David Sedaris says 'C.O.G.' felt like 'the real thing'
05:00 AM, Jan 21, 2013
David Sedaris, the hilarious essayist who has never agreed to make a movie of any of his writings, found it hard to resist the youthful enthusiasm of indie film director Kyle Patrick Alvarez.
“I liked his other movie and I liked how enthusiastic he was,” said Sedaris. “He seemed like the real thing to me. He seemed like an artist. I’m 56. And Kyle is not even 30 yet. If somebody’s young and enthusiastic and talented, it seems like you should give them that and let them run with it.”
Alvarez directed and co-produced a film based on the story C.O.G., one of the essays in Sedaris’ 1997 book Naked. The film, which stars Glee’s Jonathan Groff, Dean Stockwell and Dennis O’Hare, had its premiere to an enthusiastic response Sunday night. Alvarez’s only previous film was 2009’s Easier with Practice.
Sedaris had been approached many times to make a film of his humorous work.
“A lot of times students will make movies out of things I wrote,” Sedaris said in an interview following C.O.G’s world premiere. “They’ll make the movie and then ask for permission. And every one of the films was the same. It was like laugh lines and a voiceover used to color the story in. I would start watching it and think ‘Oh my God, I wrote that?’ “
Alvarez promised Sedaris his film would not fall into a similar trap.
“My first promise was that we would have no voiceover,” Alvarez said. “So I wouldn’t just be stealing his jokes. I turned down financing because of that.”
But, once he gave permission to Alvarez, Sedaris took a back seat.
“Kyle’s world is not my world and I don’t want it to be my world,” Sedaris said. “I didn’t want him to ever feel he had to check in with me. I didn’t care to read the script. It would be like if somebody said ‘I want to write an opera based on something you wrote’. Great, but I don’t want to be involved in it. Let’s just go out for tacos a couple times.”
Sedaris didn’t offer casting suggestions or visit the set, simply letting Alvarez make the film as he saw fit.
Having said that, watching the movie was an intriguing experience for Sedaris, since the story is based on his experiences living in Oregon, initially picking apples on a farm, then working in an apple factory and finally as an assistant to a religious zealot who sculpts clocks out of jade (in the shape of the state of Oregon.)
“It was hard to watch in some ways because I’m not a sympathetic character,” says Sedaris. “It’s painful to be reminded of how pretentious and horrible I was. But I can’t deny that I acted like I was smarter than everyone else. All I can say is ‘Well, I was 20.’ But it’s not like ‘Well, I was 7.”
The filmmaker said he had read everything Sedaris has written and this story, which he read in high school, particularly stuck with him
“For me there was a certain delicacy and scope to this story,” said Alvarez. “There were a lot of aspects that were personal for me mostly in terms of the way it dealt with religion and, under the surface, how it dealt with sexuality, not in a way that was overt or explicit. I thought there was a real truth to the circumstances. In addition, I thought it was really funny. ”
Originally Alvarez was going to shoot the film in Southern California. But it was shot mostly on location in Oregon, close to where Sedaris’ experiences took place.
Sedaris particularly enjoyed re-visiting the rural Oregon countryside.
One of his favorite aspects of the movie was “seeing the trees and seeing the landscape. It was so beautiful there. Seeing people with those apple-picking bags on just takes my breath away. It’s such beautiful work.”
C.O.G. captures some of Sedaris’ subtly snarky humor, but there are also some powerful dramatic moments.
Since he is pleased with Alvarez’s adaptation, will Sedaris be open to others adapting his work?
“If anybody else ever makes a movie based on something I wrote, I feel like I have my model for a relationship, like a template,” he said. “You meet somebody and you like them and you have faith in them and you think, ‘Oh great I’d love to see that.’”