Jay And Mark Duplass: 'People Give Us Blazers!' For their VIP game, we quiz Jay and Mark Duplass on their specific knowledge of Academy Award Best Picture Nominees from 1976-1985.

Jay And Mark Duplass: 'People Give Us Blazers!'

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This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm your host, Ophira Eisenberg. Now please welcome our VIPs. You know them from their work on "Transparent," "The League" and HBO's "Togetherness." They've also made a million indie movies together. It's Mark and Jay Duplass.



EISENBERG: Now you two have been making movies together since you were 6 and 9. Was it a...

JAY DUPLASS: I don't know if I'd call it a movie.

M. DUPLASS: It was some footage that played in a row.



M. DUPLASS: It was not an entertaining viewing experience if you're interested.

J. DUPLASS: A lot of filmmakers' films from their younger days are prophetic of future genius. Ours was not.

EISENBERG: No, what was the content?

M. DUPLASS: The first one was the invisible man walking across the room where we would move the shoes one foot in front of the other and then film them a couple of seconds at a time and blow people's minds.



M. DUPLASS: The second one was a remake of "The Blob" where our blue beanbag just rolled down the stairs.



EISENBERG: It's just so nice hearing the two of you talk like this because I love my family. I would never want to work with them.


EISENBERG: So what happens in the family when you two fight?

M. DUPLASS: We don't fight a lot, and we have actually talked about - where we wonder if maybe we should fight more. We've talked about going to therapy so that we do fight more.


J. DUPLASS: So try some yelling and screaming.

M. DUPLASS: We're worried that maybe we're repressing some stuff, and that, like, when we wake up when we're 60 and we're, like, at the Cannes Film Festival, one of us might just pull out a gun and kill the other one.


M. DUPLASS: We'll just - going to have to see.


EISENBERG: Your breakout movie was a short film called "This Is John" about a man trying to leave the perfect outgoing message on his answering machine.

J. DUPLASS: Really just any, any message.

EISENBERG: Any message.

J. DUPLASS: Any message, we had tried to be the Coen brothers in the early '90s...


J. DUPLASS: ...But we failed miserably because they're the Coen brothers.

M. DUPLASS: They're really good at it, too. It's a whole other problem.

J. DUPLASS: Yup, super good at being the Coen brothers.



J. DUPLASS: We were kind of ready to throw in the towel. I was, like, pushing 30 and was like, I got to stop torturing myself and our family with this artist thing. And so Mark was like, well, let's just make a movie today. So we took a home video camera, and the story we came up with was something that had happened to me the day before, which was I was trying to record the greeting of my answering machine, and I failed, and I had a nervous breakdown and was crying on the floor.


J. DUPLASS: Thank you very much, appreciate the response.

M. DUPLASS: It's the little things, guys. It's the little things.

J. DUPLASS: And Mark went out the door, and I rolled the camera, and we shot it in one take. And it was a $3 movie that got into Sundance and did more for our careers than the previous 10 years of trying to be the Coen brothers.


M. DUPLASS: And now as you can see, we own blazers.


EISENBERG: That's right.

M. DUPLASS: That's right.

EISENBERG: They both have them.

M. DUPLASS: This is how it happens, guys.

EISENBERG: Both of you are wearing very...

J. DUPLASS: Deal with it.

EISENBERG: ...Smart blazers. Those are more than $3, I can tell. What was the...

J. DUPLASS: We wouldn't know.

M. DUPLASS: We don't even have to buy these blazers. People give us blazers.


M. DUPLASS: It's insane.


EISENBERG: Jay, what was the $3 for? What was...

J. DUPLASS: You had to buy a tape at 7-Eleven.



J. DUPLASS: And I literally - I went to 7-Eleven and bought the tape.

EISENBERG: Has anyone said, all right, you're - you've done this $3 film in the past that was highly acclaimed short film at Sundance? We're going to give you $3 now. What can you do?

J. DUPLASS: You know, what did happen, which was interesting, is - and this is a little insight into where that Hollywood works as a machine - it was if these guys made this movie that got into Sundance for $3, if we give them $3,000, the movie could be a thousand times as good.


EISENBERG: But you have - I mean, you have two projects right now with HBO, "Togetherness..."


EISENBERG: ...And also the upcoming animated series, "Animals." Now, Mark, you star in "Togetherness." Is there more pressure on you when you are acting on a project that you created because you've also done tons of other television film or when you're on a project that someone else created and has given you the script for?

M. DUPLASS: Yeah, I mean, when you - when I'm on a show like the show "The League" that I did, that was like a zero...


M. DUPLASS: Wait, yeah, I was waiting for that. I even put a little pause in there if you guys noticed.


M. DUPLASS: There was zero pressure on that kind of a show because it's, like, it's trying to come up with the most intelligent version of the fart joke you can come up with in that moment. "Togetherness" is inherently more stressful. I mean, the way Jay and I have always talked about it is, you know, when we are writing and directing and producing and sometimes acting, one of our things, it really is like being a parent. It's - there's nothing more rewarding but nothing more exhausting. And when we are acting in other shows that aren't our own, it's like being the drunk uncle who shows up with Oreos, plays with the children...


M. DUPLASS: ...And then goes home and let's them deal with everything, and it's very nice to have that dichotomy.

EISENBERG: Which you are enjoying right now, Jay, on the show, "Transparent," yeah.


EISENBERG: Major role as Josh, the brother and son.

J. DUPLASS: Lot of people have see me naked in here it sounds like.


J. DUPLASS: OK, cool.

EISENBERG: Now we're used to having you behind the camera, and you're in front of the camera, and you are getting just huge kudos and acclaim by everyone saying how great - did you give him any acting tips, Mark?

M. DUPLASS: I said acting...


M. DUPLASS: ...Is very fun, and you should do this because when I go act on other projects, it's like I'm having an affair on our little marriage together, and I get to feel sassy and bad...


M. DUPLASS: ...And do my own thing and just be me in a way that I - you can't always be when someone knows you so well.

EISENBERG: And has that been your experience, Jay?

J. DUPLASS: Oh, yeah.


J. DUPLASS: It is really fun to act. I'm a little pissed at Mark for not telling me this 10 years ago.


J. DUPLASS: But it's really fun, and I mean, I'm lucky to be on such a great show.

EISENBERG: So you're on record as saying that even though you were both born in the '70s, as kids, you should've been obsessed with "Star Wars" like all of your friends, but you were not. You were obsessed with hard-hitting relationship dramas like "Ordinary People."


EISENBERG: Is that true, Jay?

J. DUPLASS: That is correct.

EISENBERG: Really, that's what you guys watched together as brothers.

J. DUPLASS: Well, it was "Ordinary People," but sometimes we would roll into some lighter fare like "Sophie's Choice."


M. DUPLASS: "Kramer Versus Kramer."

J. DUPLASS: "Kramer Versus Kramer" was always good for our guffaw or two. That's what they were programming on HBO, and that's just what we watched.

EISENBERG: Fantastic, yeah.

J. DUPLASS: And for better or for worse, it shaped us. Like, our die was cast.

EISENBERG: So we'd thought we'd test your knowledge of those movies, specifically Academy Award best picture nominees...

M. DUPLASS: Oh, this is great.

EISENBERG: ...From 1976 to 1985.

M. DUPLASS: Wonderful.

EISENBERG: That gentle little period right there.

M. DUPLASS: Oh, Lord.

EISENBERG: So, Jonathan Coulton and I are going to do some very dramatic readings from these films, and all you have to do is tell us the title, and the winner will receive an MFA from NYU Film School...


J. DUPLASS: It's about [expletive] time for that.

EISENBERG: ...And of course, an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube, yeah. Are you ready?


EISENBERG: Here we go. Can you remember no melody of mine? I was the most famous composer in Europe. I wrote 40 operas alone. Here, here, how about this one?


JONATHAN COULTON: Yes, I know that. Oh, that's charming. I'm sorry. I didn't know you wrote that.

EISENBERG: I didn't. That was Mozart.


EISENBERG: That went off in a different place.

M. DUPLASS: The name of the film...


M. DUPLASS: ...Is "Amadeus..."


M. DUPLASS: ...Starring F. Murray Abraham...


M. DUPLASS: ...As Salieri.


EISENBERG: And yes, well done. In this one, Coulton and I are an old married couple.

COULTON: You want to know why I came back so fast, I got to the end of our lane. I couldn't remember where the old town road was. There was nothing familiar, not one damn tree, scared me half to death. That's why came running back here to you so I could see your pretty face. I could feel safe. I was still me.

EISENBERG: Listen to me, mister.


EISENBERG: You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget that. You're going to get back up on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight and away we're going to go, go, go.



J. DUPLASS: "On Golden Pond."



J. DUPLASS: Featuring, by the way, Dabney Coleman in one of many insensitive male counterpart supporting actor roles from 1975 to 1982, yeah.


J. DUPLASS: Quite a few he did in there...

M. DUPLASS: It was...

J. DUPLASS: ...At least of which is "Tootsie."


EISENBERG: All right.

M. DUPLASS: And all of it was really foreplay for "Nine To Five."

J. DUPLASS: That's right. He was just leading up to it.


COULTON: Now just to mix things up, in this one, I'm going to be a little boy named Billy...


COULTON: ...And Ophira is going to be my dad.

EISENBERG: Hold it right there. You put that ice cream in your mouth, and you are in very, very, very big trouble.

COULTON: Ow, you're hurting me.

EISENBERG: Ow, don't kick me.

COULTON: I hate you. I want my mommy.

EISENBERG: I'm all you got.


EISENBERG: Mark buzzed in.

M. DUPLASS: The title of the film and the biggest mischance for a Seinfeld spinoff, "Kramer Versus Kramer."


EISENBERG: OK, in this one, Jonathan and I are not married, but there's clearly some sort of sexual tension.


EISENBERG: I should tell you this kind of coat doesn't have any buttons, see, hooks and eyes.

COULTON: Something wrong with buttons?

EISENBERG: Buttons are proud and vain. It's not plain.

COULTON: Got anything against zippers?

EISENBERG: You making fun of me? Oh, we got you.


EISENBERG: They looked at each other, like, exactly at the same time. That was eerie.

J. DUPLASS: Can we guess?

EISENBERG: Let's go to our puzzle guru, John Chaneski, for a hint.

JOHN CHANESKI: Her people don't use coats with buttons.


J. DUPLASS: That's not really much of a hint.


CHANESKI: Yeah, her Pennsylvania people don't wear coats with buttons.

M. DUPLASS: If you've - you got it.


M. DUPLASS: You go for it.


J. DUPLASS: "Witness."

EISENBERG: Yes, "Witness" is correct.



J. DUPLASS: Oh, her people, yes, yeah.

EISENBERG: This is your final one, and we are going to need puzzle guru John Chaneski's help for this one. He is going to be playing a little boy named Alvy. I'm his mom, and Jonathan Coulton is his doctor.

COULTON: Why are you depressed, Alvy?

EISENBERG: Tell Dr. Flicker.

CHANESKI: The universe is expanding.

COULTON: The universe is expanding.

CHANESKI: Well, the universe is everything, and if it's expanding, someday, we'll break apart, and that would be the end of everything.

EISENBERG: What is that your business? He's stopped doing his homework.

CHANESKI: What's the point?

EISENBERG: What does the universe got to do with it? You're here in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is not expanding.



M. DUPLASS: Great accents, by the way.


M. DUPLASS: Everyone, very well done. "Annie Hall", 1977, sweeping the awards, Woody Allen not there to receive because he is playing in his jazz band on Monday nights.


EISENBERG: Mark, you're all about the value at. That's good.

M. DUPLASS: I really like to show off.

EISENBERG: That's good.

M. DUPLASS: I want people to like me more than Jay.


M. DUPLASS: It's hard.

J. DUPLASS: I'm going for the sweet silent type.


M. DUPLASS: It's clearly working. I'm breaking down over here.

EISENBERG: Hey, puzzle guru John Chaneski, how did the brothers do?

CHANESKI: Well, Mark, I think people are going to like you because you won that game. Congratulations.

M. DUPLASS: Oh, God.

CHANESKI: You win the Rubik's Cube.

M. DUPLASS: Oh, my God.


EISENBERG: Let's have a huge hand for Jay and Mark Duplass.


M. DUPLASS: Thank you guys.

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