Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman Interview SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

     August 8, 2010

Whether it’s in the pages of the Bryan Lee O’Malley comic book series or on screen in the Edgar Wright film, the ultimate boss battle for Scott Pilgrim is with Ramona Flowers’ seventh evil-ex Gideon Graves. There’s no doubt about it, Pilgrim vs. Graves is the main event of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and also for our series of roundtables.

When Michael Cera, who plays Scott Pilgrim, and Jason Schwartzman, who plays Gideon Graves, sit down at your table, there’s no doubt it’s going to be fun. Both are known for being hilarious comedic actors and in person, you get exactly that. Plus you get some insight into what makes the stars of such modern classics as Rushmore, Superbad, Juno and Fantastic Mr. Fox tick.

Hit the jump to read how Schwartzman thought he might ruin the movie, changing the education system, Cera’s most memorable fight, how success has affected him and more.

The roundtable began with just Schwartzman as Cera was busy for a few minutes. He commented on the tiny water bottles that were provided and how this bottle in his hand is how a normal bottle looks in Brandon Routh’s hand. “He IS Superman, it’s amazing,” Schwartzman said.

He doesn’t really see himself as Gideon Graves in the pages of the comic and doesn’t play a lot of games now because he believes he would develop an unhealthy addiction to it. As a kid, though, playing regular and Super Nintendo, his top five games were BreakThru, Double Dribble, Metroid, Mega Man and Super Mario Bros.

Schwartzman enjoyed playing the bad guy, but was scared about it because, for the most part, they shot the evil ex scenes in chronological order so he came in toward the end of shooting. “It was really scary for me because Edgar was showing me a bunch of stuff they had edited together and it was all so great and I was just thinking to myself, ‘This is a really great opportunity for me to ruin his movie.’” So he asked a lot of questions of both Wright and O’Malley and found a good chunk of inspiration when O’Malley said “Remember this. This whole movie is through Scott Pilgrim’s eyes so don’t play Gideon Graves as if this was in the real world. Don’t think of it like that. Approach it as you play how Scott see Gideon. Be his idea of the worst nightmare ex-boyfriend. So that’s really where I was coming from. Who would I hate to meet.”

Wright saw Gideon as passive aggressive but, to Schwartzman, that was a slippery slope. So he asked him “How overt do you want his douchiness?” So they did a scale – 10 is evil Satan, 1 is great person. And they would do different takes at different levels. Schwartzman said that in the film, Wright edited together a bunch of different levels to make Gideon seem unstable, which he thought works great.

Since Schwartzman is also a musician by trade, he was actually thankful that he didn’t have to play any music because he would have gotten distracted.  “Anytime there’s an instrument you just want to get your hands on it. It’s fun,” he said. “It’s hard to be around instruments and not play them.”

Around this time, Cera joined the conversation. I asked him if he ever dreamed of being a superhero, either when he was younger or as an actor since he always plays almost the opposite role. He said he had never dreamed of it and that “This was just a weird opportunity that came out of nowhere that was just perfect timing. I never expected it but it came along and it felt right.,” Cera said.

Ramona is obviously a suicide girl type, so a reporter asked Cera if that’s that the kind of girl he usually dates? “Do you have any reference photos?” Cera asked. Apparently he and Schwartzman both dated girls in high school that dabbled in that. Cera asked Schwartzman his girls’ name? “Anaka.” “Oh. Mine was ANAka,” he replied, which was hilarious. Schwartzman went with his suicide girl girlfriend to get a tattoo on her 18th birthday and that led him to tell a story about how he heard about a girl with the phrase “Milk was a bad choice” on her thigh from Anchorman. Oddly enough, Cera didn’t get the reference and Schwartzman explained it to him. A light bulb then went off. “You know whats funny? I saw a guy with a sign that said ‘Milk Was A Bad Choice’ in the Scott Pilgrim experience [at Comic Con], holding it up, and I thought it was a sign for Alison Pill.” After the entire table burst out into laughter (Pill was in the film Sean Penn film, Milk) Schwartzman said “That is incredible. That would be kind of rude. Call someone out. This isn’t a real time message board.”

Of course, someone had to ask about the Arrested Development movie and Cera said there are no updated. Schwartzman said ” It’s in the exact stage of its title” which got a bit chuckle.

Cera didn’t have a favorite fight out of the bunch but one that stood out for him, in his mind, is the one with Chris Evans, who plays Lucas Lee, evil ex number two. “That was really difficult because all of a sudden we were there and it was time to do this fight,” Cera said. “We trained and we were actually going to commit this to film now. And I remember that moment right before we did the first take and you just get thrown in and your just like, ‘Okay, now its time, we’re doing that stuff we were training to do.'”

He said that while he did most of his own stunts, there were some of the bigger ones that he didn’t do. In fact, he had a lot of great things to stay about the stunt men. “There’s so much adrenaline right before the take and the stunt men are amazing, he said. “Right before the take they’re all like getting pumped up. And your just like, ‘Oh my god here we go,’ the feeling is insane.”

Even though they have each been in scores of movies adored across the world, both Cera and Schwartzman enjoy being amongst their fans. It’s second nature, especially since everyone is so nice. Schwartzman pointed out though, that it’s probably different for someone like Robert Pattinson where people are trying to grab at him and stuff.

Cera doesn’t really think about people’s perception of him when he’s working, he’s doing just that. “When you are on set you’re at work. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was 9 so really it’s never felt any different for me,” he said. “Make the director happy and feel good about the work. It’s difficult to think about anything other than that really.”

Since he missed the beginning of the roundtable, Cera was asked what his five favorite games of all time where and he said Super Mario Bros. 3, Contra, BattleToads, Gyromite and, after a long pause, Caesar’s Palace. “When you hit that jackpot? Forget about it,” he said.

Next, the pair were asked if they thought the film – which is so obviously influenced by pop culture – could play to an audience unaware of its references. Cera started by saying “I don’t see why not. I can’t think of any reason why only comic book fans would appreciate that stuff. It is what it is, I think it’s fun personally.” Schwartzman said he would know for sure once his mom saw the movie but feels that “people love to see stuff that they don’t know anything about.”

Though Cera doesn’t think about people perceptions of him, he was asked what it was like when one of his movies becomes insanely popular. He said it’s great and it makes him feel good for everyone who worked on the movie (“You feel like it’s a win,” he said). Personally though, he doesn’t internalize it much. “In my experience it’s really helped my career, it’s helped me get to work with people I really love and admire and it makes me more recognizable when you’re walking around,” he said. “People recognize me from those movies and want to talk to you. And they’ve always been really positive to me, I haven’t had people shout anything mean which has been lucky and nice.” Schwartzman tagged that with “I have,” which got a big laugh.

Schwartzman was asked about the status of The Adventurer’s Handbook to which he said the writers are still working on it. “Hopefully when it’s right, we will go make it.”

The character of Scott Pilgrim is “whimsical,” according to one reporter. He asked Cera why he chose to play that so realistically. “That’s Edgar’s directing,” he said. “That was his vision. And that’s why it works I think. He’s got really good instincts with comedy. That’s what it comes down to, I think, with those moments.”

scott_pilgrim_vs_the_world_lucas_lee_action_doctor_fake_movie_posterIn almost poetic fashion, though he’s not a big comic book reader in general, Cera was familiar with the comics before he got the role and really enjoyed them. Schwartzman, on the other hand, mentioned that he loved comics about Kafka and The Beat Poets and that set him off on a very interesting tangent. “I hate to admit it but I wish all my books in high school were comic books, like text books, because I can learn it and retain it so much easier for some reason when it’s words and pictures showing it to me at the same time,” Schwartzman said. “It’s so silly to say but a page of words is daunting. [With pictures] it just all kind of makes sense.” Cera then tagged the sentiment with, “It’s like Sesame Street,” to which Schwartzman agreed. “Yeah, it’s like Sesame Street. It’s like right in between a movie and a book.”

Cera used the comics mostly just to look at the tone of the humor, the facial expressions and to get a feeling of what they were going for. And because he read the comics before he even knew they were making a movie, he never saw himself in the character. “I didn’t think of myself in it until Edgar told me he was considering me for it. I was wondering if I could pull it off or not,” he said. A journalist then asked, “Did you?” To which Cera replied, “The movie works, I loved watching the movie, he knew what he was making so I just trusted him.”

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World hits theaters August 13. Don’t forget to check out our other Collider roundtable roundups with director Edgar Wright, Mark Webber/Alison Pill, Brandon Routh/Satya Bhabha, Mary Elizabeth Winstead/Ellen Wong and Kieran Culkin/Aubrey Plaza.

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