Hey friends, Barbarella here. The charming film Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kind of Left Out premiered at Sundance this year. After moving to a small town, Itsy (Emma Tremblay) befriended Calvin (Jacob Buster), a boy ostracized for claiming his parents were abducted by aliens. Written by Austin Everett and directed by Jake Van Wagoner, the film surprised me with its heart and tenderness, because the title led me to expect something silly. I had an opportunity to talk with two of the talented actors from the film, Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) and Will Forte (The Last Man On Earth). Check it out!
Barbara: What are your thoughts on extraterrestrial life?
Elizabeth: I think, it’s ridiculous to think that we are the only people or the only things here. I think we are tiny, and I feel like that gives me great solace. Our tiny little blue planet, our tiny little lives, all of that brings me such joy, which I know isn’t shared by everybody, but that’s my feeling.
Will: I feel like who am I to make any kind of pronouncement of whether there is or is not alien life out there? It’s huge, the universe, so it would be crazy to think that there wouldn’t be something else out there, but what do I know? I feel like I’d be more surprised to find out that there wasn’t anything out there.
Barbara: How did both of you get involved in this movie?
Elizabeth: I have a dear friend who said, “I have some friends doing a movie; they’re the nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet. You’re going to absolutely love them. It’s a really lovely movie. Will you come and do it?” I was like, “Yeah, of course I will. I mean if you are asking me to do it, I’ll come and do it,” then I read the script, and oh, this is a gift rather than something I’m doing as a favor.
Will: You can say the name. The dear friend is LeBron James. I had known Jake for several years and Maclain [Nelson], who is a producer, through a bunch of things through BYUtv that I had worked on with them, and they’re just fantastic guys, and both have become good friends in life. When Jake said that he was trying to get this movie going, I was excited to be a part of it. If you knew these guys, they’re the kind of guys you just so root for. They’re just wonderful, wonderful people, so I was delighted to be a part of it, so it was an obvious “yes” from the moment I heard about it, and then it just kept getting better and better. I read the script; it’s fantastic, and I get to be in a scene with Elizabeth.
Barbara: In what ways are you similar to and different from your character?
Elizabeth: Oh gosh, that’s a great question. I think I have a lot of similarities with mine. I can’t really say without spoiling, but I think one of the fun things about acting is not exploring where we succeed in life, but where we fail and our weaknesses and the things that we find ugly, right? I do think there are things about this character and her searching and her hopes and her wanting something that I 100% identify with, which is probably what led me to being an actor, so I think that we share some genuinely negative qualities that really only become positive when you’re successful. I understood her pretty well.
Will: The similarities, I would guess, would be just this guy is striving to be a great dad, and for different reasons there’s different obstacles in your way of being the perfect dad, but still just wanting to be there for your kids, despite all obstacles. That’s the main similarity. The main difference: I don’t wear as much makeup as the character. I don’t usually put on a lot of makeup during the day.
Barbara: How would you describe human emotions to an alien?
Will: You know that’s very interesting, because who knows what kind of alien you’re talking to? Maybe for all we know, they know more about human emotions than we do. I’m sure there are different types of aliens, some are far advanced beyond our culture, and some are probably way more crude, so it depends on the alien you’re talking to, but that would be tough. That’s very interesting you ask that because I’ve got an almost two-year old, and we have a Sesame Street book called “We’re Different, We’re the Same.” It’s talking about we’re different. “Our noses are different,” then it’s showing a bunch of different people’s noses, and then it says, “Our noses are the same. We use them to smell.” You’re doing different parts of the face and body, and then it comes to emotions, and it’s like, “Huh, how do I do this?” Everything else, you can point to. I just kind of brush by it and just read the words without pointing to anything. I’ve tried to say, “This is how you feel inside,” but there’s a better way to say it. I’ve just been trying to contend with that in my own life, and I don’t have an answer for it now, so now, I look forward to Elizabeth solving my problem.
Elizabeth: I love that you said that, because it’s so highly complex. You’re right, with kids it depends on who you’re talking to. Like some little kids will be like, “I’m so angry!” And you’re like, “Okay, what color is it?” And they’re like, “It’s boiling, and it’s red!” I’m like, “Okay, red makes sense,” but I guess it’s so highly subjective. I think, that I would probably say that it’s like pressure and try to figure out what their base was. If they’re not carbon-based, are they gas-based? Are they whatever? Then, I would try to find whatever symbol would show you that something is building up and has to come out somehow, so I think I would probably start there, but you’re absolutely right, Will, it would depend on the type of alien, what their life base is. Isn’t that the nerdiest answer? But listen, I think it would be so fun to try.
Barbara: I think it’s really interesting that both of you are acknowledging the different types of aliens, because I think a lot of people, when you ask them questions about aliens, they have an image of just one type and that’s kind of what they go with.
Will: Who knows? They might be right.
Elizabeth: Yeah, maybe they evolved past it all. I think that most science-fiction is based on the fact that people try to intellectualize themselves or grow out of or evolve out of big emotions, and I think that’s just us as human beings trying to fight against that and try to be on a higher plain and all that interesting stuff.
Will: It’s like, you are yourself, so you’re when trying to imagine something else, you start with, “This is a different form of something, but it’s got to be based on what I am.”
Elizabeth: It has to! That’s the problem with fighting with your spouse. It’s like I’m so mad because you behaved this way, because I wouldn’t do that unless I….
Will: You just gotta start with, “There’s no reason to believe that it would look like anything.” An alien life form could look like the branch of a tree. It could just be a gas.
Elizabeth: It could be a smell, a feeling.
Barbara: Would you share one story from set that you feel best represents the experience of making this film?
Will: I have this scene, which I can’t really go into because it’s a spoiler, but I’m wearing something that’s not a lot of temperature protection, and it was a very, very cold night. It was either 4° or -4°, I can’t remember which, but you get to wear a robe over yourself, and then when you’re about to do the scene, you take it off, and immediately it’s like you’re an ice cube. They do what they can, but you just have to wear what you need to wear for the scene to turn out right. I would do the scene, and I would feel so sorry for myself with how cold I was, and I look over and there were a bunch of kids in the scene too. There’s no complaining, and I’m just some cranky old man. It was just that kind of working with a bunch of wonderful people who are real troopers. I guess that story doesn’t reflect what I’m really trying to say, which is that it was just a project that was born out of love by a person who had this idea, surrounded himself with people that he’s worked with a million times before, and you could just feel it. In the short time that I was there, you just immediately felt enveloped by love. The whole time through, you’re just like, “I wish everything [on which I work] had this warm feeling.”
Elizabeth: I felt that way, too. You feel like when you first start acting, you get so excited about all being together, and you’re like “I’m going to do this,” and “I can do this,” and it felt like a bunch of beginning actors got together and made a movie that was all from the heart and all with that beginning kind of joyful energy, but everybody was really good at what they did. Our director was amazing. Our producers were so kind, our lighting designers were incredible, the whole cast and crew were so talented and kind and knowledgeable, but there was that, and forgive the term, kind of beginner’s energy. There was that feeling of joy, and I can’t believe we get to do this without any of the other stuff that can sometimes go with our business.
Will: Yeah, it was like beginner’s energy but advanced talent. It was like somehow all these people had worked a bunch, but still just brought this delight to it, as if they’re doing it for the first time.
Elizabeth: Yes! Delight is right. Will, that was perfectly said. Thank you.
Will: You said it perfectly.
Elizabeth: No, you did.
I'll let you decide who said it perfectly, but I will say both were perfectly delightful interviewees, and I’m genuinely hoping more people get an opportunity to see this sweet and poignant movie with the long title, Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kind of Left Out.