Nick Offerman Talks Acting, Producing, And Sharing The Screen With Sam Elliott

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Last month, during SXSW, few people seemed to be as busy as Nick Offerman. In addition to his keynote speech, hosted by Nick Kroll, he was promoting two films he co-starred in: the offbeat, black-and-white sci-fi comedy Infinity Baby, and the slice-of-life story Hero, which features Sam Elliott playing a fictional version of himself (and which hits theaters in limited release on June 9). After the general chaos of the festival itself, the accomplished actor, author, and producer took some time to talk to us about these new projects, and look back at how SXSW has changed over the last 20 years.

You were promoting two very different films during SXSW last month. The first one is a very unconventional sci-fi flick Infinity Baby, which you also produced. How does a movie like that find you?

Infinity Baby in a lot of ways is my favorite kind of film. I’m a big fan of [Austin] filmmaker Bob Byington, who directed the film. I’ve known him for… sneaking up on 20 years. We worked on a lot of things together but I think this is the fifth. Let me count real quick. Tuna, Registered Sex Offender, Harmony and Me, [and] Somebody Up There Likes Me. This is the fifth feature of his that I’ve done and the second, or third maybe, that I produced. I’ve always admired his sense of humor and his kind of strange perspective through the rather crooked lens through which he views humanity that makes for good satire. There’s always a little bit of weirdness that I have come to associate with both Bob and Austin.

There’s a very distinct style there. Does he come to the set with a clear vision or does he take input during filming?

Sort of some of both. He definitely has his own vision. Positionally, his films don’t have large budgets so those productions kind of always necessarily involve some improvisation as we go. One of the things that’s fun about Bob is that he manages to make a stylistically pleasing film with seven dollars and a pack of gum.

I recognized the Austin locations but the frame was cropped to make it look like a bland, futuristic version of anywhere.

Our producer, Berry Lastina, came up as a locations manager. He was also very instrumental and sort of having all these particular architectural moments in his mind’s eye that I think was really served by the choice to shoot in black and white.