Swiss Army Man is a buddy comedy unlike any the world has ever seen before. The bonkers brainchild of “Turn Down For What” directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (A.K.A. The Daniels), the movie follows a desperately lonely man (Paul Dano) stranded on a desert island who finds unexpected salvation and friendship when a magical corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore.
Swiss Army Man‘s boldly goofy and occasionally gross-out humor drew notice and outrage out its Sundance debut. But the buzz has been brewing, and critics are raving over this delightfully deranged indie about a friendship forged with fierce farts, silly songs and open-hearted over-sharing.
Following its successful opening weekend in New York and LA, we sat down with Radcliffe and Dano to discuss the film’s tackling of taboos, how karaoke relates to the pair’s performances, and the metaphorical meaning of farts.
So the film tackles a lot of taboos, from farting, to male on male affection, to crossdressing. Was that part of the appeal or was that part of the anxiety of taking on a project like this?
Daniel Radcliffe: It wasn’t part of the anxiety. I don’t think of those things as being taboo, I suppose, so it didn’t strike me as, “Oh, I’m breaking boundaries and stuff…”
You’re an open farter?
Daniel Radcliffe: Well, yeah! I guess. I mean I don’t find anything shameful about them, not that I walk into rooms and broadcast them. Nor do I…I don’t think there’s something off about it. And there is something very weird about the fact that we…It is something that we literally all do. If you can’t do it, there is probably a problem. And yet, we are all sort of taught to be kind of ashamed of them. Thematically, that sort of brings in a lot of things that we talk about in the film, things that are completely universal and human but we are somehow taught to be ashamed of.
And, Paul, for you?
Paul Dano: I found that stuff so sort of funny and enchanting. You know, sort of the spirit of the film and the creativity. And, frankly, as an actor, I think sort of relish the chance to take a leap and sort of put yourself out there. You know, it’s, like on any film, you just have to be willing to embarrass yourself, because otherwise you are not going to really reveal anything that you have. So I think it’s exciting.
That’s how I think about karaoke…
Daniel Radcliffe: There you go. It’s not about being a good singer. It’s about committing.
Exactly! Yes. I like that we’ve drawn this comparison. The roles for both of you guys were actually very physically challenging. I want to hear what that was like. And, two, was there ever a point where you were kind of jealous of the other person?
Daniel Radcliffe: Um, no. I was never jealous of Paul for having to carry me around. It was great fun. I really enjoy working physically. And working out Manny’s sort of track physically was fun. And it was an exercise in imagination, along with Daniels, where were instrumental in it. Yeah, I enjoyed making it look super uncomfortable.
And, Paul, what was more challenging, working with Daniel or the dummies?
Paul Dano: [laughs] You know, Daniel wanted to be there…
Daniel Radcliffe: As much as he would have me.
Paul Dano: We didn’t do that much dummy work. There’s probably a moment or two where you throw a dummy down some rocks…
So, most of the time when you are being carried on his back, it’s really you?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yeah. It’s me. For sure.
Paul Dano: Which is great. You know, it’s fun and it’s real. And the less acting you have to do, the better, I think.
Daniel Radcliffe: And it also did lead to a line you improvised, which was one of my favorite lines in the film, where you go, “I’m going to be all buff from carrying you around.
That’s a very sweet moment.
Paul Dano: Yeah.
The film got a diverse reaction, let’s say, at Sundance. Some people were super into it and some people reportedly walked out and all that kind of stuff. The first weekend at the box office it’s doing really well for being open in 3D venues. Is that a surprise to you guys?
Daniel Radcliffe: No. I think it speaks to the fact that other people are as excited about originality as we are. I think the thing that has been wonderfully communicated in the trailers and all the promotion for the movie is that it isn’t like anything else you’ve ever seen, and we’re not just saying that. I think that excites people.
Paul Dano: I’m not sure. I’m really excited to share the movie with people, so I’m glad that people are seeing it. And I want them to, because I think it’s a really fun movie to experience sitting next to people. It makes it funnier. It makes it more comfortable. It makes it sweeter. And I think the visual and sort of audio component of the film is really big and beautiful. So I’m a fan of the movie. [laughs]
Me, too. I think we’re all in agreement on that.
Swiss Army Man expands nationwide in U.S. theaters on July 1, 2016.