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Interview: Marisa Tomei

Oscar-Winning Actress Discusses New Indie Film ‘Cyrus’

Above: Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and John C. Reilly form an odd family in "Cyrus"

Audio

Aired 7/1/10

The Duplass Brothers are part of a film movement known as “mumblecore.” The movement is characterized by low budgets, a focus on personal relationships, and improvised scripts. I spoke with Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei about working with the Duplass brothers on “Cyrus” (opening July 2 at Landmark's Hillcrest and La Jolla Village Cinemas, and Ultrastar Flower Hill). Listen to my radio feature.

The Duplass Brothers are part of a film movement known as “mumblecore.” The movement is characterized by low budgets, a focus on personal relationships, and improvised scripts. I spoke with Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei about working with the Duplass brothers on “Cyrus” (opening July 2 at Landmark's Hillcrest and La Jolla Village Cinemas, and Ultrastar Flower Hill). Listen to my radio feature.

When filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass met with Marisa Tomei about doing their film “Cyrus,” they did everything they could to scare her off.

MARISA TOMEI: They tried to tell me how it was going to be so ridiculously low budget and how they were going to improv a lot and they don’t have any answers and they don’t know anything and that they’ll just be stymied a lot of time and will have to work through the scenes together. And of course that didn’t scare me because I love when people say they don’t know because that’s usually when creative things happen.

John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei try to get their groove on in "Cyrus"

Fox Searchlight

Above: John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei try to get their groove on in "Cyrus"

So Tomei took on the role of Molly.

MARISA TOMEI: We open up on her kind of on the prowl really.

John [John C. Reilly]: "I can’t talk to you. I’m just gonna mess this up. You’re really hot girl. I’m sorry."

Molly [Marisa Tomei]: "You’re not messing it up."

John: "Are you flirting with me?"

MARISA TOMEI: We get our groove on and then when he meets my family, my son.

Cyrus [Jonah Hill]: "Hey guys… sorry for interrupting you."

MARISA TOMEI: My son gets really jealous. And freaks out.

John: [to Cyrus] "Listen to me you little weirdo if you mess with me, I'm gonna mess with you."

Molly: "Everything okay?"

MARISA TOMEI: And so it becomes a triangle.

Cyrus: "You are out of your league."

John: "I will knock you out."

John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill face off in "Cyrus"

Fox Searchlight

Above: John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill face off in "Cyrus"

John C. Reilly plays Molly’s new boyfriend and Jonah Hill plays her son Cyrus. The Duplass brothers refrain from telling us how we’re supposed to think about Molly’s closeness to her son.

MARISA TOMEI: I think the movie in general is a Rorschach test because I’ve had so many different responses to the relationship between my character and Jonah’s character from people just thinking how great that they’re best friends to they are so repulsive.

Cyrus: "'Night John."

John: "Hey your mom is in the shower."

MARISA TOMEI: And everyone is pretty sure that how they are seeing it is how it was intended.

Writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass

Fox Searchlight

Above: Writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass

Director Mark Duplass is also an actor so Tomei felt she had a real collaborator behind the camera, one who would allow her to explore her character. The other brother, Jay, used a steadicam to shoot the actors up close and in a documentary style.

MARISA TOMEI: So he is actually even physically in the playing space with you and he’s within feet of us and so he almost becomes like another actor in a certain way because he has to open himself up to let his emotions hit him, and be responding in the moment in order to put the camera where he wants it to go…there were certainly days and times when they said well we don’t know what to do in this scene… we didn’t know how we were going to get from A to B in the course of that scene, how is that turning point going to happen and how is this character going to crack open. And that’s when we would hang out and improv and try a lot of different things or take a break even. I’ve never seen that on a set before.

The unconventional approach on the set has lead to an unconventional and often deliberately awkward comedy about relationships.

MARISA TOMEI: Thematically it is just about people trying to grow and how awkward that can be. And the most enticing thing about it is that it’s funny. You know in the reactions I see people are just having fun and really laughing and then talking about it, which is actually a great combination. It’s like a full meal, it’s really satisfying there’s a lot to it.

So help yourself to a serving of "Cyrus."

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