Stage and Screen Actor Lee Pace Talks Shop

Lee Pace had me at “Hello.” Or, rather, the film equivalent, which was 2006’s The Fall. Spectacularly strange and visually arresting, that movie made an instant devotee out of me. Though the tall, dark, and handsome actor had been in the biz for a few years prior to this weird and wonderful discovery, I’ve followed the 33-year-old’s trajectory ever since—and re-watched The Fall more than a few times.

Fast forward to 2012, which has been especially packed for Pace, featuring roles in Lincoln, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Indeed, it’s safe to say that he’s had a good year, especially considering all three titles hit theaters (for all intents and purposes) simultaneously. This triple whammy of sorts simply must bode well on the success scale. 

From indie flicks like A Single Man and Ceremony, to blockbuster franchises, this guy’s got that special something that attracts casting directors and keeps crowds captivated. Beyond the big screen, New Yorkers can currently catch Pace as Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini in Terrence McNally’s Golden Age, a play directed by Walter Bobbie with performances through January 13 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Age audiences are granted a backstage pass to listen in and look on, taking in behind-the-scenes goings-on during opening night of Bellini’s last opera, I Puritani, at the ThéâtreItalien in Paris. Part comedy, part drama, the two-and-a-half-hour-long performance paints a living picture of what it might have been like to be there. 

The charming and approachable Pace was sweet enough to take time before taking the stage recently to talk about a few things. From his privileged yet hectic career to memorable moments, from his stance on New York to his “heartthrob” status, Pace provides a refreshingly sincere look at his life. 

So, you’ve had a super busy year…
It has been a busy year. I’m really feeling it now that the year’s coming to an end. These movies came out this past month and now we[’re] doing eight shows a week [for Golden Age]. It’s been a lot of work, so I’ll to be looking forward to a quiet new year. But, it’s been great. It’s good to be busy. There’s nothing I like more than being busy. Good characters to play and good people to work with. There’s been a lot of that this year, so I couldn’t be more grateful.

Is there any reprieve during the holiday?
Theater schedules through the holidays are relentless. I guess I figured we’d still be doing eight shows a week, but it’s tough. There’s so many shows. But, it’s good. It’s a privilege to be able to do the show for people. That people want to come is awesome.  

Given your recent roster, are there any standout moments of 2012?
Shooting scenes with Steven Spielberg in the Congress (sic) [for Lincoln], that was pretty incredible. Big scenes, lots of extras, a couple cameras moving. You really feel like, Wow, I’ll remember this. It kinda doesn’t get better than this. Then, I went to New Zealand to work on The Hobbit for a couple months. To be on those sets, which [were] equally incredible, and to collaborate on and play a character that is the product of so many people’s imaginations—Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and the costume designers—[was] very, very special. 

Any funny stories that you recall?
Funny things happened, but I always forget them. I am such an idiot. 

[Laughs] Okay, any instances on stage where you feel compelled to burst out laughing?
We really like each other a lot. All of the guys [in Golden Age] shar[e] a dressing room. We have so much fun during the half hour, talking. Ethan Phillips is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and he keeps us going all through the half hour, so there are times I’ll look at him on stage and remember a joke he told and I have a hard time not laughing. 

I can imagine. What’s it like portraying a real life character versus a fictional one?
Both Fernando Wood [of Lincoln] and [Bellini of] Golden Age are based on real men. You want to have a certain respect for who they were. You want to find a connection to the real person. Understand them from an actor’s point of view, which is different from a historian’s point of view and different from a writer’s point of view. 

For sure.
In Golden Age, it’s a character. It isn’t a biopic of Bellini. This is a work of art. Terrence McNally is using the character to tell a story. I see it as my job to connect the dots between Terrence and me and Bellini, who wrote this beautiful music. I tried to figure out what it was about him, who he was, the details. There’s so many things that go into making a character.

I bet. Your Bellini also displays distinct mannerisms, tending to twitch and putter a bunch…
[Laughs] Twitch and putter. I’ll remember that tonight when I’m twitching and puttering. [Laughs]

It’s not intended as an insult!
No, he is very twitchy and putter-y. Where I started with my research was listening to the music and really trying to understand that music and believe that that music was coming out of me, that I’d written it. Before I started, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to create something like that, to write music as complicated as this music. Just trying to get myself into that headspace, being backstage listening to it, that’s where I really started working out the physicality and how I moved. It kind of grew from that, so that the nervous energy finds its way into keeping the beat with the opera. He’s not a neurotic man. He’s concerned about how this artistic effort is going to be received by a discerning audience of people that he respects. He wants to do something that will be meaningful to them. It’s all about the music. He takes this opera that he has created extremely seriously. 

As you do your own work…
On the good days! No, I do. When you work with people like Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson, you see how they take it seriously. It’s meaningful. They’re so talented. On set with Steven Spielberg, everyone felt how much that story meant to him, the story of the 16th president. Everyone on that set felt it and [was] inspired by it. And that’s how we all found ourselves on his page, because he’s inspiring. 

Wish I could have been there! So, theater versus film? Is there one you prefer?
They’re very, very different. I can’t say I prefer either one because I love both for different reasons. In film, you have very little time to get it right. And it’s not even about getting it right, because it’s important to let go of that way of thinking about it. You get what you get and move onto the next setup, onto the next scene. On stage, George C. Wolfe, who directed me in [the play] The Normal Heart, called it the actors’ revenge, because you have to step onstage every night and tell the story yourself. You just have to do it yourself. 

In a movie, you turn over your performance to the director and the editors to edit and to layer in sound and everything else that makes the performance emotional or funny or whatever. In theater, you have to land the jokes yourself. You have to understand what’s funny about it. You have to kind of feel the audience. What they’re about on any given night. With a movie, you don’t have that. You can’t do that. In The Hobbit, we can’t feel what the house is going to be like before we do it. 

Of course not. So, onto something still loftier, what’s been the greatest challenge of your career?
If I could name a challenge, it would be laughable compared to the challenges so many other people face. It’s the “funnest” job in the world. I guess the biggest challenge I could say these days is just taking it seriously. When you’re in your thirties, the parts get good for men. You get really interesting characters. That’s what I’ve noticed. Complicated men dealing with complicated things. Seeing that there’s so [much] more to investigate about the way people are, and communicat[ing] those things to an audience, that’s the challenge. You want [the] stories to be good and you want them to be truthful and that’s a challenge. 

Seeing as this is an NYC-centric outlet, where exactly are you based?
I’ve been living here while I do the play. But, I live outside the city now. I live up in the country. It was a new move. I’d lived [in New York City] for a long time, since I was 17. 

How do you like living off-island?
I like it a lot. I love New York City. I’ve spent my adult life in New York City. I have a really complicated relationship with New York City, as every New Yorker does. You can’t go through almost 15 years [here] and not have a complicated relationship with it. Part of that relationship is, I’m going to take a little break and live in the country. [Laughs]

I hear that. Lastly, any thoughts on being considered by some to be heartthrob, a sex symbol?
Oh god no. What does that mean? I have no comment about that. I don’t know what to say about that. It’s news to me. 

To Be Young & Gifted: Michael Angarano on the Making of ‘Ceremony’

Ceremony hits our sweet spot: young, hip director makes low-budget movie about misguided love, starring young, hip actors and Uma Thurman. We’ve been on this picture like a model on a scale, publishing interviews with its director, Max Winkler, and with one of its stars, Reece Thompson. Here, in the final installment of our informal, fanboy Ceremony series, another of the film’s stars, Michael Angarano, talks about Jesse Eisenberg, catharsis, and making movies in your 20s.

How did you get involved with the film? I met with Max, read the script, and thought it was a very unconventional type of romantic comedy. It was very well written and very witty, and reminded me of a Billy Wilder movie or something. Originally I was going to play Marshall, and when Jesse Eisenberg had to drop out I spoke with Max and we thought I was kind of in the right place to play Sam.

It would have been such a different movie had Jesse been in it. Yeah, Jesse’s amazing, I think he’s one of the best actors of our generation and it’s just so interesting to think about what it could have turned out to be.

Could you relate to your character? Sam was 23 years old and Max wrote it when he was 23 and I was 21. It’s that time in your life when you feel so impressionable by everything around you—the latest book you read, or the latest movie you see, basically defines your wardrobe or how you talk the next day. Sam has this utterly romanticized idea of love and life, and imagines himself to be a Cary Grant or a character out of some old movie, and he’s just not that guy. His references kind of build him up to be this person he’s not, especially with the woman he loves.

My favorite thing was watching Sam go from pompous to a really deconstructed mess. It’s so obvious he’s not that guy. He’s really just overly sensitive, and very insecure and deeply flawed, and that’s his realization, and it takes a smack in the face by the woman he loves to realize that this is not reality. What I do relate to is Sam’s idea of love, really. I think this is the question that the movie poses: Is Sam’s love for Zoe the right kind of love? It’s kind of unbridled, unmitigated, unconditional puppy love that’s completely untainted by real life. Is that real love?

What was it like working with Max? This whole experience has been so personal and cathartic for both of us, it was like a therapy session. He wrote it in a stage of heartbreak, and I acted in it in a stage of heartbreak. It’s just two young guys coming together and creating art, and channeling their emotions in art.

Do you ever want to make your own films? I’ve always said that that’s a goal of mine. My idols in life are Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Marx Brothers, people that really kind of create themselves and then manifest it on the big screen. Watching Max, such a young guy write and direct something, it was incredibly inspiring.

This is the first time a lot of audiences are seeing you as an adult. Is that something that was important to you? I hadn’t worked for about a year and a half before this movie, and I felt like a completely different person, like a young adult and that’s what it is. So I was dealing with all these issues and it felt natural. I’m excited for people to see it because I do feel that it’s different from things that I’ve done.

Max Winkler on ‘Ceremony’

After finishing film school at the University of Southern California, 27-year old Max Winkler went forth, wrote a script, and directed his first film, the personal, awkward, and surprisingly funny Ceremony. In it, a lovesick dude named Sam (Michael Arangaro) who’s infatuated with an older woman (Uma Thurman) has the dim idea of crashing her wedding weekend on Long Island in the hopes of winning back her affections. We sat down with Mr. Winkler to see just how much of the film is autobiographical, how he landed Uma Thurman for the part, and what the future holds for the bright young thing.

How much of this is autobiographical? I’d say 65%.

So there was an older woman? Maybe. Never one getting married, but I did probably love an older woman in my younger years.

What kind of emotional state were you in when you wrote it? It wasn’t a hard point in my life, but I was at a very romantic stage in my life, and felt like I could probably use that before I would become jaded and stop believing in love.

How did Uma get involved? She read the script without me even knowing, and wanted to do the movie. I didn’t even think that was an option, I didn’t even know that was allowed. We had actually cast an actress for that part, and I was in LA on my birthday the day before I was supposed to fly to New York and start pre-production. I found out at my birthday dinner that the actress had dropped out, but I still flew to New York. I called my mom crying and she said, “Get your shit together and be a man.” And then I was meandering the streets of New York because my landlord fucked us over, and I was wandering around New York without funding, without an actress, on my birthday. And I get a call that Uma had read the script that day and I went straight to her house with all my bags.

And what about Michael. Did you know him before? No, just through this. He was originally cast as Michael, and Jesse Eisenberg was going to play Sam. Jesse was great, and he’s a buddy of ours, but he had a bit of a whirlwind.

He was a little busy, no? Yeah, he was in that tiny Facebook movie. So things happened with scheduling, and Michael ended up reading for the part, and he had known it so well because he’d seen Jesse do it, and he ended up being so fucking good.

Did you put a lot of yourself into the character of Sam? Yeah, probably. I hate to admit it because he’s such an asshole in the beginning of the movie. You understand with the mustache and all that, this guy’s totally full of shit, and there’s obviously something going on beneath the surface. I would always say Sam wasn’t based on me, but everyone on set would call me Sam and him Max, so I guess he was probably doing Max Winkler on speed. How did you choose your Long Island location? Just because it was so cool and weird, these like palaces on the Long Island Sound are so odd. You don’t understand where the wealth came from, and why nothing has been updated. Growing up in LA, I’ve always been really romanced by that kind of wealth because there’s none of that here. The old money in LA is from the 90s.

The characters brought a humility to that setting. With that weird wealth, there’s a sense of decay, and there’s a lot that seems to go on behind the surface. No one in the movie is really comfortable with who they are, with the exception of Lee Pace, who’s the only person who kind of owns it. Everyone in the movie is trying to figure out how they’re going to grow up, because everyone’s in a state where they need to.

I read that you’re a Hal Ashby fan. I just watched The Last Detail the other night. That’s one of my favorite films. It’s the greatest. The next movie I’m doing is heavily influenced by that actually. I could talk about that movie for the next three hours, like a really heavy male road trip movie. Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon was a big influence for me too, just the humor and style. Capturing that middle ground between comedy and sadness is always something that Hal Ashby did perfectly, though.

As your first feature that’s establishing you as a director, are you happy with the first image that everyone’s going to have of you? I don’t know, I’m probably never going to be happy with anything I make. No matter what, it was a really honest portrayal of what I was feeling in my life and the movie’s about that time in your life when you look back and you cringe. I think it really captures that, and Michael really captures that, so I’m proud that it’s honest. At the end of the day this movie is like a time capsule for my life of this period, what it was like to be young and romantic and delusional.

How did you try and convey that sort of emotion onto the screen? Just cast really good fucking actors. Michael was going through a break up at the time, and dealing with that, so he was really emotionally raw the whole time. We were just rolling on scenes where Sam would just sit by the window and he’d be sitting there and he’d just start crying, and I’d start crying just watching him. It was just so inspiring. He really likes to challenge himself, and at his core he’s just the sweetest most beautiful man.

April Movie Reviews: Hanna, Meek’s Cutoff, Ceremony

Hanna In Hanna, director Joe Wright abandons familiar terrain (the genteel countryside of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement) to explore an unforgiving world of Siberian tundra, CIA conspiracies, skinhead assassins, and a very pissed-off Cate Blanchett. Our guide through this deadly obstacle course is the title character, a teenage girl (Saoirse Ronan) and pint-size soldier on the run from the people who genetically engineered her. If it all sounds very Jason Bourne, that’s because it is.

There’s hand-to-hand combat so brutal you can feel bones crunch, and government types so shady you wonder how they sleep. Eric Bana, a badass of Hulkian proportions, is along for the ride, too. Wright takes a generic action thriller template and adds whimsical flourishes, like a run-in with a family of bohos, a fairy-tale ending (not what you’re thinking), and an acid-trip score courtesy of the Chemical Brothers. —Ben Barna

Meek’s Cutoff Even fans of the wildly popular Oregon Trail computer game will be unhinged by the bleak reality of this period piece courtesy of Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy). It’s 1845 and three families well into their journey across the barren mountain landscape of northeastern Oregon must accept that they are lost. Despite protests from guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), the waning group considers the aid of a captive Native American. As the seeds of distrust for this outsider grow, so too does the adamancy of an outspoken Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams), who would rather forego the guidance of the slick-talking shepherd for the stranger she’s been taught to fear. Reichardt paints an agonizingly realistic picture of their treacherous and snail-paced journey, where time seems to exist in a vacuum, and each day is much like the last, only darker. —Nadeska Alexis

The Double Hour In Giuseppe Capotondi’s The Double Hour, nothing is ever quite what it seems. The award-winning film follows a cleaning woman, Sonia (played by Kseniya Rappoport), who meets a widowed security guard, Guido (played by Filippo Timi), on a speed date. Just as the two begin their courtship, they fall victim to a burglary that ends with Guido being murdered. From there the film spins out as Sonia mourns the death of a lover she hardly knew. The disjointed editing and ambient soundtrack echo Sonia’s increasingly off-kilter sense of the world as mysteries deepen and unspool before our eyes. Behind each revelation lies another twist, but Capotondi’s genius is in managing the complexity without seeming cheap. —Hillary Weston

Ceremony Max Winkler’s directorial debut throws the archetypal coming-of-age story into reverse. Rather than setting children’s book author Sam (Michael Angarano) on a path to self-actualization, he charts the unraveling of a boy who’s lost touch with reality after falling in love with an older woman, Zoe, played by Uma Thurman. Under false pretenses, Sam drags his childhood best friend to Long Island to crash the wedding of the woman he loves. Angarano, best known for his roles in Almost Famous and Snow Angels, shows that behind his youthful looks lies an actor of range and depth, while the film’s peripheral characters bring a mix of humility and comedy to Ceremony’s trite, upper-class milieu. The film awakens the confused kid in all of us, but it also strives for greater meaning at the expense of its emotional punch. —HW

Hesher Spencer Susser’s Hesher teeters on the razor’s edge between dark comedy and melodrama. Rainn Wilson plays pill-popping Paul Forney, whose world comes crashing down after the death of his wife and the mother of their son, T.J., played by newcomer Devin Brochu. Hesher, brought to life by the surprisingly feral Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a grungy, troublesome loner who wanders into T.J. and his father’s benighted world, and manages, unsurprisingly, to turn everything on its head. Co-producer Natalie Portman plays a mother figure with low self-esteem, and Piper Laurie rounds out this cast of misfits as T.J.’s possibly senile grandmother. Brochu is a revelation—his rage is at times hard to watch—but Gordon-Levitt steals every scene with his complicated, caveman-like brooding and raunchily philosophical anecdotes. —Caroline Seghers

Reece Thompson on ‘Ceremony’ & Ryan Gosling Worship

22-year-old Canadian actor Reece Thompson has been acting for over a decade, first on TV and then in independent films like Max Winkler’s Ceremony, out this Friday. In that film, Thompson joins a cast of talented stars as Marshall, a straight-laced and emotionally traumatized young man who accompanies his best friend (Michael Arangano) on what he believes is a weekend of bonding, but what’s really his friend’s desperate attempt to win back his dream woman (Uma Thurman) on the eve of her wedding. We caught up with the 22-year-old actor to discuss his role as Marshall, his costars, and why he loves Ryan Gosling.

What attracted you to the character of Marshall? Just how wounded and pathetic he is. He’s kind of a combination of a lot of people I’ve known throughout my life who’ve had issues. I usually draw stuff from my real life and people I know, and base characters on friends and enemies. I think everybody feels vulnerable at times. I definitely relate to him, because everybody feels that way sometimes, they feel inadequate and don’t feel like going out. But he’s been feeling that way for a year and a half, so I’ve never been that depressed before in my life. I’m a pretty upbeat guy but I definitely identify with that feeling sometimes.

It’s funny to think Michael Arangano almost played the role of Marshall instead. Yeah, I would be very curious to see how he would. By that time I think Michael was so into playing the character of Sam, that he completely distanced himself from the character of Marshall, and because our chemistry was so interesting, it was just fun to be the characters we were playing and not worry about what the other person was doing.

I interviewed Max a few weeks ago, and he told me that when you were cast, he made you and Michael go on friend dates, and that you two would have sleepovers and read each other The Great Gatsby. He really wanted us to hang out, and as soon as I found out I got cast, I was heading back to Vancouver, and so I had one night to hang out with Michael. I had been out with friends, and he was at some house party, so I went and met him there, and we ended up going back to his place with a bunch of his friends, an odd hangout at first. But once we were in New York, we both immediately got along and enjoyed each other’s company. We were doing things together everyday. I hadn’t read Gatsby before, and my character was reading it in the movie, so Max was like, “You have to read this,” so as I was reading it, Michael would also read passages from it to me everyday.

I liked Marshall’s transition from this sort of wounded puppy to someone who can really defend himself. Was that difficult to play? He’s so wanting to believe his friend. He has parts where he knows what’s going on, but he refuses to believe it, so when he finally bursts and screams at his friend, it was this cool moment for the character. But I also enjoyed when he was holding back and forcing himself not to believe that this situation is happening around him, and he’s basically being betrayed by his friend.

Are there any actors’ careers that you really admire? I love Ryan Gosling, I think he’s amazing. I love his work and I’ve been following his career since he was on Breaker High, which was a Canadian television series, so I knew about him back then. And when he was doing Half Nelson, I was like, holy shit, that’s the kid from YTV! But yeah, I have to say I think it’s a travesty he wasn’t nominated for Blue Valentine, after I saw that movie I was like, he deserves two Academy Award nominations.

A Sit Down With the Director and Cast of ‘Ceremony’

Before Jesse Eisenberg was cast in that movie about Facebook coming out on Friday, he was in rehearsals for a small, sweet indie movie called Ceremony. Once Eisenberg jumped ship (can you blame him?), he was replaced by BlackBook New Regimer Michael Angarano, initially cast as Eisenberg’s best friend. It was up to the young actor to portray the unbearable heartache of Sam, a sort of hipster doofus set on winning back the heart – and ruining the wedding of – his much older ex-girlfriend, Zoe, played by Uma Thurman. The directorial debut of 27-year-old USC grad Max Winkler (who previously worked on the Michael Cera-starring web series Clark and Michael), Ceremony counts Jason Reitman among its executive producers, a good sign when it comes to hunting for distributors. We sat down with the ambitious young director, Angarano, and Jake Johnson (whose scene-stealing performance as Zoe’s boozy brother is a highlight) shortly after the film’s well-received Toronto International Film Festival premiere to discuss the physical rigours of directing, heartbreak, and Uma Thurman-inspired erections.

Was the premiere a nerve-wracking experience? Max Winkler: I wasn’t nervous about the movie – I’m very confident about the movie. Mike Anganaro: The first half-hour, my heart was just beating really fast because it’s a funny movie, and if people don’t laugh at every funny thing, that makes me nervous.

And did that happen at all? Max: I wasn’t in the theater. I was heavily sedated.

Why? Max: It’s hard for me to watch. I’ve seen the movie so many times, I feel like if I watch it anymore I won’t have the sort of love for it that I have. I’m really proud of the movie and I’m really, really proud of the actors’ performances in it. That’s the part that really kills me. There are certain parts I love and certain parts I wish I could do differently, how anyone feels in any sort of artist project. So it’s hard for me. I would come in and peak and they saved me a seat in the back for the very end.

Did you ask the cast how certain jokes played afterwards? Max: They all came to me in the back room and my face was white. There’s a very famous saying that filmmakers, especially Jewish ones, don’t believe any of the good press, they only want to read the bad press, which I think is very accurate. I took Michael aside and he said that it was very good, and I took Jake aside in front of everyone and I was like, “Jake, come outside with me,” so I took Jake outside and he told me it was good, which I still don’t believe.

Jake’s performance in particular slayed the audience. Max: I think the thing that really excites me the most about the movie is: people know Jake, they know Mike, but they’re really doing something different from what they’ve done before. They have sort of wheelhouses that they’re very comfortable in, and I think anyone who sees it will fall in love with these guys. Lee Pace, Reece Thompson, we have all these sort of amazing young talents that are anchored by Uma, who’s really fantastic. That part really excites me. Jake: One of the reasons I was anxious before, was that we all really like working with Max. Max was my good friend before this but as actors he allowed all of us to make choices, and when you know the director’s with you and kind of steering the ship, it’s a really nice thing. That doesn’t always happen, you’re not always allowed to just try things and go for it.

Max, do you think people will doubt you because of your young age? Max: I’m sure people always will. Max: Here’s the reality: there’s probably a number of first time filmmakers or directors who do go off the rails, not to say that I’m better than them, but I’m so neurotic that I just surrounded myself with really professional, incredible people from my crew to my actors. Jake: I didn’t know what I was doing. Mike: The first day was crazy for all of us, we kind of got in over our heads. Jake: I think things got a lot more comfortable by the second day. Max: Yeah, the second day was fine, the first was one of the worst days of my life. Jake: I freaked out because I had six days off and I went back to L.A. and I talked to Max and I felt like it was where one of my buddies was going to have to be like, “We have to let you go, it’s not personal, you were so good…”

Were you filled with doubt that day when you got home? Max: I could honestly not believe how much my feet hurt. I was dumbfounded by how much my body hurt. I was in training for this like a fucking boxing match, and I couldn’t believe how I felt. I had to wake up the next day at 3:30 in the morning and it felt disgusting and shocking to me.

As your career progresses do you think you’ll start doing bigger budget films? Max: I’d love to have as big of a budget as I can. That being said, I wouldn’t be able to direct a movie that I didn’t feel an incredible, personal connection to. Jake: I want that quoted and in 15 years when– Max: When I’m directing Marmaduke 3.

How did you guys nail the heartbreak thing so well? Max: I was heartbroken when I wrote this and I was just shattered, and I felt like I was the smartest person in the world and the only person to ever feel this kind of pain that no one else could feel. I thought my Dad was crazy for telling me it would pass and my friends were crazy, and I was just obliterated man.

Was it by an older woman? Max: Yeah.

Was she getting married? Max: She wasn’t getting married but I fucking–it was easy to write. I think we all kind of know that heartbreak, in one way or another. We’re all very similar, the three of us, in how we kind of view life and love.

Mike, did you pull from past experiences, because in some of your scenes, it was like, Yeah this guy has felt that way before. Mike: The filming of the movie came at such an important time in my life. I hadn’t worked in like a year and half, which I think was really attributed to how special and novel the movie and the experience felt for all of us. I was making a bunch of genuine, new friends and it was overall a very cathartic experience for all of us. Overall, the whole thing felt like it had this special tint to it, like catching lightning in a bottle, aside from that first day that was horrific. We were all talking before the movie, the three of us especially, how this movie could be really good and it would be a really fun experience, and after the first day we were like Is this going to be the worst thing any of us have ever been a part of? Literally, that was almost the feeling. Max: I didn’t think it was that fucking bad! I was in New York prepping the movie, and I knew these guys were going to be in the movie whether anybody liked it or not, so I had these guys start hanging out, which was really awkward. Jake: He called Mike and he goes,”I have another actor,” and I had to audition for this movie a lot of times so finally Max was like “Well, Jake is in the movie, let’s have him audition with Michael.” So we were basically forced to have a play date.

What did you guys do? Jake: Hung out at my place. Max: You got your hair wrapped didn’t you? Jake: Yeah, we did each other’s hair.

How important was Jason Reitman’s involvement in all this? Max: Incredibly. He’s somebody who makes the movies that he wants to make, on his terms, and incredibly well. He wants something, he gets it. I think one of the most important things is to just know what you want. My first couple movies were with his company, one that I was going to direct but didn’t end up doing, and one that I wrote for him to direct. He’s incredibly decisive and he knows how to get what he wants.

Was he key to getting funding as well? Max: Oh my god, completely. A lot of people probably wouldn’t have taken me seriously with his name not there, and his name is so important to so many people. You just don’t make your first three movies that successful. He’s incredible. He was helpful in the editing and the writing of the script and he gave great notes. He was truly vital.

After your work with Clark and Michael and now Ceremony, it seems that you have an attraction to characters who think they’re the shit but really aren’t. Max: I loved doing Clark and Michael, but that was all them. I don’t take any credit for that. I was just happy to be there. I think there’s something really pleasing for an audience to watch a character have a very different perception of themselves than the rest of the world does.

That’s what translated right off the bat in Ceremony. Max: That makes me so happy because that’s my biggest worry, that some people truly don’t get that. They’re like, Wow, who’s that asshole wearing the cool suits? The suits are ugly for a reason. He’s not Clark Gable, he’s not Cary Grant. He’s a little boy who’s scared and wants his mother and has no idea who he is.

Michael was originally supposed to play Marshall correct? Max: Yes. Sam was originally going to be played by Jesse Eisenberg, but he left for very obvious reasons and we all gave him our blessing and we support him. Mike: Watching Jesse play Sam in rehearsal, it definitely influenced how I played Sam in a way. I didn’t know what it was going to be on day one.

Would Jesse have been able to grow a mustache? Max: Michael’s mustache was fake. Mike: That’s why people say I look like I’m 25 in the movie because honestly, for the first twenty minutes, I can’t smile. Max: I think those characters are my favorite. There’s a real sadness to those characters but they’re also very funny. I think Jeff Daniels in Squid and the Whale is the best example of that character. I think that’s one of the best characters of all time. He was so funny and you laugh at him, but there’s a real sort of sadness to him. I just love those kind of people.

Like Rushmore’s Max Fisher. Max: I feel like there’s this sort of taboo thing, where people kind of turned their back on Wes and denounced him as the creator of bad hipster culture. I think anyone that says that is foolish. He’s one of the best working directors around, and he’s incredible and his movies are amazing. I grew up watching Bottle Rocket. My dad took me to see it at Century City and I think that was the first sort of artistic aesthetic that I was influenced by, and so whether I knew it or not, the intent was not to do it. It was really based on my relationship with an older woman.

Speaking of which, Uma Thurman is amazing in this. Max: So fucking good. The scene where they finally kiss was the first sort of love scene I’d ever done so I was so squeamish and nervous, I felt like a little kid. Mike: I was really nervous but when we were rehearsing the scene she really took the bull by the balls at that point, she literally like, choreographed that whole scene by herself. She’d be like, Alright, well you’re going to– Max: You were erect by this point. Mike: Totally.