A favorite out of Sundance this year, Patrick Brice’s The Overnight received plaudits for both its unique take on the seemingly tired premise of a marriage in need of a jolt and refreshing use of male full-frontal nudity. Recently relocated from Seattle to L.A., Alex (Adam Scott), Emily (Taylor Schilling), and their young son, R.J. (R.J. Hermes), befriend another family (Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godreche, and Kyle Field) at a nearby park. The sextet meets for dinner, which turns into an overnight visit: a sleepover for the kiddos and an extended “getting to know you” for the adults. From there, the night unravels, culminating in a nude swim, revealing not only the craftsmanship of the production’s prosthetics (sorry, no Women In Love action here), but a very frank exploration of relationship dynamics past the seven-year itch. Think of The Overnight, then, as a Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice for the 2010s. I sat down with Adam Scott, who’s also a producer on the film, to discuss what drew him and his co-producer wife, Naomi Scott, to the script, as well as penis prosthetics and his choice to sport a goatee.
How did you become involved in The Overnight? You and your wife were producers on the film. Logistically, how did that come about?
Mark Duplass sent Naomi [Scott] and I the script. We had done this Funny or Die video together that I directed and Naomi produced and Mark acted in it. We had a great time so we wanted to do something else together. He sent us the script and said, “Do you want to act in this? And Naomi could produce.” So we loved it and just wanted to do it. And the script really freaked me out. And so I just sort of thought movies never get made, so let’s agree to do this just to get something going. Even though there was a seven-percent chance that this would happen, I happen to be married to a very tenacious producer, and so nine months later we had a start date. And then I was like, “Oh fuck, now I’ve got to do all of this stuff.” The nudity and Jason [Schwartzman]’s character sort of just creeped me out. Just the whole thing felt creepy. But I’m so glad I did it, because I just loved the script and Patrick [Brice] is a brilliant guy.
When you first looked at the script, what drew you to playing Alex rather than Kurt?
I don’t know. I think there was something about the character that I just sort of relate to. It’s that guy who isn’t sure about how he fits into the world, not sure how to connect, not always at ease around other dudes and how to connect with them. In his case, he has this body issue that makes him feel “less than” and wasn’t sure how to resolve it; it’s so deep-seated that he’s just grown around it. And in the course of this one night, turns it on its head, which I thought was really interesting.
I’ve read about the process of getting the prosthetics in order. [Adam, Naomi, Mark, Jason, and Patrick emailed photos back and forth to decide which penis prosthetics were right, using an iPhone as a size indicator.] Was there a similar one in deciding the facial hair? You had very distinctive mustaches in The Aviator and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and here you have a proper goatee.
I had a beard when we were getting ready to do the movie and so I just said, “Hey, what about a goatee?” Since they’re from Seattle, I always figured the character was in computers in some way. And a goatee just felt right because he’s supposed to feel a little bit outside of L.A. people, and I think that a guy from the Northwest with a goatee sort of feels just removed enough from Los Angeles to be plausible. And as soon as I shaved around it and sent Patrick a photo, he was like, “Yup. Let’s keep the goatee.”
Since you’re from California, how did that experience inform the script and your character?
Patrick wrote it, so it didn’t really affect what I did in the movie really. But to observe people coming to Los Angeles and kind of reacting to the lifestyle is always interesting. I guess I just drew on that.
You and Jason have a great rapport on screen. Did that come from just an initial chemistry or working on it on and off set? How did you build that?
We knew each other, but not super well. He did a Parks and Recreation episode, so I met him when he came on. And I just love his work so much and I always have.
Was there much improvisation? How closely did you all stick to the initial script?
There’s some improvisation sprinkled throughout. There are sections where Jason and I are just improvising and there are sections where it was completely scripted. Right off the bat, it was really fun working with Jason. He’s just really game.
How was it being both producer and actor on this film? The extra pressure, how did that go?
I really liked it because you don’t have time for anything other than work. When you’re just acting, you end up having a lot of time to read or watch Netflix. I’ve been doing it for a while, so I’ve become accustomed to going back to my trailer and just zoning out for 45 minutes to wait for the next setup. But when you’re directing or producing, when you go to bed, you look back and notice that there wasn’t a spare moment the whole day. Your mind was working the entire time and I love that. It’s really exciting that the whole day was spent making something, not just little chunks.
Since you’ve been doing TV for a while, along with a bunch of films, what was the transition like working on this one since Parks and Rec?
Well, this was made really quickly. We did it in 12 days. Working on Parks and Rec, and I once directed an episode, I learned so much. Mostly about efficiency, about how a set should be run, because those guys ran a perfect ship and didn’t waste time and got the best out of everybody. So I learned a tremendous amount though how that show was produced.
I gather out of those 12 production days for The Overnight, two of them were in the prosthetics, in the nude.
Yeah, it ended up just being one night that we had those on, but we shot 10 nights. We shot only at night 10 of those nights and then just had two days to shoot the apartment stuff and the massage parlor and all that stuff, but it was 10 solid nights.
How did you get in the mindset for the character’s transition from discomfort to comfort in one’s skin, emotionally, physically, and so forth? Beyond the sexual aspect, there was a sort of identity issue at play, as you mentioned earlier. How did you approach that?
We were really nervous about the prosthetic scene, but then it’s not that bad after you put it on. It looks like a real penis and we aren’t wearing anything else so, for all intents and purposes, you’re seeing exactly what we look like naked, but there’s a psychological barrier because it’s not yours, so we were far more comfortable than we thought we were going to be. It was really strange. We just felt like we were wearing a different pair of shorts. And we kind of just forgot we had them on and we were kind of sauntering around set. It was really funny. But as far as my character feels after the breakthrough, I just think it’s the biggest moment of his life really, and he treats it as such and becomes incredibly selfish and sort of threatens his wife with his newfound masculinity. Like, “You join me, or I’m not going to wait up for you.”