Like Crazy wasn't just the first big film that everybody at Sundance seemed to fall in love with, but one of the festival's first big acquisitions, going to Paramount for $4 million in the first few days of the festival. The low-key and emotional romance stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as two college students who fall hard for each other, only to be separated by geography and all the other complications that come up when you're in love but with your whole life in front of you.
The film is directed by 27-year-old Drake Doremus, who had a film at Sundance just last year with Douchebag and brought his same independent, improv-influenced style to Like Crazy, even though he was working with experienced Hollywood actors this time around. I had the chance to talk to both actors on Monday, just hours after the new broke that Like Crazy would be a major studio release. Yesterday I brought you my conversation with Felicity Jones, and now below you can read my interview with her co-star Anton Yelchin.
Yelchin is a far more familiar face to moviegoers thanks to roles in Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation, but as he says himself, you may not necessarily recognize him from film to film. The slight actor put on 20 pounds for Like Crazy to play Jacob, a mild-mannered college student who falls hard for the more passionate and impulsive Anna, but who is forced to stand up for himself when their relationship is challenged by a host of outside influences. I talked to Yelchin about his chameleonic career switching between big-budget studio movies and independent films, how he used his own relationship experience to create Jacob, and, yes, a little bit about Star Trek 2-- basically, he's just as excited for that movie as you probably are. Check it out below, and look for Like Crazy in theaters later this year.
You've had your experience making studio movies, and this movie is very small, it doesn't feel like a studio movie at all. But it's been picked up for distribution by Paramount. What's it going to take for mainstream audiences to open themselves up to this?
Everyone I've talked to at Sundance has been able to relate to it in some way. It's about the honesty. It's really honest about what it feels like in those first moments, and what it feels like when it goes away, and what it feels like to try and get that back. They're young, but everyone relates to that feeling as long as it's done honestly. Regardless of whether it's improvised or a huge production or an intimate relationship film, people just relate if it's honest.
You guys had to bring a lot of yourselves into these characters, and as an actor a lot of times you get to remove yourself from the character. What kind of challenge was that for you?
I don't know. It's more about you never get away from yourself, because you're constantly in a character you relate to and commit to. So long as you're with that character you try to love them as much as possible and understand them as much as possible. For me, I'm nowhere near as understanding of myself or willing to be sympathetic to myself as I am to a character, because that's my job.
Was that harder or easier on something like this, where you're putting so much of yourself in it?
It was challenging because you have to find the parameters of where you can come from. We'd do takes and think, "Oh, it's more of myself than Jacob," and we'd have to go back. Drake was so great-- "Tone down the you and bring him back." We both knew who Jacob was.
Felicity wrote the notebooks and poems we see Anna give Jacob in the film-- did you build the chair? Did you build furniture?
No, the chair is this guy Dakota, who is great. But he's largely what I based the character off of, because he's this fascinating human being. He was talking about how his creating chairs and furniture design is a search for permanence in an absolutely impermanent environment. I was like, fuck that's what we're making a movie about! But the notebooks-- one thing I'm embarrassed about is my shitty designs for furniture. Those are all my drawings.
Did you and Drake and Felicity talk about your own past relationships when building these characters?
We talked about all sorts of things. It was so committed to these people. My experience has not been like Jacob's, but I've had these experiences-- when you're an actor you're all over the place. You want to know what someone else is doing because where they are it's 6 p.m. and where you are it's 1 in the morning, and you know they're going to go out. And that desire to want to trust somebody and yet that fear. I get it.
Is there anything specifically you're hoping will happen for your career in the wake of this movie? Moving on to being a leading man?
I just like to do different things. Star Trek and Terminator came out a month apart, they may as well be two different actors. They look nothing alike. You wouldn't recognize me. It's not me, it's them. And that's what I love. I came to this movie and, I'm a skinny dude, and I wanted to put on 20 pounds and have a gut.
Did you put on weight?
Yeah, I'm skinny-- I'm like 145. I put on like 20 pounds. It's funny, it's just changing things. I want things to be characters and not me. Why would I want to play me?
Star Trek 2 is still a theoretical thing, but do you like knowing that's coming, that there's another guaranteed big movie to make?
I guess. It's mostly the fact that I"ll get to work with this people again. It's just those people, come together and maybe make another cool movie.
Do you like it enough to seek out other big-budget movies as well?
Yeah sure-- it's fun to make. There's Hollywood movies that are so fun to be in. Shit blows up, and you look around, like-- this is Hollywood. We shot on Paramount stages and you look at the tablets and it says Dial M for Murder was shot here, or Psycho. This is so epic. I love movies.