Chris Colfer has already proven himself singing, dancing and acting his way into the hearts of fans worldwide in Fox's hit TV show "Glee." At the Tribeca Film Festival early last year, Colfer proved himself to be a quadruple threat after world premiering his snappy and ambitious screenwriting debut, "Struck By Lightning," to a standing ovation. The film's since been picked up by Tribeca Films and opens in select theaters this Friday (it's currently available on VOD).
Colfer, who's 21, started working on the screenplay when he was 16, before "Glee" came along. He began by developing the many characters that make up his coming-of-age tale and in his junior year molded it into a 10-minute piece for a speech and debate event, Original Poetry and Prose, where he played every character. Fast forward five years later and Colfer's expanded script finds its way to the screen with "Saved" director Brian Dannelly at the helm, and a cast that includes Allison Janney, Christina Hendricks and Dermot Mulroney.
[Editor's Note: This interview originally ran during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.]
In "Struck By Lightning," Colfer plays Carson, a senior who will do anything to get into his dream school, Northwestern University, and away from his depressed and alcoholic mother (Janney), who keeps holding him back from realizing his dreams.
Indiewire caught up with Colfer the day following its world premiere.
I feel like I’m interviewing one of the Beatles.
I’ve never experienced the “Glee” mania before.
Do you ever get used to it?
No. I hope I never get used to it.
I want to know about last night in terms of the nerves you must have been feeling.
I don’t think I’ve ever physically been that nervous before in my entire life. Aside from maybe auditioning for “Glee.” The studio network tests, probably. But never before. I felt like I was getting married. I felt like it was my wedding. I saw relatives in the audience, there’s some strangers. Everyone was waiting for me. And yeah, it was crazy.
How did it go over?
Pretty well, I think. We’ve gotten a really good reception to it. And the fans who were there, who I pretty much made the movie for, seemed to really enjoy it. So that’s all that matters.
About the film’s genesis, I know it started back when you were in high school, but I want to know exactly what inspired the initial 10-minute piece.
Basically, day-to-day frustrations. It was a screenplay in my head before it was the speech and debate. And I would just come home and I’d vent into the script about my frustrations with my classmates and my teachers and my hometown and high school. And then I found out what OPP was and I was like, "Oh I gotta use this for that," and I did. And I did horrible in it. I don’t think I even made it to the finals round with it. And then I was on “Glee” and found myself on a platform where I could make the movie and I jumped on it.
How did you whittle it down to 10 minutes? Because the script is so expansive. There’s so many characters.
I whittled it down to four characters. I was Carson, the mom, the grandmother and the principal. So those were the only four characters that made it.
I was still writing the screenplay when I transferred it to there, so it wasn’t like a finished project or anything. But I really just made it a story that focused on Carson’s journey and kind of how he found happiness right before he died. Did the same thing in the movie where it’s flashbacks to people speaking at his funeral and how they really treated him in life.
Carson’s such an interesting character. I’m so used to seeing you on “Glee” so it was kind of jarring to see you play this… you know, he’s likeable but he has qualities that are kind of hard to…
There’s no reason to like him, but you like him for some reason, yeah.
Is he you?
Yeah, we look almost identical (laughs). He really is who I wish I was in high school. And there’s tons of traits that are me. I guess the drive, for one. The need and wanting to get out and do something. But I was never brave enough to blackmail anybody in high school. Much.
Well, the whole blackmailing came from me from when I was in high school and I did a show called “Shirley Todd” which was a spoof of “Sweeney Todd." None of my friends wanted to be in it so I kind of blackmailed them into being in it. There was a vegetarian, a die-hard vegetarian, and I found a hamburger receipt in her car. I was like, "You’re going to be in my show."