DID YOU READ

Steve Carell and Keira Knightley talk “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”

Keira Knightley and Steve Carell in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

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By Jennifer Vineyard

An asteroid is headed towards Earth, and unlike “Armageddon,” “Deep Impact,” or any other apocalyptic movie where they manage to save the day at the last possible moment, in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” the world is assuredly coming to an end. For some people, that means it’s a time to indulge, hook up, or even buy insurance policies that are pretty much guaranteed now to pay out. In other words, it’s a comedy.

“It’s obviously absurd,” lead actor Steve Carell told IFC. “It’s an absurd premise, and the thought that this could be a comedy was appealing to me, because within all the heartache and the struggle that these people are going through, there are things that are inherently funny about it.”

When Carell’s character Dodge gets the news that there is a definite end to the world, he goes about his daily life as if nothing has changed — at first. “It’s ludicrous, but I understand it on a certain level, that people need that sense of comfort and structure to even continue,” Carell said.

But after a while, even Dodge wants to get out of Dodge — his wife has already left him (right after hearing a radio news report notifying listeners that the final mission to save mankind has failed). That scene has an extra layer of irony, because it’s Carell’s real-life wife playing the part.

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“I called up his agent,” writer/director Lorene Scafaria told IFC, “and I remember saying, ‘Is it an insult to ask if Nancy would come do this?’ I just thought that would be so great. And she turned to him with such poison in that scene!”

“I know!” Carell laughed. “I saw the same thing, and frankly, I’ve seen that poison before. It’s a very scary place to be.” Plus Nancy Carell doesn’t just leave — she runs. “I don’t think I had ever seen her sprint before,” the actor said. “I’ve never seen her move that quickly.”

The married couple shot the break-up scene on their real-life 16th wedding anniversary. “Happy anniversary!” Scafaria laughed. “That was pretty wild, to have her run away from him over and over on their anniversary. We made it up to them — we got them a cake with an asteroid smashed in the middle of it.” “The crew sang us ‘Happy Anniversary,’ and it was nice,” Carell said. “To be with my favorite person is always a good thing.”

Carell’s favorite person in the movie, however, is played by someone else — Keira Knightley, in a rare comedic turn. Her character Penny lives in Dodge’s building, and the two pair up to help each other scratch off some things on their bucket lists. For sad sack Dodge, he wants to meet up with a lost love , and for optimistic Penny, she wants to see her family one last time. Road trip!

“I liked how the two individuals were separately navigating this really difficult time,” Carell said.

“Penny’s just such a wonderfully written character,” Knightley told IFC. “It’s clear that she had attributes from our director, so I just kind of watched Lorene a bit and went, ‘Oh, yeah, I get it.’ I mean, Lorene’s so fabulously positive and so enthusiastic and she’s totally able to say, ‘This moment is wonderful.’ She’s got the sense that world is a really great place, and it might go kind of wrong, but she’s able to come back to the fact that this is all great, and I love that about her.”

Scafaria poured her own flakiness into Penny, as well as her own regrets. “A lot of how she says she was spending time with her ex-boyfriends instead of her family at holidays, that was coming from a real place,” the writer/director said.

Since Penny is a bit scatterbrained — “she doesn’t know whether to go in this direction, or that direction,” Knightley said — she needs Dodge’s guidance. And Dodge needs her infectious high spirits to start living his life, since he’s only got a few weeks left of it as it is. Could sparks fly between the two of them? Only if Penny’s ex (played by Adam Brody, Scafaria’s real-life ex-boyfriend) can also get out of the way.

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“I thought that was so fun,” Scafaria said, “because Seth Cohen [from ‘The O.C.’] is what he’s so famous for. He’s like the quintessential dream boyfriend, so I thought it would be pretty fun to put in the exact opposite role. We grew out his beard to be three times longer, to be as scruffy as possible. We had a blast. His scenes [during a riot] were some of the toughest to film, and it was so great to have someone I’m so close with to be there and portray that part.”

Brody also suggested ideas for scenes other than his, such as when a trucker gives a lift to Dodge and Penny, only to meet his maker a little sooner than the rest of humanity. His death becomes comedic when the two accidentally bury something else with him — the keys to his truck.

“That is truly, truly Adam’s,” Scafaria said, “And hats off to him. We always got such a big kick out of that. Adam helped with the script more than anybody else. He was somebody who I bounced ideas off of every single day. He was along for the entire process,” including the soundtrack. “That Hollies song, [‘The Air That I Breathe’] that came from a mix he made for me.”

Scafaria, Brody, and the movie’s composer Jonathan Sadoff also have a band called the Shortcoats, which might explain why a love for music permeates the film: Penny’s first thought when she has to evacuate her apartment is to grab her collection of vinyl records, and Dodge’s way of connecting to someone in his past is to play the harmonica.

“I’ve always loved ‘American Graffiti,’ the DJ kind of taking you through something,” Scafaria said. “But this especially, because what would you really want to consume at the end of the world? Besides all the food you can eat, and sex, I thought people would crave music. Music ends up being a collection of memories for people, so you could remember a time with a song. It’s the best of humanity mix.”

Although Penny plays the main music enthusiast of ‘Seeking,’ Knightley isn’t a huge fan herself. “I can’t say that I’m like one of those people who really, really love it,” she said. “But I really enjoyed playing somebody who loved it.” That won’t stop her from playing another music fan in a film Judd Apatow is executive producing called “Can A Song Save Your Life?” — in which her character moves to New York with her boyfriend (Adam Levine) to take a shot at a singing career. This, of course, will require her to sing — which Knightley’s done before, but in the little-seen period film “The Edge of Love.” “I feel I’ll do alright,” the actress said. “I’m sure we’ll find some way of making me sound all right! They have to.” Her main practice comes when she’s “really, really drunk” and sings karaoke — because “the idea of singing in front of anybody terrifies the life out of me,” she laughed. Her go-to song? One that’s fitting for the end of the world — “I Will Survive.”

“That’s very optimistic!” Knightley laughed. “If the world is ending, I’ll be floating out in space… but I will survive!”

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.