Look, I have no real explanation for why this interview with Ray Romano and Mark Duplass devolved into a discussion about The Karate Kid Part 2, a movie neither Romano nor Duplass appear in. The Sundance Film Festival is a weird place. Everyone is low on oxygen and there are people everywhere and before you know it, everyone is talking about The Karate Kid Part 2. Oh, and “itchy ass.”
Both Romano and Duplass do star in Paddleton, which will premiere this week here at Sundance and will be on Netflix shortly afterwards. And it’s not a comedy. Actually, it’s a pretty heavy film. Duplass plays a man who finds out he only has a few months to live. So he and his best friend, played by Romano, go on a road trip to purchase the prescription medication necessary to end one’s own life before the disease can take over.
Romano and Duplass make a good pair on screen and off. And, for Romano, this continues his fascinating post-Everybody Loves Raymond career in which he seems to just be playing roles that both interest him and are nothing like Ray Barone – and Romano addresses this and explains why he’s been making the choices that he has been making.
When Romano entered the room in a studio just off Park City’s Main Street, Duplass had just brought up hemorrhoids for reasons I can’t even begin to explain, a subject Romano quickly wanted to change…
We are talking about hemorrhoids for some reason.
Ray Romano: I don’t know if I can join in, but if you transfer to just itchy ass, I can get in that conversation. Adam Sandler, you know his stand-up special? Did you see his new stand up routine?
I did. It’s great.
Romano: That bit he does about wiping your ass and you just keep going. And you go, “Okay, it’s got to be done now.” And then it gets even worse. And then he goes, “You know what? Just on principle, this is going to be the last one.” [Removes sunglasses] I’m going to take these off…
You looked like a movie star.
Romano: I know. And they’re prescription, so sometimes I forget that I have them on.
All I knew before I watched this movie was you two were in it, so I was “ready for some laughs.”
Romano: The worst thing is when you do something and they want to sell the comedy, and you know there’s more to it than that. But they think that’ll get them in the seats, the comedy. And I hate that because then, okay, some people are going to be like, “This is not what I signed up for.” But I don’t think they’re doing that with this. I think they’re marketing it as a drama-comedy, right?
Did you two know each other before this?
Mark Duplass: Not very much at all. We knew each other’s work and I was a fan of Ray’s. I loved what he did in The Big Sick. I loved how he handled the naturalism, the understated ability to be super funny and real and get the drama by throwing it away.
Romano: That’s where we met. We met at the premiere of The Big Sick.
Duplass: And then we got to know each other better as we were building out the story together and kind of building Ray’s character in particular. And when we’re making these movies, there’s not that many people on set. Every day together, all day. Shooting all day.
Romano: It’s tough. Oh yeah. We did a couple of casino nights.
What were you playing?
Duplass: Ray was teaching me games.
Romano: We would do Blackjack with little cross bets.
Duplass: And then you see all these other games that you can play. He knew how to play all of those games.
Romano: Pai gow. The thing about pai gow is, if you want to kill two hours and not lose a lot of money, you can do that.
After press for this movie is over, are you going to be friends?
Romano: We’re going to be Hollywood friends, which means I invite you to my Labor Day parties and stuff like that. But you’re like the busiest man in Hollywood, plus you have two kids. So even if we were best friends, we probably wouldn’t see each other.
Duplass: I see my best friends like five times a year. I do work, family, and self-care. That’s all I’ve got. There is this thing that happens where we will be kindred spirits forever and it’s really nice actually to be able to have that as a grown-up. Make a new friend and have that thing.
Romano: I also like having you on my speed dial list because my kids want to be in the business. I want to write a script, I’m going to ask for your advice on everything.
What’s your script about?
Romano: I’ve been writing a kind of vaguely autobiographical dramedy.
Romano: Not really, but it’s based on me and my wife’s family in Queens. Italians in Queens. And it’s a dramedy. I’ve been procrastinating on this thing. I have 138 pages ready to send to your people so they can tell me I need to cut 50 of them.