It's been a pretty terrific week for Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, whose work on The Descendants (co-written with director Alexander Payne) won them Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and worldwide notoriety when Rash mimicked Angelina Jolie's meme-worthy leg pose onstage. Since then, the duo have barely had a chance to slow down: Yesterday they sold an action comedy to Fox with Kristen Wiig as the lead, while Faxon got the starring role in a new Fox pilot. (Both men are actors, and Rash plays the Dean on Community.) Still, they managed to carve out some time in their busy schedules to talk to Vulture last night about everything that's happened since Angelina read their names to an audience of billions.
Congratulations on your big week and the sale of your new Kristen Wiig script! Were you like, "Let's go out with this script after we win our Oscars?
Faxon: Actually, we went out the week before because we were nervous that if we lost then the interest would wane. [Laughs.] So we went out the week before and just got announced today. We’re extremely excited to work with her because we’re old friends and we were in the Groundlings together, so it was just a nice matchup and we’ve been wanting to do it for a while. Whether the Oscars had happened or not, we were talking about it.
What was going through your heads on Oscar night when your names were called?
Faxon: There was a sense of relief and excitement. I was just beyond thrilled and so excited that this was happening, and also relieved, because I had been trying to convince myself all day by repeating this mantra: "It’s okay if we don’t win, it’s okay if we don’t win, it’s okay if we don’t win." And then you win and it’s just like, "Oh, thank God!" [Laughs.]
What was the rest of your Oscar night like?
Rash: We just raged until late at night. It did get pretty late, and I’m not usually like that. I’m an introvert and Matt’s an extrovert, and he kept pulling me along and convincing me that we could go one more hour, one more hour.
Faxon: I was trying to sniff out any party that would have us.
Rash: And Nat said immediately, "You are gonna get fucked up tonight. Fucked. Up. Tonight." And he knows that I don’t have a huge capacity to do that, that I have to be in a specific mood, so that was his mantra from that moment on. Then the second part of that for me was, I’ve never taken so many pictures with strangers. Everybody! I didn’t know who they were, and I’m not a germaphobe, but I was shaking way too many hands — not just at the parties, but people that were out on the street. It's a very weird feeling you get carrying a statue around, for people to say, "Hey, I sort of know you, so let’s shake hands and take a picture."
Faxon: I met some people I would have never met if I wasn’t holding the Oscar, so that was pretty thrilling. Jane Fonda for example, that was pretty awesome to meet her.
Did you get to rest the next day?
Rash: Yesterday, I didn’t really go anywhere. It was sort of nice. I think Nat received 176 texts, and I received maybe 25, which tells you who’s got more friends. So I took time to respond to them, and I would get responses like, "Oh, I never expected to even hear from you." I mean, it’s no big deal and it seems rude not to say at least "Thank you." So that was yesterday, and today I just ran some errands, which was sort of refreshing. "Well, off to the dry cleaner! Gotta get to that bank!"
Did the dry cleaner or the bank teller recognize you from your Oscar win?
Rash: You know what? Neither did, so shame on them.
Faxon: The waitress at this place where I was having lunch recognized me. That was pretty cool, and I have no problem talking about it. If someone was like, "So, how are you doing today?" I'll be like, "I’m doing really great, thanks!" I’m obnoxiously hoping someone will ask me why my night was so great.
What have you done with your Oscar statuettes?
Rash: It has a nice, semi-permanent perch in my place right now. I think ultimately I’ll put it in my office, either as a reminder to get back to work, or to be like, "Oh God, remember where you were at one point? You’ve fallen."
Faxon: Mine is in my bed, and my wife sits on the mantle.
When you guys won, how was it decided who would speak and who wouldn’t?
Rash: Well, that was sort of decided a little bit by the Academy. When you get up there, part of the pressure is deciding how you’ll spend that 45 seconds, but when multiple people win — although some people obviously didn’t adhere to it — we were told that after the first person spoke, they were going to cut to music or cut the mike off. So we sort of knew Alexander was going to take the reins and we knew that we probably wouldn’t get to the mike, but as we looked at each other there was a brief moment of, "Should we try? Should we storm the mike?" But the music was going to start and no one would hear anything we said.
Well, Jim, with your Jolie leg pose, I feel like you had no trouble making an impact. If you’d had a pair of scissors, would you have cut a slit up your pant leg just to take things to the next level?
Rash: Look, if I knew something might happen, I would have had tearaway pants or something. [Laughs.] Some people were like, "How dare you?" But it wasn’t mocking at all. She chuckled when she stood like that, and I thought she was sort of just owning that dress and rocking it and selling it, so I thought, I should do that with my own stance to be proud of this moment.
Have you kept up with the meme-ification of her leg? It's got a Twitter account, even.
Rash: Yeah, but I think that started happening way before it got to me. People were talking about that from her red carpet stuff.
How crazy was it that so many Groundlings were nominated this year? You guys, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Melissa McCarthy ...
Faxon: I know, it’s awesome. It's really fun to be at these crazy parties and these crazy awards shows and walk in feeling like, "Whoa, this is a whole different world than I’m used to," and then bump into a lot of familiar faces. It’s so reassuring and also a lot of fun, because you get to experience it together with your friends. I mean, we were just across the aisle from Melissa, and Annie Mumolo and Maya [Rudolph] and Kristen, and Wendi McClendon-Covey was there, and Melissa’s husband Ben [Falcone]. It was just a fun kind of reunion.
Alexander Payne wrote his own take on The Descendants after you guys had a crack at it, and at a recent Q&A at the Writers Guild, he told the audience, "I learned some of the things I didn’t want to do through their drafts." Does that make things awkward between you guys?
Faxon: I can only speculate, based on his answers. We knew that our draft before he came aboard had more of a focus on the Scottie character, which is the younger daughter. She's got a big presence in the book and we sort of reacted to that, and there was a lot of comic relief in the novel so we had sort of tried to balance it all out. In retrospect, Alexander wanted to take the focus a little off of her and focus on a different relationship, which was the Matt and Alexandra one. So, that was a big thing, and all these movies evolve. I feel very confident about our presence in the script, so that kind of statement from him doesn't bother me. I understand the context.
Jim, have you finished shooting Community?
Rash: Yeah, we finished the week before last, the week before Oscars week, and we're back on the air on March 15. We’ll see about season four, but that news probably won’t happen until late April, once all the pilots are in and stuff. But yeah, we finished all 22 episodes, and we’re just psyched that they’re going to be seen now, you know?
What was the mood like to shoot so many episodes while you were off the air?
Rash: It was good, in the sense that we always felt confident that we would return. NBC kept repeating that to us, that this wasn’t some weird, it-won’t-be-back type thing, that they had an idea of when we'd come back. It felt good. I love 30 Rock; we don’t wish them ill in the 8 p.m. slot, but [their ratings troubles] helped to show that we’re all up against a very difficult time slot. But our fan base is small and mighty and hey show up, and TiVo and DVR show that as well. But we were all happy, and there are a lot of episodes that are yet to be seen.