Michael Cera on magic cactus mescaline, fatherhood and the future of on-demand TV
You shot your latest film, Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus, in Chile. What did you make of the country?
There are a lot of dogs. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. You walk around Santiago and every 10ft, there’s a dog – a wild dog. All day in the parks there were wild dogs, just hanging out and having sex [laughs]. I went to Chile a few months early to practice my Spanish. I’d been studying Spanish in Los Angeles, but I wanted to go and immerse myself before we actually started shooting. I spent a lot of time exploring Santiago. I found all these little corners that even the people who live there had never been to.
The film’s about your character trying to track down a fabled hallucinogenic drug. Would you ever try any ‘natural acid’?
I’ve never actively sought something like that out. It’s not really in my plans right now. We did cook and drink the stuff [mescaline boiled down from cactus plants] while we were making the movie, but there was no effect. Gaby [Hoffman, who plays the titular ‘Crystal Fairy’] had an experience with it, I think. She drank a double dose.
Your character can also be seen Hoovering up lines of cocaine in the film. Presumably you didn’t go ‘method’ with that, too…
[Laughs] No, for that we used some sort of sugar thing. It’s not terrible, but it’s not much fun either. No matter what it is, you don’t want to be thrusting it up your nose.
There was a lot of improvisation in the film. Is that something you enjoy as an actor?
Well, yes – but it’s not so different from doing a scene with dialogue. We were never left hanging, because we had a detailed outline of each scene, and Sebastián [Silva, the director] would help us get the ball rolling. It wasn’t like a Larry David or Christopher Guest improvisation where we had to be funny. Each scene has to have a high joke range for those movies – this one wasn’t like that.
You had a cameo in This Is The End last year. Are you friends with its stars James Franco and Seth Rogen in real life?
I don’t live too close to those guys. I see Jonah [Hill] most, because he has a place in New York. But I talk to Seth and Evan [Goldberg, who co-directed This Is The End] a lot, as we’re trying to develop a project together. But they’re not my day-to-day friends, and those guys are a little older than me, too, so we didn’t grow up together.
It’s nearly seven years since Superbad was released – has there ever been talk of a sequel?
No one has mentioned it, but I’d probably have to say yes [if it did happen], because it would be so fun to be around those guys again. I’d be very nervous about the idea, though. As a movie-watcher I get nervous about sequels. But the Anchorman one looks good.
You’ve directed short films in the past – is directing something you’d like to do more of?
I don’t have anything particular in mind, but I’d like to try that one day if there was an opportunity.
Which directors do you admire?
I really love Mike Leigh, he’s a big influence, but very hard to imitate. I also love [Akira] Kurosawa, Hal Ashby and Elaine May, but I think the point is to find some way to make films that nobody has tried before. Also, I was watching Blue Velvet yesterday, and I love how David Lynch controls the pace of it; it’s so slow that you feel it’s almost not moving at all, then you realise it really is moving forward, and you’re being pulled into it.
Last year’s series of Arrested Development was a big success for Netflix. Do you think that kind of platform is the future of TV?
Unless something goes very wrong for Netflix, it will continue to develop original stuff. That will be a new way for TV series to be made, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried making films, too. If they could keep the cost low, they could have an original film that was just available on Netflix. The point is they don’t need a middle man. One of the strengths is that they have no obligation to reveal their ratings to anyone. They’re so self-sufficient they can just do their own thing and keep it all a mystery.
When you’re not acting, you play bass in a band. Are you into any British groups?
I know about Arctic Monkeys. I like their stuff, and The Last Shadow Puppets, too. I also like Matt Berry.
Do you ever play music with any fellow actors?
Jason Schwartzman [of Rushmore fame] is an amazing musician, and we have a very similar taste, so I love playing music with him. He’s really accomplished; he understands music on a deeper level than I do. He was in New York recently, so we hung out and played. He’s a father now.
Is fatherhood still a long way off? Do you think you’ll have kids?
I have no idea – it’s hard for me to visualise. You have to have a woman first. You really need a woman for that [laughs].
Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus is at cinemas now, and available on download, on-demand and DVD