That semester, they decided they’d make a feature together. It was a dark comedy called Laid that Mond had written about the last day of high school; Campos would direct, and Durkin and Mond would produce. They needed a casting director, and Mond remembered Susan Shopmaker—or “Mom,” as she calls herself in relation to them—from his days as a child actor.
“I didn’t remember him,” she says. “But he kept showing up in my office every other day saying, ‘I used to be a child actor and I want you to be our casting director.’ And I would send him away, and then one night they invited me out and I had a martini and they were drinking Coca-Cola because they were under 21, and they were so delightful and charming that I was like, ‘Okay, you beat me down and you bought me a cocktail; I’m yours.’ ”
Shopmaker’s connections and deft casting eye have proved critical to their success, down to eventually finding Olsen. For Laid, Shopmaker brought in Jonah Hill; it was to be his first movie. Then, two weeks before shooting, says Durkin, “it turned out that the money wasn’t real.” Their investors had been a group of putatively rich guys they didn’t know. “I remember sitting at lunch with this one guy who was like”—Durkin puts on a goon accent—“ ‘I could write you a check right now. Why should I write you a check?’ ” Another said he wanted to start shooting a reality show of them right then, in his office. “I’m so glad it didn’t happen,” Durkin goes on. “Because we sort of learned from this process what we didn’t want to do.” They decided to do things on their own terms.
It was during a post-Laid “depression” filled with buying stuff on eBay and bingeing on Fassbinder that Campos conceived of Buy It Now. His high-school girlfriend Chelsea Logan starred as the girl who auctions her virginity online, with Shopmaker’s husband, Chris McCann, playing the creep who buys it. They shot the short in Logan’s mother’s apartment. Shopmaker brought in Rosemarie DeWitt, then a theater actress with little film experience, to play the auctionee’s mother.
Buy It Now's Cannes win, says Campos, “really changed the direction of all three of our lives.” Mond, ever the hustler, used that credibility to get them music-video and commercial jobs.
DeWitt also played a teacher in Afterschool; the only time she’s shown in focus is in a close-up of her crotch and rear end. That’s because the movie is told through the eyes of the film’s hero,played by then-14-year-old Ezra Miller, whose character accidentally films twin sisters overdosing on cocaine. The movie, Campos says, is an allegory for the way technology can distance us from experiencing emotion; it was inspired by his experience of 9/11 when he was a high-school senior. To get the performance he wanted out of Miller, Campos filmed him watching a video of jumpers off the Twin Towers.
Miller remains profoundly attached to them. “Sean is a huge-hearted, sharp-brained leprechaun; Antonio is a fire-breathing, ax-wielding dwarf; Josh is the devilishly goateed gangster. They form, like, this complementary trinity where all three of them can at any time step into the necessary shoes of the hard-ass producer; the kind, emotional coach to whoever is having a crisis; the very severe, disconnected-from-reality, connected-to-the-artwork director. Borderline is almost like one man that is three. Biblical shit.”
Despite all of their good fortune, it has also been a year shadowed by sadness. In March, between Sundance and Cannes, Mond’s mother, Corinne, succumbed to cancer of the blood at age 58. She’d been sick for seven years, almost the entirety of Borderline’s existence.
Corinne’s illness is in the background of all of their projects. And it’s why Mond has a tattoo for every film, as well as a tattoo for every important person in his life, to remind him of everything they’ve done for him. The word MOM is inked on the inside of his right ring finger. He doesn’t know why, but he thinks that’s his weakest finger, and he rubs the tattoo whenever he feels like he needs strength.
During the Martha shoot, Corinne was in and out of the hospital, and Mond drove back every week from upstate.* She deteriorated rapidly while he was on that chaotic, thrilling trip to Sundance. Mond’s sister, Julie, an actress, chose not to worry him while he was away; the day he got back to New York, he found out that there was no more treatment. “I love her for keeping it private until I needed to know,” he says. He started sleeping on his mother’s couch. Not long afterward, he was out in L.A. having a productive series of meetings with Fox Searchlight about future projects when he got the phone call to come home.
*This article has been corrected to reflect that Josh Mond visited his mother every week, rather than every weekend, during the Martha Marcy May Marlene shoot.