Ezra Miller gives a phenomenal performance as the titular school shooter in We Need to Talk about Kevin (read City Paper's review here), a film especially timely in the wake of the recent high school shooting in Ohio. Miller, who has played a gay teen in Every Day and a recovering drug abuser in Another Happy Day, spoke with City Paper about how he prepared for his breakout role, his own bad behavior, and his experiences playing Egyptian Ratscrew.
City Paper: Given your previous screen roles, it seemed only a matter of time before I saw you play a full-on raging psycho. What appealed to you about playing Kevin?
Ezra Miller: It was a long time coming. Initially when I read the script, [Kevin] struck me as someone whose persona and actions were difficult to understand, but I found an avenue, a channel to identify with him on a basic, primal human level — he is a kid who wants his mother’s love and attention. Building on the fundamental elements of wanting love [provides] strong justifications that guide him through his deed. What lies beneath is something very basic and human. As an actor, it continued to provide a challenge and excitement through the whole process.
CP: Did you have fears that this performance would lead to you being stereotyped for future roles?
EM: Certainly that’s a concern, but it comes down to a choice. I will always have an option, and because I feel wary of getting pigeonholed, as it were, I will be selectively avoiding roles that fall down the same alley for a while. It is quite fun, and you see and understand how villain actors can get stuck on that track — it is a joyous endeavor. You explore characters with vast complexity and they contain multitudes. I want to keep going to new places. I’ll be saying no to some killer [roles] in near future.
Las Vegas will always have The Hangover, but what about Atlantic City? Say hello to Mancation, a locally produced buddy-adventure romp minus the blackout. The film stars Matt Kawczynski as Vince, who finds his wife in bed with another woman right after his wedding. This prompts his buddies, one of which is played by Joey Fatone, to take him to Atlantic City for a weekend of bro-bonding and tail-chasing. But unexpectedly Vince runs into an old crush, played by The Wonder Years’ Danica McKellar.
In anticipation of this week’s test screening at the Troc, director Frank Vain, a native of Haddonfield, N.J., sat down with City Paper to tell us more about the film's creation process.
City Paper: How did this film come to be?
Frank Vain: The story is a concept I’ve had for a little while. I hired a friend of mine to write the actual script. My group of friends has pretty much been working on indie films in the area for the last couple years, so everyone came on board to produce it together. This is the third one we’ve done as a group in the last three years. Each one goes a little bit bigger, and we bring in bigger named talent and get a little more money in the budget.
CP: When and where did you shoot the film?
FV: This one features a lot of Philly and the Jersey Shore. The story itself takes place in Atlantic City but we shot all over the shore. We shot during last March and April. One of the parts of the movie involves a flower show and we went into the one in Philadelphia last year to do some behind the scenes shooting. We shot about 25 percent of the film in Philly.
I felt dumb asking Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker about how they came to make Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. Not because questions about fast-splattering fecal matter and a wolfen-tubercular John C. Reilly seem hard to get a real and honest answer about. So I started with one that has nothing to do with the film and everything to do with their audience, the obsessives that filled the Ritz at the Bourse to see their film on Valentine’s Day. “It’s true” says Wareheim (Heidecker is on another line but says nothing). “All of the screenings have been almost 100 percent die hard fans. They’ve be fun. And not at a fair crowd at all. “
The only screening crowd that wasn’t a T&E lovefest was the infamous Sundance screening where 50 percent of the viewers were into the experience and the rest were “really grossed out” and “really didn’t want to see” what Tim & Eric had planned for them.
“Sundance was a very polarizing experience,” says Wareheim. “ When we did the Q&As some people had never seen us before and wanted to know more about us and others were just surely disgusted.”
Anyone who has seen Tommy Wiseau's directorial debut, The Room (screening tomorrow at Bryn Mawr Film Institute), can attest to his status in cult film culture. Sure, audiences may mock him and deride his film — along with his accent — but Wiseau is a folk hero to many admirers. On the phone from L.A., the writer/director/producer/star chatted with City Paper about The Room. His answers clarified some things, but obscured others. Wiseau’s style of speaking is not unlike his film — earnest and from the heart, but full of non-sequiturs and fascinating digressions.
City Paper: Oh, hi, Tommy!
Tommy Wiseau: We have half an hour. Ask me what you want. Doesn't mean you'll get what you want. Let's start it and have a groovy time.
CP: OK! I’ve always wondered, why is your film called The Room?
TW: Let me give you background before I respond to your question. A title has a special place in my heart. So that’s why I called it The Room. What I emphasize is: It's not A Room — it's THE Room. It's a special place you have — in your heart or your home. It could be in your basement.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey covers the people and events that are giving Philly the giggles.
You probably know Gary Gulman, appearing tonight and tomorrow at Helium Comedy Club, from his third place win on season two of Last Comic Standing or as a performer on Dane Cook's Tourgasm (easy hipsters, just because you hate D.C. doesn't me he didn't have some outstanding comedians in his entourage). This week, I shot the shoot with him about his favorite comedians, Donald Trump and why he likes to hide in bushes.
City Paper: What was it like being a guest of Philly-native podcaster-extraordinaire Todd Glass?
Gary Gulman: It’s very similar to hanging around with Todd Glass at his house or backstage before the show. He does real funny things and plays silly games. Once he shoved a whole box of white Tic Tacs in his mouth and started [spitting them out] and complaining about losing his teeth. I did a show with him one time when his mom was there. He pushed [her] into the Green Room where we were all gathered before the show, and said in a high voice, “Hi, I’m Todd’s mom, who wants to sleep with me?" His whole life is like an extended performance art piece. I laugh so hard around him. [When we were on] Last Comic Standing, some people were put off by this guy who’s "always on." But there’s no off switch. He’s so much fun, he takes over any show he’s on. Not in an obnoxious, aggressive way. He brings his own headspace and attitude. I went to the Patrice O’Neal memorial service in NYC, and it was the most unique funeral you’ll ever be at, because there were comedians speaking in tribute to him. As sad as it was, there were huge laughs, insults and ripping, touching and heartbreaking. I felt really lucky that these were my colleagues.
CP: Are you a big reader? What kind of books do you like?
GG: I try to read fifty books a year. This year I’m on pace for about thirty-five or so. I like to read nonfiction — Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis — or sports books. I use the library to save money by listening to a lot of books on CD while I’m driving.
CP: Are you happy that all these GOP candidates are snubbing the Donald Trump debate?
In the romantic drama Like Crazy, Felicity Jones plays Anna, an English student at a Los Angeles college who develops a passionate romance with Jacob (Anton Yelchin). Their relationship hits a snag, however, when she willfully disregards her student visa guidelines, and is later unable to return to the States. Like Crazy chronicles this long-distance relationship over the ensuing years. City Paper met with Jones to talk about love, whiskey and crying on cue.
City Paper: You are getting considerable attention for this role — including a Gotham nomination for breakthrough performance. How do feel about all this attention?
Felicity Jones: It’s very surreal. It’s hard to see yourself in that way. I think my natural inclination is to focus on my work and hope that people like it.
CP: What attracted you to playing Anna? She can be very selfish and unsympathetic.
FJ: That’s what I worried when I first watched it. I thought, everyone’s going to hate this person …
CP: But that’s what makes her interesting.
FJ: Exactly! What I liked about her is that she pursues the guy. It’s by her own volition that the relationship happens. There is also an element of insanity about her. I wanted her obsession to be a focus. I’d just watched Breaking the Waves. I liked the idea of this person being completely overwhelmed in every sense by another human being, and willing to make huge sacrifices because of that — almost as if they can’t live without that person.
She was hunted in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, possessed in Zombieland and raped in North Country. Yet sharing the big screen with superstars like Jesse Eisenberg, Nicholas Cage and Seth Rogen (in Pineapple Express, for which she received the 2008 Young Hollywood Award) isn’t daunting for Amber Heard. The Friday Night Lights actress has created quite the name for herself, even co-producing a horror-mystery And Soon the Darkness. Now she’s swimming naked in the ocean as Chenault, a sexy socialite stuck in a materialistic world. She stars opposite Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary, a film based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel about journalist Paul Kemp. And next year, Heard will star in Syrup, a film about young people viciously clawing their way through the corporate world.
City Paper: How did you prepare for the role of Chenault?
Amber Heard: I did a lot of research on what was going on at that time, what Hunter S. Thompson was living through, and how those around him affected him. There’s a wonderful biography on him that I read, which was very helpful. I’ve also been a Thompson fan for a long time. I’ve read the book before and loved it. So with all of that, I came into the movie as prepared — and yet as open — as I could to be.
CP: What drew you to your character?
AH: I decided to audition for Chenault because it was a project that I believed in, a message that I supported, a novel that I loved, written by an artist I immensely respected, going to be a movie directed by a director I loved, to play opposite one of the best actors alive, and to be in a beautiful place like Puerto Rico. I did it for every reason. And it didn’t hurt that my character gave me room to build as an artist a real character. I always struggle to find three-dimensional roles for women who are just beautiful or sexy and nothing else. The opportunity to really be able to make something out of a blank canvas was interesting. My character appears — at surface level — to be the archetype for the ’50-’60s trophy fiancée. She’s very much a member of this elite class who came to Puerto Rico and saw the beautiful beach and just saw money. She and Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) are very much a part of this system but are also imprisoned by it. She’s in a gilded cage. She’s a commodity that men like Sanderson seek to own. On the surface, she’s the icon of the American Dream, like the Corvette, yet there’s much more to her. She is flawed and slightly broken and troubled on the inside, but also fiercely intelligent and independent and rebellious. In many ways, she’s the opposite of what she looks.
CP: Do you think Chenault is the embodiment of American Dream because people like Sanderson ascribe that to her, or do they worship her because she was already like that?
AH: I think it’s both, one feeds into the other, it’s a cycle. People like Sanderson aren’t forcing any other characters to be one way or another. I believe that Chenault came from a wealthy dad and is expected to marry a wealthy man. The problem is that that lifestyle doesn’t make her happy as we meet her, and in her rebellious nature she learns that there’s a whole lot more to life.
Here's what we know: Suzanne Roberts Theatre. Director Anders Cato's RED, written by John Logan. A biographical drama about abstract expressionist Mark Rothko performed by two actors at Philadelphia Theatre Co. through Nov. 13. (Read David Anthony Fox's review here.)
After that, it’s been up to Stephen Rowe (as the eternally difficult Rothko) and Haley Joel Osment (as his beleaguered assistant, Ken) to create stoic, wonky whimsy from the dark and difficult magnetism of abstract expressionism. Each actor is energetic and coolly curt in their roles. But for Philadelphia, our eyes have been mostly on the 23-year-old Osment, who made his bones locally by starring in M. Night Shyalamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Happily, Osment has outgrown the baby face we remember cinematically and become a stately, bold acting presence. I chatted with him after the first performance. No seeing dead people jokes.
City Paper: The first moment of RED finds your character just staring at us, the audience. It’s a painting, of course, that you’re looking at, but that abyss: We are a substitute for Rothko’s work. And you seem so symmetrically square and spare standing there. What are you thinking right at that moment?
Haley Joel Osment: The use of a painting unseen by the audience — and technically invisible to we actors — gives us a way to open up the deeply personal and private experience of observing a painting to everyone out in their seats. We spend a lot of the play looking out into the abyss, and it's a useful tool for our performances, balancing the suspension of disbelief we require to ignore all those pairs of eyes with the living, breathing sensation we know Rothko's paintings possess. Both Stephen and I have spent time with the real Rothko paintings scattered around the world, so I think it's an exciting and beneficial energy within the play, that of our imagination and memories of those paintings working to create the reality of those scenes each night.
CP: It’s a big deal for you to pick a play — this play — as your first after graduating NYU. Why this one? What spoke to you about RED and the role of Ken?
HJO: I think RED offers a fantastic opportunity to explore the evolution of an intense relationship between two characters, one that’s both contentious and caring. My strategy in selecting projects — theatrical or on film — has been to find ways to stretch myself as an actor, to keep searching for challenges I haven't faced yet. Acting is a craft you can be learning about until the day you die so there's always the motivation to do the most you can when you can. RED is such a challenge and it's unique among the roles I've done in that Ken is in many ways an antagonist. Although that doesn't encompass everything he is or does, his courage in standing up to a titan like Rothko and defining his place in the world is an inspiring and instructive task to take on.
CP: Why take that first big role here, in Philadelphia, rather than wait for the New York City stages?
HJO: I always follow the material. I have been working mainly in New York since graduation, but film shoots have taken me back to the West coast and in the summer I was lucky enough to participate in a theatrical workshop in Cuba — with the U.S. government's permission, of course. There's great theater everywhere, and the opportunity to do something as powerful as RED was impossible to pass up. The director, Anders Cato went to the same drama studio (the Experimental Theatre Wing) at NYU Tisch that I did so that added to my interest.
Broke-Ass Stuart Schuffman has rethought the concent of a book signing. To showcase his new work, Young, Broke & Beautiful: Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply, the author and TV star is bringing his Broke-As-Hell Book Tour to Philly for a reading and Q&A session followed by an after party featuring DJ Handsome Sam.
We were able to catch up with him for a chat about everything from how to be frugal on a date and what he means by “broke-itude” to whether we can expect a Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in Philadelphia.
City Paper: So you’ve had a slew of successful books and your own TV show on IFC. Do you feel any different knowing that you’re not only on TV but have an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to you?
Broke-Ass Stuart: You know what’s funny? I’m still doing the same shit as ever. I mean, I’m doing this book tour and I’m totally funding it myself, which means I don’t have any money. Which is fine, because I’m doing it for a bigger reason. It’s also just fun.
CP: Would there be a difference between “Broke-Ass Stuart” and “Rich-Ass Stuart”? What would some differences be?
BAS: Not much would be different; I’d still be going to the same shitty bars with the same shitty people. I’m a guy that thinks with his gut, so maybe I might have some nicer meals sometimes, but really it’s just the way I look at the world. I don’t need “things” to be happy.
CP: Where does your phrase “you are young, broke and beautiful” originate?
All week, Philadelphia Improv Theater’s first-annual QComedy Festival has featured a slew of local comedic acts, but on Saturday it wraps up with a funny little visitor from L.A. Gay comedian Alec Mapa, who’s acted in LGBTQ-adoring sitcoms like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty, sat down to chat with me about his rough-and-tumble beginnings, how being a dad has changed his comedy and what his co-star Vanessa Williams is really like behind the scenes …
City Paper: How did you get your start as an entertainer?
Alec Mapa: I grew up in San Francisco and was kind of a bad kid. I was a big stoner in high school: drama and cutting class were the only things I paid attention to. But I had a teacher who [encouraged me to pursue theater]. After graduation, I applied to NYU and got in. The first job I got was in M. Butterfly. Then I didn’t work for three years, because no one knew what to do with me. So I started doing standup and that got me sitcom work.
CP: Do you always play gay characters?
AM: Not always. I played a director in a Disney Channel movie that aired this summer. I wasn’t really anything, but my energy was definitely gay.
CP: What are some of the topics you like to cover in your standup act?
AM: My husband and I went from being two gay guys with no responsibility to being full-time parents to a five-year-old. So that’s a lot of material. There’s no kind of parenting manual that will prepare you for how much these things poop and pee. We used to have this beautiful gay guy’s bathroom — it was like a spa at the Four Seasons. But now it’s like a Porta-Potty at Mardi Gras. But I also talk about gay stuff — dick jokes and fart jokes. There’s a lot of gay people who don’t like kids, but they can come to my show and laugh, too. I’m here to make you laugh not make you pregnant.
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