The Binge Interview: David Gordon Green on “Prince Avalanche”

Since first bursting onto the film scene with the Criterion-minted critical darling George Washington (2000) and establishing Zooey Deschanel as an indie ingenue in All the Real Girls (2003), the prolific and experimental auteur David Gordon Green has kept fans and critics alike on their toes while navigating a highly unpredictable series of projects. Solemnly violent domestic dramas like Undertow (2004) and Snow Angels (2007) unexpectedly led to the certified blockbuster Pineapple Express (2008), which found Green triumphantly mastering the art of the pot-addled buddy action comedy. While that film enjoyed an enthusiastic critical and commercial reception and essentially relaunched James Franco’s career, the two similarly druggy major studio action-comedies Green followed it with—Your Highness and The Sitter, both released in 2011—were largely viewed as duds.

Seeking a return to his roots as a filmmaker, Green decided to make his next film, Prince Avalanche, in secret. The film was not publicly announced until after it had been completed, at which point it promptly began popping up on the festival circuit Green hadn’t toured since prior to Pineapple. A loose remake of a Swedish film called Either Way, it is an ultra-minimalistic character study about two men, Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch), spending the summer in solitude repainting traffic lines down the center of a country highway. Alvin, a competent and frequently condescending know-it-all, hooked the hapless slacker Lance up with the job because he’s dating Lance’s sister. Rudd and Hirsch are the only actors on screen for nearly the entire film, following closely as they work in silence, wander the scorched wilderness lining the road, and engage in awkward and occasionally hostile conversation.

The film is contemplative and disorienting, its world at times suggestive of limbo or purgatory rather than reality (a topic that comes up during our chat). Rudd plays severely against type as the admonishing and humorless Alvin, while Hirsch brings richly unforced humor to his turn as Lance; it is one of his finest performances to date. Listen to my full conversation with Green below, conducted during the San Francisco International Film festival, covering topics ranging from coaching Paul Rudd on being unlikable, the inspiration for Hirsch’s most explosively funny scene in the film, and my impression of Amy Sedaris screaming “ANNIE!” in Snow Angels.

On a personal note, this was the final interview I conducted prior to starting my new job in Cupertino, which has taken me away from the world of press tours and interviews for the time being. I actually met with Green directly after leaving Old Navy for the last time, sprinting out of the office so as not to be late, necessitating an Irish goodbye rather than a tearful group hug with my colleagues. I told this to Green, who is extremely friendly and approachable, and when I mentioned where I’d be working beginning the following Monday, we laughed at the possibility that I’d end up writing about Prince Avalanche for my job when it had its simultaneous theatrical/VOD release in August. And, well, here we are.

Prince Avalanche is in theaters now, and is also available on iTunes, where it is currently featured in the Weekend Movie Guide.

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