People love Michael Cera for the same reasons they don’t take him very seriously. He’s sweet, endearing, impossibly bony and ideally suited for the role of love-struck best friend who never gets the girl. Until now.
This weekend, Cera takes a sharp 180 with “Youth in Revolt,” the eagerly anticipated big-screen adaptation of a cult-favorite book series. Sure, he spends a healthy dose of screen time in the persona of Nick Twisp — awkward, hopelessly romantic teenage outcast — but it’s his work as Twisp’s swaggering, cigarette-smoking rebel alter ego Francois Dillinger that will raise eyebrows.
Recently, we caught up with the 21-year-old “Juno” star and his director, Miguel Arteta, to discuss three key points in the split personalities of Twisp/Dillinger. They were quick to point out that behind Cera’s sweet grin is the edgy persona of a rebel.
Finding Pleasure in Oneself
In “Revolt,” Twisp is a sexually repressed teen whose sole joys are the kind that come late at night, with help from a magazine. “He said, ’Louder!,’ because at first I was completely quiet,” Cera remembered of dubbing in his self-pleasuring “oohs” and “aahs” over the phone while Arteta directed him. “All you could hear was the pages turning.” “It was definitely a lot more awkward for me,” the director laughed. ” … I think I asked you for ’more truth’ at one point.”
Rebellious Francois Dillinger is so intent on establishing his bad-boy cred that he wrecks cars, sets off explosions and becomes a fugitive from the law. When Cera wants to question authority in real life, he tinkles on the piano keys. “Last night, we almost got kicked out of the hotel for playing piano,” Cera remembered of a recent incident that had him performing holiday-appropriate tunes from Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for the amusement of Arteta and some friends on a piano in the lounge. “It felt like we were getting into some serious trouble. I mean, we were freaking people out. They’d just say, ’Please. I really have to ask you to stop.’ ” His director added: “We had two guards watching over Michael playing the piano. … Michael was right for [’Revolt’] because he is naughty. You needed someone with an inner naughtiness, waiting to get out.”
In real life, Michael Cera is typically seen conservatively dressed; in actuality, however, he yearns to let it all hang out. “[Costume designer] Nancy Steiner and [co-star/ makeup artist] Roz Music I have to thank for that,” Cera said of Dillinger’s tight-fitting French ensemble, which aimed to leave little to the imagination. “[The first time I tried them on,] I said, ’The pants look great, Nancy, but we have to put a white lining underneath them.’ I think they were see-through at first, and they had a lining in them after that. I don’t think [the audience] is ready for that. That might have been a good choice, though.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Youth in Revolt.”
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