Jean Smart Talks <strong><em>Youth in Revolt</em></strong>

The actress talks about mothering Michael Cera in this upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release

Youth in Revolt, Miguel Arteta's hilarious ode to puberty gone wild, is set to take the home video marketplace by storm when it arrives on both DVD and Blu-ray June 15th. This hilarious coming-of-age tale finds everyone's favorite teenager Michael Cera grappling with his inner-Id. Based on the popular novel by C.D. Payne, our hero Nick Twisp (Cera) is in love. Unable to land the girl of his dream using his own nerdy personality, Nick turns to his imaginary bad boy other self Francois for help. The swarthy, mustachioed lothario has a knack for being a filthy scoundrel and soon lands Nick into all kinds of horribly outlandish trouble.

Actress Jean Smart, best known for her stint on the long-running sitcom Designing Women, co-stars in the film as Nick's mom Estelle Twisp, a woman who is quick to banish her son after he sets fire to a whole city block. Even though her own behavior has been less than becoming. To help celebrate this upcoming release, we recently caught up with Jean to talk with her about Youth in Revolt's home video debut. Here is that conversation:

Does the humor in Youth in Revolt appeal to your own sensibilities?

Jean Smart: Yes. It did. I must say, I had great fun doing this film. Though I did the whole movie with a broken leg. I had just fallen down a few stairs and broken my leg a few days before we began shooting. Thank God, Miguel didn't fire me. I thought he was going to say, "I'm sorry. We need to replace you." But, no. He worked around it.

How did you fall down the stairs? Was this an accident?

Jean Smart: My in-laws were visiting. Two of my son's cousins were crashing in his room. It was about three in the morning. Of course they were still up playing video games. I went into their room to tell them to keep it down a bit. After cleaning up some Coke cans, and candy wrappers, and some chip bags, I had both of my hands full. I turned around, I went down the stairs, I slipped, and I didn't have a hand to grab anything with. I broke my leg. Yep. Yep.

That's some pretty decent leg acting on your part. I didn't notice it was broken at all.

Jean Smart: If you ever happen to watch the movie again, you'll notice that I am standing or sitting a lot. There was one scene...I love Miguel Arteta, but he wanted me to walk down the stairs and walk across the grass. Which was very uneven. I needed to do this very quickly, then hop in this convertible with Ray Liotta. It was our first date. I thought, "Dear God? How am I going to do this?" He had me walk down just the last step. Then I fake ran across the grass as fast as I could. It's hard to turn quickly and hop into the front seat of a car. It was all a little painful. Lets put it that way. We did fifteen or sixteen takes. Then he didn't use it in the movie.

He puts you through all of this pain, and you don't even get to reap any of the rewards from it.

Jean Smart: No! It was all right.

What do you think the overall message of the film is? And do you at all agree with it?

Jean Smart: I thought the style of the movie was very clever and very funny. I loved the narration and the claymation. But I loved the fact that it was different than a lot of the movies about young people and sex. There was a sweetness to it. I think that is frighteningly lacking in most "losing your virginity" movies. There was a yearning on their parts for romance. For it all to have a great deal of meaning. It wasn't just about losing your virginity. "Ohh, I got to get me some!" I loved that idea, certainly in terms of what is being said. I think most people want that in life. Your sex drive is very strong, especially when you are young. But I think everyone, even boys, want some love and romance, too.

Its very interesting in that regard. It is a sweet movie. Its what you could almost call "cute". I'm in a much older demographic, and I really enjoyed Youth in Revolt. Some of the kids I saw coming out of the theater didn't like it as much. They didn't think it was raunchy enough. What did your kids think about it?

Jean Smart: My son and his friends thought it was hysterical. They are nineteen, and they loved it. I do think, Unfortunatly, that a lot of kids have become inured to anything that is slightly intellectual. They tend to tune out if they have to realty listen to what someone is saying. Especially if they have to really pay attention. And they can't just follow the action. "Where are the swords? Where is the blood?" Which is kind of scary. Because you don't know what kind of adults they are going to turn into at this point. We're going to have a whole generation of teens and twenty-somethings, and it's going to be interesting to discover what kinds of forty-year-olds they turn out to be. They've been fed so much scary, meaningless stuff. But it's true. The two lead characters in the film are very eccentric intellectuals. Or pseudo-intellectuals. They aren't the typical kids that you see in teen movies. They're not like the characters you see in American Pie. This film is not typical. Your average audience member is not going to understand all of those literary references. Necessarily. For me, that wasn't important. You didn't need to understand that stuff for the film to be enjoyable. You needed to understand what these characters were about. These ideas were something the characters were hiding behind. Here are two lonely kids who had found a way to immerse themselves in books. It completely pulled them out of these mundane lives, and away from the horrible parents they had. These kids felt like they were suffocating. That they had no future. That they were doomed to live the lives of their parents. It was unfathomable to them that they would end up this way. They each had something inside of them driving them to something so much more. They came up with these grandiose fantasies. And they responded to certain kinds of literature that made them feel as though they had gotten away from their everyday, mundane existence. When they met each other, this became exaggerated. They used it as a way of impressing each other and talking big. They were basically two lonely kids who were also going through a lot of angst about sex. In that sense it was very typical and reflective of what kids go through at that age, in college and high school. I thought the story was very funny and sweet. Michael Cera's character? The fact that he developed an alter ego was perfect. The way that was handled was odd. But it was hilarious. It wasn't typical. If the film did not do as well because of that, you have to say, "Well? So be it."

Maybe these kids that didn't understand it will come to appreciate the film when they are older.

Jean Smart: I hope so. Most of them haven't read the book. Unfortunatly, a lot of kids don't read anymore. I don't know what we can do about that.

Personally, I loved Michael Cera's Francois. On set, was that a weird thing to deal with. You're on set, and you're not supposed to even be seeing him. When Michael was in that skin, did he take a completely different approach to what he was doing on set?

Jean Smart: It was really funny. He did a breakfast scene with Ray Liotta and I. I was thinking, "But he doesn't really look like this. He's not really talking like this." I had to keep reminding myself of that. It was a lot of fun, but I felt really bad for Michael, having to wear those contact lenses. It was heinous. There was all this smoke, and he wasn't used to wearing contact lenses. That was bothering him at times.

Maybe that played into some of the anger we see coming out of him in the film.

Jean Smart: Yeah! (Laughs) He was amazing.

What is your personal take on Estelle's own behavior? Do you think she is right in abolishing Nick and sending him away to his father?

Jean Smart: Not really. Obviously, I can't agree, but what he did was just awful. She's screaming out, "He just burnt down half of Berkeley!" For any parent that would be enraging. And terrifying. Yes, I suppose she might think, "You need to be with your father. He will be tougher on you!" All parents have reached a point where they say, "I can't handle this." Unfortunatly, the relationships she has in her life with men are tantamount for her. Her maternal instincts are secondary to her own needs. She is the kind of woman who can't be by herself. She's got to have a replacement immediately for who ever ditches her. I felt bad for her son. I think she loves him. But she doesn't understand him. He's always been the kind of kid that had her asking, "Where the Hell did you come from?" He was always a different kind of kid. She wants to know, "How did I give birth to this little creature?" She's probably never understood him at all. Now, of course, he is older. He is bigger. He is taller than her. He is talking crazy. He's doing really crazy things. He is making her life miserable. And he is going to drive away her new boyfriend. That's it. "Good bye. I did my job. Get out of here."

Estelle is involved with two very different men in the film. Ray Liotta and Zach Galifianakis are such opposites. What do you think that says about Estelle in her own life, that she is bouncing from such extremes without taking a breath?

Jean Smart: I am an equal opportunity girlfriend. I will not have any prejudices! Anyone that thinks she is attractive is attractive to her. You know what I mean? We all have that to a certain extreme. We are all a lot more attracted to someone who finds us incredibly attractive. It's very flattering. It feels good. Have you ever had this experience where you dream about someone you know? And you've never thought about them one way or the other? But for some reason in the dream, you are really attracted to them? And then, when you wake up, you can't really look at them in the same way again? Now they seem far more attractive to you than they ever did.

I've had that dream. For sure.

Jean Smart: Yeah. That's part of it. When someone suddenly seems to find you incredibly attractive, and funny, and sexy. All these things. Suddenly they seem a lot more attractive to you. But I think she can't stay alone for a variety of reasons. Emotionally as well as practically.

So you've had dreams about Zach, or Ray...Or Michael? Which one was it?

Jean Smart: (Laughs) Well, no. I haven't had those dreams yet. I might.

That dream is waiting to creep into your mind, then you won't be able to look at them the same way ever again.

Jean Smart: Who knows where this woman met Zach? At bar? He was probably all over her. Treating her like a goddess. He was funny and he had a regular job. What could be so bad? Then, of course, the savior comes along. A big tough guy policeman who is going to protect her. Comfort her in her grief. Even though she is more upset about losing the car than her boyfriend. Suddenly, he is all over her. He is a policeman. That is a hero thing. I dated a policeman when I was in college. It was exciting.

Did you get a free pass?

Jean Smart: No! But he really humiliated me this one time. I was walking down the street near this men's clothing store. Where I worked. He and his partner jumped out of their squad car and grabbed me like they were arresting me. They then threw me in the back of a police car. They thought it was hilarious. I thought it was really embarrassing. (Laughs) I didn't think it was so funny.

I think that's hilarious.

Jean Smart: Actually. I think it was cute.

You always seem to find very funny, very interesting roles. Is it difficult finding something that truly speaks to you? Or do you find that a lot of directors and writers have found your voice and are more than willing to exploit it in comedy?

Jean Smart: I don't know. I love doing drama as much as I love doing comedy. I am actually up for a part in a more dramatic film. I am just dieing for it. If I don't get it, I am going to jump off something. A curb. I will jump off a curb. But I don't know. If it's a drama or comedy, it doesn't matter to me. I just want to like the writing. I am just so fortunate that people are still offering me jobs. I was just offered a couple plays in New York. I had to turn them down, but it's nice to be asked.

Youth in Revolt makes its DVD and Blu-ray debut on June 15th.

B. Alan Orange