Josh Radnor On Embracing Sentiment And Why He Cast Zac Efron As A Stoner In Liberal Arts
Two years ago Josh Radnor's film happythankyoumoreplease took home the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival-- not bad for a first-time feature from a guy known for starring in a CBS sitcom. Earlier this year he returned to the mountains of Utah with Liberal Arts, his second feature in which he also stars as a man in his 30s who returns to his Ohio college, only to find himself falling for a sophomore (Elizabeth Olsen) with whom he shares a lot in common.
It's tricky territory, and made even more so by the film's open-hearted attitude, all about figuring out how you are and being good to each other-- ideas that plenty of college students might find very familiar. But Radnor is happy to defend the optimism in both of his films, and acknowledges that the cynics who dismissed even the title of happythankyoumoreplease probably weren't going to find much in there anyway. "I felt like I must have been doing something right to be polarizing," he told me when we spoke at Sundance in January."It really asks you to check your cynicism at the door. If you are a cynical person constituionally, you have an agenda against that movie. And Liberal Arts is also not a cynical movie. I'm still a great fan of optimism. I don't think there's any choice."
Liberal Arts is in theaters and on On Demand platforms now. Below you can watch the rest of my video conversation with Radnor, in which we talk more about the open-hearted attitude he takes toward his characters, the Sundance response and why he was worried about it at first, and how he came to cast Zac Efron as a mystical stoner who provides all the right information at the right times.
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