Sally A. Edwards talks to Clark Duke about comedy, naps, the serendipity of living near Michael Cera and how he came to feature in Clark's thesis plus having to wear the same outfit for the entire duration of filming "Kick Ass 2". We threw in a BLAG Word Game for good measure too with some funny results.
Clark has since gone on to walk it like he talks it by becoming a Director. Mission accomplished.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 3 Nø 4 print edition in 2013
Interview by Sally A. Edwards
Portrait by Luke Wooden
I’ve known Clark Duke for about four or five years. We initially met via me being CC’ed on a reply email from mutual friend. The email he’d initially sent talked about something on the lines of him being stuck in London, the food being shit and the girls being no good.
Unfortunately, we didn’t meet on that visit because he got as sick as a dog. We did, however stay in touch and met for the first time when he picked me up in his Escalade to go to a Super Bowl party in the Hollywood Hills. Fancy. Our friendship was sealed. We invented twexting and often keep each other up-to-date and hone many jokes with our own text version of twitter; our super duper exclusive social networking, note social and working.
And while Clark was filming Kick-Ass 2 we made amends on his initial impression of London – just to square that up.
We’ve been promising to work together for BLAG for a long time and I’m glad to say now feels like the right time. We finally caught up via the powers of Skype video and to add to the running theme of the edition, Clark kindly sent me a batch of very surreal words to incorporate into his questions.
Meet my friend, Clark Duke.
The first thing I want you to describe is where you grew up.
“It’s a really small town, it’s very rural. It’s kind of like the English countryside. It reminded me a lot of it when I came over there. It’s really beautiful, but it’s kind of boring.” [laughs]
Do you have a lot of land there? Is that right or am I getting confused?
“Yeah, the house I grew up in is my Great Grandparents house, it’s on 10 acres. Yeah, I mean so you just have space which is really nice.”
So you moved to LA with your Mum when you were little for a show, didn’t you? What age were you and what TV show was it for?
“It was just kind of a bizarre chain of events, my Mom had a childhood friend who was living out in LA and working as an actress. We went to visit her and met her manager who took me out on an audition as kind of a lark. I booked it and I did a bunch of commercials and I ended up on this CBS sitcom when I was six years old. After that was over we just went back to Arkansas and I went to high school, then I came back to LA for college when I was 17.”
That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, because you were telling me when we did our tourist day in London... about your thesis. With Michael [Cera]?
“Yeah, the first Clark and Michael episode was my thesis at school. I got an A.”
That’s really cool isn’t it? I can’t remember what you studied. What was it again?
“My major was Film Production.”
Yeah, because you were behind-the-camera at first weren’t you?
“That’s what I wanted to do and I still want to do – write and direct, but it’s like the acting is a platform to get people to even consider you for the writing and directing in a way. Like, any kind of profile you can get seems to just help that stuff. I don’t know, it’s all kind of like pushing towards the same thing. So yeah, in school I wanted to write and direct. Long term, that’s what I want to do – be a Director.”
So was Michael in school or was he already involved in the industry...
“No, I moved into this apartment building off campus in Marina Del Ray and he happened to live next door to me. He was on Arrested Development – the first season I think.”
That’s handy. [laughs]
“So that was that, I was in school, I mean we hung out together a lot after that because we would go to open mic nights and do weird performance art stuff just like trying to make people hate us. No, but that was just a bizarre coincidence meeting him over there.”
Yeah, that’s great. Ok, so can you explain how things went from there because didn’t that first pilot open you up to the film industry?
“Yeah, I mean I had a friend who had a friend that was working at CBS. So they ended up buying Clark and Michael because they were trying to do an online web division. This was years ago, because now everybody is trying to do this online content, but back then it was way too early and it was never going to work, [laughs] but they were trying to do all these shows and I don’t know... We were kind of the first big web series that had any kind of production value and big people in it – or at least one big person. So they bought that and simultaneously from the Clark and Michael show I got representation, like agents and managers and it’s like all of a sudden they just came out of nowhere when you have a short... I mean I see it all the time on Deadline, like a short that gets a lot of attention and all of a sudden they’re just scooped up. So yeah, that happened and I’ve worked ever since.”
Wow, brilliant. With regards to your roles, you do loads of comedy. If the opportunity presented itself, would you want to do something different?
“I would be open to doing all kinds of stuff, but I think I just like comedy more than anything, but at the same time I’m not getting a lot of calls about dramas you know? They’re gonna call like, Paul Dano first or somebody. [laughs] You know what I mean?”
Yeah, but do you think if you put it out there and something came through, would you just jump at it?
“I mean, yeah, if it was something cool. I’m open to it. I definitely think I could do it. I often think that people that can do comedy can probably do anything because it’s by far the hardest thing to do, because it’s kind of the only unteachable thing too. You know, I feel like you can teach drama to a certain extent, but you can never teach anybody to be funny. I don’t know, I like doing the comedies too, I mean like serious dramatic acting, method acting drives people crazy. You almost have to be crazy to do it, because you’re just digging up the deepest darkest shit that’s ever happened to you and using it at work. Like, normal people deal with that stuff through... whatever, like religion or psychiatry or... [laughs], but they get past it. Like, if you’re a serious dramatic actor, you’re just constantly keeping it bubbling at the surface.”
Yeah. [laughs] My main thing with comedy is like when you’re watching The Other Guys for example or Little Miss Sunshine and those lines get delivered and it’s absolutely hilarious. How the hell do you keep a straight face? I mean I know there’s corpsing, but how do you do it?
“I don’t keep a straight face most of the time, but you know it’s not a play, so you can just go again. Somebody yells at you to stop laughing so you can just go again.”
Yeah. [laughs] and just switch it off. [clicks fingers and laughs]
“We just did the Hot Tub Time Machine Two, that’s what I just finished. It was so much of that, like it’s such a fun day at work. Everybody gets in a groove and starts riffing and you have a take that’s like 12 minutes long and it’s everybody just going back and forth. So I like making comedy, I like the process and just the mechanics of it.”
It’s good, it’s really good. I wanted you to talk about... I know it’s already come out over here now, but I want you to talk about your experience of filming Kick-Ass 2.
“It was great, I mean it was so hard, it was just really... I lost 10 or 15 lbs over the course of making the movie. It was great, it was so physically tiring all the time. Like the hours were just insane.”
Yeah, because you were up really early weren’t you and then you did nights.
“Yeah, we did both, but the bulk of it was 5am pick-ups. You guys don’t have the same union protection that we have over here. They don’t give us like 12 hour turnarounds, I think there was 10 or 11 hours and we were filming at Pinewood which was like an hour out of town too, so it’s like if you get a 10 or 11 hour turnaround with a couple of hours in the car, you know you really just have time to go home and sleep and then you’re just back out there. But it was really fun, it was a childhood dream of mine to play a superhero, so I don’t want to complain about it. But that costume was just so heavy and disgusting, they only had one so it just stunk, it was just a nightmare. [laughs]”
Can you tell us about your character and what kind of situations he gets into?
“I play the world’s oldest high school student. [laughs]”
So something like 21 Jump Street?
“[laughs] Yeah! We play High School seniors, we’re supposed to be 17 or 18 in the movie and I’m 28 you know, Lyndsy Fonseca is also the same age as me.”
You’re just like, ‘I play young.’ [laughs]
“All the extras in the background were real children, like 14 and 15 year olds which really exasperated how stupid we looked and made it even worse. And I had like a blazer on and one day we were just sitting in this cafeteria shooting this school scene and I heard the director laughing at the monitor, and I’m like, ‘What are you laughing at?’ and he’s said, ‘You just look nuts. You look insane. You look like undercover cops.’”
That’s nice. ‘And now go and be really confident... And action!’
“[takes a mouthful of coffee] Uhhmmm. My character plays the best friend of Kick-Ass and we end up on this super hero team together and we don’t know each other, like I don’t know it’s my buddy, Dave and he doesn’t know it’s me. Then we find out and you know, I’m just like the comic relief, side-kick kind of character, but it’s fun.”
You know the words you sent me?
I’m going to ask you some questions with them in now... Which character have you played who you’ve connected the most to, what level of intuition did you have for it and how much did you improvise?
“The first movie I did was called Sex Drive and that character was probably closest to me. That was intuitively me just ramping my personality up to like 11. Sex Drive would have been in ‘07 or ‘08 a while away. That was also the first thing I’d done and was kind of like you don’t even know the rules enough to break them, you’re kind of winging it and I think there ended up being a certain kind of a... Like, I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve ever been that funny in anything else. It’s silly, it’s just like a goofy teen road movie comedy, it’s kind of underrated. It’s on cable all the time over here.”
How much did you improvise on it and how much intuition did you use on it?
“I used a lot in it. That was why it came to mind when you said those two words. I mean the script was really funny, but that was probably the most I’ve riffed in a movie and it’s... well, the Hot Tub movies are like that too but Sex Drive there was a lot, lot of improv and a lot of it’s in the movie.”
Good. So you’re like, writer credit, please.
Ok, can you pick three activities that you would take gold, silver and bronze for and why?
“I would take the gold in napping. I’m really good at napping on set, like, if you put me in a trailer, I just immediately fall asleep.”
You have to make sure you don’t get pillow marks for your next take.
“Yeah, I always do that, I’ve kind of stopped wearing make-up, so it doesn’t even matter anymore, like now I’ve got to the point where you can just tell them what you want to do kind of, because as you can see on Skype here, I have really nice skin...”
“And I think guys look weird with a bunch of make- up on anyway. Everybody has this thing where they want you to be this one uniform perfect... like, I don’t know your cheeks should be redder and you should look like a human being. The UK make-up people – in my experience, are way more natural, like it’s way more natural. I didn’t wear any make-up in Kick-Ass, but yeah. I’m really good at napping, so I would take the gold in napping. I would take the bronze in golf because I’m pretty good at golf, but I’m not slowing everyone down and I really enjoying playing it, so I’d give myself a bronze in that.”
What about silver?
“I’ve never done it, but I feel like if I did race car driving, I could probably be silver medal status. [laughs] I just have a feeling I’d be a really good driver.”
Ok, if I was Battle Girl what would my powers be and my costume... and being style and safety conscious, what would the helmut look like?
“Well you wouldn’t have any powers because I don’t have any powers.”
Yeah, I can! It gives you more depth with your answer. [laughs]
“[Laughs] Maybe your powers would be being able to find parking...”
“I would make your costume really skimpy, just because it would be way more comfortable than mine. You just want to do short shorts and a halter top, so it wouldn’t be so heavy.”
[Laughing] What about the helmut?
“For the mask, just...”
No, the helmut. The safety conscious helmut! [laughs]
“Maybe one of those half-helmuts like you see what bikers wear.”
So basically, just kind of looking like a roller girl.
“You’d look a lot like a roller derby girl. Yeah.” [grins]
But what kind of mask would I wear? I’d want to have some sort of speed on the helmut. Like wings or something, like old-school Thor-style.
“That’d be cool. I mean if you’re going for speed, you might want like a plastic mask, [runs hands down over face] like a welder’s mask.”
Kind of angled like that [points hands forward in a v shape] for aerodynamics.
“It sounds like you’re kind of going to look like a bird, I think. My advice would be don’t wear a mask, because they’re very uncomfortable.”
I didn’t actually have mask in the question, you kind of riffed that in there, but that’s fine.
“Oh! I heard it, that’s weird.”
Did you? Well I wonder how you’re going to translate this question. [laughs] Which of your characters would be the ultimate competitor at a rodeo and why?
“A rodeo. Wow.”
That’s your word,
“Yeah, I know, I like it... Probably again the guy from Sex Drive, Lance who I played. I feel like he would at least give it a shot. I don’t think any of us would be that great a rodeoing. I’ve never rode a real bull. Have you ever rode a mechanical bull?”
“It’s pretty good. Do they even have those over there? It’s not a local phenomenon?”
There are probably some.
“There’s got to be a country and western themed bar in London, right?”
There must be. [laughs] With loads of padding on the floor with straw all over the top.
“Yes, it’s a must.”
Yeah. Ok. What music producers do you like?
“Oh wow. I like Dangermouse, I like Jon Brion and Kanye would be the biggest one because everybody forgets that he’s you know... kind of first and foremost a producer. Off the top of my head, those would be my three big ones I think. I’m sure that there are some guys that make all these radio hits, but I just don’t know their names.”
I was going to ask you to pick one of those producers and describe the beat they’d make for a track entitled, ‘Clark’s Lament’.
“Oh wow. That sounds kind of like vaguely... Did you hear that Dangermouse record Rome? It’s like a spaghetti western soundtrack. Clark’s Lament sounds like it would fit in on that. Sounds kind of vaguely western don’t you think?”
Yeah, or like a 70s turtle neck sinister thriller. Maybe.
What would the general meaning of the song be?
“It sounds like it’s about regret. Probably about loss. It sounds like it’s a song about loss.”
Oh gawd, let’s not get into it. I don’t want to get you upset. [laughs]
Ok, if your birthday is in May doesn’t that make you a Taurus?
Are you compatible with Scorpio and why?
“I don’t know, I don’t know much about it. Let me google it real quick... Anytime anyone mentions signs, I always think of that scene in Boogie Nights where the guy comes up at the party and I think she says I’m a Sagittarius and he says, ‘Oh no, I can’t handle a Sagittarius. Are you a Scorpio?”
No, I’m a Leo.
“Let’s see what we’ve got here. Taurus and Scorpio love compatibility... ‘Their union is nothing if not intense in a positive or a negative way. They are opposite signs of the zodiac and have a special complex connection, they can combine as a whole, balancing the other strengths and weaknesses. The sexual attraction is likely to be off the charts...’ I mean it sounds like it, it sounds like we’d be compatible.”
Ok, this one, is... You only have apricots left and you want to make a meal of them, what other ingredients do you get and what do you make?
“I think the only other ingredient would be my car keys and my wallet. I’d have to go to a restaurant because I don’t even like apricots.”
So why did you send me apricots?
“I don’t know, it was word association. I don’t know.”
Oh, well... I don’t know what to ask about apricots! Do you know what? I don’t like apricot colours, like apricot bathroom colours, or curtains or wallpaper. I’m not the biggest fan of apricots in all honesty either.
“I think I just like the sound of the word.”
If you went to a ball and everyone was asked to write down a song and put it in a hat for selection by the orchestra. What song would you pick and how would you dance to it? And remember, orchestra’s can get really funky as you know.
“I think since we’ve got an orchestra there, I would just kind of lean into that and go for a Sinatra song like, Summer Wind or something like that, take advantage of the orchestra. And then we could breakdance.”
[Laughs] Brilliant. Ok, the next one I’ve got is amalgam.
“That’s a good one.”
Yeah, which is all about a mixture and a blend... What’s it like when you get on set and I don’t know... how do you get to bond with the people you’re performing with? Do you sometimes just meet on the first day of filming or do you do round the table stuff? Or are you lucky enough to know them. What’s the ideal scenario and what’s an uncomfortable scenario?
“You kind of experience all of those. It just depends on the individual job. You know, comedy is kind of a small community so I tend to know a lot of the people. Like I’ve done two or three things with Adam Scott and you kind of start to see the same people around. That would probably be the ideal if you can work with people you know. Like on Hot Tub 2 we just immediately on the first day hit a stride, you know because you kind of have the chemistry with the guys already, so you’re not having to find anything. I don’t know it’s kind of different on every job. Like in movies you don’t get rehearsal, like I’ve never rehearsed on a movie. You do a table read a lot of the times. I don’t know, I feel like table reads are almost a waste of time sometimes. I’ve never been to a table read and been blown away, you’re just reading a script out loud, it’s not that exciting. I mean even with a play which is about dialogue and rhythm, but a movie script? There are too many stage directions, I feel like table reads always just bum everybody out most of the time! [laughs] Hot Tub 2 is about as ideal as far as you can get with the chemistry of getting to work with people, because even the crew is the same. Any kind of continuity like that is really nice.”