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“Sasquatch Sunset” is perhaps the weirdest R-rated family movie you’ll ever see. The art-house film from brother-directors David and Nathan Zellner (“Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter”) plays like a nature documentary for stoners who go to midnight screenings. Imagine being immersed in a family of primate-human hybrids through four seasons of their lives as they fornicate, defecate, mourn, experience terror and fight for survival in the idyll of their habitat deep in the woods of Eureka, Calif.

Maybe you’ve heard that it stars Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough — not that you would know it, since they’re covered in hairy prostheses the entire time. Or that the film, which hits theaters Friday, contains no human language, only grunts and yelps. Or that it features enough gross-out bodily functions that some audience members at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered in January, went racing for the door.

What you may not have heard, though, is that it’s a very funny and surprisingly moving look at an endangered species from their point of view as humanity encroaches. When I saw it at Sundance, audience members were falling out of their seats laughing and ran out of the theater yelping like sasquatches. This is a movie that, if nothing else, demands to be seen, at least so you can know where you stand on the love-hate divide. We spoke with the Zellner brothers and Eisenberg to answer all your burning questions. Sasquatch ahead!

Yes, for “sexual content, full nudity and bloody images.” You do see masturbation and plenty of sex, plus some death and dismemberment. David laughs just thinking about the MPAA coming up with that rating: “It’s funny because there’s no bad language, obviously. But the description for the R-rating I love because it’s, like, for full nudity — not partial nudity — but it’s all nudity of mythical creatures.”

Eisenberg, on the other hand, says he was “pissed off,” having been in plenty of violent movies that probably deserved an R but squeaked by without one. “It’s just frustrating because it limits the audience,” he says. “I really do think that the 13-year-old Jesse would have flipped for a movie like this. Young teenagers are just way more open, in my opinion.”

The Zellners have been obsessed with sasquatch lore since they were kids, and even made a wordless Sundance short in 2011 called “Sasquatch Birth Journal 2,” starring Nathan as a mama squatting in a tree to give birth. (He plays the alpha male sasquatch in this film.) Most Bigfoot films are family films or horror films from the perspective of the humans, “and the Bigfoot/sasquatch is relegated to the background as a sort of boogeyman,” David says. Instead, they wanted to make a big-hearted, 89-minute movie thoroughly immersed in the world of sasquatches that’s part drama and part slapstick comedy. “There’s so much in this film that if you saw your dog or cat do, it’s completely normalized,” David says. “But when you see these creatures with humanlike qualities, it suddenly becomes both much more uncomfortable and also hilarious.”

The actors spent 25 days in the same Northern California woods where the famous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film was shot, launching the imagery of Bigfoot as we know it, along with generations of conspiracists. That area is also, coincidentally, the epicenter of Bigfoot sightings in the United States.

Why cast actors instead of, say, stunt people?

Eisenberg had the same question, and was confused when the Zellners, whom he’s known for years, handed him the script. He had just assumed they would go with pros who are great with physical movement. But within five pages, he says, he realized how emotional the film was, and how it would require actors who could pull off comic timing and body language that had to be funny and clear.

It’s also, let’s face it, a bit of a stunt to cast Keough and Eisenberg and then cover them in prostheses and fur. “Casting these names, and then you don’t see them — there’s an absurdity to that, as well,” David says.

Why is Jesse Eisenberg in this?

He’s not only in it, he’s a producer! As a millennial who lives in New York and is the child of animal rights activists, he says he relished a chance to reconnect with nature.

Plus, he immediately connected with the (nameless) beta male character he would eventually play. “If I were a sasquatch, this is who I would be,” he says. “I would be the one looking at the trees when I walk, not just somebody aggressively looking for their next meal. I would be the one who, when I’m asking the female to mate with me, I do it timidly and with a bouquet of ferns as opposed to the alpha, who just jumps in.” He was also touched by his character’s efforts to count privately in his spare time. He tries to get to five, but he can only ever get to four.

And what about Riley Keough?

The short answer seems to be that Eisenberg talked her into it. They worked together when she produced his 2023 movie “Manodrome,” about a bodybuilder who goes on a shooting rampage. Eisenberg knew she loves strange projects, and she had an opening in her schedule. “Riley’s one of these unusual actresses who feels more comfortable in extremis, is that the right phrase?” says Eisenberg. “She’s a wonderful, natural actor, but she feels more comfortable in roles that require some kind of extreme behavior.”

Her one request to the Zellners was that she get to be “the most feral,” she told Collider.

How did they nail the sasquatches’ movements and language?

The actors did what Eisenberg calls “sasquatch boot camp,” hiring a miming coach, Lorin Eric Salm, who studied under Marcel Marceau. First, they practiced movements on Zoom, such as grasping food with their hands rather than fingers. Then they spent months loping around their own homes. The first time they got together, “we were just rolling around on the floor of an office in Northern California, feeding each other ferns and throwing sticks at each other,” says Nathan. The goal was to make the species feel cohesive, like it wasn’t four different people’s interpretations of sasquatches.

The language was simple: They just decided on some whoops and grunts that would correlate with certain actions or directives. “What they’re doing is very repetitive,” Eisenberg says. “Their lives are a harrowing tale of survival, but the activities they do are pretty similar day-to-day. Essentially, somebody finds a good berry and tells the others to come over.”

What was it like shooting in those costumes in the middle of the woods for 12 hours a day?

Physically, the experience was “excruciating,” Eisenberg says. They would spend two hours getting glue and prostheses and yak hair applied to their faces, and then slip into a tight, heavy suit. Eating lunch was too difficult, and specially outfitted bottles were required just to drink water.

The flip side “was wearing this gorgeous art project,” Eisenberg says. “You would be really exhausted and feeling claustrophobic to the point of thinking you’re going crazy, and then you would look at a mirror and just think, I am so lucky.

Did Nathan Zellner direct as a sasquatch?

Absolutely! Most of the time, it made sense for him to get into costume in the morning, even if he didn’t have a scene scheduled till the end of the day, “which makes for really interesting behind-the-scene pics,” he says.

They were shooting in deep, deep forest and using portable restrooms. “We couldn’t wear our good sasquatch feet to the bathroom,” Eisenberg says, noting bathroom breaks involved complicated costume tweaks, such as taking off their feet and heads.

Luckily, he says, they didn’t need to go often because they were sweating so much. “Any kind of liquid we would drink would immediately pour down our bodies, hitting the industrial-sized amount of baby powder that was poured on our pants every morning to sop up the sweat.”

What happened when civilians stumbled upon the set?

Most of the people driving by were loggers. “Whenever we did come across anyone, they were very nonplussed,” David says. “It was like, ‘Oh yeah, another Bigfoot.’”

It did cross Eisenberg’s mind that the actors should wear orange vests when walking from their trailers to the set, “because if anybody’s going to get shot, its going to be the four people that look like sasquatch.”

Do you need to be stoned to enjoy it?

Eisenberg says no! “‘Sasquatch Sunset’ is actually the most interesting thing you’ll see in your life. So you could save your money and just go to it sober.”

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