At the beginning of A.C.O.D., the new comedy from director Stu Zicherman, Carter (Adam Scott) has, in his words, “kinda got it figured out.” His parents, who divorced when he was a kid (the title stands for “Adult Child of Divorce”), haven’t spoken in 20 years, and it’s working out fine for everyone; Carter deals with them as he needs to, keeps them far apart, and as a result, they’re in “a period of real calm.” But that all comes to an end when his brother (Clark Duke) gets engaged. Suddenly, the parents (played, uproariously, by Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins) have to interact. That alone upsets Ben’s delicate sense of control; even worse, he discovers that as a child, he was the subject of a bestselling book by an author (Jane Lynch) who wants to revisit the top of children of divorce. The ensuing complications are brought to life with a screwball snap by the film’s crackerjack ensemble cast, which also includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jessica Alba, and Scott’s Parks and Recreation co-star and love interest Amy Poehler — this time playing, somewhat alarmingly for Parks fans, his stepmother. I talked with Scott and Zicherman about that casting decision, Scott’s work as executive producer on the movie, and how their own experiences as A.C.O.D.s informed the film.
Flavorwire: So how did you two get together on this project?
Adam Scott: We met, uh—
Stu Zicherman: On a date?
Scott: Yeah, just dating.
Zicherman: eHarmony. I was a big fan of Adam’s from Party Down, and so when the time came, I actually called up his manager, who I knew, and I said, “Can you just slip this to Adam Scott and see if there’s any interest?” He did, and next thing I knew, we were meeting for coffee in Silver Lake.
Scott: Yeah, I got the script and just immediately said, “Yes, I wanna do this.” Then I met Stu and said, “Absolutely not.” But no, we got along from the get-go and just sort of started working on it.
Adam, you’re credited as executive producer on the movie, which from what I understand can mean any number of things. What was that job for you?
Scott: Fluffer, mostly.
Zicherman: He fought really hard to get his face on the poster.
Scott: Yeah, sure. You gotta put my fucking face on your fucking poster or I’m fucking gone. Well, I came on pretty early. I was the first cast member attached, and it was a full — boy, what was it, eight, nine months before we started shooting. So we just sort of worked on it together, and I mean, if I really helped with anything, it was maybe with some of the cast, but at the same time —
Zicherman: You also gave notes on the script, and when an actor wants to be a producer in a movie, especially if it’s an actor that is in every scene in the movie, you take that as a sign they’re committed to it, and he was. We did notes, we did a reading, he helped organize a reading, and we got really great notes from people, and when it came to casting, he helped make phone calls. Again, it’s just a level of commitment to the movie that we were happy to have.
I’m sure this is the question you’re tired of, but: was it strange for you and Amy to go from playing husband and wife who love each other on Parks to playing stepson and stepmother who hate each other here?
Scott: It was really fun, because we’re so lovey-dovey on the show all the time — which is great and really fun — to absolutely hating each other’s guts and never resolving that. At the end of the movie, we still absolutely hate each other. It was really fun. It was a blast.
Zicherman: They have this funny improv moment where — we were doing the scene where they’re fighting in the restaurant, when she kicks him out of the restaurant. And they came to me after a couple of takes and said, “We have this idea that at the end of the scene,” Adam was like, “maybe I’ll say to her, ‘Maybe we could’ve been friends.’ Maybe he has a moment of kindness for her.” And I was like, this isn’t Parks and Rec! But they ended up like, “No, no, let’s do one with it,” and we ended up using it because it was a really nice moment.
Scott: Yeah, I forgot that was improvised.
The script is elegantly constructed and very sharp and funny, but you’ve also got Adam, you’ve got Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch — you’ve got some of the best improvisational comics in the world. Were you able to take advantage of that?
Zicherman: A fair amount — although, when you’re making an indie movie and you only have 24 days to shoot it, you just don’t have time. Our whole thing was, “Let’s get what’s in the script.” We didn’t have time for rehearsal, so you get on set and you’re running through it. But we would, almost every setup, do a take at the end where I would say, “Forget the script. Whatever comes.” Because you can’t not ask these people to, right? And sometimes they would get stuff — the most frustrating thing for me, I sat and watched the movie in LA last week for the first time all the way through in six months maybe, and there’s so many things I took out that were funny as hell, but we had to take them out because people were like, “No, we gotta keep moving, gotta keep it moving” or “It just weighs too far to the absurd.” Just all these things. You know, Amy comes running in to yell about the fire; she did, like, 12 versions of it. Every one different, every one funny, but you can’t use it all.
Scott: Yeah, with a schedule like that, there’s not much time for a lot of improvisation, and with a script like this, you don’t really need to do it. On Parks, we always do — we call it a “fun run,” where we do a take where anything goes, and the joke is the fun runs are always longer and less funny, because the scripts that those guys write are so perfect. And sometimes, great stuff comes out of that, but when you’re working with great material, sometimes you really don’t need it. I think it’s a healthy thing on set for the actors to just keep everybody loose and just have fun and all that.
Zicherman: There were times when I wouldn’t cut right away; I’d let them keep going. But yeah, you have to get the movie, you know? Especially with a movie like this. You want to make sure that you’re getting the undercurrent of it, that you’re not just getting the comedy; you’re doing the drama, so we tried to pay attention to that.