Clea DuVall discusses her directorial debut in The Intervention (Interview)
Clea DuVall is a classic “that girl” celebrity, with a varied Hollywood career that has seen her act alongside movie and television stars including Ben Affleck (Argo) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep). Even if you didn’t know her by name, you’ve seen her on the television or movie screen some time this past decade. But Duvall took a step behind the camera for the first time in her film The Intervention, which debuted at Sundance this past year. This ensemble dramedy retells the story of a group of friends that plan a weekend retreat in order to host an intervention on a married couple, telling them they should get a divorce. Things do not go exactly as planned. I talked with DuVall about her experiences directing this film and what she has in store for us next.
Q: What made you decide to write this film? What was your inspiration?
A: I was really inspired by people around me who were actors who I was friends with who were writing, directing and producing their own films. As an actor, you don’t really have any control over when you work or what you work on. The idea of being able to create my own story and bring together the people I wanted to work with was very exciting and inspiring, so I went for it.
Q: Was your plan to write and direct this film?
A: No. I wrote it with the intention of getting someone else to direct it. But then as time went on, I started having casual conversations with people and it felt like something I wanted to do but didn’t feel completely ready to take it on until I had an experience on a film that I was acting in where I had to take on more than actors usually have to take on and I was able to do that and really enjoyed having the extra responsibility and was still able to be on the scenes and do more.
Q: Any surprising as a first time director? What was the learning curve like?
A: [Laughs] Every day from the moment the movie was green lit until the movie came out, you don’t know what to expect at any point. You can make plans, you can think that you know what’s going on, and nothing happens the way you think it is going to. When you’re in production and you have 18 days and a limited amount of hours and there are thunderstorms, power going out, people getting sick, and people breaking their legs. Every single day presents something new, and you have to make it work because you don’t have a choice.
Q: Oh, so the breaking of the leg [Colby Smulders spent the entire movie in a leg cast] wasn’t written in the script?
A: No…Colby broke her leg the day before she was coming to work on the movie.
Q: Well, it played off well. I didn’t notice.
A: I think it played great. Rather than trying to shoot around it or pretend like she didn’t have a broken leg, I just decided to incorporate it into the script because it wasn’t worth it to ask her to put her body under stress because of the movie.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you don’t have control when you work. You wrote, directed, and produced a movie. And yet, a lot of the spotlight was around Melanie Lynskey’s character. Can you speak about how you made that choice?
A: Melanie is my best friend, and I think she is an incredibly talented actor, and she inspired this story. Her talent inspired me to write something for her. She read every draft and we talked about it. She was a huge part of writing the movie, shooting the movie, and I wanted it to be her movie. I think she’s so gifted and she really makes me laugh. I can’t think of a better [actress] than Melanie Lynskey.
Q: I noticed that three of the film’s protagonists, yourself, Melanie Lynskey, and Natasha Lyonne were all in the indie hit, But I’m a Cheerleader. Do you all still stay in touch?
A: Yeah, we’ve all been close ever since. I met them before we made that movie. We’ve been in touch ever since.
Q: The cast had such a natural rapport and a lot of great comedians. You had Ben Schwartz [Parks and Recreation], and Colbie Smoulders [How I Met Your Mother]. I know you had challenges but was the shoot as fun as I can imagine with this cast of characters?
A: Everybody had a good time. It was tough when you’re working that quickly and it’s 100 degrees with 100% humidity and the AC goes out. It’s physically draining on everybody but everybody really got along and had a great attitude. It gave me so much everyday.
Q: I was struck by how real the marriages felt, in particular watching characters of Ruby and Peter where they bickered all the time but they clearly had a history where they loved each other. How much of the story is drawn from or inspired by real events?
A: I think in any long term relationship, especially one that has problems, you do love that person. Well, hopefully [laughs]. Some people hate each other, and there isn’t anything there. But I think relationships, especially long-term relationships are so complicated, and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s not just one thing somebody needs to apologize for or one thing that happened. Life gets so busy and it’s so easy to not deal with things and things just accumulate over time. And all of a sudden, in the attic of your relationship, there are boxes and boxes of bullshit that you don’t even understand how to unpack. But you still know there’s something special there.
For Peter and Ruby, I really believed that they loved each other and they let their lives as a couple get away from them. In my mind, the end of the weekend and them deciding to work on it didn’t mean they were going to stay together forever. It just meant they wanted to try, because when you do have a deep connection with someone and you have shared so much with them, to just walk away, it might be a mistake. There are some things you can work through. I think they had to get to the place where they wanted to try.
Q: Is there anything you can share about what’s in the works next for you? As an actress, writer, director?
A: There are a couple of scripts that I’m writing and figuring out which ones makes the most sense to do next. I am also reading other materials that I didn’t write to see about directing. I definitely want to be directing something again soon because I really love it.
Q: Thanks for your time and putting together a great movie.
A: I appreciate you taking the time.
The Intervention will be available on DVD November 29, 2016.