From writer/director Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Wrong), Wrong Cops chronicles a group of cops behaving badly, who are looking to dispose of a body that one of them accidentally shot. This bizarrely hilarious ensemble comedy features an eclectic cast that includes Mark Burnham, Steve Little, Eric Wareheim, Arden Myrin, Eric Judor, Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie and Marilyn Manson.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, filmmaker Quentin Dupieux talked about how he had the idea for Wrong Cops while watching Mark Burnham play his role in Wrong, why he thought there was enough there to develop a full movie around his character, how Marilyn Manson personally reached out to him, as a fan of his films, why he created this particular character for him, that he prefers to do fast-paced shoots with minimal lighting so that he doesn’t have to stop for set-ups, how he approaches working with actors, and how he enjoys having a group of really cool and talented actors that follow him from project to project. He also talked about the secret project that he’s since done with Marilyn Manson, that showed him what a strong actor he is. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: You had the idea for Wrong Cops while you were watching Mark Burnham play Officer Duke in Wrong. What was it about his character that made you not just want to develop a movie around him, but see enough of a story for a full movie?
QUENTIN DUPIEUX: Basically, I was in the process of shooting Wrong and it was a very precise mind-set. The world around Wrong was a little dreamy and out there in space. When Mark arrived and we shot the moments with him, it was a super different mood. He was so strong, being that ass and that terrible cop. It was so strong that it was already another movie. He’s really special. In Wrong, everything was a little spacey. It was a different galaxy and a different world, but Mark, this terrible cop, was really something. I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting. I want more of this.” So, the first thing I did was write another scene for Mark. He was only supposed to do the first scene, when he stops Jack Plotnick’s car, but I had been frustrated. I wanted more of him. I loved him, and his terrible vibe. I loved filming him. So, I wrote another quick scene with him and we shot it later, but that was not enough. And then, when I was editing Wrong, I had so much fun watching him, just because it was a different world that was out of the Wrong world. So, I decided to do something like that, just with this fucking stupid asshole guy. I thought Mark was doing that incredibly good. I was impressed by what he did, with the tone, the vibe, the cold eyes and the dead face. To me, there was no question that that character should have a movie.
Have you ever had that happen with any of your other films?
DUPIEUX: I have to say it’s always like that. When I shot the movie Rubber, that was my first time working with Jack Plotnick, and he was on the shoot for only three days. At one point, he poisons himself and he dies for three minutes. You see him getting poisoned and suffering and yelling, “Oh, fuck, it hurts!,” for three minutes, and that was the most intense moment on the shoot because Jack was just incredible. And I had the same feeling. It was a little different, but the idea was the same. I was like, “This guy is so strong, I should write more for him.” And then, I decided to write Wrong just for him. His performance was so amazing that I wanted more of it. Also, it’s always good to write for someone you like. It’s a different process, but basically that’s what I’m doing. When you know an actor and you like him, it’s a fantastic process to write for him. You can think about and know it’s going to be good because you know him. So, I do that a lot. And when I did Wrong, Steve Little came for this small detective part, and I just loved him. I wanted to see more of him, in a different character. I wanted to write something especially for him. I have to bring some new people every time, but I like to write for specific people.
Marilyn Manson is new to being in your films, but didn’t you write David Delores Frank for him?
Why did he initially decide to reach out to you?
DUPIEUX: I think Rubber was his favorite movie in 2010. He loved it a lot, and he wrote me this email saying how much he loved it. Just by reading that email, I knew the guy was really smart. Just by reading his email, I knew the connection was possible. And then, we met and I loved him, instantly. I just think he’s funny. His brain is really special, and he’s a real artist. He’s not a bullshitter. He’s what we call an artist. He’s painting, taking photos, making music and always thinking about new stuff. I love him. I love him for all of that. Before this, the music he is doing was not in my world. I’m more into black music and electronic music. So, when you look from the outside, you just see the crazy character. You just see skulls and death, and stuff like that, so you don’t know. But when you dig a little bit, you find a real artist. Honestly, he’s really strong, as an artist.
How did his character in Wrong Cops come about?
DUPIEUX: I think it’s a mix between two things. First, I thought it was funny to go to the opposite. On stage, he’s playing this dark, scary monster, and I thought it was funny to make him shy and fragile. That was the first idea. I wanted to revert the process and have him be the one who someone scares, and not the scary one. A real good artist is basically a grown-up kid, who never kills the kid. What we call being an adult is basically about killing the kid. People think you have to forget about the kid to become an adult and deal with grown-up problems. But, that’s bullshit. We are still kids. It’s the same, you just grow up. You’re a kid with more experience. So, when I met Manson, I was expected some kind of rockstar with all the bullshit around him, but I met a crazy kid, and I loved him for that. Even though he’s super smart and super funny, there’s a kid inside him. So many people are killing their childhood. It’s like, “Okay, today I’ve decided I’m gonna be a grown-up, and I’m not a kid anymore.” But, that’s bullshit. You’re still a kid. It makes no sense to kill the kid. That’s something I loved, instantly, about Manson. He had a saxophone that he got for free, and I remember seeing him on his knees, looking in a box and showing me the saxophone and saying, “Look, I got this for free!” It was like he was 12 years old, and I loved him for that.
The project you’ve done with him since then, is it more of the same character, or is it an entirely different character?
DUPIEUX: No, now I can say he’s a really strong actor because we did something completely different, away from the character of Wrong Cops and away from his Manson thing. I wrote a new part for him and he played it with some new inspiration, and it’s amazing. It’s really incredibly good. I can’t talk about it right now because it’s a secret project, but it’s amazing.
You do fast-paced shoots with minimal lighting. Is that just the style that works best for you? Do you find that the actors you work with like working that way because there isn’t a lot of waiting around?
DUPIEUX: Oh, yes! For the actors, this method is amazing because they can just stay on the set. They don’t have to go and wait for five hours, so they usually love it. For me, it’s not about the style. It’s about being creative. I don’t like to be on a set and wait three hours, just to make some lighting adjustments. I like to shoot. That’s what I want to do. I’d rather shoot something dumb than wait. I’m so used to doing everything by myself now. I’m so used to shooting without thinking about the lighting, and stuff like that. That’s now the way I work. If tomorrow, you put me on a normal set where you say to your crew, “Okay, we’re gonna shoot this,” and then you wait three hours before shooting, I’m going to kill myself after three days, that’s for sure. What I like is to be creative on set, with the actors. That’s why I’m doing this. So, my movies look cheap, but I don’t give a shit. They are just something different. I’m not even trying to make what they call movies. I’m just filming stuff.
You work with such interesting actors from varying backgrounds and who have various types of training. Do you have one way that you work with actors, or do you try to feel each actor out and get a sense for what works for them?
DUPIEUX: It’s always different. Every actor has a different sensibility. For a guy like Mark, when I saw his casting session for Wrong, he was already perfect, so I just told the guy, “Hello, I’m the director and I just want you to do exactly what you did in the casting session, and that’s it.” Directing a movie is all about that. You have to pick out the good ones. Then, 80% of the job is done. You can have a few adjustments and say to them, “Okay, you’re speaking too loud. You’re saying this too fast.” But the most important thing is to find the good ones and choose the good ones. On the set, everybody is different, so you have to deal with different sensibilities. I don’t have a method. Usually, I try to have a good connection with the actor that I’m filming. Even a guy who’s there with two lines of dialogue, I always try to have a connection with the guy I’m filming, just to make it into a nice, enjoyable moment.
You’ve said that you try to become a better filmmaker with each film that you do. At this point in your career, do you feel like you’re close to being the filmmaker you want to be?
DUPIEUX: Yes. Now, a lot of actors know me and they come back to my sets. With a guy like Steve Little, the first time he came, he was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know these people.” And then, he saw the movie and liked it. Now, every time I call him, I can say, “Hey, Steve, can we go out and shoot something,” and he will come. That’s exactly what I want to be. I want to be someone who is doing something solid. And I am doing my thing. You can like it or not, but I know that now I have a really nice group of really cool and talented actors that follow me. It’s the same for them. They have a special connection with my movies because we do these movies differently.
Wrong Cops is now in theaters in New York City and on VOD, and it opens in Los Angeles on December 27th.