A Viewers’ Guide to the Daniels
The directorial duo break down their bestknown music videos and two very WTF movies
Known collectively as “the Daniels,” filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have made a name for themselves as go-to absurdists — you have them to thank for that insanely viral “Turn Down for What” music video and the Daniel Radcliffe–as-farting-corpse epic Swiss Army Man. As they release their new multiverse comedy, Everything Everywhere All at Once, the two gave us a crash course in Danielogy 101.
“Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls),” Foster the People 2011
A driving exam turns into a postrobbery high-speed pursuit.
DANIEL KWAN: Every project we try to do something we hadn’t done before — like stunt driving. It turns out we don’t like shooting car stunts. At all. DANIEL SCHEINERT: Our production designer, who we’ve worked with for years, loves The Blues Brothers, so he kept the cop car and drove it around for, like, six years. We did it for him.
“Simple Song,” The Shins
A father’s funeral brings down the house. Literally.
DK: Listening to the Shins reminded us of Wes Anderson, and we were like, “Oh this could be like in The Royal Tenenbaums.” But with our own twist. DS: We came up with running through a house as it gets demolished — it was just reverse engineering from there. The wrecking ball is a yoga ball on a string. DK: We used all these old-school tricks, with air mortars and ropes pulling things. Our goal was to not kill the band.
“Rize of the Fenix,” Tenacious D 2012
A meta-crappy music video is saved by the healing power of Tenacious D. DK: The first time we actually met
Jack [Black] was on set. He shook our hand . . . then he just farted and said, “Hi, guys.” I couldn’t even laugh because my brain broke.
DS: We worked with an incredible cinematographer — and it’s the ugliest thing he ever shot.
DK: We were really intrigued by making something that falls apart on purpose.
DS: There actually were gusts of wind blowing equipment over. And we were like, “That works. Just make sure it doesn’t hurt anybody, but perfect.” And if Jack and Kyle [Gass] are sweating and don’t look that good? “Perfect, we’ll use it.”
“Turn Down for What,” DJ Snake feat. Lil Jon 2013
A man (played by Kwan) infects an apartment complex with dance fever. DK: Scheinert can tell you this story. It’s all his fault.
DS: No one dances like him. We auditioned people, but I was like, “You would be better, Dan.” And the butt-cocking is one of our go-to sounds. Within the choreography, we were like, “And this is where you cock
your butt gun.”
Swiss Army Man 2016
Stranded on an island, a lonely Paul Dano finds a soulmate via Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent cadaver.
DK: An idea came to me: A deserted island. There’s a dead body. Some guy’s trying to resuscitate him. He’s crying. And then it starts farting. Instead of being disgusted, the guy nods his head, like, ‘OK.’ And then he shoots off the island from the dead guy’s farts. It was going to be a short. It evolved. A little.
DS: I spent the next five years trying to bully him into making that movie.
DK: We thought, if no one else wants it, we’ll be in it and just make something strange that the internet will love. Luckily, we got Dan Radcliffe and Paul Dano, who are infinitely better actors than us, and we got to make it properly.
Everything Everywhere All at Once 2022
In the middle of a tax audit, a woman (Michelle Yeoh) opens up the multiverse. DK: It was originally going to be about her husband, until we realized it would be more interesting if the story revolved around the woman. And we basically wrote it for Michelle.
DS: We met her in the restaurant of a fancy hotel, thinking we were going to meet the Crazy Rich Asians mom. And then she was immediately teasing us like we were her goofy nephews.
DK: We are constantly experiencing comedy and tragedy and confusion and anger all at once. You scroll through your social media feed and people are talking about someone passing away right next to a weird video of a cat dancing. That’s the mix of tones you get here. We’ve always snuck in sincerity under absurdity out of insecurity. Now we’re confident enough to do it on purpose.