Last year, the world was first introduced to the fictional oeuvre of Eric Jonrosh, a slightly delusional filmmaker (played by Will Ferrell) who’s releasing his earlier opuses to a modern audience now that society is more accepting. The first installation was “The Spoils of Babylon,” starring Tobey Maguire and Kristen Wiig, while the new one is “The Spoils Before Dying,” starring Michael Kenneth Williams of “The Wire” as Rock Banyon, a jazz musician falsely accused of killing his lover. Returning for the second season is Haley Joel Osment, this time playing Rock’s producer, a slightly oblivious Brit named Alistair St. Barnaby. Part spoof, part Ed Wood-esque effort to make a film with no money and a cockeyed artistic vision, the series is hard to pin down, so we asked Osment to clear things up for us.
How would you describe the genre of "Spoils Before Dying"?
I have been saying epic psychedelic jazz murder mystery.
And what's Alistair's deal?
Alistair is sort of single-minded in pursuit of one album he wants Rock to record, which is a big cheesy strings album that will help Rock cross over. He has a lot of artistic integrity with his hard bop albums and his free jazz and everything, and Alistair wants him to soften up his style and release an album that will be really commercially successful. And he does that no matter what’s happening with Rock. When they’re on the run from this murder charge, he’s still trying to get Rock to stop into the studio to record it.
He puts up with a lot from Rock, who isn't too interested in the strings album.
Alistair knows he’s hitched his wagon to the right star, so he’s willing to put up with that sort of behavior. As I think a lot of those characters do. When you’re working with an artistic genius, you have to put up with all of their trouble.
What's it like working with so many "Saturday Night Live" stars?
I think it’s just one of those things where they’re so good at what they do, they make everyone around them better. Being in a scene with Tim Meadows or Kristen Wiig – unfortunately I didn’t have any scenes with Will or with Kate McKinnon this season, but you just learn a lot from how loose they are on set and how much fun they’re having with what they’re doing.
With all those funny people on set, is it hard not to break and laugh?
We were pretty good. And also there’s so many moving parts in this, because they’re using really specific old school filmmaking styles. Sometimes that means really low rent effects on purpose. Like, we had this scene at a snowy cabin in the woods that we were shooting on a 100 degree day in Malibu and they were blowing fake snow, which is actually like hot cotton balls, at us in this cabin. There’s so much going on that maintaining focus is really important.
Will Alistair ever get his strings album?
People will have to tune in to find out.
So, there's really two mysteries: who committed the murder, and whether or not Alistair will get the jazz strings album he's always dreamed of.
They’re neck and neck in terms of importance.