The Verge: Keir Gilchrist
As gay teen Marshall on United States of Tara, Keir Gilchrist often seems to be too preternaturally sensitive for the real world, and his lead role in the Toronto-premiering It's Kind of a Funny Story (adapted from the Ned Vizzini novel by indie directors Ryan Boden and Anna Fleck) takes that personality type to its logical conclusion: His character, Craig, checks himself into a mental hospital after life seems like too much to bear. Gilchrist talked to Movieline about booking the role, improvising with costar Zach Galifianakis, and why he's not a big fan of preparation.
So I heard you're in Toronto right now, where you did the bulk of your growing up. How does it feel to have a film at the festival there?
I was...how do I say this? I don't think I was anything short of ecstatic when I found out It's Kind of a Funny Story would be premiering in Toronto. As you said, it's my hometown and it's where all my friends are, so I'm pretty excited to see it for the first time here in Toronto.
Let's talk about the directors, Anna and Ryan. They have such varied credits between Half Nelson, Sugar, and now this. Do you see a throughline?
I think what fascinates me about Ryan and Anna is just that, that none of those films are related at all. They make completely different films every time, and I don't think Sugar and Half Nelson are similar, or that this one is like either of those. At the same time, all three of them are definitely "Ryan and Anna" movies. They put so much effort into their films -- they're writing and rewriting and rehearsing and editing while we shoot all the time.
What are they like as a duo?
It's interesting doing a film with Ryan and Anna because you have a very interesting relationship with them. It's two different people that you see every day and take direction from and work with in every scene. In real life, they're both rather quiet when you first meet them, but they balance each other out. They work really efficiently, actually, and I think people are surprised that they're so in sync -- I've never seen them crack under pressure. Also, I think having a male/female directing team works really well, because it's like having both ends of the spectrum working on the movie. You've got both perspectives on every character.
I do notice that all three of their films have very naturalistic performances and feature quite a bit of improv. Was there plenty of improv during this film?
There was a considerable deal of improv on the set. Obviously, when you have Zach there, it's pretty unavoidable, because he loves improv. They gave me a big say in a lot of the scenes, actually. I always had the option to rework lines or rework scenes and the script was constantly changing. They're very open to whatever will make the film better. They don't think their words are too important to lose.
Can it be daunting to have that much control?
I suppose at first it was a bit daunting, but we spent two weeks rehearsing and getting into character. I really went into it with no plan and no real ideas, and we worked through it so that by the time we ended up on set, it was actually really easy to tap into it.
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