“Douchebag,” Doremus’ second foray into feature filmmaking after last year’s “Spooner,” is quite accomplished for a movie that was shot on a shoestring budget, is based off a 30-page outline, was mostly improvised and features two unknown leads. It was a hit with audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is now looking to make a dent in theaters… despite a title that doesn’t truly convey the movie’s surprising poignancy.
“Originally, the movie was called ’Mary Barger,’ but we didn’t think that was going to get any attention,” Doremus tells MTV News. “To be honest, with a small movie like this you kind of have to have something that’s attention-grabbing. That was a big reason for it. Plus, it had a nice ring to it, so we just went with it.”
In addition to having a nice ring, it’s also very apropos. The movie follows estranged brothers Sam (Andrew Dickler) and Tom (Ben York Jones) as they reconnect on a road trip to find Tom’s long-lost fifth-grade flame Mary Barger (thus the film’s original title) so Tom can bring her to Sam’s wedding to the beautiful Steph (Marguerite Moreau). Tom is a quiet, sensitive artist willing to work things out with his bro; Sam is a selfish, abrasive, Grizzly-Adams-beard-sporting kite enthusiast who doesn’t appreciate that Steph is too good for him in just about every way. In other words, he’s the titular d-bag.
Dickler plays the character perfectly, no small feat considering he’s a film editor by trade (he got his start as an assistant editor on 1994’s “Pulp Fiction”), and “Douchebag” marks his acting debut. “I had the actors in mind before we had a story, as opposed to having a script and then getting the actors,” Doremus says. “Andrew had never acted before and never really wanted to act. He was my editor on my last feature “Spooner,” and the way he acts in the movie is the way he acts in real life — although the guy in the movie is a much more exaggerated version, of course.”
As for the Sam’s beard, which is its own character in the film, Doremus laughs: “Andrew has always had the beard. When I met him, he had it. It’s always been a part of him. It was very strange. It was part of the reason I wanted him in the movie — he just dressed like that and had the beard like that. I was just like, let’s do an exaggerated version of Andrew Dickler, just put him on the screen as is. It was basically stealing from real life.”
Doremus also stole from real life in casting his good friend and frequent collaborator Ben York Jones as Tom. “Ben and I started making movies together when we were 16 and grew up together. He’s been a partner for a long time and always acted in things I’ve done, so it felt right.”
Another thing Doremus stole from real life was the name of the girl Sam and Tom set out to find. “Mary Barger actually was my fifth-grade girlfriend, and after we made the movie I found her and told her about it,” he admits. How’d she react to knowing she’d partially inspired a movie? “She might have been a little freaked out at first,” Doremus laughs. “But she came out to Sundance to see it in January and we saw each other for the first time in 15 years, and we became friends. It was kind of cool to have that happen.”
“Douchebag” is now douching it up in select New York theaters and opens October 8 in L.A.