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Michael Angarano Talks ‘Ceremony,’ Working With Kevin Smith & Steven Soderbergh

Michael Angarano Talks 'Ceremony,' Working With Kevin Smith & Steven Soderbergh

23-year-old actor Michael Angarano is more than just a face in the crowd of thirty-odd young studs that crops up whenever a new superhero or tween franchise is announced. After turning heads with minor roles in “Almost Famous” and “Seabiscuit,” the Brooklyn-born thesp eventually graduated to lead roles in homegrown superhero flick “Sky High” and eccentric Jared Hess movie “Gentleman Broncos.” However, nothing prepared anyone for his transformative comedic turn in “Ceremony,” which saw Angarano playing Sam, a manic and insecure children’s author who has seen a few too many Wes Anderson movies and read maybe a bit too much J.D. Salinger.

Max Winkler’s debut follows this character as he infiltrates the wedding of former a former crush (Uma Thurman), an older woman he’s been pining for, whom he also believes to be his soul mate. Trying his damnedest to stop the wedding, he eventually comes to terms with the fact that he’s hiding behind a cool facade, and in his self-serving pursuits he’s making everyone around him miserable. The movie also stars Jake Johnson, Lee Pace, and Reece Thompson.

Earlier this week The Playlist was lucky enough to chat with the actor about the film and a few other projects he’s been a part of, and here are six things we learned from that discussion. “Ceremony” is currently in limited theatrical release or you can watch it now On Demand.

1. Sam constructs his persona much like Keyser Söze does in “The Usual Suspects.”
We pick up with Sam right as he’s reading one of his latest books to an empty auditorium, and after that he immediately convinces best friend Marshall (Thompson) to go on a mini-road trip with him (his true intention of wedding crashing remains a secret). We never see where he lives, but Angarano thinks it’s basically a messy shrine dedicated to all of his influences. “He has a cluttered one bedroom apartment littered with Truffaut movies and copies of some weird obscure french books that he can’t even really read,” he explained. “I think if you were to look at his place, it’ll be like that scene in ‘Usual Suspects‘ where you see the name he was using on the bottom of the mug. All of these references come to life, and he’s so obviously living them out not being himself.”

2. The original script for “Sky High” was terrible.
Say what you will, but Disney’s foray into original material involving super heroes was actually much better than it should’ve been. Unlike the rest of’em, this one had no bones about being a kids movie yet still had universal enjoyment to it, plus quite a few laugh-out-loud witticisms. ”I credit the director, Mike Mitchell, for the film being as ironic a movie as it is, because when I first read it it was not funny at all. It didn’t have any humility and it took itself so seriously, and I did not want to do it. I was really scared, I was 15 years old and genuinely nervous that this was a movie that I was not going to want to be a part of.” Luckily, things turned around when the director brought on comedy vets Kevin McDonald, Bruce Campbell, and Dave Foley and apparently got rewrites from a ‘Simpsons‘ writer. “Mike Mitchell got a writer from “The Simpsons,” and it became really something else. Everybody was having fun on the set.”

3. His first idea of Sam, his character from “Ceremony,” was less hip and more average Joe.
Even if Sam is playing a part and sporting a really terrible mustache, you’ve got to give it to the guy — he’s got style. Maybe the suit’s bad, but he wears it well. That said, the actor’s take on his character was a lot different than what the director had in mind. “You know, I originally saw him as much poorer, like a working class unsuccessful author. Once we were in wardrobe sessions I was like… Really? This is the suit I’m going to wear?” “The Glass Menagerie” it was not. Though their approach differed, they were able to come to a mutual understanding and shape the character together. “However, in the end we created something that we both didn’t originally intend, which worked out for the best.”

4. He is not a fan of superhero movies.
Yes, his name consistently pops up every time a studio is looking to fill the boots of a new, young extraordinary adventurer, but Michael Angarano is not down with the current Hollywood fad. “To be honest, I kind of get uncomfortable every time I go audition for something because I’m really not familiar with it at all. I didn’t grow up reading comics and I’m not the biggest fan of superhero movies,” he admitted, but went on to add “…though I do think they could be very interesting, like I’m sure ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ with Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield is going to be a very interesting character piece in some way. I think if done right it can be entertainment at the highest level, so I’d love to be part of that.”

5. A future behind the camera is entirely possible.
A lone quote drifting on the Internet mentions that the actor would like, at some point, to delve into film school, specifically USC. He elaborated “I don’t know how soon or how far into the future that could be, but it’s definitely something I’m interested in. If I stopped acting, I can’t imagine not having some hand in the process, it’s kind of something that I live for, in a way.” The actor hasn’t had many opportunities to explore other positions on the crew, but did mention that Winkler was very open to showing him the process. “I went into the editing room with Max, and for some actors that’s a nightmare, but I wanted to see it the whole way. I enjoy being involved and knowing all the information that’s possible, even things an actor wouldn’t be concerned with. Watching someone like Max direct a movie is incredibly inspiring. I think when I get confident in my ability, I’d totally like to step behind the camera, but I’m not sure when or what it would be.” With a favorite directors list including Terrence Malick, Steven Soderbergh and Lars Von Trier, what kind of movie could we expect from him? “Something like Terrence Malick doing “Antichrist” with a splash of “Oceans Twelve,” probably,” he joked. Then again… maybe there’s something there after all…

6. Believe it or not, Kevin Smith and Steven Soderbergh have a similar work ethic.
Don’t call us haters — Smith himself will be first to admit that he’s not the most adept filmmaker in the game (just watch any of his Q&A/Monologue DVDs). So color us surprised to hear him compared to the work-horse retiree responsible for “Che” and “Traffic.” “He’s more of an editor than a director, which is very similar to Steven Soderbergh in that sense,” Angarano said having worked with Smith on his recent “Red State” horror film and Soderbergh in the upcoming action thriller “Haywire.” “They kind of let the actors act and they don’t get in their way with direction. They don’t talk to you about your performance, they edit it as they want it.” Angarano found this trust both frightening and invigorating. “Most of the takes you see in the movie are the first or second takes, which is nerve-wracking as an actor but it’s also extremely encouraging, like going in there and having to trust yourself. After a first or second take he’d ask you if you had another one, and if you didn’t you’d just move on.”

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