Tony Revolori Is Making Comedy Gold With 'The Long Dumb Road'
“I’ve never had time to go on a road trip as an adult. I have just been working too much ever since The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Tony Revolori (who, like he said, played the fresh-faced young bellhop Zero in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel) explains from his armchair inside a cabin-turned-press-hut for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
The young actor’s hair is much longer now than it was in his breakthrough role and he is sporting extremely well groomed facial hair—the kind a magician or an evil villain from a silent film (the kind that would tie-up a damsel-in-distress and leave her on the train tracks) would have. He doesn’t seem bored, but maybe a little tired. I am, as it turns out, his last interview of the day speaking about his latest film, The Long Dumb Road.
The film follows a young man (Tony) on his journey out of middle class suburbia towards California, where he will be soon begin art school. With camera in hand, Tony begins his long road trip alone, but is soon met with the challenge of including a delightfully insightful degenerate named Richard (Jason Mantzoukas, The League), who continuously gets the two of them in and out of trouble while they make their way to the west coast.
“The movie is mostly just Jason and I in a car,” Revolori says. “Which was great for me because Jason is so, so funny and he would just make me laugh constantly. All that time together with someone who can make you laugh and who you can just sit around and talk with was an awesome experience. So even though I haven’t been on a real road trip, this experience sorta made me feel like I had. Even the times where we were just sitting next to each other waiting for the next take felt like a bonding experience.”
I can see where Revolori is coming from. The best thing about a long road trip is all the time you have to not only get to know a person through talking, but the time you have to sit around and be quiet next to someone and just contemplate. That’s something we don’t get enough of with our friends in todays society—quiet time together. We also, as a society, don’t eat enough beef jerky, which is another really great thing you get to do on road trips… but I digress.
While Tony and I continue to talk about the film, his costar Jason sits not too far away doing his own interview. Every so often Jason will say something absurd just loud enough to catch Tony’s attention, throwing him off completely and making him forget what he is saying. In this particular instance, from what I could tell, Jason was telling reporters how no matter what he tried to do, Tony would constantly want to listen to Britney Spears. Tony’s eyes glaze over mid-sentence and he turns to Jason laughing. When he comes back he has forgotten what we were talking about.
“Jason is so funny. Seriously, working with him is like taking a master class in improv. He’s seriously so good at it, and I myself don’t come from that world, I come from movies where you have to say every line exactly how it’s written. Like, Wes Anderson tells you to say every comma and ellipse or else the comedy of the line just won’t work.”
“Our director on this film, Hannah Fidell, was very open with us improvising and riffing on the lines she wrote for us. It was a great script already and we had a good foundation, but it was also really fun riffing with such a great comedian like Jason.”
In the film, Revolori plays the straight man—the character who guides the story along and sets up Mantzoukas for his next joke. He’s Dean Martin for Jerry Lewis. He’s Abbott for Costello. He’s Jason Bateman for… everyone else in Arrested Development.
“Comedy is so much harder to play than anything else. Way more than anger or sadness or anything like that because comedy isn’t just about you. Like, if I get angry right now…everyone will believe it because anger is instant and it’s all on you. If I am trying to be funny I can say a joke but who knows if it lands to some of the people or even any of the people that hear it? Comedy is so specific and the best comedy, to me, gets thrown back and forth between actors so that it can build. So, even though I did play the straight man in the film, I was always doing my best to keep juggling the joke. Except when Jason asked me about whether or not I like to eat pussy. I lost it there and the laugh you hear me make in the film is 100 percent real.”
Revolori and Mantzoukas do make a fantastic team in the film, and while it may seem like a pretty standard comedic paring—the straight man and the wacky comic relief on a trip together (see also: Planes, Trains and Automobiles. See also: Sideways), the film surprises you by finding it’s own unique voice—not only inside it’s two main co-stars, but in each of the side characters they meet along the way. Actresses the likes of Taissa Farmiga, Grace Gummer, Casey Wilson, and the untouchable Pamela Reed serve as either lighthouses, mile markers, or thunderstorms during the journey our two road warriors find themselves on.
“Pamela was amazing. She was fantastic. I seriously loved her and I love that scene. There was so much more to her scene that we had cut out of the film,” Revolori remembers excitedly. “What’s crazy too is the story she tells in the film about the bear… she came up with all of that right on the spot. It’s nuts! It worked so beautifully and you think as someone in the audience that it must have some deeper meaning, but no… she just came up with that right as soon as Hannah called action.”
Much like a road trip, this film is funny in a time that needs a good laugh and poignant in a way that is seldom felt amid the monotony everyday life. The film doesn’t seem to have an agenda or message that it is trying to beat you over the head with, it just lays itself out before you like the open road.
“What I love about the film is that it’s not just a comedy where you’re in the theater, you laugh really hard, and then you leave and it’s all gone. It’s realistic story. It’s a story that can feel like you exhaling from all that pent up emotional distress of the election we just had or, I dunno, whatever is going on in your life. It does that because even though it’s a comedy it’s still very real and I think the film shows you that the world can still be funny even as dark and sad as it is.” Revolori explains, still playing the perfect straight man as we hear Jason continue to crack jokes in the background.
Featured image courtesy of ‘Long Dumb Road’
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