Michael Angarano was in two films that made news at the Sundance Film Festival. Homework got picked up by Fox Searchlight the day it premiered. Red State was the talk of the festival before it screened, and especially after. Since the latter film wasn’t doing press, Homework hooked us up with the interview.
In Homework, Angarano plays Dustin, a New York artist who visits the school of George (Freddie Highmore) and Sally (Emma Roberts) on career day. In Red State, he plays a teen who gets caught in the compound of a religious leader who kills gays, and thinks Travis (Angarano) and his friends are gay.
Q: What was it like to go from the Homework premiere in the afternoon to Red State in the evening?
MA: It was interesting. I hadn’t seen Homework and so I was really no knowing what to expect. Just having read the script and I only worked for 8 days, I was very impressed by what Gavin did, Gavin Wiesen the writer/director.
Q: And it got bought right away.
MA: We didn’t know that yet but going into Red State, that was a horse of a different color, a circus of kinds. Very interactive experience I guess you could say. There was a protest outside, then a counter protest and the first scene in the movie’s a protest but I think the audience really, really enjoyed it.
Q: Have you ever gone back to school for career day to speak to the students?
MA: No, actually, I haven’t but I would imagine if I did I would have a similar experience as to the one I have in Homework, not knowing why I was there exactly. Well, knowing why you’re there but not knowing if you’re the kind of person to give advice. At age 23, I don’t know if I would want to go back and give advice to 18-year-olds.
Q: Would you have played George a few years ago?
MA: Yeah, I mean, 2-3 years ago when I first read it I read it for George and it was actually my main concern about it. I loved the script, thought it was a very authentic take on first love, kind of the fatalist sentimentality a very mature intelligent person could have at that age but I was intimidated by the Dustin role. It’s a tricky role because to the audience he could be the guy who is not the most…
Q: He could be the D-bag?
MA: Yeah, exactly, or somebody who you don’t really empathize with. That’s what I spoke to Gavin about a lot. The fact that we understand Dustin and kind of sympathize with him as well as Freddie I think makes it much more engaging and kind of complex.
Q: I meant that in a Hollywood movie he’d be the blonde Frat boy, but not in the indie version.
MA: Exactly, not to say that Gavin’s script is designed like that but it very easily could have been. Just as an actor I was like, “I hope they don’t cast somebody like that in that role.” So I was kind of excited to take it on. I thought it kind of came together perfectly.
Q: Were you privy to Kevin Smith’s plan in the beginning?
MA: No, I don’t think anybody was aside from him. I questioned it just because I thought it was a very vulnerable move if he was going to have an auction at the Red State premiere. Not that I wasn’t confident in it. I knew what it could potentially be, the movie, and I think it turned out very well but I didn’t know, having an auction, people could just not buy it and you could make yourself look foolish. But I think what he’s doing, nobody knew what he was doing but I think he takes a lot of pride in being kind of the leader of the independent film revolution I guess you could say in the last 20 years, especially since Clerks. So for him to take this next step I think is a very courageous one, especially if it works but even if it doesn’t work it’s something that not many people would have the guts to do.
Q: As an actor, could you face any backlash for working outside the system?
MA: I mean, I would love to work for studios. I definitely distance myself from his whole philosophy on what’s going on or his take on it. But I admire him as a filmmaker for sure and an artist in that sense.
Q: For the film itself, are Travis and his friends mildly homophobic too?
MA: I think there’s definitely a form of it. I don’t know if these are the kind of guys who are malicious about it. Sadly, unfortunately I don’t think it’s very uncommon how these guys talk to each other and how they act. I think it’s just a representation of kids these days and the vernacular of the culture that we’re in. But in a way I think these guys use that language and how they speak to each other almost as a joke in and of itself. They’re not poking fun at the gay community when they call each other a fag. They’re poking fun just at each other if that makes any sense.
Q: Was it all jokes between takes?
MA: It wasn’t all jokes. There were some moments that were pretty intense but there were a lot of moments of levity which is very important on a movie like this because I know Michael Parks had a very hard time being in that mind space for 25 days or however long it was. It’s not a fun place to be.