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Romain Duris, A “Heartbreaker” At Last

Romain Duris, A “Heartbreaker” At Last  (photo)

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Despite a wicked grin and a thicket of curls that makes the ladies swoon, Romain Duris has mostly avoided being cast in the role he was ready made for, so obvious it’s the title of his latest film “Heartbreaker.” Yet while it is a rare romantic comedy role for star better known for dramas such as “Paris” and “The Beat My Heart Skipped,” it is a film that makes good use of Duris’ status as one of France’s most versatile actors. In it, he masquerades as a gospel singer, a construction worker, a Benihana chef, and a skyscraper window washer, among other guises, to infiltrate the lives of women in bad relationships, at the behest of their exes, friends and immediate family and bust them free to find love elsewhere. But even with two crack sidekicks (“Micmacs”‘ Julie Ferrier and François Damiens) at his command to find vulnerabilities to play upon, Duris’ lothario Alex meets his match in Juliette, an engaged auctioneer (Vanessa Paradis) whose only flaws to exploit are a love of ’80s American pop culture staples like “Dirty Dancing” and Wham!

An devotee of Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder, not to mention the more recent “Notting Hill,” Duris has done the genre proud in director Pascal Chaumeil’s feature debut, a frothy screwball comedy by way of “Mission: Impossible.” To mark the occasion, the actor recently flew across the Atlantic to be honored with a mini-career retrospective at the BAMcinématek in New York before making his way to the Toronto Film Festival in a week for the premiere of “The Big Picture,” a drama in which he stars as a lawyer with a perfect life until a tragedy causes him to give it all up. During a short detour in Los Angeles, Duris spoke about both films, good times in Brazil and why he loves to cry.

You just got back from New York — is it strange having a career retrospective when you’re so young?

It’s an honor, but of course, it’s strange for me to try to feel how people think about you when I’m here. I’m always surprised when I meet people who watch my movies. I’m like, wow, because it’s far — L.A. and New York, so each time someone on the street or in bars recognize me and tell me [they notice me] from my films, I’m very, very moved because it’s great because cinema is like that, it’s free and it’s traveling.

08282010_RomainDurisHeartbreaker3.jpgIn regards to this film, both you and Vanessa are both better known for your dramatic work. Did that bring something to doing a romantic comedy?

I did the same work, the same research for the character I do when it’s more dramatic. For me, I have no rules, no method, but I thought the same way for a drama as this comedy.

Still, Alex’s closing move with women is to cry, which I hear was what appealed to you about the role.

Yes, I really loved this part of the character because to be honest, it reminds me of my beginnings when I had to cry in movies. I was like Alex, like this (wincing off to the side) and trying physically to make a strange face that would bring me some tears because I didn’t have any method, so it was funny.

In order to win over Juliette in the film, you have to sing “Wake Up Before You Go Go” and learn Patrick Swayze’s whole dance number for “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” Were you self-conscious singing and dancing in front of Vanessa who has such history as a pop star?

Yes! [laughs] It was intimidating, but I love to dance and I loved the challenge — and I like Vanessa, and she loves to dance too, so I wanted to be at the same level. It was challenging and I worked a lot for the dance to make it fluid.

08282010_RomainDurisHeartbreaker2.jpgWere you a fan of “Dirty Dancing” before the film?

No, actually I didn’t see the movie before, but I like this kind of films from the ’80s from the U.S. because there’s a taste, a flavor that you can’t find now. It’s more a tenderness for these kind of movies.

You’ve talked before about how hard it is to find financing to make more difficult films in France. Did that contribute to wanting to make something a little lighter and are you getting more active in trying to get films made?

No, I think it’s still difficult and it’s getting more and more difficult to find money to do interesting movies and we can see that also with “Heartbreaker.” It was difficult to find money for the producer to make it, so I don’t know if [my] name… yes, I receive a lot of scripts. I’m lucky to choose, but I don’t know if it helps.

Since we’re in the U.S., I was wondering about your experience on “Afterwards,” which was your first starring role in an English-language film. How was it for you?

It was great. Actually, the locations were crazy — to shoot in New York, Manhattan, Brooklyn, for a little Frenchman like me, it was a dream. So that was very strong and to play with John Malkovich also was a very important thing. And yes, to play in English was interesting for me because it was new and once again challenging and it’s not the same rhythm as in French, so I had the pleasure to feel emotions and to react in English — it was great here.

08282010_RomainDurisBigPicture.jpgMeanwhile, you’re going to Toronto — are you excited about the premiere of “The Big Picture”?

We didn’t show the film to other people, so Toronto will be the real first premiere. I’m very curious about what the audience is going to think because I like the movie. The movie is more a thriller — it’s very different than “Heartbreaker.”

You’ve been to lots and lots of film festivals at this point — do you have a favorite experience?

In Tokyo, it’s crazy because the country is crazy. [laughs] What I like in festivals is even if you are doing a lot of interviews, you have the opportunity to travel and [be amongst] people and go out at night and feel the town. I have very good memories in Tokyo.

In Brazil, it was crazy because I did a festival in Brazil and I met someone who was working in the festival and he offered me the key to his house in front of the beach, so I spent ten days in his house! Obviously, I keep more human sensation than just interviews and how people react — I like to feel more how the people live there and the countries that I don’t have the opportunity to go [to otherwise].

Are you enjoying the reception for “Heartbreaker”?

Yeah, it’s crazy – to travel with a film is crazy, because yes, it’s true, we discuss with people who don’t have the same culture and who don’t speak the same language and it’s very interesting to see what they feel and sometimes it’s surprised me a lot. That’s the very great point of the cinema.

“Heartbreaker” opens in New York and Los Angeles on September 10th.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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