You know him from Parks & Recreation and have seen him in movies like The Aviator, Our Idiot Brother and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. As of this weekend, you can see Adam Scott like never before in sex comedy The Overnight.
Scott plays Alex, a 30-something who’s just moved to Los Angeles with his wife Emily (Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black) and their young son. Stuck in a social rut and looking to establish some new friendships, an opportunity presents itself when their son befriends another little boy at the playground and his father Kurt (played by Jason Schwartzman, Rushmore) invites them over for dinner. Kurt’s wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche, Stoker) is just as welcoming as her husband and Alex and Emily find themselves fascinated by the intriguing couple. When it’s time for the kids to go to bed, the night is just getting started.
Written and directed by Patrick Brice (Creep), Scott was so drawn to the script that he and wife Naomi also decided to produce the film. Because far more than raunchy entertainment, The Overnight offers a real look into issues facing young parents and the emotional stagnation that couples often find themselves in. Feelings of financial inadequacy, body issues, social and sexual discomfort…Brice is not afraid to address these topics and it’s a welcome relief from many films that claim to be daring yet tiptoe around the difficult stuff that no one wants to talk about.
Following a fantastic opening weekend in both Los Angeles and New York where it topped the specialty box office, Scott was in Toronto on Monday to promote the film. We sat down to chat about its undeniable appeal and the great experience that, let’s face it, could have been terribly awkward.
What was it that jumped out for you when you first read the script and made you want to get behind the film not only as an actor but also as a producer?
My wife and I were looking for something to produce, a feature, and this was certainly the right size. It was a pretty contained story, essentially one location…it was also hilarious. It had really good jokes. But we connected with it, you know? As parents and people just kind of figuring out how to have a social life and a family. It was all of those things – a really sharply observed little story. We were looking for something we could do quickly and cheaply and find a script that was built that way – but built so strongly that you maybe wouldn’t notice that it’s quick and cheap, that that’s irrelevant. If you had a hundred million dollars to make the same movie, it would be the exact same movie. It’s a function of the story.
Given the content, was there any apprehension as to how it might be received? If so, when did you first breathe that sigh of relief?
The first screening at Sundance. We had never shown it to more than five or seven people at a time at the most. We had opening night at Eccles Theater, 1200 people…we were so nervous. It played incredibly well…I mean, it was raucous. We were afraid people were missing the jokes and important lines of dialogue because the crowd was so loud. And we didn’t know what was happening. Were we just in a Sundance bubble…is this ever going to happen again? Was this just a generous premiere audience? Then a couple of nights later at our next screening, same thing. The next day…same thing. And now we went to these screenings in New York and Los Angeles over the weekend and the same thing happened with the paying audiences. It’s just turned into this crowd pleaser and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Because we didn’t know what the reaction was going to be – we had no idea.
Tell me a little bit about working with Patrick Brice. Were there any steps taken to make sure you all were comfortable with each other to the degree you needed to be?
Patrick’s a really smart, talented guy, and a really friendly guy. I think he’s the kind of person who just puts you at ease immediately. It’s asking a lot of the actors to bare their bodies, and their souls a bit, in these roles. Everyone was just immediately comfortable with him and immediately trusted him, and for good reason. He’s a really good guy and we all felt like we were in good hands.
You’re known for your ability to improvise. How much of Alex’s character was based on improv?
I love improvising, especially in movies and TV shows. Even if you don’t really use it, I just think it’s a healthy thing to do to keep everything feeling fresh and alive while you’re doing it. We did improvise a lot on the movie, but not all of it’s in it…there was no need, frankly, because the script was so good. But both Jason and I love to improvise so it’s kind of peppered throughout and there are bits and pieces in there. I just like doing it to keep it fresh – if I feel like saying something, say it. Usually it’s not something particularly usable, it’s just to get it out and keep going. We could have done the same movie without any improvisation and it would have been good as well.
You mentioned the dialogue earlier; it’s interesting because it feels like just when the film hits its more bizarre moments, that’s when there are conversations that really ground everything for the viewer. Did you have any favourite scenes or character dialogue in particular when you were filming?
You know, yeah. I love the scene after Jason and I have our naked dance …Taylor and I are by the pool and I’m telling her that I feel like I gave birth to myself. It’s a ridiculous thing to say but I think we’ve all had those moments where you say something ridiculous like that but you mean it. Because you’ve just had a really intense experience. I’ve just had this spiritual breakthrough of sorts and I say “I love my dick”, which is just such a ridiculous thing to say. But it’s all sincere. And she’s in this other place.
When we did the scene – and there was no rehearsal or anything, we just sat down, did it four times and we were done – Taylor and I were both marveling at the scene itself and how this sense of betrayal emerged. After we finished shooting it, we were like “wow…did you feel that?” It was a really fun moment where we both got taken away a little bit. And I think it’s a really important scene for those characters; a real turning point in their relationship.
For lack of a better phrase, this film actually “goes there”, and when it comes to a lot of issues, not just sexual. As a producer, do you see that as lacking in the industry? For all our so-called progressiveness, are we still too tame?
I think the great thing about the current indie movement is that there’s a lot out there. There’s something out there for everybody. I think that whether it works or not is the question – whether it’s well done or not. It’s really hard to make a good movie and it’s really hard to make a bad movie. So I think that people are always trying to push the boundaries…sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But we were at Sundance this year and there were a lot of really wonderful things that people are trying. I don’t know if it’s lacking. I think in mainstream entertainment there aren’t a lot of boundaries being pushed – but that’s why it’s mainstream entertainment and I enjoy that as well. I enjoy Jurassic World and I enjoy While We’re Young. I think there’s a place for everything.
The Overnight opens in Toronto on June 26.