AFF 2010 Interview: Dax Shepard and His 'Brother's Justice' Partners
In addition to appearing for the red carpet premiere of Brother's Justice at this year's Austin Film Festival, the lead stars and filmmakers sat down with media while they were in town. I enjoyed a pleasant and humorous conversation with lead actor and director Dax Shepard, as well as cinematographer/director David Palmer and producer/actor Nate Tuck, pictured above.
Brother's Justice (Jette's review) is best described as a mockumentary with Shepard aspiring to become an international martial-arts star. Check out what the filmmaking trio had to say about Brother's Justice as well as their thoughts on Austin actors and filmmakers, including the Wilson and Duplass brothers.
Dax, this isn't your first time in Austin. Can you talk about some of your prior experiences here?
Dax Shepard: In 2004, I shot Idiocracy here so I lived in Austin for three months. It is to date my favorite location, including New Zealand, which was pretty spectacular. I do hope to live here at some point. If I can get them to relocate Parenthood I'll be in heaven. To get into this film festival was really great. Even if the film festival sucked, it was still a trip to Austin so we were going to win no matter what.
Nate Tuck: It just so happens that we got here and we were floored by how great the festival is.
Shepard: Easily the best-run festival out of them. Last year I went everywhere with The Freebie, Sundance and all those places. They were all fun, but this one is run as if the Germans are in charge somehow behind the scenes or Mussolini with his train schedule.
Dax, you mention The Freebie, which premiered in Austin last year at SXSW, where you worked with Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass. I've heard you say that you've wanted your own film production company like the Duplass brothers.
Shepard: Mark and Jay's movies are so great that people just want to be in them. That's why I did The Freebie, I just wanted the experience of working with them and I didn't really care what happened. Everything that came out of it ended up being gravy because my only expectation was just the actual working with them.
We think actors want to act and they want to do it in a format where there's no expectations of anything. Just do whatever their version of comedy is or their version of drama is. A lot of us comedians started in live theater and then you leave that to do film, and you kind of miss that experimental fun bit. We want to do that, on the cheap, and let people do whatever they want. Hopefully the people who did Brother's Justice had such a good time that they'll come back and do more with us. Hopefully other comedians will see this film and want to work with us -- that's our goal.
David, how was it like filming a naked Dax -- did you get the full frontal?
David Palmer: Fortunately enough I can say that I never got the full frontal. I did think early on that we were doing a lot of gratutious crotch shots. I got to know a lot more of Dax than I really wanted to, and we're closer for it.
Shepard: Nate and I came into it having been friends for 11 years. But Palmer was pretty new into the friendship with us, so there were a lot of moments where Nate and I were pushing the envelope for even each other. Poor Palmer was like, "What are you guys doing? I don't understand how this is going to be in the movie?"
Tuck: At a certain point, Dax and I were looking at each other and realizing that Palmer was like a stone wall. We could not penetrate him with however silly or gay we were acting, so we really started then looking to each other and just pushing it to see if we could get through to him somehow.
Palmer: There was, but it was actually because they finally pushed me so hard that I cracked and lost it and could not operate. There's one scene, where it's hand-held -- the whole movie was hand-held -- and then all of a sudden it's on a tripod because I had to leave the room.
Shepard: Also in the gym, we thought it would be really funny if I were in very tight spandex running on the treadmill. Then we thought we should get a shot or an insert of everything that happens in spandex. Then we thought what if I was super sweaty and it became kind of see through? So then we were pouring water on me and Palmer is like, "Dude, I don't know what's going on, but we're now shooting an adult film."
Nate and I were just laughing hysterically. We think penises are super funny, we just do -- we are 12 years old.
Tuck: Especially as seen through very tight jeans or spandex pants.
Palmer: You're basically looking at the penis. I was not sure going home to my wife and kid, like what I was doing with these guys? What am I making here, am I their toy camera guy now? What is happening?
Shepard: That's the glory of editing, you can try everything and later go, "Oh, that's just way too out there, no one's going to laugh at it besides us three." That's what's cool about making your own thing with your own friends. You'll do things in movies and you'll get screwed. A director might ask you to do something that is outside of your comfort zone and he'll say "Let's try it." Then you'll see it in the movie, and it's not what you really wanted it to be. We were free to try anything on this because we ultimately were going to decide, and that was cool.
What are your expectations for this film's target audience?
Shepard: Unfortunately there's only one woman in the entire film besides my mother. That's not great, although Bradley Cooper is in it so that should bring some gals down to it. It's a weird mix of movies -- the concept is obviously quite broad, for that reason I think that people who like me in Without a Paddle or Employee of the Month would be inclined to see it.
Tonally it's very subtle and way more like Bottle Rocket, which is all of our favorite comedy ever. I think that Brother's Justice could make a lot of different audiences happy. I think there's enough broad stuff in it -- fight scenes and car chases -- for middle America dudes like where I'm from to enjoy, and I also think that there is enough cerebral stuff for the Austin crowd that was at the premiere to enjoy -- or maybe no one will like it, there's also that option.
Speaking of Bottle Rocket, you ribbed the Wilson brothers quite a bit in your Q&A at the AFF premiere.
Shepard: I love them, I want to be on record as saying that Owen Wilson is hands-down my favorite comedian alive. It's all love and adoration, envy and everything else. I worked with Luke Wilson on Idiocracy, and we are friends, and Owen and I are also friends. It's all love.
Tuck: We're big big fans of Bottle Rocket, it definitely changed our take on this indie comedy world -- it changed my take on comedy, period.
Shepard: Absolutely -- it was the first paradigm shift since Fletch or Raising Arizona. For me it was the first thing, I was like "Ooh, this is a whole new angle on comedy."
Dax, you've been busy with Parenthood, what other projects are in the works?
Shepard: During my hiatus this year we are going to try and do an indie car chase movie which to my knowledge I've not seen. Granted there will probably be eight of them by the time we finish which tends to be what happens.
Will this project be based on the fictional film 24 Hours to Live trailer in Brother's Justice, and will you hire a different camera guy for the chase car instead of Palmer?
Tuck: Definitely because there will be a lot of hands-on driving.
Palmer: I don't drive with Dax anymore.
Tuck: 24 Hours to Live is one inspiration, but really I was enthused. I was in love with the old Burt Reynolds car chase movies, but I didn't really dig deep until I met Dax several years ago and then I really got into them. That's one of the main inspirations behind a car chase comedy.
Shepard: If there's a Bottle Rocket version of Smokey and the Bandit, that's the film we want to make.
[Photo credits: David Palmer, Nate Tuck and Dax Shepard of Brother's Justice; and Palmer, Shepard and Tuck, by Debbie Cerda on Flickr]