Zac Efron and Claire Danes Interview ME AND ORSON WELLES

     November 24, 2009

Me_and_Orson_Welles_movie_image _Claire_Danes_Zac_Efron slice.jpg

If you’ve been reading Collider over the past few days, you may have noticed I’ve already posted a Zac Efron interview for Me and Orson Welles.  The reason you’re getting an extra interview with Mr. Efron is at last week’s press day, I participated in both roundtable and TV interviews with the entire cast and director Richard Linklater.  While I usually only post one or the other, with someone as popular as Zak Efron, I figured his fans might like to have access to both of them.

As I said in the previous interview, Me and Orson Welles is based in real theatrical history, the film is a coming-of-age story about a teenage actor (Zac Efron) who lucks into a role in Julius Caesar as it’s being re-imagined by a brilliant, impetuous young director named Orson Welles (Christian McKay) at his newly-founded Mercury Theater in NYC, 1937.  Claire Danes co-stars as Sonja Jones, the unapologetically ambitious assistant to Welles who Efron tries to go after.  Check out the interview after the jump:

Me and Orson Welles opens tomorrow in limited release.

Me_and_Orson_Welles_movie_poster.jpgQuestion:  Zac, there’s a lot of talk about stuff with fashion.  Someone was telling me about this, that stuff that perhaps you wear might get influenced into popular culture?  Do you ever notice that, that maybe you’re directing fashion a little bit?  And do you think about that when you are stylizing or dressing?

Zac Efron:  When I’m stylizing (laughs), it’s all about accessories.  (laughs)  No man, I notice people that look good.  I notice fashion on other people, I always enjoy it when people try and look their best, I’ve always been taught to try and look my best and that’s probably my main influence, I’m not looking to influence fashion anymore than the next guy, but I do try and look my best when I’m out and representing my movies.

How about the plaids in this, you guys are plaiding it, you have a plaid jacket, you have plaid pants, did you like the clothes in this, or just like it for your character for that era?  Would you wear any of this stuff?

Zac:  I think I stole some of the stuff, it’s like always on the last day, they always try to get you out of your trailer really quick so nothing’s missing.

What did you take?

Zac:  Always steal some of your wardrobe.  You never know, you never know when you might need it.

So what kind of research did you do for the part, did you read the original book?
Zac:  Yes, I read the original book.  I pretty much had the standard, for my age, I studied him in High School and a little bit before that, I was familiar with a lot of his work, and War of the Worlds…

Did you read any bios?

Zac:  Yeah, well coming into this, I thought I was pretty well read on Orson, and then immediately found out that I had absolutely, I hadn’t even scratched the surface, on this guy.  Rick really was the one who filled us in and supplied us with endless amounts of literature and articles and the old photos, I think I’ve seen every picture of Orson.  (laughs)

Are you a fan?  Are you a fan of Orson?

Zac:  Yeah, definitely.

Claire Danes:  Yeah, it’s hard not to be.

me_and_orson_welles_movie_image_zac_efron.jpgWhat was your guys’ first experience with Orson Welles, a movie or…

Claire:  I discovered Orson Welles in college, my Freshman English professor screened Citizen Kane for us and I wound up writing a 20 page term paper on it.  I’m sure I’m not the only one (laughs), I think there’s many a term paper dedicated to Orson Welles.  But yeah, so I fell in love with him there, and since then I’ve seen a few other of his films, but didn’t realize he had been such a revolutionary figure in theater as well, and in radio, I mean he was really a maverick in so many different mediums, at such a young age, it’s mindboggling that he accomplished so much…

Zac:  At 22 he’d done more than anyone can ever dream…

Claire:  Yeah.

He was pretty arrogant at 22 wasn’t he?

Zac:  He deserved to be.

Claire:  Rightly so, I mean, but I think the movie talks about that, the confusion of that, and even Sonia says, with someone like Orson, you excuse a lot of behavior.  And it’s true, when somebody’s ego is in service of really brilliant, innovative work, it’s hard to (laughter), cause I’m such an asshole, (laughter) it’s hard to criticize their failures as a human sometimes.

And Zac, what was your first experience with Welles?

Zac:  I was probably 16, and I’ve worked with a director, who said that his favorite movie of all time was Citizen Kane.  And as a wrap gift, he gave me the DVD.  And I was definitely fascinated by it and I thought that it was an incredible movie but I was probably too young to fully appreciate it at that point.

And you can’t escape it, even Orson Welles asks you to sing.  (laughs)

Zac:  Exactly.  That’s not a question.  (laughs)

But Richard learns a real lesson in dealing with the politics of Hollywood types.  Have you had any lessons like that in the industry?

Zac:  I think things have changed a little bit, I’ve never had an experience quite like that, I’d say it was reminiscent of a lot of my early theater experiences, it’s pretty cut throat, there’s always another kid on the sidelines, ready to take your place, but never experience it quite like Orson, I don’t think.

Me_and_Orson_Welles_movie_image_Zac_Efron (4).jpgClaire:  I doubt many people have.  (laughs)

Is it one of these things when you are coming into the project that you all of a sudden sit down, Magnificent Ambersons, just watching the whole thing and justify it for preparation?

Claire:  Is it an excuse to just acquaint yourself?  I didn’t with this movie, but sometimes…

Zac:  This all predates any of his film, at this point in Welles’ career, he hadn’t done a…

No totally, but still, just like to sit down and enjoy his movies and just justify for research.

Claire:  Netflix is sort of great for that, my husband and I have watched a lot of Hitchcock movies in bulk, and there’s a lot to be gained from that, from focusing strictly on an artists canon and, I recently presented Robert DeNiro with an award and so watched a lot of his movies, and it’s true that when you see the work in concentration like that, it’s really revealing.

Does it make you have a sense of accomplishment that, as a side effect of this film, you’re going to have a lot of young people out there meeting Orson Welles, who never would have.  Does that kind of make you feel good about it, playing the part that maybe you’ll introduce some people to some great person in the theater and film that they never would have…

Zac:  Yeah, exactly, people keep saying, what about Orson Welles is going to attract the young audience?  What I’m hoping is that the audience that does come, is able to enjoy this experience with such an iconic guy, and hopefully it will spark their interest, and they’ll be able to learn more and go and find out about Welles more in depth, his amazing, very interesting roller coaster career.

So this character is a real person, did you get to meet him?

Zac:  No, he’s based on a real person, but most of…

Right, the guy that he was based on, is there any kind of proof that this person actually existed?

Zac:  Yeah sort of.  Well, Rick was sort of hands on with him in trying to get as much of the story as we could, all of the stuff with lighting off the fire alarms was real, that was a real, other than that, he steered pretty far away from the movie, he kind of kept to his own.

Me_and_Orson_Welles_movie_image_Zac_Efron (3).jpgYou didn’t need to have lunch, or breakfast or coffee or anything, just to talk about your parts.

Claire:  Well, we rehearsed…

Was it a big rehearsal with everybody in the whole thing?

Zac:  No, it was just us.

Claire:  No, we rehearsed mostly with us and Christian and Rick, for a few days and then they rehearsed again, the people within, the play within the movie, they rehearsed.  I wasn’t involved with that.

Zac:  Quadruple space rehearsal.  (laughter)

Can you talk a little about working with Christian, and also, your part isn’t based on anyone real, so is it somebody that you knew, I mean, I could see that person, you go, oh yeah, I recognize her.

Claire:  Yeah.  No, I mean, she’s written so well, and she was really vivid on the page, so I didn’t have to stretch my imagination too much, but yeah, she’s bright and she’s ambitious and I mean, I’m always impressed by that, I always think that’s a good thing, but especially in that time, when women were discouraged to do that and their goals were more confined, and limited and she’s pretty brazen.

But Christian, can you talk a little about working with Christian, cause you both have more experience on the screen than he did and I think he was remarkable.

Claire:  He was great, I mean he adapted pretty brilliantly.

Zac:  Yeah, initially he eluded to the fact that he was bit nervous coming in with very little experience on film and I just remember from the get go, I’ve never been more, I mean from the second I heard him speak and hung out with him and saw his personality, I had never felt more confident in a lead actor, a leading man, he’s very intelligent and a very quick study.  And me and Claire, we sat in the room, you remember the first day of rehearsals, when he read his lines for the first time, as Orson, I was shocked.  I was floored.

Me_and_Orson_Welles_movie_image _Claire_Danes_Zac_Efron.jpgClaire:  Yeah, and he had also played the role on stage, I think that was a good foundation for him, but he was playing him much later in life, and of course he was playing him on stage, so it’s a really different kind of expression.

Zac:  He’s exceed our wildest expectations, like I had any expectations, (laughter) it was absolutely incredible.  And even better, just to be with, to hang out with, he definitely deserves all this.

Why this film?  I feel like you guys have no shortage of scripts, so what about this movie made you guys want to do it, and especially Zac, this is a lot different than I think any film you’ve done so far.

Zac:  Yeah.  You know, we tried to do the musical version, but we couldn’t get the rights, (laughter) no, it was different, it was different, and it was a very unique opportunity for me at the time and it still is, I think it was something that just didn’t seem so cut and dry, it wasn’t an obvious decision, and even I was a bit surprised, and that’s very cool, I hope I can continue to maintain that, and have those options, I mean, that’s why we do this.  To grow, and try new things, and that was exactly what this movie represented for me, so thank god (laughter), it came at the perfect time.

Claire:  The script was wonderful and it’s really not that often that you read a script that is this immediately engaging and coherent and charming, and I loved all of the characters, they were all really sort of detailed and specific and Richard was directing it and I’ve just loved his work for so long.

Zac:  And it seemed ambitious to make a film about Orson, cause Rick says we made a sort of a screwball comedy at times about Welles, which is something that he would have never done himself.  (laughter)  He never would have made a screwball comedy, so we put him into a movie that he never would have, I just thought that was so funny.  Rick is full of those.  (laughs)

Me_and_Orson_Welles_movie_image_Zac_Efron (1).jpgZac, have you seen any early drafts or songs for Hairspray 2?

Zac:  Not at all man, no way, I don’t even think that’s…

Well, they’re working on it, so I was just wondering…

Claire (to Zac):  Are you going to do it if they…

Zac:  You know what, I have not heard anything about it at all so…

What about Johnny Quest, cause that was listed to for you.

Zac:  Once again, I don’t know…

I was going to ask, you guys recently wrapped a film in Vancouver, I think it’s called The Life and Death of…

Claire:  Charlie Sinclair.

Zac:  Death and Life of Charlie Sinclair.

Can you talk a little bit about who you play in the film and what the film is about?

Me_and_Orson_Welles_movie_image _Christian_McKay (2).jpgZac:  I play a character named Charlie who is a kind of a golden boy in his high school, and then his life sort of takes a turn, with the death of his little brother, his little brother dies, and it’s a story about how he copes with that and it’s sort of  a love story from that point on.  It’s kind of hard to explain.  It always comes across like I’m digging graves or really…

Claire:  Well, you just finished filming it too, I never know what a movie is about when I’m just (laughter), you know?  I’m like too close to it, it’s fuzzy, I need to, it’s helpful when I get to see it in it’s final form a year later.

Zac:  Or when you hear it and it makes sense out of someone, you can steal the answer.  (laughs)

What’s Claire doing next?

Claire:  I’m doing a movie for HBO, Temple Grandin.

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