Mark and Jay Duplass are more than just brothers; they’re an unstoppable writing team. The duo has a handful of projects in the works, along with Togetherness, the HBO show they write and produce together. You may even recognize Mark from his role as Pete Eckhart on FXX’s The League, as the brother who’s spent the most time in front of the camera. The hallmark of all their productions has been a special attention to real, human emotion, as seen in movies like Jeff, Who Lives At Home and Baghead.
As a creative team becoming more and more in demand every day, it only makes sense that they’d aim to move on to bigger budget projects. Knowing that, it seems that much more peculiar that they turned down what could have been their most lucrative job ever. When asked at a recent Writers Guild Foundation panel about whether they’ve offered a directing job for either a Marvel or DC film, Mark answered: “We have been. We said no.”
A Marvel/DC directing job is one that offers a whole lot of guaranteed money and job security, and it doesn’t even require that you come from an action/sci-fi background. Just ask Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers that went from directing episodes of Community and Arrested Development, to being in charge of not one, but two Captain America films (The Winter Soldier and Civil War). No one would question the Duplasses for following the Russos lead, and yet still, they turned down the offer. Their reasoning? “The thing that happens when you sign on to a $180 million movie is that the movie is not a movie. It’s a commodity. We’re not in that business.”
It takes cojones to turn down an opportunity from either Marvel or DC. Knowing that, it’s hard not to respect Mark and Jay’s decision to turn them down. Marvel especially is infamous for strangling the creativity of their directors, and you can bet that alone was probably enough to make the Duplasses say “thanks, but no thanks.” Hollywood has enough people out for the bottom line, and here we have a rare case of high caliber directors opting out of a major franchise, in favor of their own artistic vision.
Looking at the work of Duplass brothers, it’s not difficult to see that your run-of-the-mill superhero project simply isn’t a match for their directorial style. As Jay noted, the only way it really could work is “if it were Batman and Robin as a 98 percent relationship drama in the Bat Cave.” And since low-budget cerebral dramas aren’t exactly the realm of Marvel and DC, you can’t fault the Duplasses for not seeing a place for themselves in the MCU. It takes a brave director to take on a comic book movie, but it requires an even braver one (or in this case, two) to know that a comic book movie isn’t substantial enough.
As it stands now, there’s no shortage of talented directors working for both Warner/DC and Marvel. The former is currently led by Zack Snyder, while the latter has featured the work of guys like Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, and the aforementioned Russos. The Duplass brothers will better off in the end focusing on projects they’re genuinely passionate about, rather than laboring under the heel of a multi-billion dollar franchise. And on the Marvel/DC side of the equation? We’re sure they’ll be fine too.
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