Musician-turned-filmmaker Jesse Peretz admitted to fighting – a lot – with his little sister, Evgenia, when they were kids. “We fought in that intense way you do when you’re 18 months apart,” Peretz, 43, said. As adults, the brother-and-sister-duo have grown from childhood arch-enemies into collaborators on the film “Our Idiot Brother,” a comedy about family dysfunction that turns out to be a valentine to the ties that bind siblings. Jesse Peretz directs from a script by Evgenia – and her documentarian husband, David Schisgal.

Musician-turned-filmmaker Jesse Peretz admitted to fighting – a lot – with his little sister, Evgenia, when they were kids. “We fought in that intense way you do when you’re 18 months apart,” Peretz, 43, said. As adults, the brother-and-sister-duo have grown from childhood arch-enemies into collaborators on the film “Our Idiot Brother,” a comedy about family dysfunction that turns out to be a valentine to the ties that bind siblings. Jesse Peretz directs from a script by Evgenia – and her documentarian husband, David Schisgal.


The film opens Friday and stars Paul Rudd as Ned, a long-haired hippie bio-dynamic farmer whose idealism inadvertently wreaks havoc on his sisters’ lives. Unfortunate circumstances force Ned to crash for a stint with each one of the siblings, played by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer.


“Our Idiot Brother” is grounded in a phase of life where adult siblings are so different yet reliant on each other, Peretz said. “They keep coming back to each other.”


And that’s not unlike what Peretz experienced with his two sisters and brother. “You might surprise yourself by having a good time with them some random night during the summer. And then you hit this thing – and I don’t know what it is – but suddenly you’re starting to have kids or your parents get sick, whatever it is, there is a thing that makes you think – for better or for worse – my siblings are – second to your husband or wife – the most important relationships in my life,” Peretz said.


Peretz – son of New Republic editor Marty Peretz – and his siblings grew up in Cambridge, Mass. He played bass in the alt-rock band the Lemonheads with his neighbor Evan Dando. He studied filmmaking at Harvard and has made commercials for Nike and directed the award-winning Foo Fighters video “Big Me.” Peretz made the popular “Jimmy the Cab” promos for MTV. He also directed videos for Juliana Hatfield, Jack Black, The Breeders and the Lemonheads after he left the band.


Married and the father of two young children, Peretz realized the older he got and the more his life changed, the more he craved connection to his relatives.


“Even if we are so different that we’d never hang out together, there is this bond that is really intense that you can be so harsh with each other or so loving because you know you’re all you got on some level.”


For his feature debut, Peretz turned his camera on unlikely young lovers in their first sexual relationship in 1997’s “First Love, Last Rites.” Next came the culture-clash comedy “The Chateau,” with Rudd in 2001, and the romantic comedy “The Ex” in 2006.


It’s been 10 years since he worked with Rudd, his neighbor in New York. They’ve always wanted to team up for a second project. Peretz said he couldn’t imagine another actor playing the titular idiot, that’s why the film was specifically developed for Rudd.


“We went to a bar and had a bunch of drinks and I told him about the script. I knew it wasn’t going to be a money job and I was so self-conscious about it. But he was really interested and read it the next day, which is completely unheard of for an actor. By the following Monday, four days later, we had the movie financed,” Peretz said. “He had had a movie fall through for the summer so he had an opening. Nine or 10 weeks later we started shooting.”


The film was well-received at January’s Sundance Film Festival, where the Weinstein Company nabbed the comedy for $7 million.


“This whole movie was such a gift to me. From the moment Paul said he wanted to do it, it was like the thing cast up like that,” he said snapping his fingers, one, two, three ... “Even though everyone got paid scale, this whole cast was so psyched to do it and to be working together.”


Rounding out the ensemble are Hugh Dancy, Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones, Kathryn Hahn and Adam Scott. With such a brand-name cast, Peretz decided his job as a director was to create and foster a positive vibe on set “for people to find the funny stuff.”


“This group of people so enjoyed working with each other. They were so psyched to play with each other. We’d do the scene one way, we’d play around with it then we’d improv,” Peretz said. “Pretty much the whole Paul and Coogan thing, we just threw the script out and they improved those things.”


A lot of notable filmmakers – Michael Bay, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Gore Verbinksi – cut their teeth in music videos, but Peretz said “people exaggerate the degree to which music videos are good training ground for films.” It’s good to work on a smaller canvas and learn the technical stuff – cameras, angles and framing shots. But the similarities stop there. In film direction, “What you really are is the conductor of the orchestra. The director is the one person on the job who doesn’t need to physically be there. ... You’re only job is to have a clear vision and communicate with everyone to try to make the same thing. It’s also knowing how to talk to actors and illicit great performances. Confidence is what breeds them to take the risk to surprise you on Take 4. People underestimate how hard it is to get good at that part.”


Since his sister, Evgenia, wrote the script, does that make Jesse the idiot?


“I’m my sister’s idiot brother. My brother, David, is my idiot brother. The smartest Ph.D head of the federal reserve is someone’s idiot brother – sometimes,” Peretz said. “The title is meant ironically or it’s meant in the sense of ‘ah man, do you know what my idiot brother did last night?’”


Later, Peretz revealed there was one major influence on the film – a friend’s brother, also Jesse, who worked on a medical marijuana farm in California. He got in trouble for some shady dispensation. “I just thought that was a funny story to start with,” Peretz said.


After spending time with Jesse, Peretz had that “aha” moment and the film took shape.


“He was the most irony-free, cynicism-free, judgment-free and just super positive, present person. I just totally fell in love with the dude. But, it was like we were searching to figure out what’s going to be the ‘thing’ about this character. What’s the movie saying? It’s a weird thing how a movie finds its place and somehow meeting this guy it all became clear.”


And so, Ned was born.


“I would definitely be psyched if people felt like they could use a little dose of Ned’s perspective on life,” Peretz said. “You know, check their judgment and cynicism once in a while.”


For their next project, Peretz and his sister wrote another family comedy-drama about a straight-edge punk rock kid in a band. It’s set in Cambridge in 1986.


“It’s not autobiographical, but there’s a lot of elements of our lives in the story,” Peretz said.


Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com.