By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 14, 2012 at 10:56AM
Writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass headed into SXSW with an unusual distribution deal for their long-in-the-works micro-budget brother comedy "The Do-Deca-Pentathlon." They set it up at both Fox Searchlight, which released "Cyrus," and Red Flag Releasing, a small indie run by ex-Warner Independent execs Laura Kim and Paul Federbush, who are able to do day-and-date VOD in a way that the studio cannot without straining relationships with exhibitors. The Duplasses figure they are getting the best of both possible worlds.
The movie was initially destined as a studio vehicle, but the brothers backed off and raised their own funding so they could shoot it with acting pals Mark Kelly, Steve Zissis and Jennifer Lafleur. It's a terrific, believable, rib-ticklingly funny movie as sibling rivals take "25 events, two brothers, one champion" to a whole new level.
"We've been working on it a while," Mark Duplass admitted at the Alamo Ritz world premiere Sunday. "It's been a long time coming. We shot the thing in 2008 after 'Baghead,' which showed here, and wanted to finish it but we got to make 'Cyrus' and 'Jeff, Who Lives At Home.'"
"Our shit was blowing up," added Jay.
"We thank our actors for being patient," said Mark.
After they finished editing "Jeff" they returned to this labor of love based on two brothers who lived down the street from them in New Orleans when they were growing up. "That's the real fucking thing, you can't make it up," said Jay. "The original results are shrouded in controversy."
They shot the film in four weeks living at their parents' house. The movie has some large-scale set pieces for such a small budget, and required small numbers of extras to be very convincing.
The duo's other brother film opens via Paramount next week. Truth is, I liked "The Do-Deca-Pentathlon" better than mildly amusing and bigger-budgeted "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," which comes to a satisfying climax but feels like a long slog to get there. The movie, which has been on the fest circuit since its Toronto debut, stars Susan Sarandon as the mother of long-time slacker Jason Segal and his straight-arrow brother Ed Helms.
Mark Duplass has also been acting up a storm: First up is Laurence Kasdan's "Darling Companion" with Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline, which SPC releases April 20. He also stars in Sundance hit "Your Sister's Sister" with Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt, from his "Humpday" director Lynn Shelton (IFC releases June 15). Another hit at Sundance was Colin Trevorrow's engaging sci-fi romance "Safety Not Guaranteed" (also playing SXSW), in which Mark stars opposite rising TV stars Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson (FilmDistrict releases June 8). And Duplass wrote a horror thriller, "Black Rock," for his actress-writer-director wife and "The League" co-star Katie Aselton, which sold at Sundance.
We discuss how they juggle all of the above below.