Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I’m dubbing today and tomorrow Quint’s Weekend of Interviews. I will be catching up on some Sundance and SXSW interviews and just laying it on AICN like the interviews are napalm and AICN is the man in the black pajamas.
So, first up is a SXSW interview I did with young Anton Yelchin for The Beaver, the morning after its premiere screening. You may have already read my quite good interview with Jodie Foster about this particular film, but if you haven’t what’s keeping you?
I remember liking Yelchin in the Stephen King adaptation Hearts In Atlantis, but it wasn’t until a little show called Huff premiered that I really began taking notice of this kid.
From Alpha Dog to Charlie Bartlett and even Terminator: Salvation he continues to impress. His interpretation of Kyle Reese was spot on and if McG had centered the movie on Kyle’s story instead of John Connor’s it would have been a far more successful movie, I think.
In The Beaver, Yelchin plays Mel Gibson’s rebellious son, a teenager with a particular talent for finding everybody else’s voice except his own. He uses this talent to make cash writing essays for his fellow students, all the while obsessively trying to distance himself from his father.
Hope you guys enjoy the chat. We cover The Beaver topics, like working with Jodie Foster, Jennifer Lawrence and Mel Gibson, and we also touch upon some Fright Night stuff, too.
Quint: Did you watch The Beaver last night with the audience?
Anton Yelchin: Yeah I did. I hadn’t seen it before.
Quint: Oh really? What are your impressions?
Anton Yelchin: I really enjoyed it. I loved seeing it color corrected and on film. I think it was 35mm, so…
Quint: Yeah, not digital.
Anton Yelchin: I really enjoyed seeing it and I thought Mel [Gibson]’s performance was just so good. I just thought it was so, so good.
Quint: Yeah, me too. As crucial as your character’s relationship with Mel’s character is you share relatively few scenes, but that’s kind of what is needed to make the relationship work.
Anton Yelchin: Sure. I mean that’s the point, they both avoid each other. Even though Walter is avoiding everything, Porter is really making a conscious effort to avoid the one man that he really actually needs to face you know?
Quint: There’s a quicksand like aspect to your character, Porter, because the more he struggles against the similarities to his father, the more similar to his father he becomes.
Anton Yelchin: Exactly.
Quint: Is that something that intrigued you about the script when you first read it?
Anton Yelchin: That’s what I think is so tragic about this guy. He locks himself away in this prison of self-destruction. They are both clearly self-destructive and Porter inflicts physical and emotional pain upon himself to try and isolate himself from everybody, like an island or whatever, in hopes that it will save him, but what it does is it just makes him more and more depressed, then he meets Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) and she opens him up a bit and that’s where it just crumbles. It makes things worse and worse for him. I just found it really tragic, like this guy that’s just so full of sadness and fear and misery. He’s really just a miserable guy and yeah, I found it very intriguing.
Quint: But also in an even sadder way, his one great talent is being anybody else and he’s being anybody else because he can’t be himself.
Anton Yelchin: Yeah and that’s the thing. I think he is so afraid of who he really is and it’s funny, because as the audience you get to see who he is. You get to see where he can be, like how he is with Norah. You get to see that. His fear, in his own mind is that he’s always like his father and so it’s like incredible self-loathing for that potential similarity to Walter and it’s so tragic, because they both… The talents that they have, like Walter is obviously an extremely talented man, but they use those talents and ingenuity to destroy themselves, to lock themselves away, to hurt themselves, to isolate themselves like you said.
Quint: I just talked to Jodie and she was saying that you were on the top of her list from very early on, that she read some people and she auditioned some people, but that she met with you and she knew immediately that she wanted you in the project. Can you talk a little bit about the process of you coming on board?
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, I read the script. I had a meeting with Jodie where we sat and talked and I think that week or maybe the next week I read with her. It was pretty simple and Jodie is a really straightforward person. She doesn’t BS anybody. She’s very honest and straightforward and I respect her incredibly for it amongst other things you know, obviously.
Quint: And she was in TAXI DRIVER.
Anton Yelchin: Yes, she’s in my favorite movie and she’s just amazing. Long story short, she is amazing. So it was a very pretty simple process.
Quint: Would the script have mattered at all to you if Jodie wanted you to be in the movie, like if you didn’t get the script or anything like that? Would you have done it just because it was her?
Anton Yelchin: It’s tough. It’s like… It’s a really tough call. I mean, chances are maybe, but it’s hard because I love what I do, so I want to play characters that are interesting. There have been times when there were great actors attached to something and I just don’t find the character, like I don’t know if I can really do anything with it. Why do something with someone that is great if you can’t do something interesting with them?
Quint: Yeah, if you can’t play.
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, like you would rather be able to have this great dialog with somebody about something really interesting and sort of tap that resource for as much as you can really as opposed to…
Quint: (Laughs) Just doing it to hang out with them.
Anton Yelchin: Exactly.
Quint: You and Mel are both really great in the movie and one of the core aspects of your character is you have to kind of mirror his character. I’m sure a lot of that was in the script, but did you work at all with Mel to try to get some similarities down? Some maybe more subtle things like gestures?
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, and I can’t remember how much of this is in the movie. I know there are several things… We sat down and were like “Okay, let’s both do this” and Jodie wanted us to list the things that would could do and then I would email her and be like “We could do this. We could do that.” So, Mel and I sat down and talked and we were like “We could do this thing” and I would come watch him, even if I wasn’t shooting, just to see little things he was doing and then I was just about watching him too and the little things he does. A lot is in his eyes and the way his eyes work and the way he has got this really fascinating intensity about him, so trying to capture that and mirror that I don’t know. So, some of it was just watching and the other part was actually sitting down.
Quint: I got to visit the set and it was really great for me, of course I grew up with ROAD WARRIOR and all of that stuff, so it was really interesting to me to watch how he worked. It surprised me how vulnerable he was and how malleable he was for Jodie. I imagined he would be like “Nope, this is what I’m going to do, because this is how I do it,” but he was just so very giving as an actor. It was really surprising to me.
Anton Yelchin: Sure. I mean he’s a really fascinating man and he’s really wonderful on set and so committed to that vulnerability that you are talking about. He’s just so completely immersed in these tragic feelings.
Quint: Before we go, we also have to talk about Jennifer Lawrence, because she is great in the movie and…
Anton Yelchin: And in everything else. (Laughs) She’s wonderful.
Quint: Yeah, but she needs to stop doing movies with suggestive titles, though. We need to get her away from WINTER’S BONE and THE BEAVER…
Anton Yelchin: (laughs) That’s funny. Yeah, you’re right.
Quint: She needs to do something that’s just like “The Tree” or something you know? But one of the things that I really like about her casting is that there’s no denying she’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but the trick with her and what makes her really fascinating is that you can buy her smarts. There’s a complexity to her that kind of makes her stand apart and you see it on full display in WINTER’S BONE, where some of her beauty is even taken away. She’s made as plain as she can look, but she’s still more beautiful than most people. In The Beaver she has a role that I think might even be more difficult to pull off. She can be a cheerleader and a valedictorian and be believable as either. Can you talk a little bit about working with her and how you shaped the chemistry?
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, Jenn is an extremely strong person, just really smart and really strong. I’ve been lucky enough to work with her twice now. We did this and then we did LIKE CRAZY and she’s great. She is so extremely talented and wonderful to watch and she’s great, exactly as you said, she’s extremely smart and everything comes through. She’s a very strong human being and her characters all have this kind of strength, even Sam in LIKE CRAZY is kind of a sad character where she gets broken up with and still loves this person and keeps coming back.
She still has a great amount of dignity to her. We sat down and had rehearsals with Jodie and Jenn and I hung out a bunch. Our rooms were like on the same floor, so we would just hang out and talk about work and stuff and get dinner. We sat down in rehearsals and we would just talk about the characters and where they were each coming from and what she did to him, what he does to her or how she sort of pulls him out and then when it crumbles it really sinks him even lower and then she pulls him up again. We just had a lot of talks and that’s sort of where the relationship came from. We just got a good understanding of what’s going on with these guys.
Quint: It’s kind of a give and take with the characters though. That’s kind of why I like the relationship is that for as much as she pulls you out, it’s just as equally important for you to make her realize what’s special about her too.
Anton Yelchin: Sure and I think Porter subconsciously does to her what he wants to have happen to him and he’s doing that with everybody. He’s giving everybody a voice except for himself, but yeah I mean in a kind of insensitive, but ultimately positively constructive, even though it’s in an insensitive way, gets her to see things that she has blocked out and as you said she returns the favor.
Quint: So what’s next for you? What do you have on your plate? Are you off to do anything? You have LIKE CRAZY you mentioned. Do you know when that one comes out?
Anton Yelchin: That comes out in the Fall I think and then I’m starting this movie, ODD THOMAS, in May and then LIKE CRAZY comes out in the fall and FRIGHT NIGHT comes out, I think, in August.
Quint: That’s cool. I’m curious about that one. Of course, I’m a kid of the 80’s, so I love the original. Can you talk a little bit about the tone? I don’t know if you are a fan of the original…
Anton Yelchin: I love the original. It’s awesome.
Quint: That’s good to know. Was that kind of the vibe on set? “Let’s try to do something in that vein?” I don’t think anybody wants a shot for shot remake, but…
Anton Yelchin: This one is definitely not as campy. There are definitely self-conscious things about it, but the other one is literally like (Rainer Werner) Fassbinder without that much anger. The humor isn’t as mean, you know? So, yeah. This was definitely less campy and more of a… I think it’s really, hopefully, going to be scary. Sitting in 2010 watching FRIGHT NIGHT is not scary, but I can imagine like in 1984 or 1985 (it was). The effects are awesome. They are gruesome and…
Quint: And as campy as the movie is, it’s still goes for the horror. It’s kind of like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, which as funny as the comedy is in that, they weren’t fucking around when they designed that werewolf.
Anton Yelchin: Seriously.
Quint: And the same thing with the vampires in Fright Night.
Anton Yelchin: Cronenberg does that a lot where it’s like really self-conscious and really creepy, but also kind of funny and weird. It’s different, but you know what I mean. Like the VIDEODROME stuff is like so weird and uncomfortable and then so is THE FLY.
I think this one is definitely, I hope, going to be pretty violent and scary and funny at times. The cast is so great and I think Colin [Farrell] is an awesome vampire.
Quint: That was pretty inspired casting.
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, he’s awesome. He really is really, really awesome and he just possesses that quality of being an intense sexual predator, which the original was all about and he really inhabited that original… The thing that Chris Sarandon brought to it. In this one, I think it’s just jacked up more and like I said a little less campy, but…
Quint: Do you think they are going to go for an R rating?
Anton Yelchin: I don’t know.
Quint: Probably not.
Anton Yelchin: We definitely… Chris [Mintz-Plasse] and I definitely…
Quint: Being scary doesn’t depend on the rating, just the gore.
Anton Yelchin: I think it’s just about the amount of “fucks” you have in a movie. I think we were allowed like two or three or something. I know Chris and I took every opportunity we could.
Quint: (Laughs) Awesome man, well thanks so much for your time; I really appreciate it.
Anton Yelchin: Yeah, of course.
I gotta say, I kind of love this guy for comparing the original Fright Night to Fassbinder’s work. I vote for immediate approval of his entry into the geek legion. Any objections?
Quint’s Weekend of Interviews continues as I work into the night! Coming up: Joe Cornish for Attack the Block, Jason Eisener and Rutger Hauer for Hobo With A Shotgun, some Win Win interviews and some other nice surprises! Stay tuned!