"Usually, he is the monster onstage," explains Dupieux. "I thought that was funny to reverse that process and make him scared instead of being scary."
Manson didn't mind playing a nerd. "I'll be black if you want me to be; I'll be legless if you could CGI away my legs," he says. But when Dupieux asked him to get real braces for extra accuracy, Manson refused. Fake ones would have to do. "I said, 'Look, I already had fucking braces when I was in high school. I didn't like it then, and I'm not going to do it now.'" What's surprising is how good the 44-year-old Manson is at playing a teenager, especially one who probably wouldn't listen to his own music.
Even Dupieux was surprised. "When you think Manson, you think death, skulls and baby-burning," he says. "I was picturing a rock star. I was not picturing a really smart artist. But no! The guy is funny. He just has, like, a really positive and fun energy, which I love. Every good artist is still a kid, even if that sounds corny."
Manson has acted before. He played a drag star in Party Monster and a porn star in Lost Highway. At 19, he even had an uncredited two-frame cameo in the original 21 Jump Street, which he has so far managed to keep off his IMDb page. "I had a glorious, glorious, glorious bleach-tipped mullet and a slight tan," says Manson. "I walked right behind Johnny Depp playing skee-ball." But for now, he's still gotta convince people he can make audiences laugh.
"I always polarize any room," he admits. "I can't shut up. Usually, it's because people think I'm drunk, and maybe it's because I am. But when you meet somebody who's funny like Danny McBride and you riff off them, it's cool because it's a different kind of collaboration than what I do in music."
Up next, Manson is reteaming with Dupieux for an upcoming comedy in which he'll play a fashion photographer he describes as "a combination of Kenny Powers and Karl Lagerfeld." No matter where their partnership takes them, Dupieux will always have a permanent place in Manson's life. Literally--his wrist is tattooed with the motto of Rubber: "No reason." His buddy Depp got one to match. Says Manson, "When people ask us why, we say, 'No reason.'"
Hey, loving oddball arthouse comedies is reason enough.