The Brooklyn Director of XX/YY
Chick has lived in Williamsburg long enough to remember
the days when people actually shot each other on Bedford
Avenue. Sporting a shaved head, tight cords and a dry wit,
Chick epitomizes the disgruntled Bedford artist. He's positively
put out that the east village has infected his neighborhood;
cheese shop, baby store and all. When I told him I lived
on Graham, he responded with a grim pair of eyes and a defeated
"Everyone's moving to Williamsburg."
He's a good guy though: he even McGuyvered a makeshift mike
stand for me out of a stapler and a roll of masking tape
"My entire movie was made like this," he said
over his shoulder. His debut film XX/XY, stars Mark Ruffalo,
Kathleen Robertson, and Maya Stange as three college friends
who have a ménage a trios, and the relationships
that ensue from that. Petra Wright also stars as Ruffalo's
girlfriend in the second half of the film, which occurs
several years later. Chick wrote and directed XX / XY which
was released nationally in April. These days find him mired
in writing (his next film), attending press junkets and
being doggedly interviewed by un-artistic louts like yours
truly. We chowed on chicken pesto sandwiches and discussed
a plethora of topics-from the proper pronunciation of Mark
Ruffalo's last name to his own sordid sexual history. He
taught me a new fifty-cent word and I got him to admit that
he's never seen one of the greatest television shows in
history*. I think he even laughed at one of my jokes. Nice
guy, after all.
where should we start?
AC: You saw the movie, I guess?
Yeah, I did.
. That's a plus.
AC: I've been in these things where it became clear
that people hadn't seen the movie
(I try to impersonate an idiotic interviewer) "How
Was Mr. Ruffalo to work with
." (It's quite a
stretch. He doesn't laugh)
how do you pronounce his name?
AC: Ruffalo. Everyone says "Roof-a-low,"
but it's "Ruff-a-low."
God, he must hate the world. Everyone's pronouncing his
AC: He told me that-I forget what move it was-but
in the opening credits where they say "Staring so and
so, so and so, and Mark Ruffalo." And they couldn't
get his name right in his own trailer.
(I have already forgotten the correct
pronunciation and try to avoid using Ruffalo's name from
here on out. I also drastically change subjects). What's
this whole circus been like for you so far? You took XX
/ XY to Sundance first, right?
Did you expect it to be received as well as it was?
AC: I didn't really know what to expect. When you
make a movie, in the back of your mind you hope that it's
gonna do well. But making this kind of movie-a small, relationship
movie-I tried not to have any expectations. And you never
know what's going happen. When we first got into Sundance
that was huge for us. And then we sold it to IFC at Sundance,
and that was amazing.
How long was it before you sold it.
AC: The deal started at Sundance.
Just like that?
AC: Yeah they bought it at Sundance. Closing the
deal takes a lot longer than, but that was where it started,
at the end of Sundance last year. And all along the road
there have been these amazing surprises. Initially it was
supposed to be a DV movie; and then we were able to get
a little more money and a free camera from PanaVision and
it turned into this bigger thing. Mark had made You Can
Count On Me but it hadn't come out. And when it came out,
all of these things kind of added to it. I've been really
Did you get to keep the camera? (Smile
but no laugh)
AC: I've got it back at my house.
Nice. So you can make another movie.
On a side note, what are you working on next, do you think
AC: That's supposed to be the last question you ask;
are you mixing it up on me here?
Yeah, I had an ordered list of questions for you, but I've
already fucked that up so I'm just going with however it
comes to me
AC: I'm working on another complicated relationship
Is this independent as well? Is it just you or
It's me. It looks like Mark Ruffalo is probably gonna be
involved in it. And just recently we've sorted out who the
producers are going to be. Right now we're just beginning
to cast it, but it's not set up anywhere. We're hoping to
shoot it in San Francisco later this year. Again-it sort
of plays with chronologies. More comedic than XX / XY, but
still about fucked up relationships. They're not wildly
or sensationally fucked up relationships, they're sort fucked
in the way that a lot of people's relationships are.
They're fucked up they way they should be fucked up.
AC: Yeah. You know, sort of complicated relationships.
Not this Hollywood stereotype of what love is where it descends
on you from above and the music swells and everything works
and it doesn't take any work or maintenance to keep your
relationship going. Relationships take a lot of work. That's
a part of what it means to be in love.
You just mentioned the music swelling in the Hollywood
movies. And I noticed that you had a very decided absence
of music in XX / XY. I know there's an actual term for it.
AC: There is. Diagetic vs. Non-Diagetic. Source vs.
Score. When I was in film school they said that it was Diagetic
vs. Non-Diagetic, but since I've been out of film school,
I've said that to people who worked on the movie. And no
one knows what the hell I'm talking about. So I think it's
just source vs. score. We have a lot of music that's playing
in the scene that's a part of the location and in some cases
especially in the second half of the movie, the composers
actually wrote that music. So it's score but it's mixed
to sound like its source. So it sounds like there's a song
playing the background of the restaurant and because the
composer wrote it, they wrote it so that it sounds like
a song, but it also works with what's going on dramatically
in the scene. That was something that I wanted to play around
Why did you opt for source over score?
AC: I'm not opposed to score on principal but in
this movie it just didn't feel right. Score can be very
manipulative and sometimes that's fine, but in this kind
of movie I didn't want that sense of manipulation. I thing
audiences are really mart about that stuff. Movie-going
audiences are really sophisticated these days, and they
know when they're being manipulated.
Especially when it comes to romances.
AC: Yeah. And I think the people are really aware
of music. As soon as you hear the music swelling, I find
myself, and think a lot of people do
I think it pushes
them away. It makes me start to think 'O.K. now I'm being
'I'm supposed to feel triumphant' (Triumphant!? What
AC: Yeah. So I wanted to try and avoid that. This
next movie I'm working on, I think there's going to be a
lot of score in it.
You hooked up with
Ruffalo? (I Still can't
pronounce his name)
AC: (almost chuckling) 'Ruffalo'
Ah, buffalo. You met him in New York?
AC: I met Mark; I'd seen him in a play, This Is Our
I saw him in that. He was fucking great.
AC: He was great in that. So I'd seen him in that,
and we had some mutual friends, and then those same friends
were in a writing group that I was working with at the time.
And so when I was writing the script, I decided that I was
going to do a reading of it and somebody in the group talked
to Mark and I'd met him a couple of times since then at
parties and birthday parties and stuff, and he got involved
early on, to do this reading - just a read through of the
script and right away it seemed obvious that he was great
He seems kind of perfect for it
AC: Yeah, it's a really challenging character and
I think in order for the movie to work I knew that you had
to be able to-if not love the guy-understand him, and see
that he's struggling and I think that Mark is able to bring
this sort of innocence to the character.
You really find yourself hating the character in the second
half but then he would just sort of smile, you know? And
he physically counterbalanced what he was doing emotionally.
I thought that worked really well, especially in the second
AC: When I was writing it I had in my mind a young
Jack Nicholson, and there's really nobody that's a young
There's Christian Slater (now he laughs!)
AC: (keeps on chuckling) Yeah. Even thought Mark
and Jack are really different; I think there's something
similar in the way they approach that kind of character
- the kid who never grew up, you know? He just can't help
himself, there's a lack of sophistication in his lack of
deception; emotional sophistication that I think is endearing.
Even though it's fucked up, it's endearing.
It is, isn't it? Where did you find Petra?
AC: I'd heard about Petra from a couple of people.
She was in a movie called Seven and a Match that had been
made a year before that was shot by the same person who
shot my movie, and it was also cast by the same person who
cast my movie-so I'd heard about her but she was in LA.
It wasn't until I'd gone out there to do casting that I
finally got to meet her.
I had never heard of her before I saw her in this, and
I thought she did an amazing job.
AC: She was great. There's something I find really
refreshing about new faces. Somebody who you don't bring
any kind of baggage to. Or they don't bring any kind of
baggage to the movie. You don't have any associations with
It was kind of hard to look at Kathleen and not think of
AC: Which I've never seen but I know that a lot of
people must have watched that show. Kathleen was incredible
to work with. And she's great in the movie. And there was
something in another way that was attractive to me about
taking someone like that and giving them the opportunity
to do something totally different. Which is what attracted
her to the role, I think. But the character of Clair (Petra
Wright)-because she sort of ends up being the surprise,
if it had been somebody that was well known it would have
kind of given away the surprise, I think. Because when you
first meet the character of Clair in the second half it's
like 'Oh, I know that girl. She's the one he settled for.
She's accommodating and overly understanding and kind of
pretty, but she doesn't hold a candle to the love of his
youth.' But then eventually she ends up being the emotional
backbone of the second half of the movie. She's sort of
the answer to questions that the first part of the movie
really opens up. You're left with all of these questions
and doubts about the characters and she-not in a logical
way, sort of in an emotional way-answers these questions,
I think. If she'd been somebody that was recognizable, you'd
be thinking 'Oh she's obviously going to play a big role.
She's obviously going to have a big monologue.' But because
people don't know her, she's able to surprise you.
And she does too
The movie looks like it was fun to
AC: It was. It was fun to make, but it was a brutal
How long did you shoot for
AC: We shot it in four weeks
That's pretty damn good.
AC: We had fifty-eight locations. I still don't know
exactly how we did it. We cheated a lot of stuff. We would
shoot like, four different restaurant scenes all in different
corners of the same restaurant. To sort of make it look
different. So we could shoot four or five scenes in one
day, all in the same location but like treating it like
different locations. Mark in that "café"
is the same restaurant he's in with Thea when he says "there's
no room for honesty in a healthy relationship." It's
also the same restaurant he's in when he and Sam have lunch
together. And there was another scene that ended up getting
cut from the movie, which we also shot at that same restaurant.
We tried to use different parts to make you think it's a
different restaurant, but in my mind I justified as "Well,
that's the restaurant he goes to. It's his neighborhood
restaurant, and that's where he goes for coffee, and that's
where he meets them." It was defiantly a tough shoot.
I think everyone was there for the right reasons. The actors
were all very enthusiastic despite the fact that it was,
at times, a nightmare logistically. And the food was terrible
and the accommodations were terrible and everyone was a
pretty good sport.
I don't think I've ever heard of a movie that isn't Hell
AC: I think the ones that go smoothly you never hear
There were some major differences that I noticed between
the first half and the second half. Did you find one section
easier than the other section?
AC: No. As I was writing it, I didn't really think
of them as so different. I don't think. I had ideas for
these character's lives in the present. And then I had a
bunch of ideas about what those characters might have done
earlier. I didn't necessarily think that much about the
difference so much as like, it's like 'Here's a film about
these people that are this age.' So that I have a sense
of the characters. And then the second half is throwing
those characters into a situation and figuring out how they
might react to it.
How much of it is autobiographical, if any?
AC: It's not autobiographical in any direct way.
None of those characters are based on any people I know
I'm not Coles. But there are two things. There are a couple
of scenes that are close to things that may have happened
to me. Like the ménage a trios? Years ago when I
was in college, I went to bed with two girls and it was
the most miserable experience of my life. And that was sort
of a starting point for writing the movie. I wanted to take
this situation that's typically thought of as a male fantasy
and kind of explore the other side of it. Which is really
awkward, or at least it was for me, in my experience. And
the outcome of my ménage a trios was very different.
The two women ended up getting together and being together
a long time, like seven years or something. So nothing about
that situation developed into a story in this movie. But
that situation just kind of interested me. And then there's
a conversation later in the movie that's similar to a conversation
that I once had with a girlfriend. Other than that it's
all fictional. I was at Sarah Laurence briefly in the early
nineties so it's a world that I feel familiar with and now
I'm in a place where everyone I know is settling down and
getting married and sort of facing these kinds of questions
that the characters face in the second half of the movie.
But I think that's also what makes it kind of universal.
So my last question. In the opening scene Mark is decked
out as a hipster. I mean there's no other way you can describe
it except to say he's a hipster. Did you actually write
that in the script that he was supposed to be a hipster
or was that the costumer? (After saying 'hipster' so many
times, you start to realize that it's a pretty ridiculous
AC: I wish I could remember. Cause what it said in
the script was really funny. I've herd mark mention it in
interviews before. I can't remember what it was; something
about his moustache was mentioned in the script. Like a
big goofy handle bar moustache. Um that's sort of the way
I saw him. The swish to milk. He's wearing a T-shirt that
says swish to milk and it's got a cow's ass, I think that
was a find. That was the costume designer. But I always
saw the Coles character as a hipster in the kind of too-tight
clothes sort of way. There's something a little but off
about his style. Everything's too tight. But
all that stuff changes so much. But I think he fits the
type that I had in mind from the beginning.
check out the review of
*The editors and everyone else on staff do not agree that
Beverly Hills 90210 is the greatest television show in history.
Edwards is all alone on this one.