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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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