WAMG Talks To MARK KELLY And STEVE ZISSIS About THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON
With THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON now out on Blu-Ray and DVD, I recently spoke to stars of the film Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis about everything from injuries on set, to their first times shotgunning a beer. Check it out below!
THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON was written and directed by the Duplass Brothers and tells the tale of two grown men that take sibling rivalry to new heights of hilarity. All bets are off during a family reunion when estranged brothers Mark (Steve Zissis) and Jeremy (Mark Kelly) secretly resurrect a decades-old quest to be the best. Determined to complete 25 outrageous events in order to crown a true champion, the exhausted pair find themselves leg wrestling, ping-ponging, and laser tagging to the finish line…while learning a few life lessons along the way. THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON brings home the gold — and the laughs!
Check out the theatrical trailer here:
This film was shot quite a while back, what was it like returning to it? What was it like returning to the film after all of this time?
Mark: Aww man. It was… ah… quite awesome really. Shooting the film itself was, you know, an incredible experience… and having four years to sort of let it digest and kind of forget how the movie was going to cut together, and then to come back and see it fully assembled was great.
Steve: Um, it was a little sad for me because I had more hair. (Laughs) But I like that there is a time capsule of when I had more hair on my head. No, um, seriously though, it was fantastic! It was like a Christmas gift had been hidden for four years, and then you found it and you’re just thrilled to have it. I mean, as actors, we definitely had to be very patient with the process, because it took so long to come out, but it was really worth the wait and we really got to celebrate it by going to film festivals ,and sharing it with audiences, and promoting it. So… and the fact that it turned out to be a great movie was really what made it great.
The Duplass brothers are pretty open to improv on their sets. How much improv did you get to do? Do you prefer improv over a strict script?
Mark: Well, you know, most of the film was actually improvised, and in terms of preference… it kind of depends on the writing. The really unique thing with the Duplass brothers is that they write these amazing scripts that as a well-trained actor, you would be more than thrilled to learn and perform. But to have this well written script, and to shoot it in order, which is also a rare thing, and then to improvise on top of it was just, I’ve experienced nothing like it. I’d love to do it again. And, you know, working with Steve and Jenn Lafleur was just incredible because they’re just very skilled improv actors. So, we had a really good time working on the movie together… and to get to improvise dramatic scenes as well as comedy was kind of magical as well.
Steve: I’ve been working with Mark and Jay for several years now, so I’m very accustom to how they work. And, for me personally, I love working in their style because it’s really freeing in a lot of ways. It definitely has its own set of challenges, and it probably depends on the actor you ask. Some actors are probably like “Look, I want my script. I want my lines. That’s what I’m comfortable with, and that’s what I want. That’s what makes me happy.” That’s fine for me too, but I prefer working in their style, because it opens the door to changes in direction, spontaneous moments, and surprises, and, you know, all kinds of stuff.
Steve (Cont.): The other really interesting thing that happens, for me, in working with Mark and Jay, is what will come out of my personal history, or my self-conscious, and they’ll just sort of pop out. When they do, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s horrifying, but it usually makes for some interesting scenes.
You both get pretty physical in this film. Were you prepared for all of that “usin’ and abusin’”?
Mark: (Laughs) Well, Steven and I could relate that we’re both heavily influenced for the roles by our older brothers in real life. I grew up with two older brothers, so we were very physical. I was also a high school athlete, both swimming and baseball… so, I had an idea of what they were throwing us into when I arrived on set. But, in terms of the shooting schedule, that certainly caught me off guard. We really dove into the sports when we were shooting, and both being competative, Steve and I, we certainly went for it. (Laughs).
Steve: No, I was absolutely not prepared! And I definitely feel like Mark Kelly and I definitely sustained some injuries, but that was the whole point. If Mark Kelly and I looked like Ryan Lochte then some of that humor and story would have been lost, and I think the point was… Here are these two guys in their late 30′s – early 40′s that are not in shape, and are destroying themselves and their bodies while trying to destroy each other.
There was a lot of roughhousing, on top of the competition in this film. Tell me about some of the injuries on set?
Mark: (Laughs) Actually the first event we shot was the long jump and I think we both got hurt in that one! (Laughs). Steve kind of tweaked his back and I strained my hammy. We sort of, not having any time, personally, I didn’t have any time to research what a long jumper does, but I was channelling Carl Lewis in my mind from the 1984 olympics. That’s, uh, kinda where my form was inspired.
What was your favorite event in the film?
Mark: I guess I would have to say baseball for me because I grew up playing baseball, and was so thrilled to get the chance to put my swing in the movie. And, I know for Steve, basketball was his. He was into high school basketball. So, we made sure to negotiate with the brothers that we were allowed to actually win those events for our own pride.
Mark (Cont.): One of the more memorable events was ping-pong, for sure, because we had allowed for, I guess, five hours of shooting that scene, and the Art Department on set was finding that our actual sweat wasn’t reading on camera. So, someone had advised that we be lathered up in Karo Syrup and (laughs)
Mark (Cont.): That was just a truly miserable experience. Probably the most miserable experience on such a great shoot was being lathered in the corn syrup. Of course, we found out for the rest of the shoot that glycerine is what you are supposed to use to do the trick. (Laughs)
Steve: Well, I know that the one that I dreaded the most was probably swimming, because I am just not a good swimmer. So, that event kind of worried me and scared me. You can actually tell in the movie when I dive off of the diving board. My form is really bad and I just, kind of, drop into the water like a ton of bricks. It’s actually really funny, but also really, really, really horrifying for me to watch . I guess my favorite was basketball because in real life that is my favorite sport.
This film is based on a set of real brothers. What was their reaction to the film?
Mark: Apparently they were totally flattered by it. I mean, the difference being that it was inspired by them and their competitive nature, but certainly the drama that was added wasn’t autobiographical, and they’re much better athletes than the athletes we portray in the film. They were just taken aback that a movie was made, inspired by them. They certainly got a kick out of the end result. We actually got to meet the parents at one of the screenings at SXSW. They made themselves known in the Q&A. And, apparently in real life they’re still extremely competitive. They live miles from each other in Buffalo, NY… and I guess in the DVD extras Jay shot an actual redo of the Do-Deca with the brothers, and it came down to a final event. So, I’m looking forward to seeing that.
Steve: I haven’t actually gotten a chance to meet the brothers yet, but from what I’ve heard through the grapevine, they were thrilled about the fact that a movie was being made that was inspired by their lives. (Laughs) I did meet their parents, however at a film festival, and they were super nice, and gracious, and they really got a kick out of it.
You play estranged brothers in the film. Did you have a method of staying away from each other for the filming?
Mark: (Laughs) You know, that was fine. You know, we both have our moments with method acting, but we fell in love with each other, kind of right away. Which, I think, lends itself to the ending of the movie… and each shoot day. In that regard, we actually became quite close, and remain so. I really can’t say enough great things about Steve Zissis, who’s just an incredible actor and incredible person. And, that certain bond with us really helped us keep it together during the four-year wait of the movie coming out. (Laughs). I was calling him, I think, on a monthly basis, to see if he had any inside information on the progress of the film. He was very big brother like in keeping me patient… (laughs)… patient in waiting for the movie to come out.
There are some really good beer drinking scenes in the film. I’m curious, when was the first time you shotgunned a beer?
Mark: (Laughs) In real life or on set?
Oh, we’re talking in real life. (Laughs)
Mark: Gosh, well… of course at the legal age. Um, (Laughs) I think that was another brother moment. Shotgunning beers with my brothers in Oregon and their fellow baseball teammates. And, I certainly went in… Jenn Lefleur is certainly a competitive person and was disappointed that she didn’t get to compete in any of the events in the movie. One of our favorite stories to tell is after finishing a long shoot day, you know, she was all riled up from watching us play ping-pong all day, and we were having a few beers after, and she challenged me to a shotgun contest. Of course, I thought I was going to take her down, no problem being as she’d never shotgunned a beer before. And, wouldn’t you know it… she smoked me. Impressive. Quite impressive. It was about a 3 1/2 second shotgun. So, hats off to Jenn, and of course, if there’s ever any Do-Deca redo I’m sure she’ll be ready to go.
Steve: (Laughs) Shotgunned a beer? Let me think. Well, since I’m from New Orleans, and people get started pretty young, drinking alcohol there… I probably first shotgunned a beer when I was 14. I’m not sure. I’m not really a beer drinker, per say. I’ve probably shotgunned a beer twice in my life. I don’t even know.
The Duplass brothers show just how far sibling rivalry can go in THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON. As in the past, the brothers take on the “family relationship”, showing a dark, funny side. Mark (Steve Zissis) and Jeremy (Mark Kelly) are tired of the tension between them after a 20 year grudge, and decide to settle things once and for all in a sporting competition that’s… not so sporty. 25 events, such as ping pong and laser tag, will determine who is the more superior brother.