Netflix’s newest thriller, Mute, is being hailed as a fever dream mash-up of Casablanca and Blade Runner 2049. Directed by Duncan Jones, the futuristic story follows a forbidden romance between Alexander Skarsgard’s Leo and Seyneb Saleh’s Naadirah. But perhaps the most enjoyable pair to watch onscreen are the odd characters played by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux.
The two play anarchic army field surgeons, Cactus Bill (Rudd) and Duck (Theroux), who even enjoy going on a bowling date while discussing work. The charisma they share on screen didn’t require too much acting, as they have actually done nine projects together and have been friends for two decades. Men’s Journal hung out with the two actors at the Crosby Street Hotel for a chat about their working relationship and a little mutual admiration.
How long have you guys known each other?
PR: You know, we were figuring it out today. I think this is our ninth movie together, so we have known each other for a long time.
JT: I remember the first time I met you, it was when you were “Twelfth Night” playing…
PR: But did we actually meet then, or did you just see the show?
JT: I guess I just saw the show.
PR: So that is when you became familiar with “my work,” but not with me actually.
JT: [Laughs.] I guess so.
PR: I became familiar with your work and you as a man, during your amazing work as Bradley in The Baxter, as the world did. I have to say, if they gave out awards for a playing the guy who is just a regular guy, maybe not the most intelligent: You should have won all of the awards for that role.
JT: Aw, that’s so nice.
Justin, do you have a favorite role of Paul’s?
JT: Oh man, there are so many. I have to say Anchorman…
PR: You can’t do that to him. How about this, if you had to pick any actor in any performance, what would be your favorite?
JT: There are so many. I mean, there is something about Harry Dean Stanton in every role that just is so great. How about you?
PR: Timothy Spall in Secrets & Lies. Daniel Day-Lewis in just about everything.
How about this, did you have a movie where you guys had the most fun together?
PR: I remember having a lot of great scenes together in Wanderlust. There was one line that you would give, Justin, that kept cracking me up, when you are telling me you slept with my wife.
JT: By the way I said, “I slept with your wife.”
PR: It didn’t end up in the movie. For scenes that actually made it into the movie, there was this line where you say something after I swat a fly.
JT: “Where does it end? You kill a fly, you kill a bird, you kill a bird, you kill a dog, and you kill a dog you can kill a soldier.”
PR: [Laughs.] That’s it! Shooting that movie was kind of like a party.
Have you gotten to hang out much outside of work?
PR: Absolutely. Justin threw these amazing Halloween parties.
JT: I was living at a spot next door to Mark Ronson, and shared a terrace so you could go back and forth, so we would throw a joint Halloween party.
PR: I remember one year you did an English versus Americans theme, so if you were dressed British you had to stay on Mark’s side and if you dressed American you stayed on your side. So my wife and I dressed like American tourists in England and were playing both sides.
JT: Those parties were a lot of fun.
Did you guys get to let loose a bit in Mute?
JT: There were a few moments that we got to play around and improve, but for the most part we wanted to stick to the lines because the script was so good.
PR: The very first scene that we shot was one where we are performing surgery on some guy’s leg.
JT: There was a fake tattoo on there.
PR: It was shocking how graphic it actually was. We are supposed to be digging out this bullet. I think it took me a good hour to finally be okay looking at it. Honestly.
The outfits and your hair choices were very interesting: Cactus Bill’s handlebar mustache and Duck’s blonde wig.
PR: That was all in the script for the most part. The guys are kind of a play on Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland in MASH. I grew a real mustache, but Justin just had to put on a wig.
So what did you guys like about Mute that made you interested in joining?
PR: I loved Duncan’s other movie, Moon. I was excited to read this script, and I couldn’t wrap my brain around it the first few reads. I was transported into the world, and I got invested into it. Then I met Duncan and just knew I wanted to work with him. He is the real deal. I mean, how do I not play a guy called Cactus Bill?
JT: It was a similar thing, I had seen Moon and adored it. I remember after seeing that movie I told myself I would really like to make a movie with the guy who made that. I kind of put it in the universe. Then I got the call about this.
Have you guys thought about doing another project together soon?
PR: I would love to do another big comedy with this guy.
JT: Same here. That would be amazing.
PR: You know there are just some actors that you meet on set and you know immediately that you guys are going to get along.
Mute drops on Netflix on Feb. 23, 2018.