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Clea DuVall talks “Argo”, Ben Affleck, and her favorite project ever

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If you don’t immediately recognize the name Clea DuVall, it’s not for lack of a lengthy roster of popular film and television appearances on her resume. She’s had parts in everything from “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “The Faculty” to “Girl, Interrupted” and “Zodiac”. It’s just that she’s not often been at the forefront of those films. DuVall has existed as the sharp, talented character actor that, when you see her, you think, “I’ve seen her before!” That dynamic, however, may be about to change. After excellent performances in 2012’s “Argo” (available on Blu-ray and DVD February 19), the young actress is poised to become one of Hollywood’s hottest properties.

DuVall recently sat down with IFC.com to discuss working with Ben Affleck, holing up with six other actors, and what’s next for her.

IFC: “Argo” is a great film and, I think, rightfully deserves all the awards it’s receiving. Can you tell me how you got involved in the film?

CLEA DUVALL: I had known Ben [Affleck] for a really long time and about a year-and-a-half ago we saw each other. He said, “I’m making this movie and there’s a part I think you’d be really good for. You should come in and talk to me about it.” A few weeks later, I went in and met with Ben and [casting director] Lora Kennedy. He told me about the movie and what would be required of us, which was to live in a house together for a week with nothing from the outside world, and also a lot of improv and things like that. Of course I was like, “Totally!” And then I felt really afraid. [Laughs]

IFC: Were you nervous about taking on such a heavy subject or were those nerves calmed a little because you had already known Ben?

CD: I was definitely nervous, especially because he was asking us to improvise around Iranian politics in 1979. It can be a little daunting, but all it meant is that we really had to know our shit and do the work. I was really excited for the challenge because you don’t always get that kind of opportunity in a film to go that deep.

IFC: You and I were both really young when this whole real-life situation was happening. Did you do a lot of research into the conflict, and the story of these hostages, to prepare for the role?

CD: I did, yeah. I read a lot of books about it and, for each of us, they put together a research packet detailing the people we were playing. I was fortunate enough, as well, to speak with Cora before we started filming, so I was able to sort of pick her brain and see what it was like for her. More the day-to-day of it rather than the high-intensity drama. That was really, really helpful.

IFC: You have this great part in the film that actually feels a lot like an ensemble – the six of you holed up in this house. Tell me a little bit about the dynamic that the six of you had together.

CD: I think Ben was so smart to have us all live together because it really did give the effect that he wanted, which was that we were all people that knew each other very intimately because, by that time, we actually did. We all kind of moved around as this unit. The six of us were always keeping tabs on each other. We were very aware of each other and, I think, that was very important, especially when we got into the scenes that we shot at the bazaar for the location scouting.

You have these people who have been inside for three months terrified for their lives and then, all of a sudden, are thrust into this environment with thousands and thousands of people who, ultimately, want them dead. Creating the authenticity of that experience and having these people around was a little bit of a security blanket effect. It was such a brilliant idea that Ben had. I don’t think that we would have started day one with that dynamic had we not done that.

IFC: Do you think it helped, as well, to create this really claustrophobic, enclosed feeling of those scenes?

CD: Yeah, absolutely. And that cabin fever, stir crazy, high tension feeling was heightened by the experience. It helped to add very subtle layers to all of it. It subconsciously gave us these layers that we definitely would not have had otherwise.

IFC: How was it working with Ben, as he was both directing and starring in the film?

CD: He was amazing. I really was so impressed with how he handled it. I’ve worked with a couple other director/actors who did not handle it with the ease and grace with which he does.

IFC: Are you surprised that he didn’t get the Oscar nomination or is that just sort of par for the course with these types of things?

CD: I was definitely surprised, as everyone else was, but I also think that Ben is the real thing. He’s an amazing filmmaker and he’s probably going to run out of shelf space with all of the awards he’s going to get. I’m sure he’ll have a very long directing career, so I’m not worried about him.

IFC: You’ve done a good amount of TV in the past as well. Do you prefer one medium to the other?

CD: No, not really. I did a show for HBO called “Carnivale” and that was my favorite job I’ve ever had, and what I liked about it was being able to build the character and have her change and evolve.

I think I’ve been really fortunate in the TV that I have done to be able to really explore a character in a way that you can’t really do in film. But I also like film because it is this short window of time and the appreciation for that time is heightened because you know it’s going to end. Your pace is different as an actor working in film rather than TV.

IFC: What’s next for you? I see you have “In Security” coming up. Can you tell me a bit about that film?

CD: That is a little independent film that I was shooting on the weekends while I was making “Argo”. It’s just this cute little movie. I don’t really know what’s happening with it right now. I think they’re trying to go to festivals with it. The indie film world is tough.

I’ve also been working on some behind-the-camera things that I don’t really want to talk about just yet, but it’s looking very promising.

Otherwise, I don’t know. Hopefully something amazing.

IFC: What is the one project in your career that you wish had gotten more recognition or attention?

CD: “Carnivale”, for sure. I think it was just a little bit ahead of its time. I think if it was on now, people would love it. It was the one of the first of what basically ever cable show is now. It was really interesting and different and people couldn’t handle it.

“Argo” arrives on Blu-ray and DVD February 19.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.