Sundance: Michael Angarano Talks 'Homework' And 'Red State'
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.