We’re used to seeing Michael Cera employing his comic touch alongside Ellen Page, Jonah Hill or the “Arrested Development” crew. In hits such as “Superbad” and “Juno,” the 25-year-old actor has carved out a niche as the sly everyman with a strong deadpan sensibility.
Cera has so resolutely mastered that screen persona, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine him going in a different direction. After all, performers face few challenges greater than reinventing themselves.
But Friday brings the theatrical and VOD release of “Crystal Fairy,” an improvised (from an outline) comedy-drama about an uptight American (Cera), a free-spirit (Gaby Hoffman) and three brothers scouring the Chilean landscape for a mescaline-filled cactus.
“It wasn’t comparable to any experience I had,” Cera says of making the movie.
Shot by Chilean director Sebastián Silva on a hand-held camera over 12 days, it’s a sincere film about people running away from their lives that finds Cera playing a damaged, unhappy character.
So what led to this unlikely collaboration between an American movie star and Silva, best known for his 2009 dark comedy “The Maid”?
“I saw ‘The Maid’ by happenstance, because I was walking around, it was freezing out, and I went to see a movie just to stay out of the cold,” Cera says. “I loved that movie, I loved the story and Sebastian’s sensibility, and then asked my agent to set up a meeting.”
After getting together at the Standard Hotel in New York, the pair decided to join forces on “Magic Magic,” a psychological thriller co-starring Juno Temple and Emily Browning.
They shot “Crystal Fairy” after financial issues emerged on the former flick, which premiered at Sundance alongside “Crystal” this year and is headed to VOD on Aug. 6.
This won’t be the last we see of this fruitful pairing of director and star. Silva is writing a movie for Cera, and it sounds like the filmmaker has found the De Niro to his Scorsese.
“I have so much fun working with Sebastian and I believe in him so much as a director,” Cera says. “I really love the stories he’s interested in telling and his priorities as a storyteller are ones that I really admire and connect with.”