Interview: Adam Scott Talks ‘The Overnight’, Improvising and His First Acting Role
“For me, it really helps just keeping it new and fresh. And you discover great bits improvising.” – Adam Scott
If you’re a fan of smaller films that are interesting, funny and all about the acting, then The Overnight is right up your alley.
Written and directed by Patrick Brice, the film stars Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling as a pair of 30-somethings who have just moved to Los Angeles with their young son. Looking to make new friends, they accept an offer from Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) to join them for family pizza night. Everything is great, but when the kids go to bed and the night goes on, it seems like Kurt and Charlotte want to have more than pizza.
I got a chance to talk with Scott about the film and how he got involved, wearing a prosthetic penis, his first acting role and how James Spader‘s performance in Sex, Lies and Videotape changes the way he thought about acting.
The Overnight is in theaters now.
I missed this when it screened at SXSW and I’m really glad I finally was able to see it. Because it’s the kind of movie I really like. It’s small with 4 or 5 actors and it’s all about the acting. Was this kind of project you were searching for?
Adam Scott: My wife Naomi and I were just looking for something to do. We wanted to do a feature for our company that we had started. We had only done a TV show up until then. So, we were looking for something simple that we could do quickly. And Mark Duplass brought us this script that Patrick wrote and it was perfect.
It was a great script. When I read it, it reminded me of Sex, Lies and Videotape which has always been a favorite of mine. It was just so influential to me. Like it hit me at that age… I was like sixteen or seventeen when it came out. It floored me. It kind of really changed the way I thought about movies and the way I thought about me. You know, when you’re sixteen, your body is like this… you don’t know what the hell is going on. You just have all these crazy feelings and thoughts about sex are all mixed up. And so, it changed the way I thought about all that stuff. It changed the way I thought about acting looking at [James] Spader’s performance in that.
Anyway, this script reminded me of that because it was like this chamber piece and it was super funny. I thought the comedy was this great delivery system for all this other interesting stuff he was talking about.
So, yeah, I guess that is one of the reasons we wanted to do it because it was a really simple, focused story.
I would imagine doing something like this, where it’s just four actors and in almost one location the whole time… does that rev you up? To give your acting chops a go?
Adam Scott: Yeah, it was fun. I mean, we shot it in twelve days so it wasn’t much time. We shot at night for ten nights and then we had 2 days of like, you know grabbing little bits here and there. So, we shot for ten nights in this house and shot in chronological order. It was fun. It was a blast, yeah.
We didn’t have any dressing rooms or trailers or anything, it was all just hanging out together. It was like, if any of us suck in this, the whole thing will not work.
I know it was scripted, but the way you guys interact and are so comfortable with each other on-screen, it almost feels like a lot of it was improved.
Adam Scott: There was some improv. I enjoy improvising. I think it’s great for the actors. I think it’s great to keep it loose and keep everything feeling fresh.
You know, if you’re doing a scene for a couple of hours like we were in the living room early in the movie, you’re there for hours and it can get stale. It gets very repetitive. So I think improvising is a great way to keep everybody on their toes and feeling fresh. And then you can decide later if you want to use any of it or not.
There is improvisation kind of sprinkled throughout. There’s some scenes that have none, there’s some scenes that have a good amount. It just kind of depends. Patrick sort of used it where he felt it worked or added to it or whatever.
On long days like that, how do you keep your energy up? Is it again, doing some improv?
Adam Scott: Yeah, I think that really helps. For me, it really helps just keeping it new and fresh. And you discover great bits improvising. You discover terrific things that if they’re good enough, they’’ll make it in the movie.
I think one of the best scenes, at least for me, is when you’re in the hot tub and you’re confessing to everyone about your characters tiny penis. That was so cringe-worthy but yet so heartfelt. What was shooting that scene like? Did you rehearse prior to shooting?
Adam Scott: No, we didn’t rehearse anything in the movie, we just got in there and shot it. We didn’t end up doing it that much. But yeah, that was a fun scene to shoot. They were all really fun.
I guess, that was clearly an important moment for that character that he’s telling people for the first time. And so, we did a couple and we played around with it a little bit. I did a super long version of it and I think we ended up with a bunch of options so Patrick could kind of cut together the optimum version of it.
Does the tiny penis inform the way you play the character at all?
Adam Scott: I don’t know. I think that the guy in general, this issue, has affected his life on a variety of levels. I think you’re right, at least for this guy, he’s allowed it to kind of really shade a large part of his personality.
How does one get fit for a prosthetic penis? I’m asking for a friend, of course.
Adam Scott: Sure, yeah. We didn’t get fit for them, they just made them. And then on the day, we just glued them on.
That would seem uncomfortable.
Adam Scott: It wasn’t as bad as we thought it was gonna be. It like… ok. And the scene wasn’t nearly as hard to do as we thought it would be. Since you’re not actually naked you’re not quite as self-conscious as you would be if you were naked.
What was the first professional acting job you had?
Adam Scott: It was a guest spot on a MTV pilot called Dead at 21.
Oh, I remember that. Was that James Noseworthy?
Adam Scott: Jack Noseworthy, yeah. You remember Jack Noseworthy?
I remember him, yeah. I don’t really remember the actual show though.
Adam Scott: He was really nice. But yeah, that was my first job.
Were you pounding the pavement for a while before you got it?
Adam Scott: I got that job pretty quickly out of school. I guess it was… boy… I had moved to Hollywood because I went to acting school in Pasadena, the Academy. It’s in Hollywood now, but back then it was in Pasadena. I moved to Hollywood and it was pretty quick. Which is why I thought, “Wow, this isn’t that hard.” And then it got really hard. But it was probably a month in I got the guest spot on this show and I was just so excited. But yeah, it must have been a month.
So, were you like, “This acting thing, I got it covered.”
Adam Scott: I mean, I wasn’t cocky just because I was so happy about it. Like, the fact that I was gonna be on TV… I mean maybe because it was a pilot so who knows if it’ll ever be on TV. But the fact that I was gonna be on a TV show was like… growing up in a small town getting hired to be on TV was like being hired to go to the moon or something, it was such a crazy thing. So I was just so happy about it more than cocky. But I did feel like, “Wow, that was really quick.” But it proved to be incredibly difficult from there on out.
What was one of the worst auditions you’ve ever had?
Adam Scott: Oh God, so many. Most of them, I mean auditioning is awful. Gosh I don’t even know. All of them. I hate it, it’s the worst.
Even know, do you still have to audition for a lot of things?
Adam Scott: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes.
How prepared are you when you go in? Like, do you know the sides?
Adam Scott: Sure. I mean, if you’re gonna audition, if you want to get the job, you should probably know it. I think anyway.
Are you gonna do another Greatest Event in Television History?
Adam Scott: No, we’re all done with those.
Aw, I loved those. Those were terrific.
Adam Scott: Thanks. No, they’re hard to make.
I would imagine time consuming too.
Adam Scott: Yeah, yeah. But super fun.