"I went through a period in high school where I definitely wasn't the popular guy," North readily admits. "There was this guy going out with the head cheerleader. Wow. She was named Nadine. I totally wanted to be this guy. And he got all the girls, not just Nadine. And one day, in college, I realized I was that guy."
That epiphany that would mark the full realization of The Tao of Steve came together in one night. Though Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, no one's bandying about the word genius here. "It's sort of like gravity when the apple hit Newton on the head," North explains. "And Newton's like: 'Well, I'll be damned. Things fall down.'"
Up until that point, Steve had just been a nickname he and his brother used to mean 'cool.' "Hey, nice one, Steve." Or, "Good going, Steve."
"To be completely honest," Duncan says, "When my brother and I were picking up girls in bars, we used the name Steve. We felt it was a good name, a cool name girls would like."
But one night Duncan was in a bar. "There were six of us, me and five other guys who were taller, thinner, and better looking than me. This beautiful woman comes in. They all start hitting on her, so I know I don't have a chance. And that's when it all happened for me. I completely gave up. Then she says something about politics that I completely disagree with. I get into an argument with her about politics, which is something I know a little bit about. And then I went outside to smoke a cigarette. A few minutes later she came out to give me her phone number."
Now, North is on a roll, pepping up, showing a little excitement under the laid-back exterior. "I was like, uh...what the hell just happened? So, when faced with something like that, something that makes no sense, there's only one thing to do. You've got to deconstruct."
The dissection revealed: "I was desireless. I was excellent. I was gone."
The only thing left to do was put his hypothesis into practice--which he did immediately. To his amazement, he really had discovered one of the great secrets of the universe.
"Of course once I realized you don't have to really do anything, naturally I lost all my motivation, became a stoner, gained a lot of weight, and ballooned into Marlon Brando, all by the age of 19."
The Tao of Carrots
Women are pretty cool and they expect great things from you and that's all fine. But let's face it, if you are good-looking enough you really don't have to try that hard. But as soon as you're not, well ... you got to have a plan, something to draw them in. You know, a carrot.
This is what Duncan North says in front of two women--and somehow he doesn't get strung up by his short hairs like any other guy would.
In fact, the women just laugh, and the looks they give him glow with affection. Maybe he doesn't get strung up because these women have known him for a long, long time. These women are, after all, Jenniphr Goodman, the director, and Greer Goodman, her sister and the co-star and co-writer of this film based on him. Or maybe they are proof that there's something to the Tao of Steve, as both a philosophy and a movie. Everyone needs that carrot.
Greer explains, "Now neither of us were dating Duncan when we heard about his Tao of Steve philosophy, but as women we weren't offended by it. We thought it was funny. It wasn't misogynistic or sexist. It was clever. And it was an interesting perspective on human nature."
Jenniphr picks up on her sister's thoughts, trying to offer further insight: "He has a sincere but irreverent relationship with God. And yes, he was overweight, but he was the most successful dater of women that I had ever seen. Eventually, I realized if I don't make a movie about Duncan, I've wasted years of my life."
For Greer Goodman, getting involved in the production was much simpler. "My carrot was that I was an actress who needed work. Jenniphr and Duncan were talking about doing a one-man show or a documentary. I didn't see much work for me there. So I suggested that we turn it into a feature film. And now that we're done, we end up with a character like Duncan as a romantic leading man."
And it's this aspect that may be what draws audiences to The Tao of Steve--the film, the philosophy, and if Fox comes through, maybe even a TV show. No Nora Ephron version of love here. This isn't Hugh Grant pursuing someone who looks like Meg Ryan. It's a romantic comedy with a beer gut.