If Clark Duke isn't on your radar yet, just wait a year or so. The up-and-coming actor/writer, who helped launch his career with the self-produced web series "Clark and Michael" with best friend Michael Cera, is starring in the new teen road trip flick Sex Drive. He's also set to star in A Thousand Words next year alongside Eddie Murphy. In fact, at just 23, Duke has a long list of TV credits behind him and shows no signs of slowing down.
But when I got a a chance to speak with the actor about his new film and his plans for the future, he led me to believe his career may be headed in a different direction in the years to come.
Which kind of work do you prefer, Clark and Michael or Sex Drive?
They were both really fun, but they were two different experiences. "Clark and Michael" I was in charge of everything, so it was more stressful, maybe, and more rewarding. [Sex Drive] is just really fun, honestly. You just have a very specific job you go do, and I don't have to worry about catering or any of the production aspects of it. This was fun, to just live at a hotel, go to work, try to make something funny, and go to the hotel bar afterward.
What did Clark and Michael teach you about comedy?
It taught me everything. It was like my grad school, you know? I went to film school [at Loyola Marymount University] , but you learn so much more just doing it - shooting something for three months, figuring out what works, and all the technical aspects of it, too. It was like shooting a movie.
What's the difference between working on a film set and a TV set?
Film stuff is way more fun, because with TV you shoot so much every day. You'll shoot, like, six pages [of script] compared to on a movie where you shoot, like, one page a day. It's a lot more rigid in what you can and can't do, like play around with dialogue and improv and stuff. So as an actor, movies are more rewarding. TV is kind of a writer's medium.
How did you land the role of Lance (in Sex Drive)?
I just auditioned. Sean Anders and Jon Morris (the co-writers and director/produces) saw "Clark and Michael" and asked me to come in.
Where did Lance's robe come from?
That's an homage to "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace," which is a show I was a huge fan of, and turned Anders and Morris on to, as well. We just stole it directly from that show. One of the characters wears one just like it in the show, and we thought it was amazing.
Lance wears it all the way through the movie at different moments, or at least he looks like he should be.
Yeah, I don't have a whole lot of clothes on for a lot of the film, which is ... interesting.
That leads me into another point - there's lots of "close encounters," shall we say, with sex and nudity in this movie. What was that like to shoot?
Well I was never fully-nude. You have the little flesh-colored underwear on, but I'll admit I was a little nervous the first day. But within a few hours, you're just like, f**k it. You don't even use the robe anymore, you're just walking around on set. It's like, nobody cares. The crew doesn't care. And everybody's going to see it in the theater anyway, right? So why be weird or shy about it on set? There's nothing I can do about it now.
What is it about Lance that people - guys and girls - are so attracted to?
I think it's just his confidence. He's very self-assured, which I think people respond to. Plus he's just fun - he's always having a good time. everybody wants to be around that - or at least I do, I have fun friends for the most part.
How much or yourself is in Lance?
It's more or less me. It's not that much of a character.
A lot of work there, then?
Is that a bad answer? [Duke and his agent start arguing over whether Lance loves women or disrespects them. Duke defends Lance, saying he's definitely read The Game.]
Yeah, The Game [by Neil Strauss], that book by the pickup artist? It was pretty hilarious. That was the only thing I had on my mind about the character. I feel like he really appreciated The Game.
What do you think it is about Sex Drive that sets it apart from other teen comedies?
The whole "online thing" [in which characters live separate lives in the Internet] seems to tap into the zeitgeist the kids are into. I don't really see this one trying to compete too much with other teen comedies that have been out. To me, it was more of an 80s throwback, like a John Cusack, or Savage Steve Holland type of movie, just kinda wacky. I don't feel like it's trying to be hip at all.
Any plans to work with Michael Cera anytime soon?
Yeah. We don't have anything on the books, but I'm sure we will eventually.
Who are some of your comedy heroes?
Ricky Gervais, Larry David, Belushi, Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, John Candy, George Castanza ... I guess that's still Larry David. Steve Coogan, Richard Ayoade from "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" and some other British stuff. I think he's like a genius.
Who's your ultimate comedy hero?
I know this is really unpopular, but Chevy Chase in his prime was pretty hard to beat for me. People seem to hate Chevy Chase now. It's the weirdest thing. He was cool, you know? He wasn't, like, a schlub. Those "SNL" guys are rock stars.
What's your favorite TV show right now?
"Mad Men." It's the only thing I watch right now. It's so good. I watched "The Wire," that was my show. But "Mad Men" is just so quality, everything in it is - the writing, the acting, the production design, the costumes ... it's just insane. I love it. I love that the main character is sort of a sociopath, too.
According to your IMDB profile, which is ALWAYS 100 percent accurate --
... You've got A Thousand Words with Eddie Murphy and Kick-Ass with Nicholas Cage coming up. What is it like working with these heavyweights?
A Thousand Words is finished. That was amazing, to work with Eddie, somebody that's, like, a legend, one of your heroes. All my scenes were with him, so we worked pretty close. It was a real pleasure. It will be out in April or May , I think. In Kick-Ass I just have a supporting part, but I think it will be unbelievable. I don't do any of the superhero stuff, but I watched them shoot some it, and it's so bizarre. It's just kids in costumes, it's not really that glamorous. I think its gonna really blow people away.
How's your character in these works different than Lance in Sex Drive?
The character in A Thousand Words is the polar opposite of this character. Lance is really confident and outgoing and self-assured, and the character in A Thousand Words is totally meek and terrified of Eddie, just scared to death of him. I play his assistant in the film, and I'm just really jittery.
So more a stretch acting-wise than Sex Drive?
Yeah. It was just fun to do something different. I try to in every part so it doesn't get monotonous.
Do you think you have an idea as to what kinds of movies you really like to do?
I don't know ... I'm just trying to do stuff that's interesting for me. I don't have like a five-year plan or anything. I don't have a real specific idea.
Who in the industry would you like to work with?
Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Bill Murray ...I wish Robert Altman wouldn't have died, he was my hero director-wsie. I have a weird list though. I would like to work with Michael Keaton and Elliot Gould, too.
What's next for Clark Duke?
I'm writing something I can't talk about yet, so hopefully that will be announced before the year is out. I think long-term, I will be doing a lot more behind the camera. Eddie Murphy is going to be hard to top. But who knows?
Quick Questions for Clark Duke
Breakfast this morning? This coffee and two cigarettes.
Last CD you bought? The reissue of Graham Nash's "Songs for Beginners."
Favorite summer movie? The Dark Knight
Book you wish you had written? The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Favorite childhood toy? The vintage Star Wars figures.
In your pocket? My wallet. I had a cigarette lighter, but he stole it [points at agent]
Favorite fruit? Banana
Late-night craving? That question sounds like a really dirty joke to me ...Tecate.
Worst job? I've never had that bad of a job. I've only ever done this line of work, and none of it has been that bad.
Person you would want to be for 24 hours? Bill Gates
Worst Habit? Smoking
What job would you do instead? Governor of my home state, Arkansas.
Childhood hero? [actor/director] Kevin Smith
Favorite place in the world? Miami. We're going there in three hours.
Weakness? My huge charitable donations. I almost give too much ...I don't know, I don't want to give anything away. Maybe women.