The movie, from director Christopher Neil (nephew of Francis Ford Coppola and cousin to Sofia Coppola) and based on Mark Poirier’s best-selling novel, is the story of Ellis (Graham Phillips), a 15-year-old who seems to be the only grownup in his household. His mother (Vera Farmiga) is a wealthy New Ager, who is more devoted to all her self-help gurus than her son, while his dad (Ty Burrell) left years ago to find his own bliss. The only other constant adult figure in Ellis’ life is the almost always high Goat Man, who yes, actually raises goats — as well as grass — but still manages to impart some stability in Ellis’ life.
“The character was really interesting in that it was very different but it had nothing to do with the drug intake,” Duchovny jokes with Xfinity. “It was just the pace of the guy and the kind of poet/philosopher/stoner aspect. It is kind of a stereotypical character … we’ve seen that guy .. but Goat Man was a little different and I wanted to make him not Cheech and Chong, but actually like the philosophical center of the movie.”
Duchovny succeeds, even as the film is really a coming-of-age story for Ellis, who finds new elements to his life as he moves from Tucson to attend the same East Coast prep school as his father, who re-enters his life. “Goats,” which also stars Justin Kirk, Keri Russell and Dakota Johnson, is available now.
What would you say to people to convince them to rent this movie?
Well, that’s the hard part about trying to discuss or sell a movie like this, you can’t really distill it into, say, “Batman.” Personally, when I go into a movie theater, I just want to care about something. That’s what’s fun about seeing a movie for me, not so much explosions, but caring about characters and going on a journey, as cliché as that sounds. This is a movie without an explosion and with characters, I think, you haven’t really seen before. They’re in a vein you’ve seen before, like I said the stoner guy is of a type that I’m playing, but it doesn’t really give you any easy answers. It’s got a bunch of laughs, and, apparently, it can make you cry as well. So you see, I’ve already gone on for minutes and you’ve walked past it in Best Buy and you’ve now picked up “Batman” and you’re at the cash register paying for it.
Can you talk about your relationship with the goats?
My relationship with the actual animal? I’m an animal lover, I would say, although I’m also from New York City so I’m not nature boy, you know>
Did you get along with them?
They didn’t bite. They’re not friendly but they’re not unfriendly. They’re very neutral with humans. They’re perfectly willing to hang out with you but it’s not like a dog. You don’t get the feeling they’re enjoying it. They have nothing better to do and the baby goat was pretty sweet, the baby goat at the end … he was a sweet little creature.
Watch all seasons of “Californiation” on Showtime here.
Did it make you want to keep them?
Whenever I shoot with an animal, I want to keep it. Whenever I work on location, I want to move there and then you stop and go, “Oh … maybe I don’t really want to live there.
Being an indie film, was it a fast-paced environment?
It wasn’t that fast for a movie of that budget; it was actually quite leisurely. I would think a movie like that would have to be shot in five weeks but it was eight or nine so, I think they gave us a lot of time.
Was it a comfortable environment? Do you prefer that kind of quick pace?
I like a quick pace. I find it makes you worry about stuff a little less, you get a little less self conscious. If I have more time, I tend to just over think things. I’m better when I’m not thinking.
Is that the appeal of television?
No, no there’s no appeal of television or film. The appeal is the character, or the story, or whatever it is you’re doing. I don’t distinguish between the acting in either medium. To me they’re exactly the same so it just comes down to the work as an actor. Personally, just temperamentally, I’m suited to working quickly. I’m not suited to spending a few days shooting one scene. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I would tend to go crazy.
In this film, like “Californication,” your character is nude. Can you talk about doing nude scenes.
My approach to any kind of nudity is like, is it right? Does it make sense in this story? In this film, it’s the opening of a film and it’s a funny line. He says, “Naked men shouldn’t squat.” It kind of encapsulates very quickly our relationship, his intelligence, his humor, my lack of taking offense … it’s just kind of a perfect little start to the film. That’s all I look at, whether or not my ass is showing. I don’t care. It’s just, does it make sense, and it made sense.
I’ll tell you what was important to me was the tan of this guy because he works … he’s a gardener, he’s always working outside, so I knew that I would be naked at one point and I just thought, “Well, this guy would be really tan but he wouldn’t be tan all over like they always are in the movies.” You know somehow people are always naked sunbathing in movies. They have a complete all-body tan. I don’t know how that is realistic, but they always do. So, when I went to the tanning bed, I made sure to wear shorts and socks, so my feet would be totally white, my legs would be really tan and my ass would be white and everything else would be tan. For me, it was really a fun character choice to sit in a tanning bed, which I had never done before.
How good of a parent do you think Goat Man is?
Parenting is a lot of different things. The kind of parenting that Goat Man does is not the nuts and bolts of it. He is not writing the checks, he is not making the money, and he is not driving him to school, but he is imparting some kind of philosophy to the kid and trying to give him the best of what he thinks he has learned and knows. It is unconventional, for sure. It is not the prevalent conventional norm, but he is a father to the guy. I think he takes that seriously.