When director D.J. Caruso cast Dianna Agron (Glee) as the lead in his sci-fi action thriller I Am Number Four, he took a chance on a rising young star. After all, while Glee was getting a lot of press, there was always the chance the show would flame out. But if you follow the ratings, you know Glee is bigger than ever, and the casting of Agron looks like a great move.
But let me back up a second. If you’ve been reading Collider, you know we’ve been covering I Am Number Four since the project was first announced. But with DreamWorks releasing a brand new trailer and a release date fast approaching (February 18, 2011), I recently got to attend a long lead press day with the cast and after the jump you can read or listen to my roundtable interview with Dianna Agron. During the interview she talked about how she got started acting, how crazy her schedule is, filming I Am Number Four, what’s going on with Glee, and her thoughts on the big Super Bowl episode:
As usual, I’m providing two ways to get the interview. You can either read a transcript or you can click here to listen to the audio. For more on the movie, you can click here for all our previous coverage which includes posters, trailers, on set interviews, and a lot more.
Finally, I got to see about 20 minutes of I Am Number Four yesterday at DreamWorks and later tonight you can expect a full report of what I saw and some quotes from director D.J. Caruso. They showed us the opening 5 or 10 minutes and then a bunch of the action from the 3rd act. It looked really cool. More tonight.
Question: Being with John (played by Alex Pettyfer) in this movie, he’s marked for death so he’s like a dangerous guy. In real life do you go for those dangerous bad boys or no?
Agron: Oh goodness. No, I don’t think so. Cause I’m not a baddie so I wouldn’t know how to keep up.
Sweet guys then?
What’s this time for you like. Obviously you make I Am Number Four, you jump right back into Glee, I’m sure you’re working on that all the time, [you’re] promoting this, what’s sort of going on in your life right now? Do you have time for yourself?
Agron: Well you have to make it. You know, I went home last weekend because we’re going to London next week to promote the film so I sadly won’t be home for Thanksgiving. But, you know, you make it and if family and friends are important to you then you make sure that you set out that time and carve it out and make sure that you have it. But at the same time, since I was 14 years old it was: I’m going to school and I have this job and I’m dancing, you know, so I’ve liked kinda being too busy rather than not being busy enough.
So basically you’re not complaining that you’re working all the time?
Agron: (laughs) Not most days. Every now and then you might wanna sleep in a bit, especially with this wonderful gloomy weather that reminds me of home. But no, for the most part it’s really great.
Agron: San Francisco
So could you tell us how you started out?
Agron: Well I was working, I taught dance classes. But I started out a ballerina and I fell in love with movies like An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain, just that was kind of what I was raised on. So I wanted to be like Audrey Hepburn but at the same time I was watching Lucille Ball and thinking “She’s so fabulous.” So in my mind I counter between wanting to be both of them. And so I started acting in high school and towards the end of high school I realized, as I was applying to school, this is something that [I’ve] always loved. I think I made up my mind when I was 7 or 8, and I told my mom and she said “Well you know, there’s a lot of down time on sets” and I said “It’s okay I’ll read a book.” And kind of that childhood want took in senior year and I thought, “Well, you know it’d be great to give it a shot.” I’m also the oldest of two, so I’ve always been very independent and I moved down here and I got into acting classes and it kind of all just came together in a very slow and steady pace, but I think that’s what was very healthy and very fulfilling about it cause now I’m here and I can look back and think “God if I was there again I don’t know if I would want, even knowing the outcome, I don’t know if I would wanna, you know, trek through (laughs).” But it’s the most amazing feeling when everything kinda works out the way you had hoped it would.
Agron: Well erratic weather, which lead to the most wonderful experiences because, it was just comical. I mean we were always filming about 30 minutes outside of Pittsburg, [with] you know beautiful towns and beautiful lush trees and bushes and just [a] wonderful set up for Ohio-feel and for this movie. And the people were so kind and so in awe of the movie, even though many films are being shot in Pittsburg now, it was such a childlike wonderment about the whole process. Which I think really is great as an actor to see because you realize, it’s such an uncanny thing for so many people, and I often feel that every day but at the same time it becomes a job and it becomes so normal, and you realize that it’s not normal to most people. So on top of that we had this crazy weather, and it wasn’t cold but it was, you know sunny and then torrential rain and then we’d have mud up to our ankles and then up to our knees and then driving on Gators to get to this location. And our producers would be on the phone, and you know because of the iPhones now and all these crazy applications you can predict and see—“Okay well the storm is gonna pass in 5 minutes, it’ll be back in 10 minutes, and then it’ll leave for 30 minutes and then it’ll be back an additional 5.” And so, you know you’d have your producer saying “Okay we have time for one take, then cover your equipment with tarps.” So you’d be rushing up there, “Okay, I can’t screw this up, one take alright let’s go,” “Okay cover with tarps! Cover with tarps! Run under the thing! Get your umbrella!” And it was so funny, and you watch the film now and you don’t see any of that, which is the beauty of it. And we’d have our crew telling us the craziest stories about filming experiences and “Well this we shot in the desert, in 120 degree heat, and blahblahblah.” And I think, because when you’re watching the film it’ll never be as fun as it was making it, you know, because it was so personal to you. It’s something to be proud of at the end, but just the experience is the best part of it. And then watching it, what brings that feeling back, is just knowing all the backstory to every single moment. Much more so than TV because TV is fast, so you’re so focused and in the moment, that sometimes you don’t really have that same feeling.
On Glee, who do you wish they’d feature as a musical artist that they haven’t done the show about that artist yet?
Agron: Oh goodness, well I just keep campaigning for Christopher Walken because I love him. I think that would be amazing. I don’t know, I’m just a music lover that it’s hard, sometimes it’s hard for me to see—there’s lines you know what I mean? I like being surprised with the scripts and seeing who they’ve chosen, and I like when it fits the storyline and everything. With that job, it’s kind of just whatever you throw at me I’ll try to take and run.
I’m curious, obviously there’s a lot of rehearsal on the show. There’s a lot of recording, how many episodes are you working on at the same time as far as, learning a move for something down the road, recording a song? Because it seems like every week there’s a new episode with a lot of new stuff.
Agron: Now it’s come down to—week of, day of, hour of, you know. There’s so much to do, so there’s been some days, like in the Sectionals episode that we just shot, the dances we were learning the day of, in the morning and then shooting. And that was insane, and we really had to focus, but we got it done. I think it’s just a challenge sometimes, you know sometimes there will be easier weeks and sometimes there will be terribly difficult ones. The episode that we’re doing for the Super Bowl is massive, and it’s gonna take a lot of focus.
What was going through your head when you hear, “Yeah we’re gonna be on after the Super Bowl, yeah we’re doing Michael Jackson a little bit, the most expensive episode we’ve ever done?” The pressure that comes with that, knowing like 30 million or 50 million people are gonna be watching this episode?
Agron: Yeah, unfortunately like you saying that just now puts some reasoning into my mind of what it is. But I read it and I think, “Okay so what’s today?” You know literally yesterday I read that script and it’s, I think what they’ve said about it doesn’t really completely—until you see it you won’t understand it—but I read it and before I could really digest it, it was like “Okay so what are we doing today?” You know, you have to be so “What’s today?” day by day, on the spot. So, um thank you for that, and I will try not to be nervous (laughs). It’s interesting because I still don’t believe that anybody watches the show. You know what I mean? It still is a job where I go and I think “Oh this is just my friends and my family. Oh we’re putting on wigs today.” It’s very weird, because when we were shooting the movie it was like, “Oh we’re shooting this movie and it’s gonna be in theaters.” For some reason, I think just cause this has been so much of my life and for so many of the episodes in the beginning they weren’t airing as we were shooting them, so for the first time this season they’re airing 4 weeks, 5 weeks after we’ve shot them. So I still haven’t grasped onto that, also because I don’t watch TV. It’s just, it’s this weird world.
I’m curious, you’re working so much, obviously I’m sure you guys are doing long hours on the show. It’s sort of like, when you’re not shooting, you’re not really going out and doing stuff. So you’re sort of not experiencing like going to The Grove and maybe taking in people. You know what I mean?
What’s it like for you though, I mean obviously you must be going out once in a while to a Starbucks, what’s the reaction you’re getting from people as you interact with fans?
Agron: Well I’ve also kind of noticed that, whatever energy that you put out, is kind of the energy that you receive. And so people are just really lovely and kind and soft spoken with me (laughs). It’s almost you know a test, you whisper maybe they’ll whisper. But our fans are so nice and so loyal, nobody’s coming up to you and saying, even if they’re thinking it, “Oh I hated last week’s episode, you were so bad.” Nothing like that, everybody comes up with these heartfelt stories or things that they relate to or whatnot. Yeah so I think I’m in a really unique place that maybe not all actors feel.
I gotta ask about Sarah in this movie. Is she studying to be a photojournalist? She’s using her camera all the time, what is she hoping to do with that? Is she wanting to do art photos or be a photojournalist? What’s her backstory on that?
Agron: You know, I think she’s explored this fishbowl that she lives in and for the first time is feeling at home in herself and kind of her place. And so I think for her, these photographs, she wants to escape behind the camera because it’s so much more interesting to her.
And why is John Smith so interesting to her?
Agron: Because it’s a chance to start over. She’s had this life that, maybe part of it she wanted, part of it she hasn’t, she had the high school football boyfriend, that wasn’t what she wanted. And so for the first time she has somebody that has no judgments, and is listening to her being her, and at the same time she’s not judging him. And they are so quickly drawn to each other and let down all the walls and just have these really pure, organic feelings for each other. It’s what I loved so much about their characters, and you see that that really helps them both go on this journey together, and to really strongly pursue, you know, the plan.
Is that the kind of relationship you want in real life? One where the fake walls aren’t up all the time?
Agron: Definitely, because I think that any strong relationship with your family, with your friends, with your partner, it’s the hardest to share everything sometimes because, you know, life isn’t always smooth sailing and sometimes you’re afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings, or anything, but I think that the truer you can be to yourself the more you’re going to kind of open your horizons to a really beautiful relationship. But you know, it’s not always the easiest thing to do.
Agron: He was great. I mean, I didn’t meet him until the day before the table read. And I thought, “Okay no judgments” he’s British, he’s very attractive, he’s the lead in this movie, let’s see. And you realize quickly with him, he’s very worldly. He’s from Europe; he’s been traveling and kind of exploring and taking in people from all different walks of life his whole life. And he was very passionate about this film and about what we could do and what we could explore with it. I think it shows in the trailer, I mean he looks amazing and so focused, and yeah I can’t wait to see the whole thing and kind of really see how it all turned out.
I was gonna ask you about the trailer, and what’s your reaction to obviously seeing final footage for the first time? Or have you done a lot of ADR and seen the movie?
Agron: I did some ADR last week but I really blissfully haven’t seen too much, I think I wanna wait and see it with everybody come February. But what I have seen, so pleasantly surprised—but then not surprised because, you know, DJ’s (Caruso, director) done these movies before and with everybody that we had behind us I had a feeling it was gonna be really beautiful to watch.
Did you watch the trailer?
And so what’d you think while watching it? Like, “Shit I’m in a pretty big movie!”
How is it to bounce from television to the big screen?
Agron: I think I had no time to think about it, so I think it was pretty easy. But yeah it was great, and luckily [the studios] both let me do it.
What’s your next hiatus? What next movie do you hope to do?
Agron: Do you have one for me?
Not right now
Agron: (laughs) I don’t know.
You’re gonna be reading scripts then?
Agron: Yeah, yeah. And if you find one for me let me know (laughs).