Overgrown adolescents in movies are usually figures of fun, but not in "Dark Horse," the latest surreal, unsettling comedy-drama from Todd Solondz ("Happiness"), which opens Friday on Long Island. The movie's 30-ish hero, Abe (Jordan Gelber, HBO's "Boardwalk Empire"), is an emotional cripple still living with his parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow) while dating a woman (Selma Blair) who's even worse off than he is. Set in New Jersey but filmed on Long Island, "Dark Horse" also stars Justin Bartha ("The Hangover"), Donna Murphy ("Spider-Man 2") and Aasif Mandvi ("The Daily Show").
Solondz recently spoke about "Dark Horse" by phone from his Manhattan home. Here are excerpts from the conversation.
You shot some of this on Long Island. Which scenes, and where?
Most were actually shot on Long Island, in fact. Abe's house was in Old Westbury. And the dream fantasy house was also in Old Westbury; I don't know if it has landmark status, but it was designed by Edward Durell Stone. I don't know Long Island so well, but from what I gather, it's somewhat of a mirrored reflection of what you'd find in the suburbs of New Jersey.
Whose idea was it to give Christopher Walken that hilarious haircut?
He has a kind of rock-and-roll shock of hair up there, and I wanted to mute that extraordinary quality he has. And so I gave him a toupee. He was very happy, I think, to play a human being, rather than the kinds of parts he's so often called upon to play, which are a little bit larger than life, let's say.
You also cast Mia Farrow, who doesn't make many movies these days.
When we met, she told me she was retired from acting, and she hadn't even read the script. But her son Ronan was a big admirer of my work. He urged her to take the part, so she said OK. It was a complete delight working with her, and she is preternaturally luminous.
The man-child is everywhere these days, from "The Five-Year Engagement" to the upcoming "Ted." Is this character now a permanent fixture in our culture?
There's something sentimentalized and reassuring about most of the films that deal in this genre. I've created a character who's very abrasive and off-putting, and it's something of a challenge that I put to the audience to test the limits of one's sympathies. He suffers and bleeds like anyone else, and that was of greater interest to me.
WHO Todd Solondz speaks after a screening
of "Dark Horse."
WHEN|WHERE Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington
INFO $15, 631-423-7611; cinemaartscentre.org