Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Film Festival: Why 'Harry Potter's farting corpse' film Swiss Army Man isn't just hot air

Paul Dano likes a good fart joke. Which is lucky, because his new film is full of them. He gasbags with Chris Schulz.
Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe from Swiss Army Man, screening at the Auckland International Film Festival.
Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe from Swiss Army Man, screening at the Auckland International Film Festival.

A lot of hot air has been spoken about Paul Dano's new film.

"The headlines have definitely [made] people think it's a fart movie," says Dano from his home in New York.

The 32-year-old is a serious actor, known for his roles in heavy material like There Will Be Blood or Love & Mercy.

But his new film might change that, because the headlines are about right.

Swiss Army Man, screening here as part of the International Film Festival, contains so much flatulance you can almost see the clouds of methane floating through the cinema.

The source of all those farts is an unlikely one. Early in the film, the first big screen effort from music video veterans Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, Dano's character finds the washed up corpse of Daniel Radcliffe on a beach - and he's suffering from extreme wind issues.

It gets weirder. Several minutes later, Dano's Hank uses the bloated body of Radcliffe's Manny like a surfboard, using his wind power to ride the waves.

That's where the explosive "Harry Potter's farting corpse" headlines have come from.

But Dano says you'll miss the film's real meaning if you only read headlines full of hot air.

"We wanted to make a film where the first fart makes you laugh, and the last fart makes you cry," he says. "It felt like the ultimate challenge. I just loved that idea."

Swiss Army Man delivers plenty of laughs, many of those derived from the cosy relationship that grows between Hank and Manny in the film's Weekend at Bernie's-style shenanigans.

It would spoil the film's secrets to reveal how, but things quickly evolve into something deeper and more meaningful. This is a film about an unlikely bromance that might tear your heart a new one by the end. "I've been happily surprised by how many people have been moved by it," explains Dano. "One woman at Sundance came up to us crying."

Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe from Swiss Army Man, screening at the Auckland International Film Festival.
Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe from Swiss Army Man, screening at the Auckland International Film Festival.

Much of the film's heart comes from Dano and Radcliffe's chemistry.

The Harry Potter star did most of his own "corpsing" for the film, and Dano says it's the most intimate he's ever been with another actor.

"It's definitely physically the hardest thing I've ever done," says Dano, who admits Radcliffe was "just as up for the madness" as he was.

"Carrying Daniel around every day for five weeks is the best workout I've had in a long time. It's high intensity ... but an experience that I loved. Daniel was just a beautiful acting partner, he was very committed."

Dano knew he wanted to make the movie just three pages into the screenplay.

"I was laughing so hard. It was so absurd that I actually thought it was beautiful. I was in pretty quick because it was funny and glorious, the kind of thing that I wanted to call my friends and tell [them about]. There was a majestic quality to it."

Dano even admits he doesn't mind those farty headlines blowing up everywhere.

In fact, he can even admire "a good fart joke".

"I"m glad people think it's a fart movie. Hopefully they'll show up for the farts and the movie will give them some meaning."

Who: Paul Dano
What: New film Swiss Army Man, also starring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse.
Where and when: Screening as part of the International Film Festival, July 21, 22 and 29.

More information: www.nziff.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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