Earlier this month, a “slightly futuristic comedy about babies who don’t age” called Infinity Baby premiered at SXSW. While at the infamous Austin festival, before having the chance to see the film, and knowing only this small byline, I caught up with the cast – most of whom hadn’t seen the film either at this point – as well as the film’s director Bob Byington to try to learn more about it all.
Amongst the cast we spoke to actor Stephen Root – perhaps best known from Office Space and Newsradio – who plays Fenton, Austin local Zoe Graham who plays Tiffany (you may remember her from Boyhood), and Nick “Ron Swanson” Offerman (who plays Neo) who did their best to keep this mysterious plot a secret, while they spoke about filming in Austin, producing a film in black and white and working with Bob.
These interviews are always awkward because none of the people on the carpet have seen the film – and I don’t even think you have?
Stephen Root: No I haven’t! Bob (Director Bob Byington) won’t let anyone see the film.
Hopefully you haven’t been cut, that would be awkward
Stephen Root: Well that’s the first thing I asked him. Am I still in the film? Should I come to Austin. And he said I was still in it, and I may come.
You filmed it here in Austin, too, didn’t you?
Stephen Root: Yeah it’s been great, I’ve done a couple of films for Bob now, and I’ve worked with a few other Austin based directors over the past ten years, I love to come and support the industry down here.
How does it compare to other filmmaking cities around the US, like LA or New York?
Stephen Root: I like it better. I think the crews are really here for the love of the art. They’re here for the gold. They’re not so much here for the profit. You do it for your artistic freedom and for their vision. So I’m happy to come down here and support that.
And the BBQ as well.
Stephen Root: Well yes, and the BBQ *laughs*
So what can you tell us about your character?
Zoe Graham: I’m not sure what is secret and what is available to the public, I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say! I’m a young female… I don’t want give it away. She’s a little sassy, and a little quiet. My character is, perhaps, a spoiler, if I offer any more.
Stephen Root: I wish I could say more… I can tell you that he’s a hard man to deal with, and I think I’d rather let it happen and let you be surprised! It’s also a black and white film, which is great. People haven’t done that enough.
And how do you feel you look in Black and White?
Stephen Root: Well, I’ll either look older or younger! I’m hoping for older actually, because I’m getting a lot of older roles now.
Zoe Graham: I didn’t know we were filming in black and white until I showed up on set! No one clued me in on that.
Have you seen the film yet Nick?
Nick Offerman: I’ve seen a few cuts, I’m a producer on the film.
So you get the VIP treatment.
Nick Offerman: Yeah that’s one way to put it. I get the late night calls of “please look at this and help me polish it”. And my wife, the gorgeous goddess Megan Mullally, is also a producer, so we had a few late night screenings of saying “this is great, maybe a little more of this…”. That said, I’m sure Bob has done a lot to it since I last saw it, so I’m excited for tonight.
You mightn’t even be in the film anymore.
Nick Offerman: Could be. We are in Terrence Malick’s neighbourhood now, so – I had a lot of dialogue, which when you work with Terry, chances are you’re not in the movie.
What can you tell me about the film?
Nick Offerman: As with all of Bob’s movies, he has a slightly cracked perspective which makes for great satire. This film is a great morality tale about what children we all can be when we just pay attention to consumerism. And if a company says its OK, we all tend to go along with it, sheep-like. And this film looks at some of the possible repercussions of such a lifestyle.
Modern aspects of technology seem to play a role in the film, from the very little I know, what are some of the things that attracted you to film?
Zoe Graham: Well I got the script about a year before I even auditioned for it, and I was attracted to it because I’d worked with Bob before on a short. I think he’s a cool guy, and very talented. I knew I would like to work on a feature with him, and I pretty much said I would audition for any role he thought was right for me. And this was the character I had my eye on too…
And being a local that helps them with production costs too doesn’t it? *laughs*
Zoe Graham: Actually I was studying in Baltimore! So I had to fly back for it. So he didn’t even get that. I can’t be a cheap get, right? *laughs*.
Now Bob, I’ve been trying to get information from the cast out about this film all night, and they’ve been very good at keeping it all a mystery… so what can you tell me about it?
Bob Byington: It’s about a commitment phobe, who can’t age a relationship past three months. And it dove-tails with a story with a company run by Nick (Offerman), where they try to find homes for babies. But I think a lot of companies that are trying to find homes for babies are good companies – but this one is not.
In one of the descriptions I saw it described as “farming”, so that can’t be a good thing. It sounds like it’s out of the The Matrix.
Bob Byington: But in America we feel like we’re in The Matrix because of all the weird shit that’s happening to us.
You have an amazing cast assembled for this film, as you did with 7 Chinese Brothers which premiered here a few years back. Tell me a little bit about bringing this great ensemble together.
Bob Byington: Well we hired this guy (Nick Offerman)’s wife Megan Mullally, and then we were able to get a lot of cast after that. I met her, she had done a film that Onur Tukel, the writer, had done. So it fell together from there. Stephen Root had been in a film I’d done, Zoe lived here in Austin… it was weird, everyone just wanted to do the movie!
That must be humbling.
Bob Byington: We were lucky, but there is a domino effect. If you get one good one a lot of the others will come in after.
And how are you feeling ahead of the premiere tonight?
Bob Byington: A little bit nervous, but Offerman is really good at introducing movies.
And you couldn’t be doing it in front of a better crowd than here in Austin.
Bob Byington: Yeah, it’s going to be great.
Infinity Baby premiered at SXSW earlier this month.