About halfway through our day, we got a chance to talk to Michael Cera, the co-star of Harold Ramis’ Year One. Cera isn’t the most comfortable interview at the best of times but when everyone is dressed in ancient biblical garb, one has to kind of get past that, too. Bear in mind, that this interview is from a year ago so some of the things discussed has happened or moved forward.
ComingSoon.net: Can you tell us about the scene you were shooting?
Michael Cera: Yeah, being raped as a slave. Earlier this morning we were standing in mud. It was freezing. It was insanely cold, but it’s fun. It’s a good time. It’s been okay. Today hasn’t been the worst, not the most difficult day. I had to be painted gold… I ruined the end of the movie. It’s insane, my whole body is painted gold. It was really uncomfortable and miserable and washing it off is just awful.
CS: Hard for your skin to breathe?
Cera: Yeah, for a few days after that my skin was really just in pain, especially under my armpits because I guess they put this gold powder on which is kind of this metal base. So, it was really sharp. Wiping it off was like sandpaper. It was just crazy. And then like your armpits all day are sort of like this (holds up arms), and they were on fire for like a week after. I couldn’t lift my arm higher than this or it was excruciating.
CS: Why are you painted in gold?
Cera: Kyle Glass paints me gold in the movie. He plays a eunuch in the movie who paints me gold to be a gold statue.
CS: I heard you use the word “compulsory” to the slave driver in the scene…
Cera: Yeah, think it pre-dates that word? There have been a lot of discussions about words that pre-date like “totally” or accidentally saying “dodged a bullet there.”
CS: And bullets aren’t even invented.
Cera: And Jack said like, “Sue me!” (Laughs.)
CS: Usually do discussions move forward with you saying it anyway?
Cera: No, no, Carol comes over and says “You can’t say that.” Like, I said “textbook” one time. “Oh, it was a textbook suicide.” And textbooks aren’t invented yet. You can’t say “textbook.”
CS: Is that creating limitations on how you improvise?
Cera: Kind of. You just don’t think about those things. I think it’s gotten less and less, but it really wouldn’t have occurred to me unless someone had said, “It doesn’t make sense for you not to say that.”
CS: So are you the guy who always gets the bad end of it in the movie?
Cera: Yeah. Get whipped. I guess so. It’s not too far off.
CS: What kind of research did you do for this? Did you crack open the bible?
Cera: No, no, I was just more afraid of it not being funny. Harold, there are a lot of people thinking about that stuff.
CS: Do you like dressing up with a wig and crazy hair?
Cera: Yeah, it’s fun. This isn’t my main wig. In the second half of the movie they cut my hair, but I normally have a long wig and it was custom made and looks just like my hairline. It’s really insane. It’s weird when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and forget you’re wearing it.
CS: What’s been your favorite scene so far?
Cera: I dunno. Any of the scenes where Jack has a big speech are always kind of fun. I can just stand there and watch him go. He’s really great with those great, epic speeches. There are a lot of those in the movie that he makes.
CS: Is there a lot of physical humor in the movie?
Cera: Kind of. Would you call body paint physical humor? There’s not too much falling down. There is a cougar that attacks us. Jack falls down a few times. I fall down a cliff. So yeah, it’s all funny I guess.
CS: We heard there’s a cougar and a torture scene?
Cera: Torture scene? Which one is that? Oh, yeah. I’m upside down in the scene. Right. Yeah, that was physical.
CS: How many hours were you upside down for?
Cera: Well, you know, it would only be for a minute at a time. They would take me down in-between each take, but all day I would be upside down, and then at the end I pee, so I had apple juice running down my face. Yeah, it kept getting in my nose, and then in my eyes. Like, the second they said, “What do you want the fake pee to be?” And I said apple juice it stings your eyes. I should have gone with just water. No, they just said, “What do you want the fake pee to be? We’ll use apple juice.” I guess normally they don’t have it go in people’s eyes.
CS: What’s it been like hanging out in Shreveport?
Cera: It’s been fun. You know, we all complained at first, like “Oh, man. We’re gonna be bored and not know what to do here,” but I’m fine now. I’ve got nothing to complain about anymore. There are good restaurants. Everyone is really nice.
CS: Do you get recognized a lot?
Cera: Once in a while. Someone will come up in the hotel. A lot of the people who work at the hotel, they are really cool about it.
CS: Do you have any stalkers here yet?
Cera: No, I’ve never had a stalker. That would be terrifying.
CS: What was your first reaction when you saw all this built out here?
Cera: It was insane. It’s amazing. We shot the first few weeks in a different location while this was still being built and then this is mind blowing. I have never worked on anything so elaborate or big or massive.
CS: Can you compare Jack’s style of comedy to say Jonah Hill’s? How are they similar or different?
Cera: Um, I dunno. I mean, different approaches I guess. I think Jack really studies the script and really knows it. If a new scene comes up every day, I think he really just knows it. I think he’s spent time with the script whereas Jonah plans on kind of working on his feet, his toes. I think that’s kind of a major difference.
Cera: They are both funny. Nice, fun guys to hang out with.
CS: What’s it like to reunite with your “Arrested Development” co-star David Cross?
Cera: It’s nice. You are comfortable with them. Everyone on this movie is great. Everyone seems pretty comfortable with each other.
CS: Do you guys have a good shorthand?
Cera: I guess. It’s always different movie to movie or whatever the thing is. But yeah, it’s no different than meeting someone, getting to know them and I feel just as comfortable around Jack or you know, anyone else in the movie.
CS: What’s been your favorite scene to do with David Cross?
Cera: There is a scene were David, he plays Cain and he kills Abel and that was really funny.
CS: What was your role in that scene?
Cera: I just kind of stand there while me and Jack are kind of in the middle of it while it happens. It’s a funny scene.
CS: Which of the guys in this movie would you consider to be your comedy heroes growing up?
Cera: Well, “Ghostbusters” is kind of the reason I wanted to be an actor. When I was four I really liked “Ghostbusters” and wanted to act from a young age because of that. It’s great working with David Cross who also loves “Ghostbusters.” It was really amazing getting to listen to Harold all day.
CS: Do you harass him about stories about the movie?
Cera: He’s really great about telling stories and he just volunteers stuff and is just great. He told me one today because we were in this freezing mud and he told me this scene that he had to do for “Ghostbusters II.” He told me it was the worst night of his life. They were freezing, it was really cold in New York and they had to have slime on them and it was like, freezing. Miserably cold. So, that was really cool.
CS: You have to give us the dirt on Chris (Mintz-Plasse). How has he changed since the “Superbad” thing has taken off?
Cera: I think his life has changed. He probably gets stuff yelled at him. In a good way, not in a malicious way, I think. It’s got to be strange. Like his face is on shirts and stuff. I remember when we were doing the press tour around the country before the movie even came out there were people showing up with McLovin’ shirts. Which was crazy, the movie was going to be released in two months. Even in two months people have McLovin’ shirts.
CS: Has he shown up saying, “I’m McLovin’ and I want my own trailer”?
Cera: No, he’s a pretty cool guy.
CS: There are rumors about a new “Arrested Development” movie, what would happen to George Michael’s character?
Cera: I have no idea.
CS: Do you know what you’d like to happen to him?
Cera: No, I dunno. I’m sure they would think of something. Is this true?
CS: No one has talked to you about this yet?
Cera: I mean, like I know Mitch called me, but it wasn’t about that. We were just talking and he told me Jason was pushing Mitch saying, “Mitch is going to be writing the script…”
CS: Every time you have a chance to ask Jason Bateman he says the creative people are all behind it now.
Cera: He probably knows a lot more than I do about it. He’s probably more reliable than I am about it.
CS: Would you even want to do it? Does it even fit into your schedule?
Cera: Exactly. Yeah, I would love to do it; it would be fun.
CS: What else is coming up? What’s next after this?
Cera: I’m not sure. I think I’m supposed to do this movie hopefully if it all comes together called “Youth in Revolt” in April or May. I think I will hopefully.
CS: Is it based on one of your favorite books?
Cera: Yeah, it’s like a kids whose parents are divorced. He falls in love with the girl; he’s like 14. He’s trying to be with her and she lives in a different city. It’s a very epic. The book is really funny.
CS: I read the screenplay and there is a pretty risqué scene between Nick and his best friend…
Cera: I’m not sure if any of that will be in there. There is a lot of stuff you read in a book and then you think of it in a movie it’s like, “Ugh. That might be really awkward in a theater.” And like, basically, the last third of the movie he’s disguised as a woman going to school and in the book you’re reading it and it’s fine, but then you think about it and you’re like, “If I’m just wearing a dress and a wig, people are totally gonna know it’s me. Like people who know me would know it’s me. Unless I had “Mrs. Doubtfire” make up and prosthetics and sh*t, are they going to believe this?” But the book is amazing.
CS: Will you ever do drama or do you just want to focus on comedy?
Cera: I don’t know. (laughs) I mean, that’s what’s kind of come along, and I enjoy doing it. It’s fun.
CS: A lot of people will be stoked that you’re in another Apatow Production. What’s similar between “Superbad” and this one?
Cera: I guess the freedom. I did a movie just in November called “Nick and Nora,” which was not an independent film, but Judd wasn’t involved, and it didn’t have a huge producer or someone of his stature behind it. And you feel a lot more pressure, I thought, about little detail things. Whereas here, because Judd’s involved, everyone can just back off, and Harold [Ramis] can do anything he wants.
CS: So, on his movies he sort of acts like a protector and people can do what they want?
Cera: Yeah. I guess so, yeah.
CS: They had you pushing “Superbad” for a really long time and you were working hard on that. How long did it take you to decompress?
Cera: Well that was a lot of fun, doing that. You know, I mean was with friends, going all over the world. I didn’t need to, like, relax after that. (laughs) I mean it’s like a vacation; everything is free, there’s free food in the hotel, and you do like a few hours of work a day and then hang out, and… it’s not that bad! (laughs)
CS: You generally seem like this very friendly, happy guy. It seems like it would be pretty cool to be you. Is that an accurate assessment?
Cera: I mean, compared to… yeah, we’re all pretty lucky, compared to, you know. It could be a lot worse.