Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard in Lynn Shelton’s film ‘Humpday’
When two lifelong buddies decide to take their friendship into unchartered sexual territory, homo awkwardness gives way to a philosophical gabfest in Lynn Shelton’s Humpday. As the shlubbier half of the pair, Festival regular Mark Duplass helped devise the film’s treatment, improvised much of his own dialogue and gamely swapped spit with his male co-star, Joshua Leonard. In a series of conversations with us, Duplass discussed Humpday as well as his role as one of the “founders” of the mumblecore aesthetic.
Were you ever concerned that the premise of Humpday would stretch the limits of credibility?
I was worried about that the whole time. I’m really curious to see it with an audience. Everything is about making it as real as possible. We had to hold a strong laser on realism. It is an extreme story—and we didn’t want to play it as a farce or a spoof.
What propels these straight characters into trying gay sex?
A lot of latent issues left behind, I think. A lot of white middle-class frustration. But there’s also competition and jealousy going on. These guys are jealous of each others’ lives.
Tell us what it was like improvising the dialogue on the spot.
The movie was shot in less than two weeks, so we were moving quickly. But this film was painless for me. Just being an actor was very freeing, I have to say. The challenge was getting the realism right. You never get it at the script phase. You don’t know until you meet the actors and you can start doing a structured improvisation.
How do you think audiences will react to Humpday?
What I like about the movie is you get to watch two people go through something that most people like them would never do themselves. But I think audiences will have more connection than you might imagine. There’s the element of suspense—are these guys really going to do it?
You were one of the “founders” of the mumblecore aesthetic, with your film The Puffy Chair. What do you think of all of the attention mumblecore has received?
Yeah, we got a lot of attention for that with The Puffy Chair and Baghead. Any time anyone wants to write an article about small movies, that’s great. I see some big differences with mumblecore and the films I make with my brother [Jay Duplass]. We have one foot in and one foot out of it. Ultimately, I want to make movies of all kinds.