DO-DECA-PENTATHLON Explained the Jay Duplass Way
The Do-Deca-Pentathlon is described on the website for the film as “The story of two grown brothers who secretly compete in a homemade Olympics during a family reunion. When their fierce and disruptive competition is uncovered, the brothers must choose between their passion for beating the hell out of each other and the greater good of the family. ” It’s that and so much more. This film is a heartfelt look at the complex relationship that brothers have with one another, though such relationships can certainly seem quite shallow from the outside looking in. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon also delves into a commentary on the ferocity that is unleashed in us as humans, and the primal, seething lunatics we become when we compete with one-another.
I was remiss to miss The Do-Deca-Pentathlon at SXSW, due to not getting advanced tickets and losing my place in line because I was being a good Samaritan and staying with the cash I had just put down to pay for my lunch so no grubby hands snaked it from the poor girl who had already been stiffed once that day and who trustingly expected no one in a crowded bar full of “outsiders” would grab her scratch a second time. By the time I got in line, I was no longer guaranteed a seat. This was truly one of the most disappointing moments of the entire festival for me. I, as my readers well know, am a huge Duplass Brothers fan and I was extremely excited (maybe ridiculously so, maybe to the point that I called my best friend immediately afterward to gush about the experience) when I was offered an opportunity to put that wrong right and sit down in Austin at the famed Highball for an interview Jay Duplass in anticipation of the release of his and brother Mark Duplass‘ film The Do-Deca-Pentathlon this July. Jay gave me some great insight into the film and a candid look at the relationship between the two Duplass Brothers growing up. I, in turn, regaled him with stories of my SXSW exploits involving his film and his brother, both noted later on in the interview.
JD: It (the idea for the film The Do-Deca-Pentathlon) came from two brothers who we grew up down the street from us when we were in high school who created a Do-Deca-Pentathlon. It’s real. They were born very close in age, loved each other a lot and he only way they knew how to express it was by slamming a basketball in the other one’s face. Headlocks and noogies, that’s how they came up, and Mark and I have been obsessed with it ever since. It wasn’t until we came up with the idea that they would reignite the competition at an older age, very out of shape, slightly estranged and kind of like ruin a family get together that we thought, “This is a movie”.
SI: Did y’all (Jay and Mark) ever try and participate in your own version (of the Do-Deca-Pentathlon)?
JD: No, but Mark and I definitely grew up as neighborhood kids playing street football, playing pool, playing ping pong, swim races, the whole thing. It’s a very big part of who we were growing up.
SI: Were you and Mark super competitive with one another growing up or was it (competing) more against other kids in the neighborhood?
JD: I guess other kids in the neighborhood. Mark and I were in a very lucky position. We are three and a half years apart so I was always three and a half years older, I was always going to win at everything ’cause when you’re a kid three and a half years is like different species. But, we’re close enough that we are still peers and close enough to work together now. So it was kind of like a perfect spread for a positive partnership. We did compete very heavily later in high school though, it started to ramp up a little bit.
SI: You guys weren’t in high school together that long though so it couldn’t have been that bad.
JD: No, but I would come home from college and we would play ping pong against each other and it was fuckin’ intense. It was very much like The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, it would start out very joyful and end up like you’re an animal. You just wanna rip your own face off, you want to rip the other person’s face off and I find that fascinating. When the movie starts, you want them to compete, you want them to do it and you want them to come back alive because they are a little dormant. Then you’re like, why is the wife in the way and then later you’re like, “Oh, she’s right, they’re assholes now, they’ve turned into monsters.” and Mark and I have just noticed that.
Have you ever gone to a couples’ game night? It gets ferocious and then you’re driving home and you’re like, wait a minute, I think I was just screaming in somebody’s face five minutes ago. Like, I was literally screaming at my best friend’s wife’s face and then you’re all embarrassed and shit and it’s slightly awkward the next time you get back together. It’s like something primal about competing in that way that brings out the worst and the best in you I guess.
SI: As for the the actors that play in the film, how close a match are they to the guys you grew up with? Do you still know those guys (the brothers you grew up with)?
JD: I’m still good friends with the guys (the brothers), we actually got them together to do a Do-Deca-Pentathlon redux competition. They are still very well matched, hilarious. The two guys (Steve Zissis and Mark Kelly) that play in the movie, the reason that we picked them is because, number one: they are great actors, number two: really sweet, sensitive, emotionally deep, deep guys, and three: they were both high school athletes; like hardcore. You can see it coming out. Steve, who is a two-hundred forty pound Greek man, he can dunk a basketball, granted the goal is half the size, but like when you see him dribbling and jumping and reverse dunking you’re like, that’s an athlete. We love that about them. They had to truly connect with it. They would even come to us every once in a while and say “look, I know this is a movie and everything, but…”, like Mark Kelly said, “I played baseball in high school; I need to win the baseball”, and Steve similarly was like “I need to win basketball”, so they were very protective of their sports.
SI: Did you video the Do-Deca-Pentathlon redux with the actual brothers that the films is based on?
JD: Yes we did. We recorded it and I think it’s going to be the best DVD extra we’ll ever, ever make. It is fucking EPIC and it came down to the wire, down to the final event, as would be expected.
SI: So…I talked to Mark for a second at SXSW at the opening of his film, Safety Not Guaranteed and asked the worst questions on the red carpet, totally blew my two questions that I was allowed, but he gave me a great answer to one of them. When I asked who he would like to meet if he could go back in time, he said y’alls grandmother when she was in her twenties or thirties, to hang out with her and get to know her as that person in that time.
JD: Oh my God, that’s a great answer. I’ll tell you my answer to that. It’s not as sweet, but when my duaghter was born I was doing the night shift (three and a half years ago), and while I was staying up taking care of her really late at night I got obsessed with Fleetwood Mac and I got obsessed with Stevie Nix in the early seventies and just how wildly inspired she was. (My wife was totally fine with this) I was like, I kinda want to invent a time machine so I can go back to 1973 and have a torrid relationship with Stevie Nix for just a year and just come back here.
(Let me just add a side note here: This is what happens to your brain when you have a new baby. If you haven’t experienced it and you plan on having kids one day, something of this nature most certainly will happen to you…trust.)
I was literally obsessed with this. I was genuinely upset that I couldn’t go there and have this fantastical sexual relationship with Stevie Nix. I needed to create a reality where I was in a wild relationship with Stevie Nix in order to get through what was happening.
Such is the talent of these two brothers, that they could come up with such completely opposite answers to this one question, but both share such great answers so as to eliminate the lameness of the question in the first place!
I have one little story to share about Do-Deca-Pentathlon from SXSW. I tried to see Do-Deca-Pentathlon at SXSW and got in line literally three people behind the last person that was guaranteed a seat, but decided to wait it out. I was in line with this guy who was frustrated that he didn’t make it for a guaranteed spot in line. He wandered off and I started talking to his girlfriend. The guy in question had mentioned that he had a film at SXSW. I didn’t recognize him and he looked really young so I assumed (you know all about assuming) he was a new filmmaker or something of that nature. I asked what film he worked on and she said 21 Jump Street. At this point, I should have known better, but I didn’t and was still assuming he was someone on the crew, etc. So I followed up by casually asking what he did on the film, “Oh, he directed it.” she said. “Shut up!” I said. Stunning commentary, I know. I then got to spend the rest of my time in line, about an hour, chatting with Phil Lord and getting to meet Chris Miller. The conversation was interesting and fun and made for a great SXSW story. When the line was stopped just a few people ahead of us, I shook hands and gave everyone a nice to meet you and took off as I was certainly not making it into the film. Though, because of my hasty exit, I didn’t get to answer Jay’s question as to whether or not Phil made it in to see Do-Deca-Pentathlon. I’ll have to get on that. I will tell you that he really wanted to get in to see this film which just goes to prove that these two men truly are a director’s directors.
Update: Phil Lord disclosed to me that he did not make it into the film after my hasty retreat!
A big thank you to Jay Duplass for a great chat and a fantastic film! It was amazing meeting someone I admire so very much. I can’t tell you how strongly I recommend that you go see The Do-Deca-Pentathlon if you find it at a theater near you, and if you don’t then you can find it on VOD this month. It is a phenomenal film that has heart and depth and everything that we have come to love from the Brothers Duplass. They have obviously found kindred spirits in the two leads for Do-Deca and these men add to the emotion and ridiculousness that is the brotherly relationship. Who better to bring such a relationship so honestly to the big screen than a pair of brothers?
The Do-Deca-Pentathlon will be release on VOD June 26 from Fox Searchlight Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film will be released theatrically in select markets July 6 from Red Flag Releasing.
Read more about what writer Casey Carroll thought of The Do-Deca-Pentathlon at SXSW and watch the trailer by Clicking Here. Follow me @CatEdison and @ScreenInvasion on Twitter for the latest news, interviews and reviews!
What ridiculously entertaining event would you create for your own Do-Deca-Pentathlon? Answer in the comments section below!