Great (Adam) Scott: The Overnight Star Takes on Male Ego and Marital Identity in Uproarious Sex Comedy

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Adam Scott, the affably winning charmer of the hit series Parks and Recreation, has spent over twenty years in the movie business etching sharp funnymen in pictures like Knocked Up and Step Brothers and compelling everymen in more serious outings like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Friends with Kids, among others. With fifty-five screen performances and a resume boasting cable notables like Six Feet Under, Eastbound and Down and Party Down, Scott is both eclectic in project selection and stylistically diverse onscreen.

His new film, which he stars in and co-produced with wife Naomi Sablan, is a wildly funny ode to restless marriages and identities, and the possibility of reinvention. In The Overnight, written and directed by Patrick Brice, Scott and spouse Taylor Schilling are courted by swingers Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche—acquaintances from their children’s play dates, no less—working overtime to seduce the milquetoast marrieds over the course of a long, very funny and very adult night of hijinks, truth telling and entrendres. Or are they?  As light and sweet of a sex comedy as I can remember, The Overnight soft-balls questions about long-term marital bliss, compatibility and identity crises, finding something universal in its laugh-out-loud examination of the male ego, complete with outrageous prosthetics and a fine bromance at its heart.

Boyishly handsome, hip and engaging for our early morning chat at Chicago’s Park Hyatt hotel, 42-year-old Adam Scott is direct, funny and quick—much as you’d expect—sharing both his observations on the new picture’s themes and his recollections of his formative, adolescent love for all things movies.

Where would you say Alex and Emily are at the beginning of The Overnight?

The interesting thing about that relationship is that they have happily absorbed their dysfunction and are very much in love with each other and their son. They are happy people, but just kind of busy. Whatever dysfunction is there, sexually or otherwise, they are unaware of their need for change and reinvention, which only becomes apparent to them during the hours they end up spending with Kurt and Charlotte. They feel like their days of reinvention are behind them, but realize maybe they are due for some change. They are not quite ready to process that but they have to in order to keep up with each other.

It’s interesting that you said dysfunction, almost in a sense that it becomes an inevitable part of any long-term relationship. I was reminded of Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, which explores similar territory. The male ego is central to both movies, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on that with respect to The Overnight.

Yeah. I think that Alex is most comfortable quickly slipping into the beta role, and Kurt immediately brings that out in him while giving him the strength and confidence to grab the reins and eventually step into the alpha role, something I doubt Kurt was expecting. And even though his intentions are questionable at times, he ends up doing something really wonderful for Alex. There is that point in the movie where I say, “I feel like I’ve just given birth to myself,” which is a ridiculous thing to say, but I think we have all had those moments in life where we say something like that and we mean it, because something extraordinary just happened to us. I love that moment, because my character is really feeling out the new skin that he has just put on. At the same time, he is taking an off-ramp from this road that he and his wife have been on for so long. It’s an active betrayal, in a way. I think it is a turning point, as is the scene with Taylor and I lounging by the pool after.

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In a gentle way, The Overnight seems to advocate for experimentation in a long-term relationship, at least for the need to try different things. Is that fair to say?

I don’t know if it takes a stance one way or the other because I think it is pretty specific to these characters.  But as far as having any agenda, I don’t know if Patrick had that intention. But I see it as a pretty specific story about these four people rather than trying to say anything.

The heart of the movie is this wild and eventually tender relationship between Jason and yourself. It’s very substantial and very funny. What was your dynamic?

Yes. We didn’t know each other that well and had been looking for something to do together. I almost played a supporting role in Seven Chinese Brothers, which is the movie he did right before this one, but the schedule didn’t work out. So when this popped up, it was great that he was available and we were super lucky to get him. We shot the movie in twelve days, so it wasn’t like we needed him for long. I’m such a big fan of his and was thrilled. He is so fun to work with and improvises, which he did here and there in this movie.  You can throw something out to him and when he returns the ball it is always gold. It is so fun.

I admired your performance in Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends with Kids. Although I saw it only once a few years ago, I remember a terrific dramatic scene between the two of you near the end. What are your thoughts on shooting that one?

Yes, that was a really fun movie to do for sure. We shot it all in New York. Jen is such a talented writer and director. She was great. It was great and inspiring to work with her and watch her wear all of those hats. Really fun. We shot that in about twenty days. A blast, but really hard work.

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What is the best part about your job?

I guess that I am getting to do the thing that I have always wanted to do. I never wanted to do anything else. I actually do get to do it! The fact that I get to be on TV and in the movies is still something that really does tickle me in the sense that I grew up thinking about nothing but movies and TV shows. This was all I did—watch, write and think about them. Raiders of the Lost Ark was so important to me. And Star Wars.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was really formative for you?

Yes. I remember seeing that for the first time and then thinking, “I want to do that.” I was in the second grade, which is the exact age of my own son now, and I remember calling my mom from my friend’s house when we got home from the movie and telling her, “The movie was so great, and I had no idea it was going to be a codemy (sic),” mispronouncing comedy. I remember mispronouncing the word and being so excited because I had laughed so much during the movie. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I had never seen something like that before.  You wouldn’t call it a comedy, but there were these huge laughs.  This was a huge, big movie that was blowing my mind, and I was like, “How does that work?” So I was just so inspired by that and ever since then, there was nothing else that I wanted to do. So the fact that I actually get to do it—it’s not like I’m out there making Raiders of the Lost Ark—but actually it is what I do for a living, and that is truly an amazing thing.

Would you want to do a Jurassic World or something along those lines, or no?

Yeah, I love those! I love making and watching little movies, but I go see all of the big blockbusters.  I love them.

And you are producing now. What are the guiding principles for projects you get involved with?

For our first one, we needed something small that we could do quickly. But we also look for stuff that we want to watch or go see.

Good barometer.

Yeah just stuff that we would want to watch, or pay for.

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You mentioned your son. Getting back to The Overnight, the movie has a few things to say about what happens to your identity once kids become a priority. 

Yeah, I think it is different for everybody, but once you get married and have children, you feel like you need to be a rock for these people. So as far as changing or reinventing, that really slows down. But I think people are always evolving and changing and it is healthy to do so, and when you have a family you can forget that.  You forget that it is okay to shift and change and shed a skin every once in awhile.

I suppose we must talk about the prosthetics. Those scenes must have been both scary and liberating.

Jason and I were both nervous about doing that, but then once we had them on it was totally fine because it isn’t you, and there is this psychological barrier that goes up. So it was totally fine.  It wasn’t as freakishly nerve-wracking as we thought it would be.

Did you get a sense of what it must feel like for women who are being objectified all the time in movies? 

I’m starting to know what it feels like since Sundance, which was in January, and since then I have been primarily talking about my penis in the press. I think it is interesting, and good that there is Magic Mike XXL as well. It is good to have some male objectification every once in awhile. I think that is healthy.

Are you sad about the conclusion of Parks and Recreation?

Yeah, I have a little sadness there, but I think we all feel that we are lucky we were on a show that ended when it was still really good!

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