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Director Quentin Dupieux talks "Wrong Cops"

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Somewhere between "Reno 911" and "Children's Hospital" is a story about the wrong kind of law enforcement, aptly called "Wrong Cops." The offbeat comedy opens this weekend about a precinct of narcisstic officers who do anything but protect and serve. Recently, writer-director Quentin Dupieux sat down to discuss bringing the film to the big screen as well as working with rocker Marilyn Manson.

BILLY TATUM: What was your inspiration to do “Wrong Cops?”

QUENTIN DUPIEUX: Inspiration is everywhere. You can’t really go into a zone in your brain and try to find an idea. That’s not the way it works. Usually, ideas just come to you. If you’re open to the writing process, usually you don’t need to think about it. The good ideas just arrive. Usually, I’m not thinking or “trying” to write. That’s my writing method. I trust my instincts first and usually I don’t have to think about it.

BILLY TATUM: What was the most challenging part of making a film like this?

QUENTIN DUPIEUX: It’s challenging on many levels. Sometimes, I have to deal with something that’s really strange, like it was my first time working with Eric Wareheim. We knew each other a little bit, but that was the first time working with him. So, the weird thing is Eric arrives on set at eight and we shoot at eight-thirty. We have to shoot fast, because we shot this movie in 17 days. We don’t know each other well and after 30 minutes of prep we have to shoot, and that’s weird. We have to find a connection. We’re not robots, obviously. So when he arrives on set, we make sure we’re going to shoot good stuff even if we don’t know each other well. Then on the second day it’s perfect and everything goes easier, so that’s the first challenge I think.

The other one, which I like to deal with, is the short amount of time we have. Like we have five things to shoot today and we have three locations. I hate waiting on a set. That’s why I’m not using any artificial lights. That’s why I’m operating the camera myself. This way we are always, always shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting. I’m just like a stupid kid. I want to spend more time playing with toys. But that’s not a real challenge because that’s what I do every time I shoot a movie. I never have three months to shoot a movie. It’s always around 20 days, 15 for “Rubber.”
On “Wrong Cops.” because the script was written very quickly, I wanted to do something fresh without polishing the script. That’s another challenge, to make sure we are not filming (EXPLETIVE) because when you write a script in three weeks, you know everything is not perfect. Some dialogue is not good, some scenes are useless, and during the shoot the time is so precious that you have to make sure you’re not spending five hours on a bad scene.
I think is the biggest challenge on a movie like this is you can lose much time doing something you won’t use after you edit. I think it’s a very different process than normal movies. Normal movies you have time to shoot, you have time to reshoot, and you just follow the script because it’s been written by five guys. On a case like this, you have to be super careful because time is so important.

BILLY TATUM: Where did you get such realistic rats in the movie?

QUENTIN DUPIEUX: I’m sorry to say that they were real rats. So basically this company, they specialize in animals that you can buy that have nothing inside. They are replaced inside by a gel or silicone. It looks real because it’s not stiff, but I have to say that they are still gross to touch. You don’t want to touch them.

BILLY TATUM: Describe the process of assembling the cast. Was there any problems in getting them together on such a quick shoot?

QUENTIN DUPIEUX: There are different types of actors in this movie. For example, you have guys like Ray Wise. You have Grace Zabriskie, these people , we just offered the parts. We just sent the script to their agents and basically said, “Look, we have no money, but we just need you for a day or two. Would you do it?” And when they liked the script, they came.

Usually, I like to bring back people I already know. So for example, Steve Little, he was in my movie “Wrong” too. The first time I work with an actor, it’s nice and we’re trying to find a connection, but then when the actor comes back on the next movie, it works instantly. From the first minute we have a connection and everything is perfect. That’s why I like to find good actors that like the way I work, because half of the job is already done. When you know an actor, when he knows you, when he likes your stuff, when you love to see him onscreen, that’s half of the preparation.

BILLY TATUM: How was it working with Marilyn Manson? Viewers and fans will definitely be surprised by his performance.

QUENTIN DUPIEUX: That’s probably because the Manson thing is already acting. I know the guy in real life and he’s not acting like a rock star. He’s just a guy like us, you know? He’s actually really funny. He has some really good jokes and he’s just a little crazy. He’s special, for sure. He has a brain that nobody has, but he’s not the guy you see on stage.

BILLY TATUM: Do you often let actors improvise?

QUENTIN DUPIEUX: Usually I don’t like when actors improvise. There is a very tiny space in my movies for improvisation just because sometimes I don’t like the sound of it. You can recognize when it’s improvised. When an actor goes on the ride and tries stuff, you can feel it’s not the same tone. You can feel it comes fresh out the brain and it’s not the same vibe, but Manson is really good at it. To me, he’s a really good actor and I’m not just saying that because he’s a friend.

BILLY TATUM: Do you see yourself working with Manson in the future?

QUENTIN DUPIEUX: Oh yeah. We shot another piece together already, and now he’s totally into my world; exactly like Steve Little, exactly like Eric Wareheim. I can make ten movies with Manson. I love the guy and I love to see him on screen. I think he’s really good. I think he enjoyed working with me, because there’s a small crew. It’s like a family where everybody knows each other. I think it’s enjoyable for him, because nothing looks “professional.” Knowing the guy, I can’t see him working on some huge motion picture, because I think he’ll get bored and hate everyone.

BILLY TATUM: “Wrong Cops” was originally intended as a short. How did it evolve into a feature?

QUENTIN DUPIEUX: Yeah, it was super easy. I did what we call a chapter 1, but now in the movie that you see, that chapter 1 is almost gone. It was supposed to be just like a promotion for my new album coming out, because I don’t really like music videos. I used to do some 10 years ago and that’s not something that I’m interested in. I decided to do something different so I wrote what we call a short film around my music. Manson contacted me because he enjoyed “Rubber” so much and he wanted to work with me. So I wrote this part for him, and suddenly it was like, “Okay we have a 15 minute short film about music.”

We did it in three days and we loved it so much, and we had a great response online so we decide to do more. Because this was like a chapter, I decided to write six other chapters. The idea was to do a Monday, Tuesday, and then until Sunday. When I put everything together like this, it wasn’t that good. It was more like watching 7 short films. Some scenes were great, but the movie was not really working as a movie. I went back in the editing room and I spent like 20 more days (in there). I shuffled everything, I tried different combinations to make it more into a movie, because the idea of the miniseries was not working in the cinema, and the idea was to put this in the cinema.

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