Canadian actor Michael Cera made his first major impact on American comedy audiences with his role as teenager George Michael Bluth on the cult TV comedy Arrested Development. Since then, he has gone on to memorable roles in such films as Year One, Superbad and Juno, each time bringing his unique brand of comedy to his performance. In his latest film, Youth in Revolt, he takes on two characters, aspiring novelist and nice guy Nick Twisp, and man of action Francois Dilinger.
Along with talking about the experience of playing a dual role at the film’s press day, Michael Cera also previewed what it was like for him to play an action hero in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and updated the status of the Arrested Development feature film. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: After all these years and all these movies, do you feel like you’ve established a Michael Cera brand of comedy?
Michael: No. I don’t feel like that. I’ve just had scripts that I really like come my way that I was lucky to be attached to.
But, there is something you do that’s not what everyone else does.
Michael: I guess. It’s really hard for me to think about it like that. I have no perspective on that, whatsoever.
Had you read this book before you got involved with the film?
Michael: Yeah. I got the book first and really loved it.
Were you a big fan of the books?
Michael: There are several books. There’s one that’s called Youth in Revolt that has three books in it, and that’s what this movie encompasses. I read that a couple of times and really loved it.
Had you been trying to get them made into a film yourself?
Michael: No. It was sent to me with the script when I was 16, and I just really loved it and was trying to be a part of it for a long time. It was one of those movies that kept getting pushed back and I was worried that, by the time it was being made, I would not be able to play the part. But, I just always asked about it and always wanted to be a part of it.
It’s such a big book to cut down for a film. Were there things that you filmed that got cut, and were there favorite scenes of yours from the book that didn’t get shot?
Michael: Some. There’s a scene that’s a great scene in the book, and we did it word for word, and it didn’t make it in just for time, but I think it will be on the DVD. It’s a scene where Francois and Trent (Jonathan Bradford Wright) have a phone call, and we took it word for word from the book. It’s a really great scene. There were a lot of characters that couldn’t make it into the movie. It would have been great to include them all, but it would have been a nine-hour movie. Some day, it should be a mini-series. They should redo it and use everything from the book.
Does that make someone like Francois Dillinger particularly attractive, since he isn’t what people have seen you do?
Michael: Yeah. I was really excited to get to play that part and I had a lot of fun doing it. It was really fun to get to do that with Miguel Arteta, and figure it out.
What made the Francois character so fun?
Michael: It was just fun to get to wear contacts, put a mustache on, transform how I looked, just say really gross things and smoke. I had a lot of fun things to do with actors that I really admire, too. It was fun to have a scene with Ray Liotta, where I had a challenging moment with him. There were just a lot of really fun scenes and things to do and say.
Where do you stand on Fellini and Sinatra? Are you a fan like your character?
Michael: I like both of them a lot. That really came from the book, so I didn’t have any influence on that, but I could relate to it. I really like a lot of older movies.
Did you model Francois after anyone specific?
Michael: Not anyone specific. We tried to capture how he felt in the book, as much as we could. I was inspired by Malcolm McDowell and James Cagney a little bit, but mostly we just tried to make it feel like how it did in the book and feel it out on set as we went.
Did you see this as playing two different characters, or were you basically playing Francois as a character that would be envisioned by Nick?
Michael: I don’t know. They’re totally different, so I think I just thought of it as a different character.
Your co-star, Portia Doubleday, said that you were remarkably comfortable in a dress and flip-flops. Was that disconcerting, or was that a revelation for you?
Michael: I was just relieved to have something on. I was doing a scene with just boxers on before that, so it was just nice to not have people see me as much. That’s why it was so comfortable.
Michael: I don’t think I was thinking about the dress. I was trying to remember what to say.
When you were 16, were you anything like your character?
Michael: When I was 16, I was working on Arrested Development. My memories of being 16 were just trying to keep up with school while doing the show and trying to be around all those people on the show, as much as I could. Those were some of the funniest people I’ve ever been around, so I was just really enamored by all of them.
Did you feel like an adult, since you were working with so many adults?
Michael: Kind of. I don’t know. I felt like a kid. But, I felt lucky to be able to be around them. It was a really unique circumstance that I was able to be a part of.
You suggested a lot of actors for this movie. What was it about Jean Smart that you thought made her right for the role?
Michael: I just pictured her when I was reading the book. She was in my head when I was reading the book, and I think Miguel loved her too, so she was pretty perfect for it.
Are you sick of these so-called teenaged movies that just aren’t real? Do you specifically look for projects where the dialogue makes you feel like it’s something you would really say?
Michael: Yeah. I’m just trying to find something that feels like good writing. I really loved the writing of this book. There’s a lot of things that aren’t as good, so the good ones stand out.
Michael: I don’t know how to judge it.
How do you meet someone? What do you do on a date, when you’re super-famous and you can’t really go out anywhere?
Michael: I have no idea. I’m still trying to figure it out.
Is it a natural transition from hopeless romantic to action hero in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World?
Michael: It doesn’t feel like a transition. It just feels like a different thing. But, we had a lot of training on that movie, and had a lot of time to get to hang out with each other and prepare for it, so it felt like a pretty smooth transition.
What did you have to do, as a performer, to adjust to what Edgar Wright needed from you?
Michael: There’s not much of an adjustment. You just jump in and do it. There were sometimes things where you’d have a shot that was just for one line, so it wasn’t like you’d run a whole scene. That was different. But, for the most part, you’d just have to let go and go with it.
Did you get to learn any other cool fighting styles, aside from the sword fighting?
Michael: Yeah. There’s an amazing fight between Mae Whitman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead where they’re using these weapons, and it’s really amazingly done. And, there are some other things, like battles with music in it and the sword fighting. There’s all sorts of different things.
Michael: I don’t know about that. That’s hard to say because the movie encompasses the whole graphic novel series.
Isn’t he still writing more?
Michael: He’s writing the last one. There’s going to be six, and the sixth one is going to come out sometime next year.
They didn’t sign you for more films, just in case?
Michael: I don’t think so, no.
What was it like to get back to doing something smaller, like Paper Heart? Where did that come in, chronologically?
Michael: I just shot my stuff in that movie for a week or two, in L.A. I think it was right before Youth in Revolt. But, it was just a quick thing. It felt like a really small shoot. It was a really small crew, and was just a small, intimate movie with friends. It felt almost like a student film, but with a bigger budget.
Do you have any plans to do anything more like that, or was that more of a one-time thing?
Michael: I don’t have any plans right now, but if something came up, it would be fun to do.
Is it a perk for you, to travel to other locations for filming? Do you look forward to that?
Michael: Oh, yeah. That’s a really nice part of getting to be an actor. It’s really nice to see places that I wouldn’t normally go, and get to stay there for free. Normally, you get to know the city in a really good way. I had never really spent too much time in downtown Toronto. I grew up outside of the city, and I feel like I really got to know it, working on the movie. It’s really nice to be able to do that.
What’s an average day like for you, when you’re not working?
Michael: It depends on what’s going on and who’s around. Every day is really different. I’ll read a bit or watch movies or try to see friends.
How did you rebel, when you were a teenager?
Michael: I didn’t, too much. I was working, since I was nine years old.
What does love mean to you?
Michael: Pure grain alcohol. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Would anyone have a good answer to that?
What’s the latest you’ve heard from (show creator/writer/director) Mitch Hurwitz on his Arrested Development movie script?
Michael: I think he’s going to start working on it soon. I don’t think there’s a set date for him to start working on it because it’s something that he should take his time on.
How does it feel to know that he waited for you to be involved before he would go ahead with it?
Michael: That’s not how he explained it to me. I think he’s been waiting for awhile to go ahead with it. He and Jim Vallely have been coming up with ideas. And, I think they’re working on something else right now, with Will Arnett, so they’re finished that up and they’re going to start it sometime next year.
Are you looking forward to seeing your character, George Michael, all grown up?
Michael: Yeah. I’m really interested to see what they write.
Do you have anything that you’re hoping to make, at some point?
Michael: No, not right now. No, I don’t. Youth in Revolt was that, for me, for a long time. I was really just hoping that it was actually going to get made, and not just go away.