In the new movie from Jay and Mark Duplass, The Do-Deca-Penathlon, two brothers unearth a decades-old challenge that, for unknown reasons, went unfinished. The fictional brothers quickly revert from semi-adults to flailing opponents as they laser-tag it out in a race for childhood glory. But the creative team of brothers behind this film say their relationship couldn't be any less like that of the Do-Deca competitors.
In advance of the movie's opening this Friday, July 6, at the Denver FilmCenter, Jay and Mark Duplass spoke about the real-life inspiration behind The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, how independent filmmaking is a lot like surviving the Vietnam War -- and how brotherhood is like a mutual understanding of prison life.
See Also: -Event preview: The Do-Deca-Pentathlon at the Denver FilmCenter this Friday, July 6 -Slide show: Denver FilmCenter's Raise The Roof Block Party, 6/14/12 -Best of Denver 2012: Keith Garcia of the Denver FilmCenter, Best Film Advocate
Westword: The Do-Deca-Pentathlon is based on a true story -- a competition between two brothers that you both knew from childhood. Is any part of the story a reflection of your own relationship with each other?
Mark Duplass: It really isn't -- it is a biographical story based on these two brothers who created an actual competition. We grew up down the street with them and we went to school together. The fictionalized portion of the story is, we liked the idea that they would revisit the games twenty years later and destroy a nice family weekend -- while they destroy each other over miniature sporting events.
Jay and I are actually pretty uncompetitive with each other. I think a lot of that is, when you're an independent filmmaker it's a lot like being in the infantry in Vietnam. It's important that you don't fight against each other; it's important that you stay banded, as brothers. (Laughs.) And wage the good war of independent cinema. So, we tend to stay united as a front, instead of squabbling.
Has your relationship always been that way? Was there ever a time when sibling rivalry shone itself?
Mark: Yeah, I think so. We're three and a half, almost four years apart; when you're that far apart as kids, there's nothing, really, to compete in. The older sibling is always going to win, so...
Jay: I don't know -- in a weird way, we've always been aligned, in the monster of the piece of art that we are attempting to create. Mark and I have been making stuff together since we were babies. It's always been a part of our worldview; we're here to make stuff and we do it together.
It's always been all-consuming; from when we were making weird little stained glass out of like, plastic Mardi Gras beads when we were six and nine years old, we were totally obsessed and fixated on it. I don't even really know why? It's just how we've always done things.
You make a great point that your age difference has always meant you weren't in grades next to each other, or ever in that kind of direct competition.
Mark: The brothers who created the actual competition were a year and half apart -- and we [incorporated] what we had observed with them and other sets of brothers we had grown up around that tended to breed the opposite of what Mark and I do.
We're obsessed with family dynamics and the whole concept that you're stuck with them. You can't break up with your family; they're always going to be there. It's this strange little prison environment where you often feel at your worst but you're being challenged to be your best.
The fictional brothers, Mark and Jeremy, have these childish moments of rivalry in the film, and the character of Mark's wife, Stephanie, just sort of watches it all in disgust. You're both married -- do you ever feel like your wives are looking at your relationship as brothers and thinking, "What is their deal?"
Mark: The weird thing is, the whole world is the wife, for me and Jay and our relationship. Anyone who's not me and Jay is not going to be on the inside of that weird brother dynamic that we have, you know? It's a bit like being twins, to a certain degree. It was a stress point, certainly, for the beginnings of our relationships, but we've found a way of making it work. There's no doubt Jay and I are in two marriages -- one with each other and one with our wives. It's certainly complex.
In the film, there's also the relationship of Jeremy, to his nephew, Hunter. Even though his antics irritate the adults in the family, to Hunter, he's the "cool uncle." Is that true for either of you to each other's kids?
Mark: We haven't had that opportunity yet, because our kids are four and under. But plan on doing some jockeying for the children as the years go by.
Jay: It's always funny when you get to that point -- you idolize your uncles and aunts, but you're like, 23 years old and you hear your parents call your aunt a "fucking asshole." (Laughs.) You're like, "Woah! Wait a minute." Then your parents are like, "Oh, sorry. We forgot to tell you, your aunt is a fucking asshole. She's a selfish asshole and I've never liked her since I was seven years old."
Your parents see your asshole aunt being super cool with you, and they're thinking, "Who is this fraud of a human being? The fact that my son likes her better than he likes me makes me want to destroy all of human existence."
When I was a kid, my aunt had to sit at "the kid's table" in the garage. Because apparently, my grandma didn't like her. We just thought it was because she was the "cool aunt."
Jay: Yeah, because she's a bad ass! Relegated to the child's table.
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Mark: You know what? She got lemons and she made lemonade. I bet she played that up. Good for her.