The First Time is a modern and realistic look at the angst and excitement of young love. Dave (Dylan O’Brien) is a high school senior who meets Aubrey (Britt Robertson), a junior, one night at a party and a casual conversation sparks a connection that keeps drawing them back to each other. From writer/director Jonathan Kasdan, the film also stars Victoria Justice, Craig Robertson, Joshua Malina and Christine Taylor. For more on the film, here’s the trailer.
At the film’s press day, actress Britt Robertson spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what attracted her to the film, trusting in writer/director Jonathan Kasdan, how there were only minor changes made to the film, learning how to really be in the moment, and the scene she was most nervous to shoot. She also talked about her next role in The Delivery Man, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn, what she’s looking for in a role now, and whether she might consider doing television again. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
BRITT ROBERTSON: When I first read this script, I was excited about the film. I thought it was going to be a really sweet movie. And after meeting with (writer/director) Jon [Kasdan] and auditioning with him, I became even more excited about being a part of this movie. It’s something that I was really passionate about. Jon and I had coffee and talked about the character a little bit, and talked about his ideas and things that he was thinking about for the film. And then, after I auditioned with Dylan [O’Brien], the movie that we would be making became very clear. It’s really nice to have a strong perspective on a film and understand what everybody wants and have the same goal. That’s what the entire experience was like. Jon knew what he wanted, and we were happy to give it to him. We’re really proud of the movie. There are so many things that this movie can offer someone, even if you’re not a super romantic enthusiast. You can at least enjoy the conversation. Hopefully, our performances have something to offer an audience.
Had Dylan O’Brien already been cast when you read with him, or did you read with a few different actors?
ROBERTSON: I did a chemistry read with Dylan and one other guy. And then, I think he was cast first and I was cast shortly after. It’s funny because Dylan had only really been in the industry for like a year, when we first made the film, and I’ve been doing this a fair bit longer than he has. Just having complete polar opposite experiences was funny, but it was also really refreshing. He brought a completely different vibe to the working atmosphere than what I and Jon had brought to it. It was a refreshing take that was very real.
Anytime you make a small movie like this, you don’t know how it will turn out. Was it reassuring to have someone like Jon Kasdan, who knew exactly what he wanted?
ROBERTSON: Exactly! We trusted him and he trusted us, and I think that’s so important when you’re doing these small films. You have one goal, at the end of the day, and if you can achieve that, then all the rest is out of our control. Just to be happy with what we did was all we could ever ask for.
Did you breathe a sigh of relief, once this film started screening at film festivals and people responded so positively to it?
ROBERTSON: Yes! The first time I saw it was at Eccles Theatre at Sundance, so leading up to that was hell. I had no idea what this movie was or how it turned out. Everyone else had seen it before me. I was filming in Vancouver, at the time, so I’d been to none of the screenings and the first time I had the chance to see it was at Sundance. I was like, “What did this turn into?!” And I was so relieved. Luckily, Dylan and Jon were there, on other side of me, and I was like, “Okay, thank god!” I’m my worst critic, but I was really proud of this film. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I think it really shows in the film.
Was this a character you closely connected to and related to, or did you like her because she’s different from you?
ROBERTSON: Initially, when reading the script, I saw her as being an extension of myself. But then, after speaking with Jon and working with him, I realized that she was pretty far from myself and how I would actually react to these situations. And obviously, she’s a fair bit younger than myself. Initially, I was trying to put as much of myself into her as I could, but as the rehearsal process went on and we started filming, I realized his vision for her was completely different from what I had thought. He was really specific about the kind of person that he wanted Aubrey to be. Luckily, I understood that fairly quickly, so I was able to attack it. I think there are a lot of similarities, but the most interesting qualities, I have nothing in common with.
ROBERTSON: After reading it and helping it come alive in my mind, it ended up being what we tried to do with the film and how it ended up turning out. There are things that were changed, after rehearsal, like what Dylan and I would say. And there would be times when we were doing a scene and were like, “I don’t know, that just doesn’t feel right,” and then Jon would be like, “You’re right, that does not feel right. Let’s fix it.” But, there was nothing major. It was all minor changes.
A film like things seems like it would really require you to be in the moment. Is that something that’s easy for you to do, as an actor, or do you catch yourself acting?
ROBERTSON: It’s something I’ve been dealing with a lot, lately. Having a lot of TV experience, you’re so self-aware, all the time. You become this technical actor, and it’s less about acting and more about just getting the job done. In doing this film, right after Life Unexpected, which is a show I did for two years, it was really interesting because there were a lot of TV habits that I had to break, and one of those was being able to really be in the moment and respond in a very real way. Dylan made that really easy for me ‘cause he’s such an alive actor. It never felt like we would go off on our own little tangents. It just always felt like we were there and we were in it. And it helped to have a really close crew. It was really just Jon’s vision, the entire way. He really had the freedom to do what he wanted, and that’s what gave us the ability to be free of any other thoughts or ideas. We could just play and see what came out of it.
ROBERTSON: Yeah, the very beginning scene when we’re in the alley and we first meet, I was always nervous about that, mainly because it was 30 pages and we had to captivate and audience, and then keep them for a long period of time without any craziness happening. It’s literally just Dylan and I speaking. I was always really nervous about that ‘cause it was a lot of pressure and it felt like a really big acting job. But, other than that, I was just excited to be a part of the film and every scene felt awesome.
Was it important that, especially since these two only know each other for a couple days, it not be all rainbows and unicorns?
ROBERTSON: Yeah, exactly! The idea is that they experience all these first within the course of a three-day weekend, which is very true to what high schoolers experience. You meet one night at a party, and then, all of a sudden, your world turns upside down within the course of 24 hours. And obviously, it’s never going to be all rainbows and butterflies because how do two people relate to one another in a way that’s happy, all the time. There’s going to be some ups and downs. But, it was important that we have the rehearsal time and get to know one another, and also keep the material fresh. It is a very talky movie. So that we could be in the moment, we needed to take a breather, every now and then. A lot of our rehearsal time wasn’t even going over the material. It was just hanging out.
ROBERTSON: What was important to the film was that there’s a part of Aubrey’s intellect that’s on the surface, at all times. She’s constantly dealing with what she’s feeling, and talking about it. I think that that comes from seeing her parents and having that relationship be the most valued relationship that she’s ever been a part of. Seeing how they react to one another is inspiration for her to have a similar experience and a similar connection with another human being. I think those parallels were really important.
Do you know what you’ll be doing next?
ROBERTSON: Yeah, I’m doing a film right now, in New York, called The Delivery Man. It used to be called Starbuck. I’m working on that the next couple of months, and I did a film this past summer called White Rabbit.
ROBERTSON: Being on TV for a longer period of time, there were so many opportunities that I just never had. There were so many movies that I couldn’t have been a part of because I was stuck on a show, playing this one character for two years. So, it’s important to me to just experience as much as possible and to be able to just work and meet new people and have different experiences and have as much knowledge as I can. Working is the best way to understand and grow, as an actor, in my opinion. That’s been my experience. So, I just want to be a part of things that I care about and have really great experiences. That’s what’s most important to me.
Would you consider doing TV again, especially if it were something on cable?
ROBERTSON: Cable is the ideal world for anybody, these days. Anyone and everyone is like, “HBO, call me!” I’m not sure. Honestly, I love television. I love the idea of going to work every day and getting to know your crew and having a rapport with your directors and having a family of cast. I love that and I do miss it, very much. It’s definitely something that could be in my future.
Is there a dream role that you’d love to do, if given the opportunity?
ROBERTSON: No. I’m doing more of a comedy now, with The Delivery Man, and that’s good ‘cause I’m happy to be a part of something that I haven’t done for awhile. I haven’t been a part of a studio comedy in a long time, so it’s been a very interesting experience. We just had our table read and it was so amazing, just to be in a room full of 30 really awesome actors. Just to bounce ideas off of one another and hear what they’re doing with their characters motivates me, and it’s so inspiring. I just enjoy stories. I think that there are a lot of great things out there, and I look forward to experiencing new things.
ROBERTSON: A heroin addict, but it’s a comedy. I play one of Vince Vaughn’s 533 children that he donates sperm to. They seek out his identity and he ends up fathering them, in a way. He’s amazing! He’s awesome! This movie is made for him. Just hearing it during the table read, I was so excited for him and the film. I think it’s going to be awesome.
Is comedy something that comes easy for you?
ROBERTSON: No. Putting yourself out there, in a way that you’ll literally find out if you’re funny, and it’s going to be hit or miss, that’s always scary. I think it’s something I’ve had to work on a little, but I’ll get there.
The First Time is now playing in limited release in Southern California, New York City, and Phoenix, Arizona. If you’re in NYC or Los Angeles, it’s playing at these theaters:
- AMC Burbank Town Center 8
- AMC Broadway @ The Santa Monica Promenade
- AMC Orange 30 @ The Block
- Loews Village Theater 7
- AMC Empire 25 Theaters