Upon meeting Jason Segel for the first time two years ago, Jay and Mark Duplass—writers, directors and brothers—said they knew they wanted the comedic actor to star in their film, “Jeff, Who Lives At Home,” which made its East Coast premiere as the Opening Night film of the Hamptons International Film Festival on Thursday.
Mr. Segel sees the world in a similar light as the Duplass brothers, they explained during an interview at c/o The Maidstone in East Hampton on Friday morning.
“Jay and I write our movies usually from airplanes or park benches or when we go on runs together, and we watch people and we just kind of love how weird and sad and funny they are,” Mark said. “Jason saw all the things in Jeff that we love: the combination of being funny and sad at the same time. And Jason has funny bones. You watch him walk down the street and it’s just funny. It’s a good mix for this kind of movie.”
The film follows 34-year-old Jeff, who spends his days unlocking the profound mysteries of the universe from the comfort of his exasperated mother’s basement. That is until his mother, Susan Sarandon’s character, sends him out on an errand, where he bumps into his disgruntled older brother, played by Ed Helms, and they set out on an adventure.
“You’ll see a new side of these guys,” Mark said, referring to Mr. Segel and Mr. Helms.
The movie was inspired by the Duplass brothers’ friends who moved straight from college to small apartments and worked menial jobs while thinking about destiny and their places in the world, the men explained.
“The neo-Platos and Aristotles,” Jay said. “You know, those guys are hilarious, but they’re also really heartfelt and lovable. They’re kind of tragic and funny.”
“That’s the key. These guys are hilarious,” Mark joined in. “And you can look at Jeff and be like, ‘Oh, it’s a stoner comedy.’ But we wanted to do something a little bit different, which is like, ‘Yeah, he is funny, but at the same time, there’s something magical and beautiful about a guy who really believes that the universe has something grand in store for him.’ He has decided not to get a menial job and not marry the first person who came along. He almost has a lot of integrity and is waiting for greatness. And that’s kind of really sweet to us.”
The film was shot a year and a half ago in New Orleans, the brothers’ hometown, they said. Growing up, they never made a conscious decision to start working together. It was as natural as deciding to eat, Mark added.
“I’m three and a half years younger, so I just kind of started worshipping Jay and following him around,” he said. “He would use me as a Sherpa and a minion, and then at a certain point I got promoted to equal partner. And that was 20 years ago. We haven’t stopped.”
When the brothers got the phone call informing them that their film had been selected to open the festival, Jay said he didn’t immediately grasp what that meant. But once he did, he was floored, he said.
“It was like, ‘Oh my god, this festival is using our film to say, “This is what we’ve got to offer this year. This is what we’re most proud of,”’” Jay said.
The film is slated for wide release in March, Mark reported. Later next year, the brothers plan to release “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon,” an earlier project that they dug back into after editing wrapped on “Jeff.”
At the Opening Night Film after party at East Hampton Point on Thursday, moviegoers age 18 to 80 approached the Duplass brothers to comment on the film, the men recalled. This project, unlike some of their others, plays to a much larger audience than they’d anticipated, they said.
“If you could take something away from the movie, it would be that, yeah, life sucks most of the time, but every now and then, you have one of these magical days or one of these magical moments, and it can be inspiring, amazing,” Mark said. “And this is that day for Jeff, that stoner guy who looks like he’s spinning his wheels in his mom’s basement. He heads out in the world and he has that day that we all remember in our lives, which is the day when the magic came together.”
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