Michael Cera Loved Playing a Self-Indulgent Actor

We talked with Michael Cera about his two new dramedies and his unwavering commitment to music.

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Jul 30 2017, 5:31pm

When you imagine Michael Cera, you often think of an awkward yet relatable teen thanks to classics like Juno, Superbad, Arrested Development, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. You may also picture him with a guitar, bass, or even ukulele in his hand. A decade later, only one of those images has changed.

At 29, Cera has naturally come into his own, currently starring in self-aware, downplayed dramedies Lemon (out Friday) and Person To Person (out August 18). In Lemon, Cera plays a pretentious actor with a Napoleon Dynamite haircut who, alongside Brett Gelman's frustrating character Isaac, mocks other members of his acting class and indulgently humblebrags about his accomplishments. Meanwhile, in Person To Person, Cera stars as an investigative reporter for a sensationalist paper, who doubles as a well-meaning musician— who, yes, is quirky but ultimately sad. Both roles differ greatly from the parts that made his career a decade ago when he became the quintessential gawky teenager of the 2000s, but are still unquestionably Michael Cera-approved roles.

We caught up with Michael Cera over the phone to talk about his more understated festival-approved films, Twin Peaks, and how he's still attracted to bringing music to the big screen.

VICE: Your character in Lemon personifies that Hollywood stereotype of the pompous self-indulgent actor. What was the inspiration behind him?
Michael Cera: I think it was something really personal for [director and writer] Janicza Bravo and Brett [Gelman], the indulgence of this world that they wanted to lampoon. I just love how disgustingly indulgent these two guys are when they get together and how abusive they both become.

Was it fun doing such a ridiculously dramatic version of The Seagull?
I've never done an acting class like in the scene portrayed in the movie, but I've done the thing where you can sit in and watch an acting class. It's really like that—I mean the ones I've seen anyway—where it's very analytical and just tearing stuff apart. It's sort of masturbatory on the part of the teachers sometimes. So I think that was a very specific jab at that world.

In Person to Person, your character is obsessed with metal. Throughout the years, many of your films have revolved around music. What attracts you to these roles?
I thought about that for a second when I took this part—that it's a little repetitive for me—but I liked the part so much and the movie so much that I kind of thought, whatever. I just wanted to do it anyway.

Are you working on any other projects revolving around music now?
There's this little documentary called Dina that's going to come out that I did the music for, which I'm really proud of.

Do you sometimes prefer creating music to acting?
They both feel like hobbies to me more than work. They feel like things to do for enjoyment a lot of the time. Some jobs feel more like work than others, but music is just a hobby. A lot of times when you're working on a film project with friends it makes it very spiritually rewarding—more than a job. I wouldn't say one is easier than the other. I think it is all pretty easy when you are doing anything that's like a form of expression. When that's your work, that's pretty nice. I appreciate it.

What was it like working with David Lynch on your now iconic role, Wally Brando, on Twin Peaks?
It was great. I mean I didn't have enough time with him really, but it was like a dream to get to be around him for a little bit.

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