that kills people with psychic powers. His second film is Wrong, and while its premise about one man's increasingly weird search for his missing dog might not be as intentionally and overtly strange as Rubber, it has all the hallmarks of Dupieux' wonderfully different style of filmmaking. It's the kind of beautifully bizarre movie that seems to exist in a universe parallel to our own. One where, for example, it's not that strange if a detective (Eastbound & Down's Steve Little) has a machine to scan the memories of a dog's most recent poop.
Ahead of Wrong's theatrical release today (it's also on VOD everywhere), we sat down with Dupieux to talk about his process, about what it's like making movies that are outside the mainstream, and whether or not he has any intentions of attempting to break into the larger world of Hollywood.
Movies.com: Is it hard to find success, or even access, as a uniquely creative filmmaker versus a more commercial one?
Quentin Dupieux: I don't even know if I can talk about being a success. The way I see it, since my movies don't cost much, I feel more like a free element. I think I'm doing a different job than 99% of the others. I'm a little bit connected to the industry, because then we have to make the poster and sell the movie and promote it, so that's the part where I'm connected. But when I'm just writing or shooting or editing, I'm like a kid playing with my skills and that's it.
My producer is a very good friend and we work together. Most of the time it's just trying to make the best movie from only my point of view. If you did a test screening of one of my movies, if you had 300 people in a room giving notes, it'd be a nightmare because everyone sees something different.
Movies.com: Have you ever done that just as an experiment?
Dupieux: No, no, I'm too scared of that. The only thing I can say is that I feel lucky to be able to do this. I honestly think I'm a bad writer, so I transform this bad writing thing into something good. Instead of trying to learn the science of a script, instead of trying to watch 300 movies to understand where you need to be with a character after 35 minutes -- I just don't give a sh*t.
I did the same with music, basically. I'm not a musician. When looking at a keyboard, I don't understand the keyboard, I'm just trying to find something with my ears. I do the same thing with script writing.
Movies.com: How close does your final film resemble what was in the script?
Dupieux: This time it's honestly like 99% of the movie is exactly what was scripted, which is weird. Watching this you'd think, oh, this is crazy, they must have improvised. Like with the beach dream thing. You'd think it was something we figured out after, but no, that was scripted, which is weird, but when you have a strong feeling about a script... that's what happened with this one. I just had a gut feeling and wrote it without thinking, then you're on the set and you have to think about so many stupid things that you can get lost very quickly. Even if the script is simple, you have so many people asking you dumb questions. "Do you like this keychain?" "Yeah, yeah, it's fine." Things like that complicate days, but it's like that on every set.
Now that I've shot four movies in the U.S., usually what I do is... I get confused very quickly on the set I decide to trust the script. I don't care about what other people say, so if they say "Are you sure this scene is great?" I say, "I don't give a sh*t, the script is solid." Because when I wrote it, I was alone with my brain fully focused. When I try to bring new elements or rewrite a scene on the set, it's usually less good, because you're in a rush and you think you've got, but you don't because you don't have time to think about the entire film.
Movies.com: Since Rubber can be so easily identified and pitched as "that killer-tire movie," did you feel a pressure to make Wrong have some kind of similar, instant hook to it?
Dupieux: No, but now that [Rubber] has been quite successful, it's easy to say that about it. Back in the day, though, when we were trying to get financing, I can tell you the plot was not call. "Hi, we want to make a movie about a killer tire." Everybody was laughing at us. Everybody.
So it's hard to tell. Before Cannes, before we screened Rubber, I can tell you that plot was hard to sell. It sounded too stupid and too much like a joke or a short film, and this time I think it is the same. If you tell the story, it sounds like a bad movie. It's sort of a curse because I write this way. I don't think I can produce a film with a precise plot. It's impossible.
Movies.com: Do you have any interest in taking someone else's meticulously plotted script and directing it? Or would you rather stick in your own world?
Dupieux: Honestly, I think I'm not a good director. I think the only reason I'm "good" is because I'm doing my own thing. I'm not a good technician. I'm lazy. I don't want to spend like two years on a movie. That's something I can't do. I'd like to be more open to that work, and it sounds stupid, but I'm too much like an artist. I need to be inspired. If I can do it quick. Like when I wrote this, I needed to shoot it right away, and we tried to find solutions to make it happen. It has to be something quick, like a painting. If you keep it in a closet, then you have to rewrite it, you have to make it different, then you ask yourself dumb questions. So I like the idea of me directing a very good script, but I know I'm not the good one for that, and I know someone else will make a better movie with the same script.
Movies.com: Have you ever met with a Hollywood studio about doing something like that?
Dupieux: No, and I have to say, I live in Hollywood, but I'm only there for the actors. It's like an endless flow. You can find new people every day, it's just crazy. There's a lot of talent. It's just a different world of filmmaking, and I think because I'm not trying to be the next big young director in Hollywood, that it works for me. It's interesting because I think if I was shooting this in Belgium, there is nothing special about it, and then you're just making movies for a small country only. But in America, making this kind of movie, bringing this European brain here with some American codes, I think there's something strong about that.
Luis Buñuel, the Spanish director, in the '70s he made eight or 10 movies in France using French English and I think he did his best work in France. He was great before, but what he did in his French period were masterpieces. I'm just saying that instead of trying to fit the industry... nobody needs me. There are tons of directors ready to get the check and make whatever those people want, to make those big movies and commercials. There's a queue, there's a waiting list for that and I have no interest in that, or even making movie. I have more interest in creating.
I think we need movies like this. I as a viewer like to watch bullsh*t. I like to watch some sh*tty action movies on the big screen. I like it! But I think we need this space. I like the idea of a movie still being art, even if that sounds stupid. In the '60s it was more of an art form, but these days it's more about famous actors and loud music and special effects, so I'd like to keep that art form.
Movies.com: Are you trying to build your career to the point where you can recruit big name actors in the hopes of luring in a certain sect of unsuspecting audience?
Dupieux: Yeah, yeah, that's almost my goal, you could say. Of course I want to spread this to a wider audience, and of course actors are the best way to connect movies to a world. That's basically what I'm doing. For example, for Wrong Cops, it's not a big actor but it's still a big name. [Marilyn] Manson contacted me. He wrote me an e-mail, just as a fan of Rubber. He watched it 100 times and was showing it to friends every day. He was obsessed with Rubber.
It's coming. Of course, I'm attracting the weirdos. I've become good friends with [Eric] Wareheim of Tim and Eric's. He's in Wrong Cops, he's also in the other one I shot in 2012, Reality. But we'll see. Think about that movie with, I don't know, Bruce Willis. It'd be... interesting.
Wrong is currently available on VOD everywhere and is now in theaters around the country. Check the Drafthouse Films website for a list of where you can catch it.
Follow along on Twitter: @PeterSHall and @Moviesdotcom.