In the indie comedy Douchebag, which opened last Friday in limited release and is gradually expanding out, Andrew Dickler plays Sam, a soon-to-be-wed yupster trying to help his estranged younger brother reconnect with an old crush. At first, it seems like typical mumblecore fare, but then Sam reveals himself to be a leering, conniving horndog, an alpha-indie hybrid with the shagginess of Will Oldham and the swagger of The Situation. It’s a breakout performance for Dickler, a 42-year-old film editor who inhabits the role with casual cockiness and wild-eyed glee despite having never acted before. We talked to him about his unlikely leap in front of the cameras.
You’ve edited such films as Anvil! The Story of Anvil! and You and Me and Everyone We Know, but you’ve never once appeared onscreen. How’d you get the role?
It was very unexpected; I’d never even thought about acting. I was editing [director] Drake Doremus’s previous film [Spooner], and we were having a good time in the cutting room. Halfway through, he said, “I want to put you in my next movie.”
And that didn’t terrify you?
I didn’t think it was actually gonna happen! Plus, I saw it as just another aspect of storytelling and filmmaking. I sit there all day long watching peoples’ performances, analyzing every which way they can be put together, how every little nuance is pored over. To be given the opportunity to be on the other side is cool.
Sam’s a uniquely jerky character: He torments his brother by forcing him to hit on these unobtainable girls, but he’s never overly cruel. Instead, they just seem like two guys who’ve never learned how to talk to one another.
Going in, before we did everything, we always knew that he loved his brother, but didn’t really have the emotional foundation to express it. They want to be friends, but Sam speaks what’s on his mind. And it’s not always the right thing.
And he has that super-bushy beard, which encapsulates his whole self-righteous obnoxiousness. Did you have that going in?
I did have it, but it continued to get bigger when I started working with Drake, because obviously Sam was gonna have the beard as big as possible. It’s funny, because I’ve always had a beard of varying length, and I thought it was hilarious when weird beards started becoming en vogue. Now, every indie-rock front man has a beard.
In Brooklyn, people are starting to grow old-timey mustaches.
Now that’s cool. I don’t understand why more baseball players don’t do that, as an homage to back in the day. Maybe they’re afraid they’ll grab some of that wax to modify their pitches.
Have you guys gotten any push back on the movie title?
The only thing I heard was that on Facebook, for some reason, it’s called D-Bag.
That’s actually the alternate title being suggested by the PR team.
[Laughs.] That is lame.
Any plans to switch over to acting full-time?
I don’t know. I had a great time doing it, but to say, “Oh, I did this movie, now I’m an actor” — I’m not so sure that’s the case. I love film editing and want to keep doing it.
Speaking of which, you worked on the notoriously secretive Borat. Did they even keep material from the editors?
Nothing was ever hidden, although the naked fight came to us with the genitals blacked out. Nobody ever saw that.