With all the star power being trotted out in this summer’s would-be blockbuster comedies, how likely was it that the best would be Superbad? Its biggest star is Michael Cera, a teenager who appeared as part of the ensemble in the consistently low-rated Arrested Development. Cera’s co-star is Jonah Hill — probably best known as the sarcastic fat guy with curly hair who wasn’t Seth Rogen in Knocked Up. And if few had heard of Cera or Hill, no one had heard of newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who was plucked out of high school to round out the film’s lead troika. Yet, for those who caught that brief glimpse of Cera’s charm, and for anyone who’s been a fan of Judd (Knocked Up, Freaks and Geeks, The 40 Year Old Virgin) Apatow, who produced Superbad, it wasn’t a surprise at all. Here’s how this trio of brand new stars explain it:
VIDEO: Chis Braiotta interviews the stars of Superbad
What do you think about the way adults seem obsessed with high-school movies?
JH I don’t know, I mean, everyone went through high school and everyone’s got their own high-school experience to talk about. But the people who made Superbad, Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg], wrote it when they were in high school, so it wasn’t a recounting of high school at the time. It was more just wanting to write a movie about kids like them. The problem with most teen movies is that they’re not movies about teenagers. I was in high school, what, five years ago? And to even watch this movie is really awesome and nostalgic, because it reminds me of what it was like to be there.
What do you feel Superbad captures that other teen movies don’t?
MC Yeah, it’s more about the friendship than this sort of come-and-go thing you might see elsewhere. I’m trying to think of other high-school movies, but I know that the main focus when we were making this, at least from our point of view, was to care about the friendship between the two guys, and the fact that they’re separating.
Do you think that comes out of the script or the direction or the chemistry between you guys?
CM-P All three, really.
MC Everything that drives the movie comes from this fear of being apart from your best friend.
JH You can’t get away with being vulgar if the emotional story doesn’t work. Otherwise people won’t buy it and they won’t like sitting through it. They’ll listen to you be dirty and funny if they care about your characters. Everyone’s intention was to make this feel like a real friendship, which I think we accomplished.
Jonah, you’re 23. Was there anything you had to change about yourself in order to come across as 18?
JH I had to alter the way I carried myself, yeah. That was something Judd and Greg [Mottola, director] and I had talked about — trying to lose some of the confidence I’ve probably gained since being in high school. I moved back in with my parents.
Really? Was that a method thing?
JH Yeah, just to see if it helped at all. I lived in the room I lived in during high school and lost all the privacy like I lost in high school. The one thing I learned that really started to help me was that when you’re in high school, you go home and you feel kind of trapped in your house, and then you go to school and you get to be with your friends. I’d come home and I’d get a lot of “How was work? What’d you do today?” And then going to work, I was like, “Oh, I get to hang out with my friends.” And going to work was like going to class, just shooting the scenes and everything. And then in between scenes, like in between classes, you’re hanging out, just BSing.
Most comedies are about idiots and assholes. But, Michael, you’re never stupid or mean, just awkward. Was that intentional?
MC It’s just the parts that I got, I guess. The part I played on Arrested Development was written that way, and I was fortunate enough to get the part. And Superbad, this character was very passive — less so than Arrested Development — I guess it was more of a normal high-school kid who didn’t have any specific traits of awkwardness or anything, but it did have a fair amount of that, how everyone does in high school. Most of the kids I grew up with, anyway.
So you were never thinking of how you were going to build your comic voice?
MC No, I didn’t. I don’t remember thinking about that.
JH I don’t think anyone does that. I think you do what you find funny, and what the character calls for. I do agree with the point that comedy for the most part now is about the dumbest guy in the room, when the comedies that I love — like Woody Allen movies and Albert Brooks and James L. Brooks movies — are about the smartest person. I always loved that kind of comedy, where you’re seeing the person who’s funny because they’re so smart.