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Dermot Mulroney Takes Time to Exhale After “Inhale”

Dermot Mulroney Takes Time to Exhale After “Inhale” (photo)

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Nearly halfway through talking to Dermot Mulroney I asked about an indie film he made last year, though I struggled to remember the name. “‘The Family Tree’?” he said, while watching me squirm. Yeah, that’s the one. “I don’t know whether that hit the theater, maybe for a week here or there. I know it was at the Seattle Film Festival.”

“Really?” I wondered, thinking that I would’ve at least heard if the film co-starring Hope Davis and Christina Hendricks had been in theaters already. (It’s only played the festival circuit so far.)

“If that sees the light of day, I’d bet you enjoy it,” Mulroney assures me. “It’s definitely got some laughs in it.”

Uncertainty is not a feeling usually associated with the work of Mulroney, whose ability to exude a cool confidence has made him a go-to guy for Hollywood romantic comedies and auteurs such as the late Robert Altman, David Fincher and Alexander Payne. But in recent years, it has crept into how his work is presented. That’s why audiences may only be slightly more familiar with his latest film “Inhale,” which came and went from theaters last month.

Mulroney’s clearly proud of the thriller, in which he stars as an assistant district attorney who must question his principles when the only way he can save his daughter’s life is through an illegal lung transplant across the border. However, he’s also well aware that even with a cast of recognizable actors such as himself, Sam Shepard, Diane Kruger and Rosanna Arquette in a solid race-against-the-clock potboiler, “Inhale” is exactly the type of film that could easily slip into the void created by a shrinking industry and a wider array of film options where indies have trouble getting attention and distributors are less willing to take risks.

So there’s both notes of excitement and incredulity in Mulroney’s voice when he exclaims, “It’s doing really well on VOD,” which is where it can currently be seen through IFC Films On Demand [a corporate sibling of IFC.com]. As he acknowledges below, the realization that theatrical is just one of many different platforms is something that’s taken some time to adjust to and as a result, our conversation is as much about the state of the mid-level indie film as it is about his performance in “Inhale.”

12022010_DermotMulroneyInhale2.jpgWith this new world of how movies go out into the world, does it change your attitude towards the work?

That’s a great question. I think it just now did. I learned from the way IFC Films released “Inhale,” because the movie had sat for a while because it’s very grim and hard to promote. What I learned is that IFC Films wants as much to release it in the theater as it wants to use the theater release to platform where it’s actually going to make some of its money back, which is on the video on demand at home. So that went off like a light bulb for me. They didn’t intend necessarily to have this film grow in theaters and then open it in Chicago, then Dallas, and then Pittsburgh, which is what the old scenario used to be. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again. If it does, it’ll be because people revert to it purposefully.

Consequently, the stigma — that’s a strong term — of doing a movie that doesn’t go into the theater is gone because everybody’s equal. I’ve done 55, 60 movies maybe, and until now, one of those didn’t get released in a theater. And that was back at a time when that was like ouch, someone’s going to find out that movie wasn’t good enough to earn a release in a theater. Now, half of the movies made don’t go out and if they do, they go out like “Inhale” did — two theaters, one in each city, New York and Los Angeles, and they close after a week. So it’s a whole new world. And I can make decisions differently now. In other words, I can take movies without having to worry about whether they’re going to be successful in the box office because there’s so many other outlets.

You were also in “Jolene,” which sat on the shelf awhile before it got a release this summer, but it seems like more people will find it at Blockbuster.

I hate to say it, but I think what happened is, especially independent financiers, not smaller film production companies that had their own money, but the guys that come in with cash out of their pocket to try and make a movie, I think that they all got used up. I think that they all finally learned that making a mid-range to low-budget movie is the wrong way to invest your money. [laughs] The secret got out. We’ve been doing it for 20 years and these guys just kept coming back with more money. But I think now it’s clear that’s why people aren’t willing to risk their money as much and the ones that had been risking their money learned that it’s a very, very tough risk.

12022010_DermotMulroneyInhale3.jpgSpecific to this film, the American cut was different that the international cut. Does that affect how you feel about your performance?

This is what happened with that precisely. It was written and shot to happen in chronological order and they had a delivery date for one of their European releases. I think it was Germany that in order to get the pre-sale money on the German release, they gave them that, presuming that it would remain that cut. If anything, they’d tweak it while they’re still looking for a U.S. distributor. Nobody took it. It’s already shown in Germany because they had a delivery date. So it’s really the first cut. So they went back in and recut it to see if that made it more appealing to domestic distributors. And it’s a better movie because it’s cooler – all the same content. They just shuffled the deck.

That would probably be the first time anyone’s ever said an American cut was cooler than the European version. Have you been in other films that had multiple versions?

No, I don’t recall that ever really happening. I’ve seen both cuts of this and I think the non-chronological version, the U.S. version, is marginally more interesting, but I don’t think they changed performance takes. It’s the same movie.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com and the IFC app.

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