In David Cross’s new movie It’s a Disaster (available on demand and in limited release Friday), four couples are having a Sunday brunch when they learn that the end of the world is near. Vulture spoke to Cross about the project, the persuasive powers of his co-star America Ferrara, and the return of Arrested Development.
The last time I interviewed you, you had a new book out, you were in love, and you seemed to be in a really good place. Now you’ve made a movie equating couple’s brunch with the end of the world.
I don’t know if it quite equates brunch with the end of the world. I wouldn’t say that.
But the movie approaches people who have brunch in L.A. with a certain mocking tone.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Where you getting L.A. from?
Todd Berger [the writer/director] is part of the the Vacationeers, and that’s an L.A. comedy group, right?
Yes, it was shot in L.A. and made by people who currently live in L.A., but they specifically tried to avoid specifying where it was. It could be anywhere. That’s why they shot in a house that’s the sort of craftsmen style that you see all over. And you don’t see any license plates. And in the beginning they’re trying to watch the UT game.
Okay, unspecified place. But they’re cracking jokes at brunch when faced with the end of the world.
I think it’s more about the — and I don’t want to put words in Todd Berger’s mouth — but there’s a sense of the self-centeredness and narcissism and how vapid people are when faced with this external tragedy that they’ve no control over.
So do you think this is how bougie brunch people would react when faced with a global calamity?
I think that it is a logical assumption to make. How would CNN and Fox and MSNBC and the networks cover it? Because even though there’s an attending Armageddon, they would still be clambering for ratings. And if you extrapolate that down to the people who are watching these things: Some people would take it very seriously, and some people would say it’s not real.
Their reaction seemed so absurd, so high-concept. It felt like a Mr. Show skit.
I don’t mean to be contrarian, but I don’t think it’s high-concept. I think it’s extremely low-concept. The audience knows [that the world is ending] fairly early on, but it takes the people in the house a while. So it’s pretty low-concept. They’re sitting around this house, and they’re trying to decide what they’re going to do with these last three hours. That’s one of the things I love about this film is it’s restraint. It’s always grounded. You just believe that these fucking idiots — you would be friends with some of them — you just believe that Shane [Jeff Grace’s character] would still be trying to bid on those Alpha Flight comics. And then his mind goes to every disaster movie that you’ve ever seen. That’s what I love about this movie, how realistic and grounded it is.
Is Todd Berger a very dark person? There are a lot of classical-music jokes in this movie.
Oh gosh, no. Todd is kind of more of a soft-spoken intellectual, but not in an off-putting way. He’s smart. His wife [Helena Wei] is smart. He’s from New Orleans and has a deep love of that culture. Which we all know includes a lot of debauchery and a sort of sybaritic approach to life. But no, he’s completely grounded. There’s no pretense to him. He’s a guy you’d like to hang out and shoot the shit with. I mean, his wife is a fruitarian. I think that says a lot.
Were you familiar with the Vacationeers before the movie?
No, I was not familiar with the Vacationeers’ work, nor am I still familiar with it. Two or three days prior to getting the script, I had just come back from eight months in London and I was really deeply, with a palpable yearning, wanting to come back home to New York. And as much as I love London, I missed my friends, I missed baseball, and I just wanted to get back to New York. But I had to go to L.A. immediately — there was something my wife’s mom was doing and I had to go to L.A. Couldn’t get out of it. And I was going to be there for 48 hours, boom, come home. And America Ferrara sent me the script, and I said, “I’m not even going to look at it. I’m not interested. At all. I’m not spending another month away from fucking home. Especially not in L.A.” And she said, “Just read it. It’s great.” I read it. And two hours later I called her and said, “Okay, I’m in.” I didn’t even get to go back to New York to get my clothes. But it was that good of a script.
Arrested Development returns May 26, and Tobias will get his own episode. Will we get his backstory?
Yes. It’s what the absence of being on TV for seven years necessitates. Which is, you have to catch up on these characters. There’s flashbacks, there’s flash-forwards, what they’re doing now, what brings them together as a group again even though they’ve gone their separate ways, like a lot of families do. What happened when Lucille was arrested from taking the Queen Mary out? You have to explain certain things.