day. Since so much of our site’s content is lost in other designs,
hampered by ad code messing with the pages, or surrounded by gas and
low on evil, I’m going to start reprinting them for new eyes. You’ll
see classic Smilin’ Jack Ruby, stuff from me when I was relevant, early
Devin, and if there’s a God… some Brian Koukol. So, look for the CHUD
Rerun branding and enjoy. It’s nice revisiting some of this stuff. –
***END OF WARNING***
Republished from May 9th, 2003 in honor of THIS article.
we go any further, let me go on record saying that Neil
Labute and Paul Rudd are funnier than shit, and if given
their own HBO (ie: R Rated) talk show would probably make
them superstars. Great stuff.
film The Shape of Things, which opens this
Friday, is another of Labute’s brutal, comic, and mostly
wonderful films. Starring Rudd, Rachel Weisz, and Gretchen
Mol, it’s the tale of a gorgeous woman who meets a lovable
loser and changes his life.
met with Rudd and Labute a few weeks ago and chatted them
up, most of the conversation which I couldn’t include (rapid
fire comments from all three of us on fast food, bowel discomfort,
and other stream of consciousness stuff). The meat of the
Nunziata: For those who say you’ve gone soft, what do you
have to say?
Labute: Nothing. I did go soft. I took the money.
Nunziata: On which one?
Labute: All five! If I really wanted to do this, these movies
would’ve been so much better. These suck! I don’t even like
movies. I’m so into auto mechanics.
Nunziata: The guys themselves?
Labute: Oh yes, this just affords me the chance to meet
Rudd: The unfortunate thing is, you’re sometimes assigned
Labute: You know what’s really worth even talking about
in that idea of going soft is that I actually heard that
with Your Friends and Neighbors.
Nunziata: Did they see the same film I did?
Labute: I heard it with Nurse Betty. A certain
number of people. They didn’t realize what was coming. Wait
until you see Possession, it’s puffy soft.
So by my third film I heard that, I’m like "I have
not done enough for you to consider anything, to get a clear
line where I’m going… ’cause I don’t know." I liked
Nurse Betty. I liked that script so I did
it. I loved the book Possession, so I did
it. Is it softer than the first two, certainly but that’s
just me surprising myself. I’m surprised when people go
to see them too.
Rudd: I’m surprised too.
Labute:This is more akin to the first films so invariably
people will think "Neil’s back". Again, with five
movies, how can you say anyone’s done anything?
Nunziata: I think it’s because no one was expecting them
and they hit so hard. People got attached, and when you
adapted other people’s stuff… Nurse Betty was pretty
mainstream on the surface and Possession, which was really
cool… no one was expecting it. Remember, I do my work
on the Internet where people talk about this kind of shit
daily if there’s anything commercial associated with a favorite
Rudd: I like how some people think it’s one thing and then
it leads to another. It doesn’t start off with a kick to
Labute: It feels a little soft again and then each scene
gets a little more "whoa, what’s going on here?".
Unless you have a calculated sense of "this is a stepping
stone to this and this will begat that"… in a biblical
Rudd: That may be the first time you said "begat"
Labute: I say it so often though, probably slipped it in
two or three times already.
Rudd: Here he is with the catchphrase again. "Hope
Labute: You have to keep sort of surprising yourself, keep
it interesting. Those two films… my middle period, suggested
what might interest me as a person… a director. As a writer
during that same period I was writing plays. Like Bash.
The Shape of Things. The Distance From Here…
that are very much akin to the first two films but people
are at home in their underwear on the Internet instead of
coming to see the plays. They’d know I haven’t gone anywhere.
If you’re attracted to something, somebody else’s script
or a book, I just adapted another book. The only way I adapt
is to keep someone else’s core material. I’m not one to
say "I’m going to bring it to my side screaming and
make it a Neil Labute film". I want to keep the things
I like about it. The romanticism and unrequieted love of
Possession and I could have made it darker.
Nurse Betty could have died on her way to
Rome. I would have been like "ha ha ha, didn’t expect
that, did you?". Of course the studio wouldn’t have
allowed it, but I could have shot it! My vision of my own
writing is pretty clear, but it’s less clear to me what
I want to do as a filmmaker. Now that I think of it I’m
affronted, no one has offered to me the chance to direct
someone else’s play. The other day, Liev’s doing Henry
V in the park and before they were really sure I said
"I’ll direct it". And I meant it. Nobody offers
me that, another person’s play. I did it in college, why
Nunziata: Has it changed you as a filmmaker now? Now that
you’ve adapted other people’s things?
Labute: It changed the way that I shot them. I knew that
those studios wanted something else. This is "A",
it’s a comedy and it has some other elements, it’s a road
picture. I can’t shoot it the same way I shot the first
couple (Paul Rudd coughs)…
see you’ve shot that over here, like SARS… but not as
big a finale. Keep it to yourself. Anyway, I can’t shoot
it like Your Friends and Neighbors. Those
are like "CLINK", lock it (the
camera) down. I told this cameraman who I love, and
who died a couple of weeks ago… because I loved him too
Rudd: You’re like Lenny and the rabbits.
Labute: He shot Nurse Betty, he shot Possession.
He thought visually in the way I think in words. We talked
about him shooting The Shape of Things…
but he heard Paul was in it and backed gracefully out.
Rudd: Originally he thought is was Frank Whaley.
Labute: He was like "You don’t have any stars? The
guy who was in Clueless who we haven’t seen
in years? Dude… no.". He got the opportunity to do
the Robert Benton film, The Human Stain. I
told him that I was going back to the way I shot before
so I’m sure you’ll get more opportunities to say, USE A
CRANE or whatever doing this other movie so maybe you should
go for it. So he did the other film. But he helped me think
another way, to figure "how do I make that kind of
movie?". It’s not like I don’t know how to do anything
else, I want to do this like this. If you watch something
like Nurse Betty, it’s still probably more
still and quiet than a lot of other films but they were
Nunziata: Paul, you don’t have as powerful a chin as Aaron
Eckhart does. Has that been an obstacle for you?
Labute: He had that chin in the film, but it slipped…
down to here (points to belly button).
Nunziata: You know, you’d be perfect for a superhero hero
film if you did.
Rudd: I had the last interviewer convinced I was playing
Captain America. Completely lying.
Nunziata: How would you research that role, get trapped
in a block of ice?
Rudd: Actually, what I’m trying to do is get cast in The
Huey Lewis Story. I’ll just take a pencil and give
it a good shot (to the chin to create
the impressive divot owned by the News frontman).
"If this is it…".
Labute: Do you mean Life Times The Power of Love:
The Huey Lewis Story?
Rudd: That’s a different script that’s circulating.
Nunziata: Oliver Stone’s doing one, Baz Luhrmann’s doing
Labute: Rival projects!
Rudd: What was your question again?
Nunziata: I was just being a cock.
Labute: Oh, then that’s OK. You’re welcome here.
Nunziata: I’m actually anxious to hear more about your Captain
Rudd: That was the first thing I thought of. I probably
could have thought of a better superhero.
Labute: You should play Superman. You have
that curl down. (Rudd’s hair somehow had the perfect little
Superman curl that afternoon). Ratner’d dig
Nunziata: Ratner’s off Superman now.
Labute: Ratner’s off? What, creative differences?
Nunziata: Yep. It’s impossible to keep track of all the
changes in the Batman and Superman projects.
Rudd: They were gonna do a Superman and Batman movie.
Nunziata: Yeah, and then Wolfgang Peterson left to do Troy.
That was a good idea.
Nunziata: I don’t know if you’re into gladiatorial epics,
but Brad Pitt is playing Achilles.
Labute: That will be good.
Nunziata: It’s a true epic. Not like Gladiator. The
script was excellent. It has nothing to do with The Shape
of Things, of course.
Labute: That’s alright. I want to see it more than our movie
Nunziata: Speaking of, do you know when your film’s coming
out in the UK?
Labute: Just after Troy comes out. We’re actually
adding it to Troy.
Rudd: As a trailer.
Labute: We don’t know.
Nunziata: How did you two get hooked up originally?
Labute: Dating service.
Rudd: Great Expectations. I was looking for someone
who liked long walks on the beach. Brooks. Rainy Sundays.
Labute: And getting caught in the rain. Not really into
health food but kind of into champagne.
Nunziata: And that lead you to working together.
Labute: We both went to the University of Kansas although
we didn’t know each other. I saw him in a play and we realized
later that I’d seen him be "good" Macbeth. He
was in an Iranian director’s production of Macbeth
that had like three Macbeth’s onstage.
Rudd: His sucked.
Labute: I went to see it because a friend was in it and
I was like "what the fuck’s going on?". It was
the Matthew Varney show…
Rudd: It was called MacCremaster.
Labute: I’ve actually seen some of the Cremasters
and liked them, but…
Rudd: Literally, ten people saw this play. He was one of
them. Then, years later…
Labute: He was miscast in one of my plays.
Rudd: Yeah, Bash. I think they thought I was
Paul Rudd-Riguez. It was an East-L.A. kind of guy.
Labute: Paul Rudd-Riguez…
Rudd: So that was where we met and after a bottle of wine
and a late night we both figured out we went to The University
of Kansas. It was really during Bash… Neil
didn’t direct it, he was around… too much so.
Labute: I was never really totally satisfied. Then I briefly
got to direct them technically because we filmed it for
Showtime. I got a chance to go in and film their live performance
in LA and that was kind of great. Then we kept in touch
in odd ways, run into each other or maybe call. Then we
were both in London at the same time, he was doing Long
Day’s Journey into Night… I was doing Mame…
(Rudd laughs) I was doing Possession
and I wrote the script for The Shape of Things
and we hooked up for lunch near the place I was living and
I gave him the script and I went to see him do his play.
He was ready to go home. He’d had enough of London and winter
and doing a hard play. He read it and we hooked him into
Nunziata: And not much was changed from the play aside from
the Costello music?
Labute: Yeah, they’ve been simple. There’s been some simple
but rather profound changes. Not even to the text, really.
We had a really cool space we were in, in London. Then we
moved to a theatrical setting 3/4ths dressed in New York
and then came the movie. We lost a little bit of dialogue
and yeah Costello’s music replaced the Smashing Pumpkins.
Some sufrace things, but they’re the natural changes you’d
make. Smaller things but obvious things.
Nunziata: How the hell do you work so fast? A lot of folks
take three or four years…
Labute: We take the freeway.
Rudd: The Freeway of Love.
Labute: I like to write. It took a long time to get people
to listen, then finally an audience of size reacted to In
The Company of Men and said "that’s interesting".
I haven’t settled downand said " I need a real break.".
If I dug ditches I might need a break. Right now it’s like,
sit down and write. I’m not a taskmaster type of person…
I’m more of a Cream Master kind of person.
I write when I want to, but I have a lot of ideas.
Nunziata: What’s next for you fellas?
Labute: I’ve been writing, oddly enough as I said. A couple
of film scripts. Adapted a book, and here’s something for
your damn UK magazine… you may have heard this. I’m in
line to direct a remake of The Wicker Man.
I just finished writing it, Nicolas Cage is attached to
Nunziata: But it’s not a superhero film!
Labute: He’s going to wear a big "W" on his chest.
Nunziata: Did you write it?
Labute: It’s written, I’m just going to direct it… unless
it’s so good Wolfgang takes over.
Rudd: Brett Ratner’s free.
Nunziata: It still can be a superhero movie.
Labute: He sells rattan furniture by day, by night he’s
The Wicker Man!
Nunziata: Paul, what do you have in the works?
Rudd: I’m going to be The Wicker Man. I’ve
already had a meeting with Brett Ratner, so…
Nunziata: What else?
Rudd: I’m doing some more Friends episodes
this next season.
Nunziata: Yeah, but anything good?
Rudd: I’ve got a play in New York called The Exonerated.
I have some things that may happen and may not happen but
I never believe anything’s going to happen.