WEIRDLAND: Michael Cera on "Nick & Norah"

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Michael Cera on "Nick & Norah"

"Only the bashful Michael Cera would hesitate to label his return to the Toronto International Film Festival a triumphant one. Last year, the Brampton, Ont., native was making the rounds for the Oscar-bound Juno. This year, he's back as a headliner in the romantic comedy Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which will be showcased as the festival's Special Presentation on Sept. 6 before it opens theatrically on Oct. 3.

But please hold off on the celebratory applause. Cera, 20, isn't even sure he can embrace the homecoming theme, since he still lives in Brampton and Los Angeles when he isn't filming on location.

"I don't really feel awkward or comfortable about it", Cera says of his return to TIFF. "Downtown Toronto feels like just as foreign a place to me as any other big city."

What he is overwhelmingly enthusiastic about is Nick and Norah, which plays to the strengths of all those involved, including director Peter Sollett, who made his debut with Raising Victor Vargas, and Kat Dennings (as Norah), best remembered as Catherine Keener's emotionally distraught teenaged daughter in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

In the film, Cera portrays Nick, an anxious teen member of a band called the Jerk Offs. When he gets unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend, he heads out into the New York club world with his new-found friend Norah, searching for something to heal his heartbreak.

The droll dialogue and the pop music scene-setting seem like a good fit for Cera. After all, he managed to define the ultimate awkward teenager playing roles in Arrested Development, Juno and last summer's big hit, Superbad.

But there was more behind his interest than the dialogue and the rock 'n' roll backdrop. Director Sollett was the main attraction.
"I was a big fan of his movie", Cera says of Raising Victor Vargas. "It was so authentic capturing the lives of kids in the Lower East Side of New York. And I thought he could bring that to Nick and Norah."The actor's bond with Dennings turned out to be a bonus, but they worked hard to make the relationship seem as relaxed as it does onscreen.

"It was pretty easy the whole way," Cera says of the New York shoot. "We rehearsed a lot before doing the filming, so we felt pretty good going into it. And I knew Pete [Sollett] would rectify any of my bad acting choices in the editing."

Talk about modesty. Cera's been acclaimed since his high-profile introduction as the painfully hesitant George Michael Bluth in Arrested Development. That role led to a string of well-received portrayals.

Instead of embracing his inner movie star, Cera merely shrugs off his string of successes and good reviews. "I think it's more about me spotting things I know I wouldn't be good in," he says.

Cera is taking a well-earned break this autumn and winter after his promotional duties at the filmfest and for Nick and Norah's theatrical opening in October.

Then fans will have to wait until next year for more of his patented comedy. He's the co-star in a trailer trash farce called "Youth in Revolt", which is set for a spring release, and he teams up with Jack Black in the Harold Ramis "period piece" comedy "Year One", which will be ready for a summer, 2009, release. "Jack is Zed who goes on his journey to find an answer to life", Cera says, "and my character follows him."His next film will keep him closer to home cooking. He's scheduled to start filming the Edgar Wright fantasy comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in Toronto early next year.

What he won't be doing any time soon is a movie version of a certain quirky TV show. He hasn't heard of any plans for an Arrested Development film.

"I don't think I would want to see a movie of the series if I was a fan, anyway," Cera says. "And I don't really see a need for it if you can get the three seasons on DVD."

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