Screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman struck gold and a chord with moviegoers with their 2007 film, Juno. They've teamed up again for another coming-of-age tale, but this time it's for a protagonist 20 years older than the titular character last time around. Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt recently sat down with Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier to discuss working with the creative power couple behind Young Adult.
Emmanuel Itier: How was it to work with this now-icon pop-culture couple – Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman? What do they bring to a movie like this, and what do they bring you as an actress?
Charlize Theron: I think that obviously the two of them have great chemistry and they work really well together, and they like working together, and they really respect each other. So that was kind of set in place. And I think I am in a position to say this -- they are way too humble to say this – but what is amazing about the two of them coming around to do something is that in this, they have managed to do what they do really well, which is to dive into real dark, real human, maybe not so pretty issues, but real moments of dark stuff, and they present it to the world in a way that almost packages it in something completely different. But this is a movie where I feel like they’ve grown up from their Juno days. This feels like a really adult film. They’re just great together.
EI: Is that what attracts you to this type of character – the Monster, the North Country, the Battle in Seattle, The Road… These characters that are so human. If you wanted to understand more about our humanity through these characters, is it a little bit that – that search for what defines us as a human being?
CT: Yeah, I think that’s my job. That’s what I love about my job. I’m obsessive about the human condition. I’m fascinated by it. I’m appalled by it and sometimes in love with it, and sometimes amazed by it, but at the core, that’s my obsession, and I’m so fortunate that I get to do a job every single day and pay my bills doing something where I get to do that when I work. So that’s always the challenge too, whenever I take a character on – is to find that truth.
EI: What was tricky about that particular character for you? What was tricky to find in her?
CT: The hardest thing about this is the tone is so specific, of this film, and the tone is really the success of this movie. A character like this who is such a character – she is so loud and colorful – walks a very fine line. If you play it too jokey, if you play it too much for the laugh, for the comedy, there isn’t enough to ground it and it falls on its face. So the trick was always to really know the balance and to stay within the right tone and always find the truth of who she was, so everything blossomed from there.
EI: What is your favorite scene from all the movies you’ve seen?
CT: All the movies I’ve ever seen?!
EI: Yeah, that you’ve seen that touched you…
CT: Are you crazy? Oh my god…
EI: You can think about it later. What is on your iPod right now?
CT: A lot of indie bands. And I love how iTunes can just veer you… So I’m listening to a lot of that, but I’ve also been traveling a lot…
EI: A scene…any that pops into your mind?
CT: Oh my God… Hmm… Of all the movies that I’ve… I get moved by really simple things sometimes. God, I can’t think right now. I haven’t seen a movie in a really long time. I did see a film on the plane when I flew here. Maybe that’s why I’m thinking of it now: Beginners. There’s a scene where he shows the dog the house and he says, “This is the dining room, this is the living room…” and he talks to the dog like the dog is a human. That was pretty moving. I liked that. That Ewan McGregor is good.
Emmanuel Itier: Tell me about working with this now icon couple – Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody. What do they bring to a picture like this? What do they bring you as an actor?
Patton Oswalt? As an actor, you’re given a really good nuanced script to work on and to really prepare for. And then with Jason, you have a director who is, like me – I’m a huge film buff; he’s a huge film buff. He could not be more excited every day to be making a movie. So you’ve got a good piece of material to work on something really meaty, and then you’ve got a guy that is excited to be doing it, which is a great combination for an actor. Definitely great.
EI: Working with Charlize Theron, what a dream-come-true, and you finally give hope to all the little chubby fatsos like myself. Not you – you’re a stud compared to me.
PO: I’m glad I could do that.
EI: But was it really interesting to work with her? Intimidating maybe at first?
PO: Yeah, a little bit, but our chemistry – we really clicked early on, so it ended up being very much of a relief because she was able to, in each scene, knew what I needed and instinctively knew what she needed so we could play off of each other so seamlessly, without a lot of preparation. We just knew the characters going in, and it really worked. She was a dream to work with. She’s such a pro.
EI: What do you think the movie is about for you? What does it say? What does it explore?
PO: I think it explores in what ways are you gonna let your past have its way with you, and when do you decide that I’m gonna figure out how it affects me, and then take responsibility for that. That’s how it felt for me.
EI: Was there a specific challenge or scene that was a bit trickier than another to put together?
PO: Weirdly enough, the first scene that I had with Charlize in the bar just had to be the right approach. It had to be a little uncomfortable but not too uncomfortable; it had to be funny but it couldn’t be flippant. There had to be some darkness there, but it couldn’t just plunge into depression. So that’s the initial launch, and there were so many things that could have gone wrong, and they just didn’t. And the way it cut together, I was very happy with it.
EI: Do you think it’s interesting to be part of a movie that shows a different face of America – the small town, the Midwest type – not the usual New York or LA – the glamour, but the more seedy, visceral people?
PO: Yeah, I think that’s more of what real life is about. New York and LA certainly have those elements too, but they’re almost never shown on screen. There’s always a much more glamorous cinema version of that, and it was good to not have to play that – to get to play more real life.
EI: The movie is a little bit about trying to take responsibility to basically grow up – becoming an adult, leaving the young behind and embracing the adult. What do you think is the worst thing and the best thing about becoming an adult?
PO: The best thing about becoming an adult is that you have the wisdom and experience to not be this immature kid, if you’re willing to grow into that role. I think the hardest thing for a lot of people to embrace is that there are younger people who are coming up who are just as searching and trying to figure out what their life is about as you were, and they’re just as valid in their confusion as you were, and sometimes you’ve got to step aside and let them go on for a little bit. I think a lot of people have trouble with that. They constantly want to be the young ones coming up, and that’s not forever.
EI: What has been your favorite scene from all the movies you’ve seen in your life?
PO: In all of my life? Oh wow. I’ll just pick a great scene – I don’t know if it’s my favorite. Jeff Bridges in the back of the limo in The Big Lebowski trying to explain the revelations he’s had about the case so far in his drink-addled brain. That is such a great moment. I love that scene.
PO: Because it’s so brilliantly acted, it’s so genuinely funny, and it turns the whole Los Angeles noir idea on its head, whereas usually it’s the detective putting all the pieces together, and all he’s doing is spilling the pieces on the table, and then as he’s doing it, has to admit: “Oh, I don’t even know how these fit together.”
Paramount Pictures' 'Young Adult' is playing nationwide in limited release.