The actor talks about working with Kurt Russell, Bruce Campbell and who his favorite superhero is!
For an actor not even 18 years of age, Michael Angarano has managed to do more in his short career than some actors accomplish in a lifetime pounding the pavement in Hollywood. Landing his first film role at the spry age of 11 in the movie I'm Not Rappaport, Angarano has been working steadily ever since. Playing such diverse roles as Cameron Crowe’s younger alter ego in 2000’s, Almost Famous, or the young Red Pollard in 2003’s Seabiscuit, Angarano seems to truly embody the “everyday joe” who finds himself in life altering circumstances.
So it comes as no surprise that producers would see fit to cast him as budding superhero, Will Stronghold in 2005’s, Sky High. In this comedic adventure, Angarano plays a normal teenager trying to cope with all the things teenager’s have to cope with, in addition to having the added pressure of being the third generation of the Stronghold family to attend the esteemed and celebrated Sky High. This elite school is entrusted with the responsibility of molding today's power-gifted students into tomorrow's superheroes. The only problem... Will is starting his freshman year without any super powers of his own. Worst of all, he must hide all of his troubles or face the disappointment of his parents, the crime-fighting duo - The Commander/Steve (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream/Josie (Kelly Preston) - the most revered and beloved superheroes in the business today.
What’s it like playing a superhero?
Michael Angarano: You know, it’s running around like you’re 5 and you’re in your underwear with a towel wrapped around your neck, and a big S drawn on your chest. Running around your house pretending to fly. It’s living out your fantasies... being what you’ve seen on TV, or trying to be.
Did you have to do anything special for the more physical aspects of the film? Like working out? Getting into better shape than you might have already been in?
Michael Angarano: I had to do a month of fight training. Which is basically learning to punch, learning to kick, learning how to move with a harness and all that. I was working out. I didn’t tell Mike Mitchell, the director, that I was working out for a while. I worked out almost everyday for like 3 weeks. And when I finally told him, it was before we started shooting. I just tried to slip it by him, you know? I was like, “I’m just working out... getting chicks.” And he’s like, “What?!?!” I go, “Yeah, I’m just lifting some weights. You know... nothing too big. I wanna get toned, you know what I mean?” And he’s like, “STOP RIGHT NOW.” I’m like, “Why?” And he said, “Will is a normal kid. He cannot be in shape!!” I’m like, “What about once he gets his powers? It would obviously be a physical change in his body.” He goes, “Nope. Don’t do it.” I go, “Okay.” And I stopped and I haven’t worked out since.
Did the fact that were playing against Kurt Russell, who plays a legendary superhero in the movie, but yet is also a screen legend in real life... did any of this play into how you played Will Stronghold?
Michael Angarano: Well... you could say it’s intimidating. We didn’t have too much rehearsal at all on Sky High. We just had random scenes that we rehearsed from time to time and we had script readthroughs. But, I only met Kurt once before the actual day of filming. He comes on to the set and we have maybe an hour of rehearsal beforehand. Even during rehearsal, it was quick and easy and I’m like, “Oh, he’s a pro.” Then we start getting into it and he just starts throwing stuff at you. He’s not trying to rule the scene. He’s not trying to monopolize everything and take you over and intimidate you by saying, “I’m Kurt Russell! I’ve been doing this for 40 years! Do what I say!” He’s not like that at all. He’s trying to nurturingly guide you along the way. He kind of just takes you along for the ride.
So the scenes where I’m Will Stronghold, listening to Steve give me advice or he’d go on one of his rampages, a lot of the time it was probably just me listening to Kurt Russell just go off! You could definitely make a parallel out of it.
It seems like it would play into the character as well because he’s your father and you’re gonna listen to your father...
Michael Angarano: Yeah, of course. As an actor you try and take what you really feel in real life. Sometimes you rehearse a scene and something makes you laugh. Or, something makes you feel a certain way that you had not originally planned in rehearsal or reading the script. And your first instinct is, “Oh, that’s not good. I gotta get out of that.” And then you think, “Maybe that is the right way to go? Maybe that is the right instinct?” A lot of stuff with Kurt I found, that wasn’t originally in the script, that Kurt kind of threw in there echoed on our characters. Not only his but my character as well.
What was it like working with Bruce Campbell? Are you a fan of his films?
Michael Angarano: I had actually not seen Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness. I had not seen them before we shot. I watched them after Sky High. I was completely in awe of this guy and I already had worked with him!! I had questions for him but I already had worked with him. I was like, “What a dumb ass you are not to watch the movies beforehand!” I was completely transfixed on Evil Dead 2. I was literally in awe of the guy. I wanted to ask him so many questions but I already had worked with him. It was already done. That whole experience was already over. I was like, “Oh man... what a moron you are.”
Do you have a favorite superhero?
Michael Angarano: Yeah... I go with Batman. He doesn’t really have super powers. He’s just a regular guy... deep down. Behind the suit, he’s a regular guy with some issues, you know what I mean? And I think that’s what I like most about him. He’s fighting the world with no powers. Just his suit and his brain.
You’ve done movies based on real events on like Almost Famous, Lords of Dogtown and Seabiscuit, as well as some films that are not based on reality like Sky High. Do you have to prepare differently as an actor when you’re playing those two types of different roles?
Michael Angarano: Well, in one aspect you’re playing somebody and you wanna get how they talk, how they walk, what they look like... you wanna get their character traits down and you wanna build from there. With Sky High, or anything else, you’re creating something from scratch. You’re really using your imagination and creativity. You’re taking risks, as much as you possibly can, just diving headfirst into it. Each film I do... if you asked me right now, “As an actor what’s your process?” I have no idea because each film requires something different. It’s just what you would think. With Sky High it was more about taking risks and creating something from scratch. Seabiscuit, Almost Famous and even Lords of Dogtown, it’s taking little bits of real people and your actual character and building from there.
What’s next for you?
Michael Angarano: After Sky High, I did 3 really independent movies. I just wanted to get back to reality because Sky High was larger than life. It was very big. And so I just wanted to be real people again and deal with real situations. I did this movie called One Last Thing about a boy who’s dying of a terminal illness, and he’s in a group similar to the “Make A Wish Foundation.”
And then I did a movie called Black Irish about an Irish American family living in South Boston. In their house they just can’t get along with each other. They just can’t find the means to communicate but outside they’re the first ones to step up to bat for each other. Yet, inside the house they just can’t love each other like they do outside of the house.
Then I did a film called Bondage about a kid who gets sent away to juvenile hall for four and a half years, and when he turns 18 he’s gonna get sent to the State Penitentiary. And he figures the only way not to get sent to the State Penitentiary is to act crazy and get sent to a mental institution instead, so he does exactly that. It’s written and directed by a guy named Eric Allen and it’s his life, almost 100% true, what he went through and it’s pretty damn scary at times. How you could look at the film and then look at the guy himself and you have to ask, “How’d you get through it?”
Sky High flies onto your friendly, neighborhood DVD stores on November 29th, 2005.
Dont't forget to also check out: Sky High