Ken Marino (Burning Love, Party Down) stars in the SXSW-screening horror-comedy Milo as a man with a homicidal monster living in his butt.
That’s right: In. His. Butt.
“Milo came out of professional jealousy,” recalls writer-director Jacob Vaughan. “I was talking to a friend of mine who ended up being the cowriter, Benjamin Hayes. We were complaining about an acquaintance who had gotten money to make a horror film. We had read the script and we didn’t think it was very good. I started talking about early Cronenberg movies and how his horror was so much more interesting because it was about something. It just popped into my head fully formed: Somebody should make a movie about creature that kills people — the funny part would be that it came out of a guy’s ass.”
Below, Vaughan and Marino talk more about their “butt monster” movie, which costars Gillian Jacobs, Patrick Warburton, Stephen Root, and Peter Stormare, was executive produced by Jay and Mark Duplass, and premieres at SXSW this coming Sunday.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I can honestly say I’ve never seen a film quite like Milo before.
KEN MARINO: Oh really? I feel like every year there’s a monster-comes-out-of-somebody’s-ass-to-kill-people movie. Isn’t that a genre?
You have to tell me what cinemas you go to because that’s a genre I would like to explore.
KM: [Laughs] It’s in an odd part of town, the theatre that I go to.
So how does one go about pitching a movie in which a monster repeatedly enters and exits the lead character’s colon?
JACOB VAUGHN: The main reason the film came about was because the Duplass brothers got involved very early on. I went to college with them and then I started working on some of their movies. I gave the script to Mark and Jay and they both said, “This is really great, we want to help you in any way we can, and if you want us to come on as executive producers we would love to do that.” They put their name on it, they really pushed it, and that gave us a lot of credibility.
Mark knew Ken. He had just shot a Funny or Die video with Ken called The First A.D. Mark said, “Ken is one these guys who has ‘funny bones. It’s in their DNA to be funny.”
KM: I got a call from Mark Duplass and he’s like, “Hey Ken, do you want to be in this movie about a monster that comes out of your ass?” I was like, ‘Where do I sign up? And when’s the fitting?’”
Ken, we’re used to seeing you do comedy — and I appreciate this is a comedic movie — but you play the part very straight. I’ve seen many horror movies in which the lead actor is less convincing than you are in this.
KM: Well, thank you so much. I figured the best way to approach this [laughs] particular part is, since a monster is coming out of my butt, is to play it as seriously as I could [laughs] to counteract the monster coming out of my ass. [Dissolves into laughter]
Your character spends a lot of the movie suffering from severe intestinal distress. How did you prepare for that?
KM: I drew from experiences talking a s—.
I’ve only ever seen Peter Stormare play crazy, or at least eccentric, characters. What’s he like in real life?
JV: He’s actually a really sweet guy. Very kind and very thoughtful. But you get the feeling watching his work that, if you set him loose, he will just try everything, so he’ll do something interesting. And that’s why I wanted him. I knew that I wanted an eccentric psychotherapist character who, incidentally, was inspired by the Oliver Reed character in (David Cronenberg’s) The Brood. Hence the name “Oliver Highsmith.”
When we first talked about the role we talked for maybe five minutes about the role but an hour about hypnosis. He wanted me to go and experience hypnosis because the psychotherapist in the movie performs hypnosis on [Ken’s character]. So he was like, “You’ve got to do this — you go deep and it can change your whole life.” He referred me to a hypnotherapist and actually it was really really helpful.
What was it like working with “Milo”?
JV: From the beginning, I wanted to use a puppet. I wanted to shoot something physical. I knew we weren’t going to have the money to do any kind of CG creature but even beyond that I was like, “If I did have the money I wouldn’t want to do that.” I wanted to have a real physical puppet that could interact and improv with the actors.
There was one puppeteer operating the body of Milo and then a second puppeteer with a remote control console and he was controlling the facial expressions. So Ken could react off of Milo and Milo could react off of Ken in real-time. That was a huge win for us. It was just really entertaining to watch.
Ken, I am legally obliged to ask if there has been any progress on either the Party Down film of the Wet Hot American sequel.
KM: I will say this: The guys who wrote Wet Hot…, David Wain and Michael Showalter — those are my buds from The State days — they talk about it. I don’t know if it’s happening but if it is I’m sure a lot of people involved in it would be happy to do it. As for Party Down, I know that they were writing one and I know that the actors involved would love to be a part of it because that was just an incredible, magical experience. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but if it does, we’re all there to do it. It’s a special show for all of us. Now, I’ve got to head out. I’m heading to, of course, my part of town where I see those butt monster movies. They’re having a marathon!