Richard Ayoade is a well known face from English comedy, having found fame in The IT Crowd, cult in Nathan Barley, and strangeness as Dean Lerner. But watching The Double, his second feature, shows that the 36-year-old’s true home may be behind the camera. It’s an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella that takes place in a surrealist dystopia: a nocturnal, oddball realm representing a “vision of what people in the ‘50s imagined the future would be”. It’s, in Ayoade’s estimation, a work that dares employ “non-realistic art direction”.
“What I like about silent films, old Hollywood films, is that they use the entire backdrop – the set, the music, the lighting, the framing – to communicate something about the characters, and the emotions they are feeling,” says Ayoade. “Now, I feel visuals are simply meant to be really epic and technically impressive, or just real. To me, both those ideas can be kind of boring.”
WHEN YOU ISN'T YOU
Richard Ayoade has joked he directed The Double wearing "cut-off denim shorts".
The British star is behind the comedy drama, with features Mia Wasikowska and her [...] real-life boyfriend Jesse Eisenberg. Richard is known for his quirky sense of humour and quipped he took a unique approach to filmmaking.
"It was all shot at night, so I was able to direct as a werewolf, which in turn meant I spent less time agonising about my outfits," he deadpanned to Total Film. "I quickly formulated my new look: cut-off denim shorts teamed with a ripped-open flannel shirt. Sometimes I'd sport a sweatband and ride on top of cars (or am I just misremembering Teen Wolf?)" Richard says both stars were a pleasure to have on set. "They're two of the best actors in the world; they are a pleasure to be around; they're surprisingly tolerant of my acrid body odour," he laughed. "Jesse's one of the few actors who thrives on sarcastic eye-rolls."
Richard Ayoade's nighttime shoot
In Richard Ayoade’s film, “The Double,” the quiet, self-conscious office clerk Simon James (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is struggling through a work day when he is suddenly confronted with his doppelgänger: exact in physique, but opposite in temperament. Arrogant, suave and irresistible to women, James Simon (also played by Eisenberg) glides into Simon’s life, throwing light on his weaknesses and self-loathing, and preying on his love interest Hannah (played by Mia Wasikowska). Nothing ever seems to go right for Simon, while everything is perfect for James. Based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella, the story delves into questions of identity, psychosis and self-preservation with absurd and sometimes agonizing humor. A seasoned comedian, the British director can draw a link between Dostoyevsky’s piercing insight and Larry David’s brazen style: “He’s really willing to go to un-noble places in people.”
A Comedy Director Gets Serious