Clark Duke plays Dave's buddy Marty in Kick-Ass, on the heels of playing opposite John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson in Hot Tub Time Machine. Other parts include Dale on ABC Family's Greek, Lance in Sex Drive, and "Party Teenager" in Superbad. Duke and friend Michael Cera played "themselves" in the cult internet series Clark and Michael, and Duke has also lent his voice to Robot Chicken. Duke promoted Kick-Ass at San Francisco's WonderCon. I spoke to Duke at the Palace Hotel. Duke began by eagerly paging through my copy of Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie.
Clark Duke: I'm glad they left some unibrow, actually.
Clark Duke: (Laughs.) Couldn't have Photoshopped that out? (Giggles.)
Groucho: Well, it's the authenticity, right?
G: This is real stuff.
CD: Oh, this is hilarious, seeing all these pictures of everybody. I gotta get one of these.
G: Yeah. They should be "freebie"-ing you up with that.
CD: I refuse to pay for this.
G: Well, I gotta start asking you questions. You know, it's the job.
CD: I'm okay with that.
G: You're a comic fan, I hear. How did you get into comics, and what are some of your favorite comic titles?
CD: I mean, I'm like a life-long fan, since I was, like, five years old. I don't know, I—
G: Your dad brought 'em home to you or something?
CD: No. No. Neither one of my parents read 'em. I think for a while there was probably some concern over my reading 'em, but now I've kind of turned into, you know, part of my career. (Laughs.) So it all worked out. Like favorite of all time, stuff? I mean, honestly, not just saying this: Mark Millar [ed.: author of Kick-Ass]. Mark's the reason I was excited about this to begin with,y'know? Before I'd met [director] Matthew [Vaughn] or anyone else. I mean, Mark's stuff from The Authority on, like Ultimates and everything he's doing now, I've read pretty religiously. Other than him, Grant Morrison. Like The Invisibles blew my mind. Flex Mentallo was awesome. Even his current Batman run is fun. Um, last few years type of stuff. Uh, Brubaker and Bendis' runs on Daredevil: both pretty awesome. Ultimate Spider-Man was good, but I haven't read the rebooted one. With, like, the manga drawings or whatever; I dunno.
G: Yeah, it's for real, obviously, your comic fandom.
CD: Yeah, yeah!
G: And when you talk like that, it makes me want wonder is there a character in all those comics that you wish, if you had your druthers, that you could play in a film. Who would it be?
CD: Um. (Pause.) I keep reading that Edgar Wright is doing the Ant-Man movie. I wouldn't mind playing Ant-Man.
G: Yeah, that'd be fun.
CD: I mean, you know, I'm obviously not going to play, like, Captain America. However, my buddy Sebastian [Stan] from Hot Tub is—
CD: Playing Bucky! I called him yesterday; I was like "Dude!" (Laughs.) So that's pretty awesome.
G: Small world.
CD: I think my odds are maybe better of writing a comic. Which Mark keeps telling me to do.
G: That's another good idea.
CD: Yeah! Yeah, I've actually got an idea. I got an Iron Man idea.
CD: Not that they probably need any more Iron Man writers. Actually, Matt Fraction's Iron Man series I really like right now.
G: You do some ad-libbing, always, but in this film as well, right?
G: Were there any particular lines that made the cut that were ad-libs of yours?
CD: You know, I tend to be really conversational and kind of loose with the dialogue at all times, so I'm not real sure off the top of my head. I'm also kind of brain-dead right now from—this is, like, week six of me for press. 'Cause I went from Hot Tub, overlapping, to this to this, so— (Laughs.)
G: You're doing fine!
CD: No, I know, I know. I can't think of any specific lines of dialogue off the top—there was one where Lyndsy's character asks Dave if Red Mist is the kind of guy—if he would have sex with him, if that's the kind of guy he would go for, and I just start laughing, go "Yeah, Dave. Is that the kind of guy you'd go for?" So I think that would probably be my favorite one. Just 'cause it seemed very real 'cause I was laughing at him.
G: That reminds me, too...Marty, in some ways, is not the most supportive friend.
CD: No at all! He's a horrible friend. But he's also the one person at the end of the movie who figures out that Dave is Kick-Ass, you know in that one scene, like "Have you guys ever noticed?"
G: Yeah. Well, that he could see that in his friend, that says something for him.
CD: Settin' that up for the sequel. (Chuckles.)
G: Was this the sort of film where, on your days off, you were hanging around the set?
CD: Yeah, 'cause we were over in England. And I didn't really know anybody else or have anywhere else to go. But it was really cool to watch the action stuff, anyway. Particularly Chloe's stuff, who plays Hit Girl. She's unbelievable. I mean, she's just like—she's this little tiny action star. It's a sight to behold, man. We shot this music video a couple weeks ago, for a song from The Soft Pack; this is actually a really cool band. And Chloe: we hadn't shot the movie in over a year, or however long it's been. And she just immediately goes back into this fight choreography. I was like "God, who are you?" (Laughs.)
G: Maybe genetically engineered in a lab?
CD: Yeah. No, she's just wildly talented.
G: Well, you're not doing so bad yourself.
CD: Well, thank you.
G: You're from Arkansas, right? Can you take the Arkansas out of the boy?
CD: No. You really can't. When it comes down to it, when faced with a choice, I'm still going to choose a domestic beer, over however expensive the wine is.
G: Which, going out with Matthew Vaughn, is easy to be around.
CD: No, you really can't, man. You know, it's funny when I think about it. Most of my friends in L.A. I realized one day are all from the South and the Midwest. And that wasn't a conscious thing. But I think there is something about the South that breeds a strong character.
G: Clark and Michael was fantastic.
CD: Oh, thanks, man.
G: I'm glad to be able to meet you and talk to you about it a little bit
CD: Thanks, man.
G: How did that come about? I'm curious.
CD: It was my thesis film in college.
G: Oh, right, right, right, right.
CD: Mike [Cera] just happened to live next door to me, and we were buddies when I was in college, and we wrote these things to make us laugh. And it came time to shoot something: it's like "Well, fuck it. We should—you know, this is the obvious thing to shoot here. We're talking about maybe doing another round of it—maybe in, like, 2011.
G: CBS: are you still—
CD: No, it probably wouldn't—I don't know—I mean, it'd just be me and Mike. It'd probably be called "Duke and Cera." For legal reasons.
G: Right. I was really surprised to look at your resume and realize that you had started—well, I don't know if you started there, but an early project for you was Hearts Afire—
CD: Yeah. I was a little boy.
G: When you were just a boy. I didn't realize you were a child actor. What do you remember from those days? What sort of things were you absorbing about making TV and making movies?
CD: Well, I mean, doing three years on a series, you know, at such an early age, you just absorb how it all works, like how the set works. And just kind of developing a shorthand with the—you know, I've always been able to memorize a lot of pages. And I'm sure doing that sitcom at, like, seven years old has to be most—
G: Wire you for it.
CD: Yeah, seriously—you know? It has to be part of the reason for that. But I don't know, it just kinda—I mean, this is always what I wanted to do, this line of work. Whether it was writing or acting. But, yeah, it was just such a—it was—you know, kids who want to be astronauts get to go to space camp when they're little. I get to be on a sitcom. You know, so it was really quite a blessing for me. 'Cause you hear so many people who have these horror stories—people have this connotation with child actors that, like, you know, it's some kind of horrible burden. But for me it was great: I don't know. (Laughs.)
CD: That's good.
G: Yeah, I mean, for me—'cause then we just went back to Arkansas afterwards, and I went to high school, and moved back to L.A. for college. So I kind of had the best of both sides of it, you know? I got to have the normal childhood back home, but I still had all this work experience. I think it definitely probably builds confidence, too, to some extent. I mean, in as far as—when I decided I wanted to move to L.A. and go to film school, it didn't seem like some unattainable pipe dream. You know what I mean? It just seemed pretty doable. (Laughs.)
G: You had a small part in Superbad—
CD: Very small.
CD: It really doesn't get any smaller.
G: I was thinking about how the Apatow school, the idea is that the actors develop their own scripts and their own material—
G: And you do a lot of writing, obviously. Are there feature scripts that you have sort of in the pipeline, or in development?
CD: Yeah, actually. That's sort of what the rest of my summer is. People keep asking what I'm shooting, but I'm really just writing a lot. I got a book I optioned that me and the direcor of Hot Tub, Steve Pink, are adapting right now. I got a feature script that I think we're actually in a couple weeks going to go pitch. And I got two or three TV show things that are in various stages of happening. So, yeah, I mean, that's what I went to school for is writing and directing. And that's kind of inititally what I thought I would do. So it's fun—it just feels good to be writing again. 'Cause for the last couple years, I've pretty much been shooting something nonstop, since like Clark and Michael to Sex Drive to, y'know, these movies. So it's nice to kind of have some—that rhythm again. It kind of makes you remember—'cause you have like a hunger when you're in college and you just want to—you're constantly writing and want to make something cool. And it's hard when you're shootin' something to want to go home after an eighteen-hour day of shooting and write. You're just brain-dead, you know? The energy that would have went to work is just spent. Yeah, I'm sure after this press tour is over, that's what I'm going to do for a while. I'm going to try to get a tan—
CD: I'm going to try to keep writing. (Laughs.)
G: Okay...you mentioned Sex Drive. I know you've been asked this before, but about the titles of your films.
CD: Yeah, I'm like three for three on dumb-ass titles, right? (Laughs.)
G: It seems like you need to make, like, The Merchant of Venice next to throw it off.
CD: No, I said that the other day. I'm makin' somethin'—I'm making, like, a PG-13, really accessible film after this. (Laughs.) I don't know: it was not on purpose. But yeah, you wouldn't have thought I could top Sex Drive, and then Hot Tub Time Machine and Kick-Ass. (Laughs.)
G: It's something in your personality they're picking up on.
CD: I guess so, man. I mean, I'm just picking stuff that I like. (Laughs.)
G: So what was the set of Hot Tub Time Machine like? I just have to imagine—
CD: It was pretty raucous, you know? It was pretty fun.
G: I have to imagine you were all looking at each other constantly—
G: Saying, "Really? We're really doing this?"
CD: Yeah, I kept kinda waiting for the title to get changed, but it never did. Same as Sex Drive, you know. It just never got changed. It was a real pleasure, you know, to get to work with Chevy Chase, who's my hero, as a comedian. And, you know, I was huge fans of Cusack and Pink's stuff: Grosse Point Blank and High Fidelity and all Johnny's '80s stuff. I mean, Cusack, by and large, doesn't make bad movies. And I think—I read in Ebert's review of the movie he said that about Cusack, and I was like "Shit, that's pretty true." Like, going down the list, he's pretty spot-on. Even his romantic comedies I end up liking. 'Cause he tends to elevate material. So it was a real pleasure. I feel like I learned a lot from him. And just hanging out with Chevy for like a week or two was one of the best weeks of my life. It was great. And it was probably the most collaborative thing I've ever worked on. We all keep joking about—you know, people ask, "What was the script like?" We're like "Well, what script?" It was very loose: a lotta—everybody was kinda writing and rewriting and constantly improv-ing. It's such a shaggy-dog of a movie that I really like. I don't know: I'm really proud of the final product. I thought it was really funny. I hope it holds up, with all this 3-D bullshit coming. I don't know: I'm going to come out anti-3-D. I can't watch them. I had to walk out of Avatar. 'Cause I wear glasses; you can't—I mean, you wear glasses. Have you tried to wear these 3-D goggles over your glasses?
CD: It doesn't work!
G: It's hard.
CD: It's like—it feels like you're a hundred feet away!
G: You have to make sure you're sitting in your chair right—
CD: Yeah, and I know there's a big percentage of the population that's wearing glasses, right?
CD: These aren't decorative. Somebody asked me that in an interview yesterday: "Why are you wearing fake glasses?" And I was like "What the fuck are you talking about?" I've been wearing glasses since I was, like, twelve.
G: Yeah, some people just really—they get headaches.
CD: I don't know. I just—I hate—'cause the thing that I like is rated-R comedies, for the most part. And, y'know, kind of genre stuff, like Kick-Ass; that's what I like to watch. And I get bummed out at the thought of all these—just perpetual release schedule of these 3-D kids' movies and cartoons and just shit that I have no interest in watching.
G: Well, it seems to me they're hanging a lot of hopes on it to save movie exhibition.
CD: Yeah, I guess. But even, you read the box office stuff, and it's like—it's not even fair to compare them with regular movies, even, because the tickets are way more expensive.
G: Oh yeah.
CD: And they open on, like, a thousand more screens. I don't know. I just—the thing that bugs me about this is I have no interest—I don't like them. I don't like 3-D, in general—now all these 3-D TVs are coming out. I worry that it's going to catch on, and I'm just going to be stuck with it. (Laughs.)
G: Now you said you studied not only to write but to direct, and you directed Clark and Michael together.
G: Are you looking to direct a feature?
CD: Yeah! I mean—
G: Is one of those projects in development—maybe you might direct?
CD: Yeah! Ideally. You know. We'll see how it all shakes out. I, uh—maybe especially the book thing I optioned. That'd be, like, a smaller-scale thing I—
G: Can you say what that is?
CD: Nooo. I don't like to—I've found it's better not to talk about anything until after it's announced in the trades or somethin', you know?
G: Right, right.
CD: You don't do yourself any favors talking about somethin' that could fall apart at any minute. (Laughs.)
G: Right, right. I understand that. Alright, I think it's—is my time up? Yeah, okay.
CD: Thanks, man.
G: Well, it's been nice to talk to you.
CD: That was great.
[For a bit more with Clark Duke (and a mouthful from Aaron Johnson), click here.]