Barry Munday tells the quirky story of a socially inept playboy who learns he has fathered an illegitimate child after he has his testicles chopped off. Yet in writer-director Chris D’Arienzo’s hands, the potentially controversial material comes off as remarkably hilarious and sweet, thanks to dark comedic performances by Patrick Wilson, Judy Greer, Chloë Sevigny, Malcolm McDowell, and Cybill Shepherd. As Barry struts into theaters, Wilson and Greer sat down with AMC FilmCritic to talk about genital mutilation, puka shells, and how love does not make you beautiful.
Q: Patrick, you almost had your genitals removed by Ellen Page in Hard Candy. Are you worried about being typecast?
Patrick Wilson: [Laughs] You know, I could actually look at the situation and say that this is the first time that my genitals have physically been removed in a film. Emasculation does seem to be a theme in the roles that I choose.
Q: Even in Watchmen, there were issues with your reproductive system.
PW: Sure, and in Little Children. But you know what’s
interesting, in a funny-ha-ha kind of way? When you are talking about
characters, you always are looking for an arc, for what they gain or
learn. And now I feel like I have done every variety of the emasculated
man, so I am kind of over it by now. [Laughs] Yet if I have done that
many films, it’s obviously prevalent in a lot of writers’ minds: “If you
are going to be a man, let’s take away everything and see what it means
to be a man.” I’m actually really lucky to have those kinds of
characters to play.
Q: What inspired you guys to play these characters.
Judy Greer: For me, it was just the ability to tell a story about two
normal people who were neither beautiful nor perfect. It was just a fun
way for me to do a romantic comedy. You know we obviously have been
talking a lot recently about Patrick’s character having his balls cut
off, but I kind of forget when I think of this movie — and it has been a
while since we filmed it — that this [incident] starts the story. For
me, it’s just a story of two people who eventually fall in love.
Q: And yet the humor is very dark and offbeat. Were you concerned that the jokes might not connect with a mainstream audience?
PW: Honestly, we just had to keep going with, “Well, it makes us
laugh. So if nothing else, the four people who are like me will enjoy
it.” We ruined a lot of takes and a lot of film because we were laughing
at each other.
JG: I couldn’t not laugh at Patrick.
PW: But at a recent screening, during the genital-mutilation scene — which sounds like a hilarious scene — the audience didn’t laugh. And here it’s Kyle Gass of Tenacious
D and Michael Rivkin and all of these guys who are really funny. Yet
they play it so straight, and you’ve never really seen a scene like
that, so you’re sort of wondering, “Is this going to be funny?” And the
audience didn’t laugh until my character, Barry, laughed onscreen. So
it was cathartic. But it would get to a point where I was cracking up in
every scene and ruining good takes. I’m saying to myself, “Hold on. You
are a good actor. You do good work.”
JG: You are a professional.
Q: And yet we assume so much about these characters because of the way they dress and carry themselves in social situations.
JG: Well, a lot of times in movies, you see characters go through a
physical change. I didn’t want it to be about that and neither did
Chris. I didn’t want her to fall in love and go, “Now I’m going to be
beautiful because I’m in love.” Life’s not like that. Barry doesn’t make
her beautiful; he makes her happy, and that’s why she falls in love
with him. It’s who she is. She never changes who she is. I think my
makeup artist allowed me to use the cherry ChapStick for some of the
later scenes. But really that’s about the extent of it.
PW: Yeah, it was really important to us by the end of the movie to hold on to who these people are.
JG: Right. Love doesn’t make you beautiful. It makes you happy.
Q: How much influence did you have on your hopelessly dated physical appearances?
JG: I didn’t want to do too much. The wardrobe and the glasses were
enough, I thought. I didn’t want to make her wear weird makeup and have
strange hair. Because this girl really just doesn’t care, and that was
what I wanted to convey. She wasn’t trying to force this look on
herself. She just didn’t give a shit.
PW: And you know we just started building from the outside in. They
were such strong characters on the page. But I knew right away that I
would get along with Chris when he was like, “I think you should wear
puka shells.” And I’m like, “Fantastic! How about a braided belt?” Once
we established that Barry was hanging onto the early nineties because
that was the last time he felt cool, we were all set. Physically, I
also based him on a couple of people. And I would never tell them,
because they would deny it. [Laughs] Plus the people who would notice
haven’t really seen it yet. So I’m safe.