Q & A with Daniels on Swiss Army Man

Film making Duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert also known as Daniels were in town this week screening their new film Swiss Army Man.  JBTV had the chance to sit down and catch up with the two to talk about the movie, Chicago, and working with bands like Foster the People.


You mentioned last night at the screening, that it’s your first time in Chicago for one of you, what do you think so far?

Daniel Kwan: “This is kind of unfair, cause we landed we went to the screening of our movie that was awesome.  Then they took us to Second City, we went up on stage for the last of the improv act, so we got to do that.  We had deep dish late last night, we were on TV with Richard Roeper for five minutes.  So it’s a very distorted version of the city, but it’s very beautiful”.   


Daniel Radcliffe in the film of course plays a corpse, what went into bringing him to life, so to speak?

Daniel Kwan: “We wanted the whole film to be deconstructing the human experience, and watching you take a blank baby and slowly adding something to until slowly he became a self aware human.  We also wanted to step it out that way also physically with the performance, so okay we’d go hey Daniel with nothing but a stare and a pose convey this, and that was the first fifteen minutes.  We’d let him fall into his pose and choose how his face was contorted, and with nothing but a stare and a couple words, what can you convey?  And as Hank fills the body with knowledge and thoughts of the world the body also starts to become more animated, so now Daniel we’re going to give you facial expression so what are you going to do with that?  It was a really fun challenge for him, I think he did a really amazing job of creating something simple that grows into something very tragic in the end.  It’s heartbreaking to watch this kind of man-baby become self aware, and to learn about shame basically.”       

Daniel Scheinert: “We knew or hoped that even the subtlest scenes where he hardly does anything, I think whoever plays Manny can kind of steal the scene cause you’d be so invested in this character who is not moving or not talking.  Daniel from the get go was excited about that or appreciative of that.  He wasn’t just like okay where is my scene where I actually act.  He really threw himself into the minutia of scenes where he lay there, like okay how do I lay there?  

Daniel Kwan: “He set a really good example on set because if he was willing to lie in the ocean cold for a couple of hours, no one else can complain”.


There were an awful lot of laughs last night during the screening, however there seems to be a lot more to this movie other than a farting corpse.  How would you categorize this film?

Daniel Scheinert: “I think it is fun that it is hard to label, and that was kind of intentional; and we kind of enjoyed for a while on IMDB it was kind of a comedy/drama/romance/musical/adventure film”.

Daniel Kwan: “When you sit down to watch a farting corpse survival film, you think it’s going to be a comedy, you think it’s going to be a survival film about manly guys overtaking nature.  That’s the opposite of what it is, every time we made a joke we placed it in a dramatic moment.  Almost every laugh in the film is also really sad.  Every fart is actually really tragic, it’s just another reminder that one day he’s going to die and decompose.  There’s an interesting thing where people expect every fart to be funny but the goal is to slowly almost through repetitious meditation to turn it into something else, where it turned into this undefined thing where you’re no longer holding onto the ideas of what a fart is supposed to be in a movie and the film kind of relabels it for you.  So for people who saw it and said oh the jokes got old, that’s not the point.  The fart jokes aren’t supposed to be funny past the first two minutes.  There’s supposed to be this strange juxtaposition of this man trying to survive against the lowest common denominator of what a joke can be…  Our main character doesn’t want to be in this movie…  We don’t like fart jokes or acapella music, we don’t like survival films because we’re not very masculine dudes so watching dudes survive against all odds doesn’t really connect to our life in any way.  If we were stuck in the woods we would just talk about our feelings and die”.  


JBTV has had the pleasure of working with some of the music acts you have done music videos for, including Foster the People.  What was your experience with them?

Daniel Scheinert: “Foster The People and we go way back, we did a weird short called Dogboarding that’s scored by their music, we a music video for Houdini which has corpses involved, then Don’t Stop which is a 3D car chase sort of video, and then Converse was a weird collaboration between Mark Foster and a couple other musicians”.  

Daniel Kwan: “This is another really good example of a band that had a sense of humor about their image and we loved that.  So we pitched the idea of what if you guys just died right away and the record label just tried to reanimate you and turn you into what they wanted you to be and totally sell out.  So they just kind of went for it and we had them flopping around like dead bodies the whole time.  It was pretty successful, it got nominated for a Grammy which was our first nomination.  So yeah they’re great to work with and Mark Foster actually got around to seeing the movie last week to”.


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