Interview: The Boys Of Superbad

The stars of Superbad are in a pretty enviable position; not only do they perfectly understand their target audience, they are their target audience. 23-year old Jonah Hill, 19-year old Michael Cera and 18-year old Christopher Mintz-Plasse star in this summer’s answer to American Pie, a raunchy-yet-sweet comedy built to appeal to the post-adolescent guy in all of us. Destined to be another hit from the unstoppable Apatow Productions—critics are already raving--Superbad follows two geeky best friends as they attempt to hit it off with the most popular girls in high school before graduation and college brings them apart. Their even-geekier friend Fogell, in the meantime, rechristens himself “McLovin” thanks to a fake ID, and spends a night tooling around town with two of the most irresponsible cops on the planet.

Cera and Hill, both of whom have been acting throughout their teens, have been friends for years; Mintz-Plasse:, who makes his film debut here, fits right in with them. The three bonded over Weezer and The Big Lebowski, their nerdiness in high school, and a willingness to repeatedly quote even their own movies. Interviewing them is pretty much like hanging out with your funniest male college friends—nonstop chatter, filled with in-jokes and completely un-self-conscious laughter.

Are you guys all sick of each other after all this touring around the country?

Cera: No, we’ve had a few days off from each other

Mintz-Plasse:: That’d be bad if we were all sick, since we’re going to Europe for a month.

Hill: We’ve been able to recharge our batteries, rekindle the love that’s there.

Cera: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Did you guys develop a certain love for each other as a result of this project?

Cera: Yeah, I think so. We hung out a lot.

Hill: We talked about our feelings a lot.

Cera: Didn’t let disagreements come between us.

Hill: We have the same tastes, a lot, in music and film.

Cera: We went to meals together.

So what’s the music and film that you have the same taste in?

Hill: Michael and I had to spend a lot of time together before we started shooting.

Cera: Things like Weezer, the Coen Brothers.

Mintz-Plasse:: I like Weezer too, but they love them.

Cera: Yeah, I burned you a deluxe Pinkerton.

Hill: Weezer’s first two albums to me and Mike are the best—

Cera: Life-changing.

Hill: -- modern rock albums.

Do you guys like Ween?

Cera: I like Ween, but they’re not Weezer

Hill: I had this weird counselor at camp who made us perform this Ween song called “Push the Little Daisies, Make Them Pop Up.” He later got arrested for rape. Just kidding.

Cera: Just kidding, he didn’t get arrested.

Hill: He didn’t get arrested, he walked away scot-free.

Did you share stories of your own equally awkward and absurd adventures as high school students? What were some of those?

Hill: We definitely all contributed things to the script with Seth and Evan. More so about feelings you had in high school, and then a lot of specific stories. It was more about bringing, for me at least it felt like bringing more about what you were going through in high school.

Cera: Yeah, the feelings more than the experiences.

Michael, I know you were acting on television throughout most of high school, [Jonah] you’ve been acting too, and [Christopher] you just came out of high school. You guys must have all had really different high school experiences. Did that play into how you were working on this?

Cera: I think we all remembered and took the same things from high school. The same feelings.

Hill: I think that’s why people relate to the movie that are all different ages. People seem to like it that older as much as people that are younger. You never forget what it’s like to be in high school, everyone went through those experiences. I think that’s what makes it relatable. I was out of high school for like 5 years before we made the movie, and Seth and Evan had been out of high school for 5 or 6 years probably. And Judd for like 100 years outside of high school—just kidding. I think it’s just to remember that those feelings of frustration and being freaked out. That’s what we were all able to bring to it.

Jonah, you’ve worked with Seth on a couple of movies. Michael, how did they find you to be Evan?

Cera: I just auditioned for the movie several times. I read with different kids. I came in like 10 different times. Eventually they told me they got it.

[To Christopher] And how about you?

Mintz-Plasse:: Same thing. I auditioned about four times.

Hill: And Judd and Seth just asked me one day if I wanted to do it. I had worked with them a bunch of times. We get along well and enjoy working with each other. I think they were having a hard time. I wasn’t thought of originally for a long time, because I’m only a year younger than Seth and Evan, and we’re all such good friends and it would be weird to consider me younger and not them. Fortunately Seth has aged poorly and I’ve aged wonderfully.

Did it feel going back to high school?

Hill: It was strange. I had a lot of conversations with Greg and Judd about not to be who I was now, not to have any traces of myself now. I moved back in with my parents. I stayed in the same bedroom where I lived in high school, which was torturous, as you can imagine. I would go through my old yearbooks and look through my stuff and try and get back to a place where—and it did, I started feeling the same lack of privacy. Going to work was like going to school. While you’re working you’re working, while you’re between you’re talking with your friends. That’s what high school is like, where you kind of look forward to going to school and not want to go. You don’t want to go because it’s school, but at the same time it’s like, ‘I get to hang out with my friends all day.’ It really helped out staying with my parents. They were nice enough o let me back in.

Did alcohol play a prominent role in any of your high school upbringings?

Mintz-Plasse:: It did for me. Not a big, role, but I dabbled, a little.

Hill: I remember when I was like 16 or 17, we would spend the whole week discussing how we were going to obtain alcohol.

Did you get it?

Hill: Pretty much always. I grew up in Los Angeles, and there’s this place called the San Fernando Valley, where Chris grew up, and way deep in there you can find a liquor store who will sell alcohol to a one-year old. We would just drive far out and look for the seediest-looking liquor store. I looked like I was 14 when I was 16, and I would obviously not be 21, and they would sell me alcohol. Thanks, guys. Thanks for the memories.

Some of the movie was based on things that happened to Seth and Evan. Did they actually know someone who went on a joy ride with a police officer?

Mintz-Plasse:: It was fictionalized.

Cera: I think they just thought it was funny.

When you were in high school, what did you have in common with your characters?

Cera: I remember being not quite as socially inept, but I never felt like the most popular person in school. I don’t even know what popular means, but I know I wasn’t it.

Mintz-Plasse:: I had some kind of nerdy confidence to me when I was in high school, kind of like the character.

Cera: He’s the most confident person I’ve ever met.

Hill: It’s not a joke. He’s got complete confidence. There’s nothing insecure.

Mintz-Plasse:: High school was a little different.

Hill: Well you came in and auditioned. You said you were nervous, but you were literally like ‘Hey guys, what’s up, let’s do this,’ and I was like, ‘Cool.’

Cera: Well he had nothing to lose. It was his first audition ever, and he was like ‘Why not?’ Balls to the wall.

Do you have people that, now that this movie’s out and you’ve addressed the big issues of high school, who you want to see this? People you went to high school with?

Mintz-Plasse:: My drama teacher. She would never cast me in plays, she didn’t like me. We had a feud for some weird reason. I think because I had a job outside of school, and she was always like ‘Drama has to be your number one priority.’

Cera: She was jealous because you had a job outside of school, and her only job was at school.

Hill: I don’t care man. Anyone who was an idiot to me in high school is an idiot now. I’m not doing this to get some sort of revenge on anybody. If they see it, then I hope they enjoy it. I won’t go to my ten-year reunion, like ‘Hey guys,’—

Cera: With Superbad DVDs?

Hill: Yeah, I don’t really care. I don’t take any joy in being spiteful. A lot of people were really cool to me in high school, and the ones that weren’t I don’t really want to have to talk to again. I’m not going to get any great reward out of being like ‘Hey, remember that time you pushed me? Well, now I’m in a movie.’

Cera: Go see Superbad August 17th!

Hill: From the people who brought you 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.

Cera: The guy.

Hill: From the bro who brought your Anchorman.

I know that me and my friends sit around quoting movies, and I know a lot of them are films that you guys are in. But you can’t say ‘Hey, remember in our movie, when I said…’

Hill: I do. I say, ‘Hey, shashmortion!’

Everyone I know talks about shashmortion.

Hill: Yeah, I wrote that like, that day. In Knocked Up pretty much everything with the roommates was improvised, or we would spend a lot of time writing together, because Judd really likes to let people kind of… as long as the intentions stay in the same in the scene. Judd basically said before, ‘You and Jay [Jason Segel] are going to have an abortion debate.’ There was no scene in the script written for that. At lunch I decided that I was going to be pro-abortion, and I pitched to Judd. I was like, ‘How about we have an abortion debate, but I’m pro-abortion and Jay is anti-abortion, but for the completely wrong reasons. Neither one is making a valid argument for either side.’ So I though, what would be the most inconsiderate thing you could say to your friend who is going through this real thing. That just came out. I don’t know why.

It’s everywhere now.

Hill: It’s the new ‘You can do it.’ The funny thing is, now that Superbad has come out it will be ridiculous when I quote things from that, but that we kind of do quote to each other. I quote Chris’s lines. Like ‘I’ve got a boner.’ I say that all the time.

Cera: One of the funniest lines in cinema.

Well, ‘Arrested Development’ people quote all the time too.

Cera: Kind of, yeah. I don’t really get that a lot.

Hill: I make one quote, always, and I always see you get uncomfortable when I say it.

Cera: What?

Hill: ‘There’s always money in the banana stand.’

Cera: Oh yeah, I have heard you say that.

Hill: I don’t know why, I really like that quote. And aside from the show it’s just a nice sounding sentence.

How was Greg to work with as opposed to Judd? Did he also let you guys just mess up? Because they worked on the script for like 10 years.

Hill: When I’m writing one of my movies—we haven’t shot one of them yet, but we’re shooting one pretty soon. My theory is, you’re never going to be the only person who has a good idea. Anyone else could have a way better idea than you in the room, and it only makes you look better. It only makes Seth and Evan look like better writers if we improvise a funny line. I think everyone has that theory, because there’s no ego. Like, who cares? Whatever’s funny will wind up in the movie. Everyone, Greg included, just thinks that you shoot the script a couple times and you get it to where you can use that. Then after that we have a bunch of takes—the big thing you spend the money on is time to shoot more options. What if something’s not funny? The worst thing as a director is to be in the editing room and the joke doesn’t work and you have no other options for it. You’re screwed.

Do they have similar or different styles of working?

Hill: With Judd it’s way more free flow of ideas. It’s more like we’ll shoot it and then he’ll literally throw out the script and be like ‘Just start having a conversation.’ And with Greg, this script was so solid. Superbad was the funniest script I had ever read, so far. Also it takes place in one night, so the story has to be way tighter in terms of what gets you from here to here. So the intentions were always the same, but Greg was really cool about letting us…you were always encouraged to try whatever you wanted to try, which is the best way to work, I think.

How was the difference coming from ‘Arrested Development’? That must have been really tightly scripted.

Cera: This was a really well-written script too. It wasn’t like an outline, where there would just be a scene idea. There were very well-written jokes and lines. If we were improvising at all it was just to make things seem more natural, to punch it up.

How much of what you improvised ended up in the movie? Who improvised the most?

Cera: I don’t know, Seth?

Mintz-Plasse:: Seth, Jonah.

Were you surprised when you watched the movie and were like ‘Oh, I can’t believe they kept that’?

Hill: A ton of stuff. Most of the stuff I say in the movie I said thinking ‘There’s no way that they will keep this. It would be foolish to put this in a movie.’

What movies to you guys quote?

Hill: I quote Lebowski a lot—that’s the most quotable movie ever.

Cera: Rushmore

Hill: Rushmore--

Mintz-Plasse:: Anchorman.

Hill: Crash. Cronenberg’s Crash. It’s pretty disgusting. That movie I saw at an age when I should not have seen that movie. There’s few movies I saw before I was supposed to see them, and that was one that stuck with me and has haunted my dreams for the last 20 years.

Cera: I haven’t even seen it, I’ve just heard.

Hill: It’s so disturbing. I can’t believe it’s something that exists.

Cera: Matt Dillon sounds like a hideous person in it, and I just don’t want to see it.

No, the other one.

Cera: I know.

Hill: I quote Wes Anderson.

Cera: Bottle Rocket.

Hill: It’s very quotable. It’s so well-written. It’s very funny.

Cera: I quote books a lot too.

What books?

Cera: Well, one book. Youth in Revolt it’s called. It’s a great book, it’s got a lot of great lines.

Hill: If you were in a class called Great Books, would you read that book in that class?

Cera: If such a class existed, I guess, and it was moderated by me. Otherwise I don’t think there’s a good chance of that.

Mintz-Plasse:: I said Anchorman, but I don’t know that I quote it that much.

Cera: Chris likes to think of his own things to say.

Chris, you said you’re a fan of Anchorman, which Judd worked on. Coming from being a fan of that and getting into this, but is that totally surreal?

Mintz-Plasse:: I didn’t even know it was an Apatow movie when I went in to audition for it. When I went in to the audition I recognized Seth from The 40-Year Old Virgin, so I was like, ‘Cool, this might be a funny movie, because he’s a funny guy.’ It was later on when I went to a rehearsal with Michael and Greg that I found out it was an Apatow movie.

Was it like a freak-out moment?

Cera: He was nervous right before he filmed his first scene.

Mintz-Plasse:: I was just thinking to myself, I can’t freak out and be funny. I have to be confident.

Cera: The first scene he shot was the Home Ec scene, where they actually introduce him.

Hill: ‘Gangstas, what’s up you guys?’ I quote Chris the most, because everything he says is so funny.

Are you prepared to live down this character?

Mintz-Plasse:: Yeah, totally.

What are you guys doing next? Jonah, are you going to do another movie with Justin Long?

Hill: Justin’s a good friend of mine. I don’t know, we don’t have anything planned. I’m writing two movies right now, or three movies, two for studios. One’s with me and Seth, where we play brothers possibly. The other one I’m writing could possibly be me and Sam Rockwell, who’s another friend of mine who I really want to do a movie with. Jason Schwartzman’s another… I have a lot of friends who I haven’t had a chance to do a movie with yet. Hopefully, possibly, if Superbad does well I could get the opportunity to incorporate them in our community, because I think they’re really funny and haven’t really gotten the opportunity to show how funny they are. They’re such funny guys and such brilliant actors, also.

Are you writing more than acting?

Hill: Well, I’m writing the movies for myself to star in. The people that always inspired me most were people that generated their own material, like Albert Brooks or Woody Allen. It just seemed more interesting to me. I think those are the people that have stayed relevant longer. If you see people today like Stiller or Will Ferrell, all those guys kind of write their own, or at least heavily part of the creative process. Judd has really pushed me to write always. I think that’s what I’ve had the most fun doing. When we make the first one of those movies, that’ll be the greatest day of my life. The first day I show up to be there, and everything we’re doing is the result of something that I thought of.

What else are you working on?

Cera: I’m starting to film a movie in January, Harold Ramis’ movie that he directed and wrote. With Jack Black, that Judd is producing. Until then we’re touring promoting the movie, going to Europe, Australia.

Mintz-Plasse:: I’m writing a script with my friend, actually, so we’ll see how that goes.

Do you think in Europe they’ll understand the movie as well as we do? I don’t think they have drinking ages there.

Cera: I think they know about them, though.

Hill: We changed it to trying to buy sex.

Do you think that girls are going to see this movie as much as guys? I think who had the hardest time in this movie were the girls.

Hill: I actually disagree with that. The female characters in the movie are by far and away the smartest characters in the movie. They’re way more mature and smart than we are. I think the whole point of the movie is that, if we had asked them out in the first ten minutes, they probably would have said yes. We would have been able to avoid this whole thing. They all seem way more mature and intelligent to me, and not typical girls you would see in a teen movie. They’re not bubblehead cheerleaders. They feel like girls that I knew growing up. Oddly enough, with test audiences, it actually tests the highest with young women.

Cera: Through the roof.

Hill: I feel like more women are into comedy. Most of my friends that are girls really love these kinds of comedies. Thank God, or else we would all die alone.

You see the posters for the movie, and it’s you guys on there, and it seems like a dude movie.

Hill: Yeah, we exude alpha male masculine…

Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend