New Zealand Herald: Pilgrim’s progress

By Michele Manelis

5:30 AM Thursday Aug 5, 2010

Unlikely heart-throb Michael Cera plays yet another super nerd in Scott Pilgrim vs The World. He and co-star Anna Kendrick talk to Michele Manelis.

Anna Kendrick plays Stacey, the sister of Michael Cera's character, the slacker Scott Pilgrim. Photo / Double NegativeAnna Kendrick plays Stacey, the sister of Michael Cera’s character, the slacker Scott Pilgrim. Photo / Double Negative

It might be ripped from the pages of a graphic novel and pit its hero against a gang of villains, but Scott Pilgrim vs The World isn’t your average comic book movie. Like Kick-Ass from earlier this year, it’s another “revenge of the nerd” tale. And following its enthusiastic reception at Comicon – the annual gathering of the pop culture geeks in San Diego – the hype surrounding the film is starting to get deafening.

“People think it’s Ferris Bueller meets Kill Bill,” says its English director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), but it’s much more than that.”

Pilgrim has all the elements – it’s an appealing romance, it has special effects and, ultimately, it’s a feelgood, coming-of-age experience with martial arts and abundant videogame references thrown in.

Notably, the movie’s appeal is generational – and perhaps only those under 35 may appreciate the references.

Wright remained loyal to the much-loved series written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, and the ensemble cast will delight any self-respecting geek.

It boasts the pinnacle of Hollywood nerds – unlikely heart-throb Michael Cera, who has made a career out of playing socially awkward, disenchanted adolescents in movies such as Juno, Youth In Revolt, and Superbad.

Playing another deadpan slacker, the 22-year old Canadian says of Pilgrim’s appeal, “He’s likeable despite the fact he’s selfish and says some really stupid things. Homer Simpson was a big inspiration,” Cera laughs.

“You can just be an idiot, and somehow it works.”

Due to the fight scenes (Pilgrim must battle the ex-boyfriends of Ramona V. Flowers, the unobtainable object of his affection), the role meant Cera had to bulk up.

It was the first time the sinewy, cerebral actor was asked to undergo these kinds of physical challenges.

“It was exhausting having to train all the time,” he admits. Now that he’s had some fight training, albeit “on-screen” fights, could he look after himself in a real tussle?

Cera shares a similar guileless charm with most of his onscreen characters. “No. I’d still run away,” he says, evenly.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Live Free or Die Hard, Grindhouse) plays Ramona, and the movie also stars Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down, Paper Man), Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited, Marie Antoinette) and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns). Anna Kendrick plays Scott’s sister Stacey.

Kendrick, 25, earned an Oscar-nomination for her role in Up in the Air opposite George Clooney and is known in younger circles for her appearance in the Twilight movies.

This fast-talking, no nonsense woman, is not your regular Hollywood starlet and seems genuinely appreciative of her opportunities. Suggesting she could write a “how-to” book for aspiring actresses, she insists, “Not at all. Listen, it’s just dumb luck. Totally, dumb luck.

“I did a film called Rocket Science that no one saw except the directors of Twilight, Up in the Air, and Scott Pilgrim. Seriously, I don’t have a master plan. I’m just lucky.”

Kendrick first watched the film with the over-the-top, passionate Comicon audience. “It was a pretty intense way to see a film like this, with 4000 comic book fans. It was pretty crazy,” she laughs.

“The crowd was … very interesting. It was like a freak show. I mean, it’s certainly not my world, but the fans seemed to really appreciate the movie.

“What impresses me about these fans is that they’re smart enough to not do that thing of, ‘Oh, well in the books, actually Amy Adams says that line’. They’re like, ‘Oh cool, they got that line in there! That’s such a funny line, I’m glad they found a place for that or I’m glad they found a place for that moment’. Not like, when you see The Notebook with your annoying friend and they’re like, ‘Actually, what happened in the book was …” and I’m like, ‘I don’t give a s***!”‘

As opposed to other comic book-inspired movies like Iron Man or Spider-Man, Scott Pilgrim doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is the secret to its appeal. No doubt, there will like be an onslaught of Pilgrim copycats in the future.

“Yes, people will try to rip this movie off,” Kendrick agrees.

“It will be the biggest movie this year,” she adds, for dramatic effect.

Does that mean Kendrick is declaring Pilgrim will do better than her recent movie, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse? She laughs. “On come on! Don’t put me in that position!”

Kendrick may have an enviable resume; however, she says, “I’m a sci-fi fantasy fan and even though Scott Pilgrim and Twilight have those elements, I’m not part of the fantasy worlds, I’m always the one grounded in reality. I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan and Star Wars, too. It’s a bummer I didn’t get to play Galadriel [in LOTR], but I guess Cate Blanchett was okay,” she deadpans.

Cera is the poster boy for social ineptitude and a recipient of adoring teenage fans. His deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression is omnipresent – on-screen and off. He says, modestly, “I might be a heartbreaker in the movie but I’m not confused about reality and what’s on the screen.”

He deflects any idea of the perils of fame and success, though he is clearly one of Hollywood’s biggest up-and-coming stars. “I just deal with things as they come and try not to think about it too much or it’s easy to freak yourself out. I’m cognisant of the fact that there are a lot of actors who are not working who would like to be.

“I’m certainly not going to complain about ‘the dark side’ of fame.”

LOWDOWN

What: Scott Pilgrim vs The World starring Michael Cera and Anna Kendrick and directed by Edgar Wright
When and where: Opens at cinemas August 12

– TimeOut

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