"I’m not interested in making what they call 'a good movie.' I’m just trying to find new angles, because I get bored really quickly with the regular ideas..."
In my GLOWING review of Quentin Dupieux's "Wrong" I called the film, "...so unorthodox, so odd, so potentially infuriating, yet so particular in its embrace of the beautifully absurd" and thanked the world for producing filmmakers as idiosyncratic and brave as Dupieux. I had to opportunity to chat with Dupieux leading up to the film's theatrical release this Friday, March 29, over the phone about some of the inspirations for "Wrong," the methods behind producing such a strange and surreal work of cinema, and how important the audience is when crafting a film.
MTV Geek: Can you talk about what goes into writing a movie like “Wrong”? What is your process like when you sit down to begin?
Quentin Dupieux I’m trying to make clear all the things you know about writing a movie. I’m just trying to get away from all the rules. We are supposed to respect that when you write a movie. So that’s the first stop, I’m trying to get my brain empty. I’m trying to…you know, I don’t want to try to be influenced too much by the movies I like. And also I really do think movies are a little too based on the same structure, like every kind of movie from a horror movie to a comedy. They are basically all based on the same structure. And I have no problem with this. I do watch a lot of movies and I do enjoy watching movies, but when I’m writing mine, because I know I’m not a good writer. Basically I don’t know anything about the rules and basically I think that’s my quality. I’m not interested in making what they call "a good movie." I’m just trying to find new angles, because I get bored really quickly with the regular ideas, I don’t know if you follow me. Basically I’m trying to surprise myself, so I’m just trying to instead of trying to think too much and be clever in the writing I’m offering to find a secret zone where we should not go usually.
Geek: Between this movie and “Rubber,” and based on what you just said about writing and trying to break the rules – between these two movies I feel like, especially “Rubber,” they’re about movies. Is that something that you do intentionally? You’re writing stories about stories?
QD: No, that’s like this is like a disease I have, and the last one I shot is also about movies, and that’s not really something I like. That’s more something that comes, and I got excited about this idea about a movie in a movie in a movie in a movie. But I know that’s something that I should stop. I knew it when I did “Rubber.” I knew that this dimension, like the spectator is watching, I knew this was maybe a little too much. I know it’s something that might break, or kill the entertainment, because suddenly you’re not watching the movie. You’re watching someone who’s watching the movie. So I’m trying to fight this thing I have. It’s almost like an obsession. Like the first feature I shot in France was based on this, and it’s not something I want to do. It’s part of me and I’m still fighting to get away from it. But I don’t think “Wrong” is based on this. I think “Wrong” has its own character. It’s not based on a movie watching a movie and stuff.
Geek: Do you consider the audience when you’re telling or a story or is it all about what you want?
QD: No, no, no. I mean I’m not evolved to do this. I’m not evolved to think for 10 people. I don’t have this quality like that. I’m not able to make a decision thinking "ok, everybody’s gonna love this." I don’t know, I have no idea. So I’m just trying to please myself, which may sound a little wanky, but I’m the only person to trust when I’m writing a movie. But it’s because I’m doing these kind of movies, and I understand why for a lot of other movies you need to think a lot about the audience, like "What are they going to feel? Do we need this action scene here?" I know this exists, but I think I’m doing a different job.
Geek: Do you ever feel like it's your job might be to provoke?
QD: Oh no, no, no. Like I said, I’m more trying to find like some secret zone like some weird places that nobody goes. I’m not trying to provoke, I’m not trying to…I’m not against the system. I’m just like everyone, I’m watching every movie. I’m not trying to destroy the movie world, I’m not against it. It’s more like "Hey, let’s have fun, but somewhere else." Because all I see is every comedy is based on the same structure. It’s always the same. It’s always the same thing repeated, like you just change the character, you change the plotline, but it’s still the same movie. So I’m not trying to provoke anyone, I’m just trying to find new places.
Geek: When describing your movies, it’s hard not to use the words absurd or silly or strange or weird. Are you comfortable with that, with having those labels?
QD: Yeah, these words are fine. I know, even myself, when I watch the first cut of my movie I think about all of these words. I’m totally fine with this. I have no problem, yeah. But the main thing for me, I’m just trying to entertain you in a different way, like to me, “Wrong” is a comedy. To me “Wrong” is supposed to be funny. But I know you can watch it in different ways and you can watch it like this stupid, slow, indie bulls#$t movie. But if you know how to watch it, you can find gold, and you can really have fun in a different way.
Geek: You know speaking of finding the gold, what I found in the movie was I thought it was very relatable, in all honesty, about just sort of growing up and having a job and getting a life and having a house and having a relationship. I don't know if any of that is intended by you, do you want these movies to be read in different ways by different people?
QD: Yes, because if you don't look at these other layers, it's just a very weird, almost boring movie about a guy looking for his dog, and that's not really interesting. So yes, I'm really happy when people find something else and of course, this movie, even if it looks absurd and you think nothing makes sense, there are a lot of things that are inspired by real life. You like, this girl bringing her stuff on the first date, you can relate all these stupid moments with real things, and I really do think that life is absurd too. Sometimes it's hard to find meaning in real life.
Geek: There's a moment toward the end of the movie that's shockingly violent and bloody when he stabs Emma. Can you talk about this scene?
QD: He’s victim of nightmare. And I never saw this moment – and I’m glad you find this shocking – because I never saw it like this. To me it was not really violent. You can see it’s fake blood, because it’s super red. It’s more like a graphic blood, and she’s not suffering from it. She just stays happy. I mean this obviously looks like a dream or a really bad director.
Geek: The whole thing looks like a dream. I think maybe instead of saying "shockingly violent," it was just unexpected. I think it broke the tone of what the movie was, for me at least.
QD: Yeah I know what you mean. But then the guy wakes up and is happy and he’s relieved to be dead and remember. But that was just like "Oh, it’s better to be dead than to be with this girl."
GEek: Right. [laughs] That’s intense.
QD: Yeah, I know what you mean by that. You don’t expect him to kill the girl, but he is not really killing her. She is not even reacting to it.
Geek: That’s interesting. Can you talk about your style? Where do you start when you’re getting ready to make a movie like “Wrong”?
QD: What do you mean?
Geek: How did you land on your specific style? You know, it’s very precise, but it’s really simple, it’s also disorienting, but it’s never excessive.
QD: Yeah. I’d have to say it’s like music. I think I’m really good at simple stuff – almost nothing. I’m not dreaming about having $50 million to make a movie, because if you tell me tomorrow "Ok, you have $50 million to make a movie,” I don’t even know how I’m going to spend this money and I think I’m going to make a terrible movie. I’m really into creating with nothing. And I do the same in music for almost 20 years, and that’s always been the case even when I was making short films in my childhood. I was always like I feel good creating with a lot of limits…everywhere. Like ‘We can’t do this, we can’t do that, we can’t do this, we can’t do that. Oh! Maybe there’s a new idea here.’ You know like and I always find my best ideas when something is not possible. When the crew says, "We can’t do this. We don’t have the money, we don’t have the time. This idea that you wrote – we can’t do it." And that’s when I have my best ideas. That’s how I learned. I started making short films when I was 15. And of course it was just me with a video camera and a few friends, so basically nothing was possible. I was dreaming of making “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but I was not able to do this. I was just able to shoot my friends in simple locations with a bat sound. And I always did this, and now I think I’m stuck, you know, that’s my style. And I love it. I really get excited when something is not possible, because that’s when I find gold.
Geek: And how do your actors respond to that method? Is it ever frustrating for them?
QD: No, no, no, because still basically not 85% of what you watched was in the script. So for the actor it’s the same, we are just following the script. But also this method, like going fast, shooting all day long with no lighting – that for the actors is really exciting. They enjoy it a lot, because they are never waiting, we’re always shooting, and it’s like we’re moving on super quickly. We shoot like 30 shots per day and it’s like shooting all the time. Like you know, I did 4 movies in the U.S., and every time the old actors from like very small actors and the very well-known actors, they all really enjoy…I really have a very pleasant set.
Geek: Real quick, what is “Wrong Cops”? I’ve seen some footage of it, it just premiered—
QD: “Wrong Cops,” I just finished editing it. It’s my new movie. And it comes from in Rome you have this cop, Mark Burnham, you see him in like 2 scenes. He’s playing the nasty cop, and from the day we shot it I was like obsessed with him. And I decided on the shoot, my next movie is about this cop. I just loved him. And I was upset to shoot only 2 days with this guy, because I loved him. So I did a little write of this movie about this cop, and then Marilyn Manson came to the project so we shot the first chapter and it was really good, we loved it. So we shot a little more, and I wrote this super quickly, and I think it’s super funny and it’s different and…unexpected.
Geek: It looks like it’s a little looser than “Wrong,” based on what little footage I’ve seen of it so far—
QD: What do you mean?
Geek: I think a little less controlled than what “Wrong” is? I think that your style is pretty—
QD: Yeah, yeah. It’s probably – I don’t have the words, my English sucks, sorry, but it is like I honestly just wrote the movie in 3 weeks. I was super inspired and I let it go, I was not thinking at all and I think it’s small even if it’s still weird, because you don’t understand a lot of stuff. But it’s more like straight comedy, like you have a lot of gags, and it’s more easy like some might say.
Geek: Thank you very much, Quentin.
"Wrong" is available now on VOD and will be theaters on March 29. Head to Drafthouse Films for more info!