"Anyone who tells you differently is racist, really": Q&A with Michael Cera
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"Anyone who tells you differently is racist, really": Q&A with Michael Cera
|Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday in Youth in Revolt|
Michael Cera is the perfect person to play Nick Twisp, the hero of C.D. Payne's Youth in Revolt (Read Cindy Fuchs' review). Stuck in the role of the stammering, virginal teen nice boy who always is a little too smart for his own good, Cera -- like Twisp -- needed the help of Francois Dillinger, a supplementary persona created by Twisp with the sole purpose of proxy badassery. While Twisp needed it to get the girl -- Sheeni Saunders, played by newcomer Portia Doubleday -- Cera uses it to break out of his lived-in mold. Cera talked with City Paper about Youth in Revolt, making prank phone calls and what it's like to jerk off in front of 70-year-olds.
City Paper: I've read in several places that you love this book and had been trying to get it made for awhile.
Michael Cera: Yeah, yeah.
CP: I also loved this book when I was a teenager. How did you discover it?
MC: I discovered the book through the movie. My agent sent me the book when I was 16 [Cera is now 21]. I had it for awhile and didn't read it but then I just got really into it one day. I read it a few times after that and really wanted to be a apart of it, always asking about it and seeing what was happening. It seemed like it was never coming together. It was one of those movies that could never get moving for a long time. How did you discover it?
CP: To be honest, I picked it because I really liked the cover. And you can obviously judge a book by its cover. Anyone who tells you differently is stupid.
MC: Anyone who tells you differently is racist, really.
CP: But it's a funny book, because every time I met someone else who had read this book, we bonded over it. What is it about this source material that makes it universally loved?
MC: It's just really funny. [C.D. Payne] is just a such a funny writer. Everything pays off. It's really amazing how he pays everything off too, because he sets these things off where you're just like 'How is [Nick Twisp] ever going to get out of that?' He's just a really unique, really funny voice.
CP: There's also this idea of authority in the book and the film, which I hadn't really read elsewhere: All adults are horrible and that's really all you have to look forward to being horrible yourself.
MC: I think that's what's really interesting about the casting of the movie. [Nick's] parents are these really great character actors: Steve Buscemi and Jean Smart. They both played their characters really gross, in a really great way. I think that tells you a lot about Nick and why it means so much for him to meet this girl. You see the people he's been stuck with his whole life and he can't stand them. It's really important for him to hang onto this person and it's representative of what his future could be or not be.
CP: When you read the book, how did you visualize those adult parts?
MC: I visualized Jean Smart actually. I didn't know where I knew her from but I knew her face.
CP: You weren't watching Designing Women all the time?
MC: No, I never got into Designing Women but people tell me she's amazing on that show. She's an amazing actress. She had a broken leg when we were shooting.
CP: No way!
MC: Yeah, she had a broken her leg just a few weeks before and she took her cast off while we were shooting and had to walk around in a few scenes and it was excruciating for her.
CP: You don't see it at all.
MC: Yeah, I felt very bad for her. But she was who I pictured when I was reading the book. Steve Buscemi is just amazing. He's one of my favorites.
CP: One of the criticisms against is that you play yourself all the time. How do you respond to that? Do you mold these characters to your personality or do you completely disagree with that assessment?
MC: Not really. I think that's just my sensibility that people are seeing. I don't think it's me, though. What's important to me is the director and the writing and there's not a lot of good scripts out there so when you find something that's really special, I really fight to be a part of them because it's all acting to me. I don't think that should really effect your career.
CP: That's really interesting that you mentioned directors. [Director] Miguel Arteta and you always deal with outsiders to a certain degree and it comes to a head in this movie. Think about Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl it's alienated people on the fringe. And you often play this on-the-outside kind of guy. Is that how you came together?
MC: I never really thought of it that way but it makes sense. We immediately clicked with each other. We were friends right away and we both really loved the book too. We both wanted to treat it with care and kind of make the movie as close the spirit of the book as we could.
CP: When it came to you and Arteta were constructing the Francois Dillinger character, you obviously have the Jean-Paul Belmondo influence in there: He's got the loafers, the pencil thin 'stache, cig hanging out of his mouth at all times. What other influences went into making that character?
MC: Malcolm McDowell was very inspiring. Miguel and I watched O Lucky Man! a few times. I really love that movie. It has nothing to do with Francois as a character but he's just a really inspiring actor.
|Cera as Francois Dillinger|
CP: Yeah, but you can totally see it: This laid back bad assed-ness.
MC: He has blue eyes too, that's where we got the idea to give Francois blue eyes because Malcolm McDowell has these really incredible blue eyes.
CP: So if you had a supplementary persona, what would you make? I think every teenager must come up with something like that.
MC: What was yours?
CP: Something in the vein of Francois being able to cause trouble with no consequence.
MC: Yeah, yeah! Definitely, I think that's what mine would be too. Just not held back by fears.
CP: Just be able to say ridiculous things and blow up cars and stuff like that.
MC: Yeah, and not have to pay for any of it, somehow. I used to prank phone calls with my friend Chris and we had all these characters that we created. That's kind of the same because you're completely anonymous and you hide behind this anonymity. You can kind of become someone else and not ever have to pay for it.
CP: What were some of these characters that you came up with?
MC: I can't really remember. We had a lot. We would just kind of call people and talk to them. We didn't really try to irritate people too much. We would just like call people talk to them for a while. It was really fun.
CP: So it wasn't "Is your refrigerator running?"
MC: No. We would make people care about the characters and not want to get off the phone with us.
CP: Back to the book, one of the things I loved about this book is how Payne dealt with sex. Of course, the movie opens with your jerking off. The sex was toned down in the movie and I think it had to be it was definitely a literary device in the book.
MC: Well, there was a first draft of the book where there was a lot more. There were masturbation scenes every, like, fifth scene. There were a lot of drafts of the script but it could have gone that way. It's such a hard book to put up on a screen, it could have gone a million different ways.
CP: That's quite the challenge, though. You've got the whole crew behind you and you have to pretend jerk off for a couple takes. I'm sure that's not something you're looking forward to doing.
MC: It was alright. I was pretty comfortable at that point with the crew it was at the end of the shoot. But I remember reading the book before I read the script so I was desensitized to all of that. It's just so casual, it has to be in the movie.
CP: With these themes, this isn't a movie with a built in audience. It's a movie about teenagers who speak like adults and carries an R-rating. Who do you see this movie for?
MC: People like me. College kids, older people too. It's hard to say but it's definitely not aimed for kids. We had a screening last night in Boston and there were some really old ladies there, like 70 and they said they really liked it.
CP: But still, it's odd to be like, "Oh hey grandmother-aged women! Look at this opening scene!"
RELATED: Trailer!: Youth in Revolt
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