When David Cross enters the designated interview room at his publicist’s office, he sits through about half a question before trying to steal my interview notes and start riffing. “Let me take a look at those,” he says. When I pull them away, he goes, “No?” and laughs. “All right.”
It’s easy to forgive the heavily bearded Arrested Development actor and comic for attempting to take control, since he’s just now releasing his directorial debut, the black comedy Hits. The comedy is both a portrait of a daughter (Meredith Hagner) and her father (Matt Walsh) struggling to make their lives better in an upstate New York town, but it’s also a satirical allegory about the frivolity of millennials who want to be famous only for being famous. It stars a number of Cross’ friends and former co-workers (Michael Cera, David Koechner, Julia Stiles, Amy Sedaris), and takes place in the town where he lives.
“The reason [I made] this movie was this was the one I could shoot the cheapest,” Cross says with a laugh. “The bar in the film, that’s my friend’s bar. I stayed at home and people crashed at my house. Doing it that way made it so I knew I could shoot this for under a million.”
While speaking with Rolling Stone, Cross explained his motivations behind making Hits, which will be available as a pay-what-you-want bundle on BitTorrent beginning Friday, as well as hinting at the plans he and Bob Odenkirk have been hatching to celebrate Mr. Show’s 20th anniversary.
Why did you want to make a movie about fame seekers?
It’s a subject matter that I’ve brought up a lot in my stand-up over the years, even in Mr. Show sketches. So clearly it’s in the back of my head there. I can’t say there was a specific trigger or something that I saw and said, “I’m going to write a movie about this.” But it’s obviously something that’s irritated me to some degree for a long time.
All of the movie’s characters are contemptible.
I think [Meredith Hagner’s character] Katelyn is contemptible, but I understand why she’s like that because she’s a product of her culture, the culture that you and I created for her. So, for as much as I dislike her — if she was sitting next to me, I’d roll my eyes and think she was an idiot — I suppose she is an amalgamation of people I’ve sat next to over the years. But, I get it. I don’t like her. I don’t share her values at all, yet I can’t fault her as much as people might think I would. She lives in a world now where seeking fame that way is an OK thing to aspire to. Also, [Jake Cherry’s character] Cory isn’t contemptible. He’s one of the sweetest. He’s 16, you know?
There’s a line in the movie about one of her friends, who was on Teen Mom, giving out an award.
Yeah, I mean, that’s what she thinks.
I was in the middle of dinner, talking to a group of people and this guy goes, “Yo, dude! Man, can I take a picture with you?”
Because your movie is satirizing fame seekers, what are the downsides to fame from your perspective?
Well, there aren’t too many downsides. But the loss of privacy is one. You’re eating or on the phone, you’re having an argument, you’re crying, you’re struggling with luggage, whatever the situation is, and there’s no wall. Literally, two or three nights ago, I was in the middle of dinner and I had to go outside and have this big conference call. And I’m talking to a group of people and this guy goes, “Yo, dude! Man, can I take a picture with you?” It’s just weird and it happens a lot more frequently than you’d think, and now with the advent of phone cameras, forget it. When I did stand-up and nobody knew who I was. I could go up as different characters and people wouldn’t know, and I’d try to make the audience uncomfortable and then I’d come out of it. I can’t do that anymore.
The rest of it is pretty good. You know, you get free drinks. And if I was more of a scenester guy, then I’d really take advantage of it because you get to go to a lot of parties. All the things that for most of my life I desperately needed, like clothes…it was not there. And now, [even though] I certainly don’t need another pair of Vans, they come in the mail.