It’s important to know one thing about the “Daniels” — that is, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who made “Swiss Army Man,” aka the Sundance movie in which Daniel Radcliffe plays a farting corpse who also has a giant boner that can be used as a compass.
“We don’t like fart jokes, and we don’t think boners are that funny,” Kwan says. “That we made a movie about farts and boners when we ourselves don’t like farts and boners feels like some strange therapy.” (They also don’t like a cappella music — so of course the score is mostly a cappella.)
And their feature debut has a lot of farting. Granted, most of it is regulated to the first 20 minutes. Paul Dano plays a sad sack trapped on a deserted island. He’s about to hang himself when he finds a corpse washed on shore. Suddenly the dead body, essayed by no less than Daniel Radcliffe, starts farting — and farting, and farting, and farting. Soon it starts slowly coming back to life, prompting the two to bond in a way that’s both touching and still relentlessly scatological and lowbrow.
“I love taking things that we hate and other people hate and we know we should be repulsed by, and then enthusing them with something beautiful and transcendent and inspiring,” Kwan explains. “I think there’s something really important about that kind of thinking — the ability to take something you hate and should not love and relating with it, forcing yourself to find out what it is about this thing that is wonderful.”
Of course, it’s still a movie about a farting corpse played by Harry Potter. Kwan and Scheinert — who prefer to be called “Daniels,” no definitive article, and whose acclaimed music videos and shorts can be watched here — still see it as an elaborate joke that spiraled out of control. The more it came together as a real film with real stars, the better the joke became.
“It wasn’t just about the final product. The process was funny to us: the fact that we would have to go to meetings with billionaires and pitch this movie to them,” Kwan says. “We never intended it to be performance art, but now, looking back at it, it sort of was.”
“We sort of tricked Robert Redford into inviting us to the Sundance Labs and helping us make this script better,” Scheinert says, laughing at the absurdity of it all.