Apparently you don’t have to be ex-lovers to give awkward and hilarious Q&As. Just a few weeks after unveiling Catfight, Onur Tukel is back with yet another feature, Infinity Baby, that had its local premiere at the Montclair Film Festival yesterday. The Brooklyn auteur wrote the script with the idea of playing a character based on himself. But the movie ended up being directed by Austin filmmaker Bob Byington with Kieran Culkin as the star, which led to a very catty Q&A.
Did Byington even consider casting Tukel? “Yeah, we did,” Byington deadpanned to a crowd at the Bellevue Cinema in Montclair, New Jersey. “And he’s unbearable. That’s why we didn’t seriously consider hiring him.”
Tukel, who recently achieved a measure of infamy by getting kicked off of Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies podcast for a second time, wrote Infinity Baby before his other films, Applesauce and Summer of Blood. If you’ve seen those, you won’t be surprised that the lead character here is a cynical, neurotic, relationship-averse sadsack. Ben (Culkin) works at a firm that finds surrogate parents for babies who’ve been biologically modified to be young forever. While serving as a middle man between his brass-tacks boss (Nick Offerman) and his bumbling field reps (Martin Starr and Kevin Corrigan), Ben juggles a dating life that consists of seducing women (Trieste Kelly Dunn, Noël Wells) until they start talking marriage and children, and then breaking up with them in an epically cowardly way.
— Tom Hall (@BRM) May 1, 2017
“This movie is about my hatred for myself, how much I hate myself,” Tukel said he realized yesterday, the first time he saw his script brought to life on the big screen.
“Part of the fear of having a relationship is, I don’t want to ruin another person’s life,” he confessed, to laughter. Tukel has said in the past that he likes Q&As to be confrontational and uncomfortable, but the audience clearly wasn’t expecting this much candor.
Throughout the movie, Starr and Corrigan tote a baby around Austin. Byington’s half(?)-joking(?) theory is that Tukel chose not to direct the movie “because he didn’t know how to handle the baby himself.”
When Byington ended up helming the project, Tukel wasn’t much help. “When I would ask him questions about the script, he was really mean,” Byington said, to laughs. “He’s got a very dark side to him that you’re not seeing right now.”
This was delicious stuff compared to typical Q&As, during which you’re forced to listen to the director thank every last producer while you try not to wet your pants with the 44-ounce drink you imbibed two hours ago. But it was clear the writer and director were kidding out of love. Byington and Tukel are friends, and Byington said he was attracted to the script party because the lead character reminded him of Tukel and his sense of humor. “We were very faithful to the script, I believe,” Byington said.
Tukel, of course, begged to differ: “There were a lot of changes to it, without a doubt.” For instance, Byington made Starr and Corrigan’s characters a couple, which Tukel wasn’t crazy about. “It seemed like, why make the clownish duo gay?”
“It’s an attack on gay people,” Byington joked.
Tukel shared a few other gripes about the movie (“I feel like you can be critical if you love something,” he said), including a scene that went on too long.
Byington defended himself: “I mean, the movie was 71 minutes long…”
“I know,” Tukel shrugged, “but it could still be 70…”
— Mark D (@crowbarmark) May 1, 2017
Byington wasn’t apologetic about cutting out some of Tukel’s original dialogue, including a dig at Halliburton that didn’t make it into previous cuts but made it into this one. “If Onur had made this movie, we’d still be watching it, believe me.”
The playful jabs weren’t just between Tukel and Byington. Kevin Corrigan was mostly silent as the writer and director sparred, but at one point someone asked the New York actor how he got involved.
Corrigan had previously worked with Byington on 7 Chinese Brothers, and Byington called him and Starr “the two best guys in America.” And yet, Corrigan griped, he still had to audition for the part.
“There was no title page to the script that I got,” Corrigan recalled. “So I thought [Bob] wrote it, and I thought, ‘Oh, wow, Bob’s getting better. It’s different from the last thing he wrote. And then it turned out that Onur wrote it.”
“I think we took that title page off because we didn’t want people looking Onur up on the internet,” Byington deadpanned.
According to Tukel, the film was originally going to be called The Misogynist, a title he’s recycling for a movie he’s making in a couple of weeks. “It’s about two Trump supporters in a hotel room partying and celebrating on election night.”
Byington waved off Tukel before he could self-promote any further.
It was hard to disagree with Montclair Film Festival executive director Tom Hall: “This is the best Q&A ever.”