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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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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