Photos courtesy of Kelly Taub/BFA.com
“They don’t make them like Kevin Corrigan anymore,” said director Andrew Bujalski when we spoke earlier this week about his new workout rom-com Results.
Having worked with everyone from Martin Scorsese and Vincent Gallo to Hal Hartley and Terrence Malick (to name a few), Kevin Corrigan has made himself a staple of independent American cinema over the last 25 years. His subtly hilarious and dramatically brilliant performances first caught our attention in films like Buffalo ’66 and Walking and Talking and now in director Bujalski’s Results, Corrigan gets the star vehicle we’ve been waiting for.
Living in the shiny Austin, Texas world of fitness trainers and polished mansions, Corrigan plays Danny, a depressed, newly-divorced, and recently wealthy man. The film begins when he decides, out of boredom and a desire to take a punch without falling down, to join a gym. There he meets gym owner and fitness guru Trevor (Guy Pearce) and starts training with the sharp-tongued and fiery Kat (Cobie Smulders). Living in an enormous rental home with furniture still wearing its price tags, Danny tries to alleviate his loneliness, navigate his new life, and the natural foibles that ensue. Results is one of our most anticipated films of the season, and as we noted in a previous piece, “Bujalski gives plenty of room for the characters to veer off into idiosyncratic and strange tangents, while offering an interesting look at the intersection of depression and self-fulfillment.”
With the film coming to theaters this week, I sat down with Corrigan to chat about the striking similarities between himself and Danny, the old Hollywood charm of Cobie Smulders, and his love for Rocky II.
When did you first meet Andrew and how far along in the process did you come into the film?
I knew who Andrew was because of the movie Mutual Appreciation. Then I had the opportunity to meet him in 2006 on the set of a film called Registered Sex Offender, which was a film by our mutual friend Bob Byington. He wrote a scene for Andrew and I where we played two therapists comparing notes on a patient we share. We hit it off right away and ever since then we’ve wanted to work together. Over the years we’ve kicked around ideas. One idea we had was for a one-man show, a live-theater type of idea where I would play all of the characters and Andrew would direct it. We were going to adapt Rocky II.
Is that your favorite one?
That is my favorite one, yeah. I know all the lines from the movie. Andrew took the idea seriously, and I stopped taking it seriously when he said he wanted me to start getting in shape for it. I was like, I don’t really have to get in shape do I? That wasn’t the point.
So at what point did a one-man Rocky II morph into Results?
In the letter he sent me with the script, he did express a desire to keep the energy going from that Rocky II idea. He’d just taken all that enthusiasm and put it into this script — including the famous crawl, the way the Rocky title crawls across the screen. I liked it and loved that he found this plausible scenario that could incorporate Guy Pearce and me. You would never see us in a movie together if it wasn’t for this one; only Andrew could have come up with this idea. I loved it, I thought it was pretty true to life.
But I read it at least twice before we shot it with a few months in between those two readings. The first time I thought it was very true to life and a really accurate portrait of real people as they are in this fitness subculture. Then the second time I read it before we were going to start working on it it struck me how satirical it was. I don’t know why that didn’t strike me the first time; I thought maybe he’d rewritten it, but he hadn’t. So I said, “Hey, I get it, it’s sort of a satire isn’t it?” He didn’t agree or disagree, so I didn’t really put anymore stock in that notion. So yeah, I’m just saying it’s funny. We’re gonna play it straight, it’s not a comedy. It’s funny now to hear it described that way.
There are scenes that are just naturally very funny, like you sitting alone in this giant living room eating pizza and sending pictures of it to your trainer.
Yeah, that’s a real method. I didn’t get immersed in the fitness culture to prepare for this because my character didn’t know anything about it. So I went into the whole thing with a pretty fresh perspective. Everything was new to me everyday, as it was for the character.
How much did you talk about and develop who Danny was with Andrew? You make him so specific and so lived-in, I imagine he gave you a lot of room to play around.
He never called me or wrote to me while he was writing it. I only knew about it when he was finished and sent it to me, but it does feel as if we’d been talking about it or that I had input. It was just everything that he had absorbed from me over the years just being friends, I guess. He’s got a very strong intuition because when I read it I thought, “What, have you been reading my mail?” I’ve had people write stuff with me in mind in the past and it was not even close. In this case he got pretty close to the real person, with a few things he made up to make it more interesting like the divorce, the inheritance, etc.
It was a really interesting choice to set Danny in that enormous house. Some of my favorite moments were just watching Danny fumble around alone, playing guitar and trying to entertain himself.
I’m glad. What it boils down to with the character is that he’s just a guy in a room. I spent the night in that house when we shot there. I just found a small room in that house and made it my own. I thought this is probably what Danny does. One night when all the crew went back to Austin, this was an hour outside of Austin, I walked around and I tried to stretch out and go, “It’s all mine!” After about an hour of that it’s like, I don’t really need all this. All I need is that one corner of the place; I wouldn’t know how to make use of all of it.
It’s like Henry Chinaski in Barfly when he’s going to move in with his girlfriend. She’s like, “So what are you going to bring over to my house,” and he’s like, “You know, a radio, couple a rags, you don’t need a moving van.” I thought of Danny this way, just this kind of barfly. He’s a guy who probably wishes he was Charles Bukowski or a writer or someone who lives in his head most of the time and then he goes out of it on occasion. Look, I’m with you, it was interesting me, I don’t know if it’s interesting to everybody. I like those isolated characters and their struggles, I do find that very interesting.
How was the experience of playing opposite Cobie and Guy?
It was great. Unlike other actresses of this generation, Cobie seems like a throwback. She has a class about her that’s reminiscent of actresses of the 1940s like Katharine Hepburn or Lauren Bacall or something, just a real classy person. She’s really funny and really quick-witted and smart. She’s ferocious too! In the scenes where we’re in each other’s faces and she gets really angry with my character it was just what I needed as an actor to get motivated. It was exciting because she was so real, it was kind of scary.
With Guy, I mean look, he just commands the screen. I thought that was him, I thought that was Guy Pearce. I just saw him today for the first time since we made the movie and it was like where did Guy go? Oh that wasn’t Guy, that was Trevor. Wow, wow. I can still get sort of surprised by this acting stuff sometimes. He really invented this character of Trevor and he really lived in it. He made me laugh a lot too just because watching him play Trevor made me realize how experimental of an actor he really is. It’s such a brilliant creation, Trevor. But just the way he captures Trevor’s earnest nature.
You’ve worked with so many great filmmakers over the years; I’m curious who you’re still dying to work with?
I’d like to work with Jim Jarmusch, I’d like to work with David Lynch, and I’d love to work with Scorsese again. Then of course P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson — I’ll work with anyone whose got ideas.