It's hard to believe that the inspiration for Ned, Paul Rudd's bro-ish, slackerish, marijuana-loving title character in Our Idiot Brother, came from a Franciscan monk. But to hear director Jesse Peretz talk about the real-life Ned, it was more about the monk's gentle nature and love for people than it was about his laid-back personality.
"It's like Paul in the film, he had that long beard and long hair, and he was wearing a long Franciscan robe," Peretz says of his experience meeting the monk, a former medicinal marijuana farmer who ran into a bit of legal trouble before joining the Franciscans. "I had never met anyone so devoid of judgment, who was just all-around positive about everything. I fell totally in love with him."
Peretz had for years been trying to develop another film with his friend Rudd, and while the Franciscan created the spark for Ned, the role is, in fact, an amalgamation of several projects that had fallen by the wayside. "One was a guy who built green roofs in the city," Peretz says, laughing.
The film, in wide release today, follows the exploits of Ned, a farmer whose trusting nature lands him in legal trouble (sound familiar?), and he eventually moves in with each of his sisters (each, in her own way, a neurotic New Yorker) to get back on his feet.
"In very simple terms, it's part of the fish-out-of-water story with this super trusting and nonjudgmental guy thrown in the lives of a bunch of New Yorkers, who live in basically the cynicism capital of the world," Peretz says.
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To develop the script, Peretz teamed up with his sister, and their relationship, in a way, was reflected in the relationship between Ned and each of his sisters.
"We're two adult siblings who have grown up with both an intensely harsh and intensely loving relationship," he says.
In addition, Peretz was surrounded by friends throughout the production of the film. His relationship with Rudd goes back to The Chateau in 2001, he's old friends with Emily Mortimer and Zooey Deschanel crashed his pad when she first moved to New York. (Mortimer and Deschanel each play one of Ned's sisters; Elizabeth Banks, with whom Rudd has worked on five films, plays the third.)
"For me, in terms of my taste in comedy, [Rudd] is the ideal kind of comic actor," Peretz says. "You know, he never leans too hard into a joke, and he really is playing it for the dramatic truth...and he blew me away with his ability to find a warm, emotional, complicated life in a way that felt totally real."