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The Buddy System


In the new bromance Humpday, Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) reunite after a decade apart only to face the sad reality that their lives have gone in directions different than the ones they once dreamed of. In an attempt to reclaim their rebellious college days, the straight buddies decide to enter Humpday, a porno film festival, and beat the competition by shooting themselves getting it on. But are they up for the challenge? Recently we caught up with the stars of the film just as they were getting out of bed -- but not together. Leonard was up all night working on a new film and Duplass was trying to get his 18-month-old daughter to adjust to a new sleeping schedule. As our chat began, Duplass, who may still have been in a haze from the restless night before, grew giddy upon hearing Leonards groggy voice. Good morning, Joshie, Duplass cooed. And with that, we knew it was time to talk sex. Out: If this was not a film, but real life, could you have sex with your male best friend for the sake of making art? Joshua Leonard: (long pause) Id sure give it go. Mark Duplass: I dont know. Ive got to be honest. There is a logistical element that Josh and I discuss in the film of just being able to physically perform. Josh was really my first romantic male kiss. Josh, was this the first time you kissed another man?Leonard: I always got jealous of girls because they grew up kissing their best friends and that was something I never did. Not a whole lot of straight guys I knew could hang out and have that period of experimentation where, like girls, they are teaching themselves to kiss on each other. I grew up in a conservative area. Maybe its something that happens more often with kids growing up in the city. What three words would you use to describe Humpday?Duplass: Dude on dude. Leonard: Makes you cry. Duplass: Thats actually a good description because there are tears of joy, but more importantly there are squirming, painful tears watching these two dudes go through what they go through in this movie. There was a lot of improvisation in the movie. How much of the script was actually written?Duplass: There was no written dialogue. We shot each scene from an outline and knew where we wanted to get to. We shot the entire film sequentially so that we could build upon the existing happenings. It must have taken hours to film each scene without any script.Duplass: We shot everything in less than 10 days. If you dont have actors who are as incredible as Josh and me, it can go very long. Of course Im being facetious, but scenes did go pretty quickly. We knew exactly what we wanted to do when we showed up, and wed usually do just two or three takes. Mark, when the director, Lynn Shelton (We Go Way Back and Effortless Brilliance), called and asked if youd be interested in doing this film, what was your first reaction?Duplass: Who am I going to get to fuck? Lynn and I knew we wanted to make a movie together, so I was super psyched. I didnt have any reservations about the nature of the material or what it would entail doing physically. It sounded like an exciting idea that had potential to be great, but on some level it worried me because it had the potential to be terrible. I knew we had to do it right or it was going to fucking suck. Josh, what were your first thoughts when you were approached?Leonard: I got this email from Mark that said, Do you want to play my friend in a film? He knew I was a fan of his, so right away I responded, Sure. Then he told me the concept. And then what?Leonard: If it had been anybody else on the planet calling, I wouldve been really worried that I was jumping into a farce situation. But knowing Mark and the films he makes -- which are about people with three dimensions with bruises and scars just trying to get through the world -- I was really fascinated with taking this concept and trying to make it into something human. Mark, what made you think of asking Josh to play your best friend?Duplass: Have you seen his picture? Yes. Duplass: Okay. Why do you have to ask? We were friends -- not super close yet -- but there was a certain element to who I wanted to play Andrew. Josh and I can talk emotions and feelings with all the comfort and ease of old friends. At the same time we are very much the Type A, alpha male. Were aggressive and competitive, and that is what this story called for. When the public first hears the premise of this film, what do you think their initial thought will be?Duplass: I hope audiences approach it the way Josh, Lynn, and I did. There was a healthy dose of skepticism to know whether this idea was realistic or not. Would these two straight guys actually go through with this? We didnt want to make a [film] farce or spoof. This is a movie about two kind of lost dudes. Its funny. Its touching, and we hope people can follow these characters. Hopefully, straight guys will be able to say, Oh my god, I can see how I could get myself into this if I was in their shoes. There have been some discussions on various blogs that this film is homophobic and reinforces stereotypes. How do you respond to that?Duplass: This film is not about sexual politics. This is a film about two friends who are lost and feel that they were at the best versions of themselves when they were in college together. Thats when the whole world was ahead of them, and they were idealistic. When they see each other again they remember who they used to be, and it drives them crazy because they are not who they want to be now. That makes them competitive, desperate, and hilarious to watch. In terms of homophobia, I can completely understand how someone can read a one-line teaser from this film and be skeptical. You should be, because its a sensitive subject, and we welcome anyone to go see this film and find anything in it that in any way reinforces stereotypes. Leonard: I would also add that these guys are way too caught up in their own shit to ever turn around and judge someone else. What reactions have you received from people whove seen the film?Duplass: We had a great response from an older gentleman who I would say was very conservative. He said, This is the first time Ive really understood that homosexuality is not a choice. These guys are trying so hard and they want to try this thing together so much, but they just cant get over the nature of themselves and who they are. Why do you think there is a double standard in society in terms of seeing two women having sex together as opposed to two men?Duplass: This is something I hesitate to answer -- for But my hypothesis is that I think the straight guy is still suffering residuals of the John Wayne, two-dimensional kind of cardboard cutout of an ideal man. Thats something to some extent we all grew up with. Maybe less so now than what our parents grew up with. Societys idea of what a straight man is supposed to be like is based on a lot of old ideas that I think we are just starting to shake off. Leonard: I agree that there is a double standard. I know Ive had girlfriends in the past who went out and made out with other girls while we were out and there was no jealousy at all. Whether or not it titillated me or not depended upon how cut the other girl was! But if she made out with another guy, Id be really upset. But what do you think about the physical sense of what you called dude on dude action, Mark?Duplass: There is something really different about female sexuality than there is about male sexuality, and thats just by the nature of machinery. There is something far more intrusive about two dudes trying to have sex with each other than two girls trying to do the same thing. I think theres more intimacy to it because youve got a penis and youve got to put it somewhere. We dont want to give away the ending, but were you happy with it?Duplass: We shot the ending for 10 hours. We checked into a hotel at 7 P.M. and checked out at 7 A.M. and just hoped there was an ending. After seeing it, the ending was totally appropriate for these characters, and I was happy. What are you the most proud of about Humpday?Leonard: When I watch that film and I know the extremely limited resources we were working with, I like what happened in the process, and that is that everybody left their egos at the door and brought their A game. The film really moved me, and the fact that an audience is now responding to it is just the icing on the cake. For more information on Humpday, including release dates for a theater near you, visit a letter to the editor about this article.
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