Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch Discuss PRINCE AVALANCHE
Click HERE for my review of Prince Avalanche.
Last week, I sat down with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch to talk about Prince Avalanche—in select theaters, on iTunes, and On Demand today. It was very intimate–only Screen Invasion and three other media outlets were in the hotel suite where Rudd and Hirsch were making their rounds with the press. Despite my burning interest in Anchorman 2, we stuck mostly to “Avalanche.” We spoke to the actors individually; Rudd was first, followed by Hirsch. Both of them were more than friendly, not hesitating to make jokes that had absolutely nothing to do with promoting their film. After Rudd joked that some of his films were “shitty,” I reassured him that I couldn’t think of any–but he offered to show me some DVDs. When Hirsch was asked what he thinks he’d be doing if he wasn’t an actor, he said that he’d maybe be a librarian–but he wouldn’t read anything and just shush everyone.
Paul Rudd met director David Gordon Green at a film festival years ago, and they have established a relationship ever since. He says, “He called me and said ‘hey there’s this park where I live, and there was a huge wildfire and I found this Icelandic movie [Either Way, 2011] and maybe we could go out there and do a cool character piece’.” He continued that their philosophy for the 16 day production would be to “see what happens” and that they would “treat it as an experiment”, and no one was certain the film would even get distribution.
I was surprised and impressed to learn the on-set crew was very small–only about 10 or 15 people–and many of them were recent college graduates from Columbia University. He explained the benefits of such a very small production, “It’s the good thing about being in one location. It never felt rushed. And if we had an idea about something we just did it anyway. We didn’t have to worry about lighting or setting up for coverage. We were able to shoot it in order, which is rare, that doesn’t happen usually.” Not unlike small productions, but certainly out of the ordinary for large studio films that Rudd has become famous for, they didn’t rehearse anything. But it sounded like that’s what he preferred, because it allowed several opportunities for improvisation.
I had to ask him about one improvised scene in particular, in which he talks to an older woman whose home burned down, and then goes through the motions of a typical home life. I said, “I was funny for about 10 seconds, but then it got sad–the love of his life just broke up with him, it’s so sad as he sits in the shell of a house.” He agreed, “Sometimes you just get into a space, and if you’re listening, it’ll take you where you need to go. It’ll tell you. It didn’t seem like we should try and force anything, like we need to be funny here. I never thought of it in terms of a comedy anyway, or any kind of genre. It has its poignant moments and it can be dramatic, but I think that kind of stuff coexists and things and makes it tough to classify. And I think this would be that.”
For many name actors, there is a phrase that sort of dictates the path of their career. It goes: “One for me, one for them.” ‘Them’ is the major film studios. I lauded Rudd’s ability to find the perfect balance between studio films and small independents such as Prince Avalanche, however, he said that his thought process is a little more fluid than ‘one for me, one for them.’ “I don’t have a conscious trajectory, I don’t think in those ways. Oh, I just did a comedy now I have to do something dramatic. It might be stupid, maybe I should’ve been doing that. But I like doing stuff like this, I think in terms of what it is that I like.”
Emile Hirsch became involved with “Avalanche” when he called longtime friend Green, with questions about his own ultra-low budget project that he was working on with friends. It just happened to be the same day that Green started casting a film of his own. So he sent him the script, and there was more than enough in the short 65 page draft that excited Hirsch. Of course, he was also excited to work with Paul Rudd. “I saw Our Idiot Brother, and that I really liked Paul in. I thought he was awesome, that was a really bad-ass performance from him. Anyone who can do comedy like that, I just have a respect for their chops, and he’s the kind of guy who can really do both.” But he’d NEVER seen Rudd as Mike Hannigan, aka “Crap Bag,” in Friends. And I’m a little frustrated with myself for not telling Rudd how his mime skills in this film reminded me of his air-piano skills on the sitcom.
Hirsch considers his character, Alvin, to be Emile 2.0.: “I explored the parts of myself that are more juvenile and man-babyish and magnify those and bring those up to the surface. There’s me and my id and a couple buddies I have and their id, at our most immature, and I take that and use it as the template of the character.” Both Rudd and Hirsch praised director David Gordon Green and cinematographer Tim Orr. Says Hirsch, “[Green] is really admirable. He is constantly coming up with new ideas, and he gives actors their space.” Of Orr, on whether the cinematography played any role in his work, “I knew that it was going to be beautiful, but because I was working on an intimate scale with Paul and I was so focused on that, I took for granted just how amazing the film was going to look. The cinematography was truly stunning.” The original score by Explosions in the Sky, Hirsch said, was equally powerful. “The score is a third character in the film. I think the film has a magical, haunted quality to it which separates it from other movies, and its a direct result of the score that’s infused in it. There’s an addictive quality—you almost want to see the movie a second time just to hear the music again. They’re amazing songs, on their own, they’re amazing.”
Tying a bow on what went into the making of Prince Avalanche, Hirsch sums up, “So we were like let’s go into the woods and take out everything we don’t like about making movies, and let’s do it on our own terms at a really fast pace speed so we never get bored and have a really good time.” It was truly a pleasure to talk about a project that both actors were clearly so passionate about.