Michael Cera: The Movieline Interview
Michael Cera's funny, sweet new comedy Youth in Revolt represents a curious turn for the 21-year-old actor, whose critics most often accuse him of playing variations of himself in all his geeky, ironic glory. Revolt seems to agree in part, casting Cera as Nick Twisp, a lovesick (and more than mildly horny) teen in pursuit of his elusive dream girl Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). Yet director Miguel Arteta's film also implodes expectations by featuring Cera as Nick's alter ego Francois Dillinger, a thin-mustached, chain-smoking creature of unspeakable wickedness and carnality who urges Nick to upend his life in a plot to win Sheeni's heart.
The two go at it credibly and often hilariously, heightening the dramatic stakes -- and adding, according to Cera, an unintentional twist -- of the story found in C.D. Payne's beloved source novel. The actor spoke to Movieline about nailing his adaptation, acting against himself, Arrested Development and why trouble does (or doesn't) love him.
How familiar were you with these books. Were you part of their cult following coming in?
I wasn't aware of a cult. At least I'm not part of any cult. But I read the books and loved them. I haven't read the sequel, though. Revolting Youth? There are a few more, but I read this one several times.
How strong a sense of responsibility did you feel to the material and its other followers?
Well, you want to make people who love the book happy, but it's hard. Any time you make an adaptation, you have to think of it as a movie and do what the movie needs. This is such a huge book with so many story lines, and we couldn't have included all of them. So I think the book is its own thing that's kind of untouchable. I think maybe someday somebody should do, like, a miniseries where they just do the whole book and every detail in it. I would love that if it were done. But for the purposes of the film, there were a lot of story lines and characters who didn't make it in. And that's definitely going to be unfortunate for some readers. But I think it works as a movie, which I think is important.
How much material did you write for the film?
Miguel and I just rewrote the script. We did that for a few months up until shooting and even through shooting, just refining it, just making it work. The script wasn't written by me, it wasn't my own. I was just acting in it.
But how did that help you get closer to this character?
The character in the book -- the way it was written -- was what I loved and wanted to play. We weren't changing it for me. If anything, we were trying to incorporate more of the book into the script -- get more lines of dialogue, more of the tone. Miguel and I put a few characters in who weren't in the original script, and took some out who were in the original script. We just kind of looked in the book and restructured the film.
To what degree do you specifically relate to Nick and/or Francois?
When I was reading the book, it was about being really crazy about a girl and feeling a lack of control. Especially being far away -- not knowing what's going on, trying to figure out what's happening and dealing with this agony. That was something I really loved in the writing; it was something that really rang true in the writing. And the way he wrote the female character in the book is just one of the best capturings of a girl that age that I've ever read. It's great. You should read it.
What specifically about Sheeni was so striking?
The way she spoke. The way she had him wrapped around her finger. She knew exactly how to manipulate him.
I spoke with Portia Doubleday earlier about finding that character herself. How did you help her -- in her first feature role -- accomplish that?
That was more Miguel, but her audition was great. She was a real person. That's such an important thing to get on-screen. She didn't feel like an actress in any way. Doing scenes together we'd kind of find it, but she worked really hard and thought a lot about it. Then working with Miguel, she nailed it.
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