Sundance Film Festival

Chris Rock and Julie Delpy on TWO DAYS IN NEW YORK, interracial relationships, and Rock’s Love For Melissa McCarthy

Oscar-nominated actress-cum-filmmaker Julie Delpy’s filmmaking debut 2 DAYS IN PARIS centered on Marion (Delpy), a photographer struggling in her relationship with her neurotic, American boyfriend, Jack (Adam Goldberg). The film went on to become a huge indie hit, grossing nearly $20 million worldwide.

The French-American filmmaker has returned with a sequel of sorts, and enlisted comedian Chris Rock to play Mingus, her new boyfriend. The couple lives together in New York with a child from Marion’s previous relationship with Jack and things are going smoothly—that is, until her family, including father Jeannot (Albert Delpy, her real-life Dad) and sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau), decides to pay the couple a visit following the death of Marion’s mother. Rose’s new boyfriend, who just happens to be one of Marion’s exes, ratchets up the awkwardness, attempting to impress Mingus by quoting Salt-n-Pepa and buying weed in plain sight. Adding to her anxiety, Marion has an upcoming make-or-break photo exhibition.

The role of Mingus is an interesting departure for stand-up comedian-turned-actor Rock, and he delivers one of his most impressive roles to date as arguably the only sane, composed character in the picture.

Sundance Channel sat down with Chris Rock and Julie Delpy to discuss their new comedy-drama 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK, whether or not interracial relationships are still taboo, Rock’s desire to work with Melissa McCarthy, as well as his eagerness for more dramatic roles.

I think it’s pretty funny that Salt-n-Pepa is the one rap group Rose’s boyfriend recognizes.

Julie Delpy: Why are you looking at him? I wrote it!

No, I was looking at you!
Chris Rock: You were so defensive! [Laughs]

Delpy: Oh, I’m sorry! It’s because when you’re a woman writer, everyone assumes everything is written by the man.

Rock: When it’s a comedy, everyone assumes everything is ad-libbed. If it’s The Hangover, no one assumes anything is written. It’s because the funny stuff really is ad-lipped ninety percent of the time!

So how did you two hook up for this project?
Rock: We were sleeping together for a long time and then we were like, “Should we work together?” We probably should just to keep our significant others off our tracks. [Laughs]

Delpy: When I decided I wanted to continue the character of Marion and her family, I figured I couldn’t do the sequel with the same guy since it would be too much like BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET, so I was like, “Okay. Marion will have a new boyfriend,” and the first person that came to mind was Chris. I love his work and I had met him briefly because he was the Oscar host when we were nominated for the screenplay for BEFORE SUNSET.

Chris, do you not get offered many acting roles where you’re more than just being the cut up?
Rock: Yeah. People want me to perform kind of—you know what I mean? And this is a well-rounded part, and I jump on any well-rounded part someone hands to me. I’m a father, I’m married, I have kids, I have in-laws, and so I can relate to the whole thing. My in-laws are from Oakland, and so being from Brooklyn, that’s a whole other world. I can relate to this guy.

What led you to putting your own spin on the GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER scenario?
Delpy: My character is more grownup and has a kid, so how do you recreate a couple when people have kids from another relationship? How do you merge together in a new family? And then you have the in-laws, the stress of trying to sell your art without selling your soul, and also mortality. Marion lost her mother and I lost my mother, so I had to get that out, in a way.

Chris, there’s a massage scene between you and Julie’s real-life father, Albert. Was that awkward to film?
Rock: It really was kind of awkward to shoot with a guy that doesn’t speak English. I mean… nothing!

Delpy: And the scene with the feather was improv, so suddenly my Dad took the feather and I could see in your eyes, “What is going on?”

Rock: You’re literally remembering improv class like, “Just run with it! Don’t say no! You’ve got to play along!” [Laughs] It was crazy at times. And the guy I’m playing is like a combination of Nelson George and Elvis Mitchell, cause I know those guys.

There’s a strange scene where Chris’s character talks to Barack Obama.
Delpy: That’s something that came to my mind—it would be fun if someone talks to a cardboard of the president. We both love THE KING OF COMEDY—it’s my favorite film. People think he’s the straight man in the film but he does have his moments of craziness.

That would have been a really, really different conversation if the cutout was George W. Bush.

Rock: Oh my god…. Condoleezza Rice!

Delpy: Not someone you want to open your heart to!

Is it weird that interracial coupling is still a taboo in movies?
Delpy: It’s weird because to me, it’s so not. But in film it’s a taboo.

Rock: I see it every day and I see it more outside New York and L.A. I see it more in the middle of the country than in the city.

Delpy: I didn’t even really want to bring it up in the film because it’s so old. It’s like… the ‘60s! I mean, come on!

Rock: One of the movies I’m working on, I’m trying to get Melissa McCarthy to play my wife because I think we’d be the perfect Jerry Springer couple.

Chris, you’re very effective here in arguably your first dramatic role. Are you going for a more Tom Hanks-ish career arc, transitioning from comedy to drama?
Rock: I’ll say this: as you get older, you’re less believable in the silly stuff and you kind of have to start acting or die, more or less. Tom Hanks can’t be in BACHELOR PARTY anymore. You’re going to have to have a wife, have some kids, be in a relationship, and be a real person to work. That’s why I did the Broadway play [THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT]. I just want to work. I like working and it’s fun, just as long as it’s good. When you have to sell something bad… I mean I’d rather be with my kids right now but I’m with you, but it’s okay because the movie is good. Could you imagine how horrible this would be if no one liked the movie? [Laughs]

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