Call it the Trouble with Hippies.
Paul Rudd’s new film, Our Idiot Brother, follows a hapless idealist (Rudd) who, after serving time for selling pot to a uniformed police officer, proceeds to crash with each of his three sisters (played by Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer and Zooey Deschanel), wreaking havoc on their carefully constructed New York City lives in the process.
Rudd admits that, despite the damage Ned creates in the film, his outlook on life is admirable.
“It’s an idealistic way to live,” he says. “I think we try and strive for that not judgmental, not cynical way of an open and honest way of living. The world doesn’t really function like that. Families don’t really function like that. It’s a balancing act.”
The trick to achieving the film’s believable bond between the siblings, Rudd insists, was not having any money to make the film.
“I’m sure it bummed them out a little bit sometimes, but we benefited from being a pretty low-budget movie and not having trailers and places for people to escape and be alone and forced everyone to hang out with each other all the time,” he says.
“It could have backfired and they could have hated each other, but luckily everyone really enjoyed each other.”
For some in the cast, though, it wasn’t just the working conditions that made the story accessible. Banks admits she felt some serious déjà vu when she read the script.
“I am the oldest, bossiest daughter of a family of four. I have two sisters, one of whom is a divorced mother of two, and one of whom lives in Brooklyn with four roommates,” she says. “I have a 26-year-old brother who sells pizza and maybe something else while delivering those pizzas. Yes, I really connected to the film in a deep way.”
She could also relate to Ned, she admits, as she’s no stranger to causing strife by saying the wrong thing to the wrong family member. A particular email about a sister’s wedding comes to mind.
“Basically I was like, ‘When we go to the wedding, we’re just going to make the best of a bad situation.’ My sister ended up on the email forward and wrote me back, reply-all, ‘I really wish I didn’t know this was how you were coming to my wedding,’” she says. “Needless to say, I was not in the wedding at my sister’s wedding, nor was my other sister.”
While none of the actors describe themselves as particularly Method, Mortimer was extremely helpful in establishing the family dynamic from the get-go. “Emily came to set with pink eye on the first day,” Banks remembers. “It was repulsive and made us not want to touch her. It was really was sweet, it was like she did it for us.”
Mortimer, understandably, was mortified. “It was so depressing and they all gave me some distance at first for a number of days,” she says. “My brother told me, after my first day of work on this film, that it meant I had poo in my eye — baby poo in my eye!”