“When I was 11 years old,” first-time director Stu Zicherman wrote, “every single family in my suburban neighborhood was getting divorced. My parents sat me down and said, ‘We will never get divorced. We promise.’ One year later, my dad moved out.” Zicherman says that he wanted to make a movie about the first generation of people who grew up with divorce being the norm, not the exception. How would that affect them as they grew into adulthood? He called his childhood friend, Ben Karlin (Modern Family, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), himself a childhood victim of an ugly divorce, and asked him if he wanted to co-write a movie with him. That’s how A.C.O.D. was born.
A.C.O.D. follows Carter (Adam Scott), a seemingly well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. Having survived the madness of his parents’ (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) hideous divorce, Carter now has a successful career and a supportive girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But when his younger brother (Clark Duke) gets engaged, Carter is forced to reunite his bitter parents and their new spouses (Amy Poehler and Ken Howard) for the wedding, causing the chaos of his childhood to return in full force. A.C.O.D. also stars Jane Lynch and Jessica Alba. I sat down with Adam Scott (Parks and Rec,Party Down) in Los Angeles.
Adam Scott: Ah, I take it you’re a fellow A.C.O.D.?
Complete with traumatic birthday party, warring parents, and other key moments from the film I don’t want to give away! So you are also a member of the tribe in real life?
I am but I have to admit my parents did a bang-up job of making their divorce very healthy and “nice.” My siblings and I weren’t really affected by it at all. It makes for a boring story, but a much better childhood!
I so related to your character, Carter. You’re so great at playing these likable but fairly neurotic guys. When you play parts like this, does it bring up any of your own emotional baggage even though your parents’ divorce was so much more amicable than what Carter went through?
Yeah, I guess playing this part made me more aware of what a control freak I can be sometimes! Carter was also a pretty bottled-up guy who’s wound pretty tight and I know I can be that way, too. I don’t think I’m as tightly wound as he is but it definitely made me examine that a little bit.
Carter made me look at some of my own stuff, too. I always lauded my role as the “peacemaker” in my family—now I just wondered what kind of dysfunction was at play there. Thanks for providing the content for my next therapy session!
Hey, anything I can do!
I have to say that I consider Catherine O’Hara, who plays your mother in this film, one of the most brilliant comic performers in history. Did you grow up watching her on SCTV?
Oh my God, just the greatest, and it totally holds up today, it’s not dated at all. And I recently showed my kids the Home Alone movies and got to tell them that I know the woman playing the mother. Of course they didn’t believe me! I love Catherine. And of course she’s so amazing in the Christopher Guest movies, too.
One of the funniest people on the planet. And I still get choked up when I remember that kiss scene in A Mighty Wind. It was such a thrill to see her in this huge role.
It was so lovely working with her — Catherine is such a funny, curious person. Every take she did was different, it was so great watching her. To be honest, I couldn’t believe I was actually doing scenes with her!
I also love Jane Lynch who plays your insane therapist, and I can’t imagine keeping a straight face in a scene with her. Was that ever a problem?
Yes! It was a huge problem! When we did the series Party Down, too. It’s very tough to get through a scene with her. I love Jane, she’s such a life-affirming presence.
How was Stu Zicherman as a first-time director?
Very assured and confident. He knew exactly what he wanted. I think Carter is a combination of him and (co-writer) Ben Karlin. They were on set all the time so it was pretty easy to draw on them in my performance.
And how freaky was it to have Amy Poehler as your evil stepmother?
It was great! It was so fun to just hate each other’s guts for a few weeks — we had a blast!
Which of the parts you’ve played do you think is the least like you?
Probably Will Ferrell’s brother in Step Brothers. He was very fun to play but I pray I’m nothing like that character!
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A.C.O.D. is playing in select cities.