A Thousand Words with Clark Duke

By Sara Lester-Vanderheide

If you had only a thousand words left to say, would you use them wisely? According to Clark Duke, “The power of words is based in language, religion and politics. It’s everything and that’s what makes them very powerful.” After that profound answer, Duke reverts to his comedic roots to talk about his new movie A Thousand Words.

The film depicts the story of Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy), a fast-talking literary agent who’s able to close any deal — no matter the consequences. He sets his sights on a deal with spiritual guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis), but his life comes apart when the guru decides to teach him a lesson. A magical Bodhi tree appears in McCall’s backyard, and with every word McCall speaks, a leaf falls from the tree. When the last leaf falls, both he and the tree will meet their demise. Words have never let McCall down, but he now has to figure out how to manipulate them so it’s not “game over” for him.

Duke, who has appeared in movies such as Sex Drive, Hot Tub Time Machine and Kickass (2010), said that working with Murphy, one of his comedy heroes, was pretty surreal. “[Murphy] is that guy you grow up watching you whole life, and it was one of those things I never got used to.” According to Duke, the experience compared to his work on Hot Tub Time Machine, where he shared the screen with Chevy Chase.

However, being able to work with one of his industry idols wasn’t easy. “There’s a scene where Eddie is at dinner with business executives and I have to do an impression of Eddie,” Duke says. “Literally sitting next to Eddie trying to do [an] impression was pretty nerve-wracking to shoot.” Duke says he relied on “about four beers at lunch to get through it.”

Playing Aaron in the movie was a big step for Duke, who has been typecast as “that college guy” in movies. After Sex Drive came out in 2008, Duke was “getting scripts to be the wild and crazy friend.” It was a pleasant surprise for him to receive a part “that wasn’t a guy in a high school or college,” and the fact that he got to play a “very conscious guy new on the workforce” was a novel and fun experience.

With the premiere of A Thousand Words, Duke looks forward to his future in the business. He was pretty tight-lipped about his new projects, but he has “something lined up for late in the summer, as well as working on a feature script” that he hopes to get off the ground.

For now, Duke gives this advice to aspiring actors: “Play to whatever your strengths are and don’t fall into this trap of trying to be a serious artist or something.”

After all, everyone needs to laugh.

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