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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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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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