The young actors discuss their roles in the highly-praised independent film.
We attended the Los Angeles movie-junket for Jason Reitman's new independent drama-comedy, Juno. The film has received much praise from many of the better-known movie reviewers.
Juno stars Ellen Page as the title character, a whip-smart teen confronting an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate Bleeker (Michael Cera). With the help of her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), Juno finds her unborn child a "perfect" set of parents: an affluent suburban couple, Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), longing to adopt. Luckily, Juno has the total support of her parents (JK Simmons and Allison Janney) as she faces some tough decisions, flirts with adulthood and ultimately figures out where she belongs.
We attended the roundtable interview with Ellen Page and Michael Cera who answered questions about their participation in the making of the film:
How quickly upon reading the script, were you like "I want to do this project?"
Ellen Page: When I read the script it just blew mind and I fell totally in love with it and I just really wanted to be part of it.
Michael Cera: How quickly?
Ellen Page: Oh, how quickly? ... I don't know, page 4. No, that's exaggerating. One of those things where immediately when you started reading it, you knew it was something special and then the more you read, the more it surprised you, and the more you realized it was devoid of stereotype and...
Michael Cera: I really liked the format of the script. It was not written like a script. It didn't look like she (screenwriter Diablo Cody) was trying to write it like a script. It was more like a book. I can remember certain paragraphs were just like broken up oddly and that kind of ... not like reading a script. Kinda like a book. That made me want to do the movie. I thought "wow, if it's written oddly then, if it's not written like a script, it's got to be a good movie". I found out, that's not the way to make a decision. And it's not a lesson that I'll soon forget.
What did you two like most about your characters? What about that character that caught your eye?
Michael Cera: I really liked that my character's just kinda immediately less out of the equation. I didn't have any sort of control in the matter. It's like a movie that takes course over 9 months or so and just the whole time, not aware of what's going on and have no control over it, so that kind of, I thought that would be fun to do.
Ellen Page: I was excited about this character because I felt like it was a teenage female lead that we just never seen before and although she's an incredibly unique and witty and all these things, she's also very genuine and it all felt very sincere.
I have a friend who I had to drag to go see Knocked Up because she was saying "Well, why didn't she just get an abortion" and so, sort of the same thing. I might drag her to this, because this is a great film, she's going to love it but it's going to be a sort of "C'mon you gotta see it". What do you say to people who sort-of say "Is this a pro-life"?
Ellen Page: No, I think it approaches it in extremely democtracitc way. Diablo Cody wasn't writing a script about a 16-year girl that got an abortion. She was writing a script about a 16-year old girl that got pregnant, decided to have the baby and give it to a young yuppy uptight couple for adoption. That's what the movie is about. And I think she dealt with it in a democratic way. She goes to the clinic and Juno deals with it in a relatively nonchalant manner and the reason she decides to leave is actually just because of some random weird reason.
Was there any discussion about the larger issue during the filming or were you just focusing totally on the characters and the situation?
Ellen Page: Yeah, no discussion. I didn't even think about it when I read the script and then shooting their movie and someone was like "boy, press is going to be fun". And I didn't really know what they were talking about because to me it's just a film shows it as an extremely viable option which is obviously the most important thing for young individuals.
When you were making the film on set, did you know when you were filming it that this is going to be a special film? Did you feel it when you were making it?
Michael Cera: I think I was really excited and thought that it would be really good and I noticed Jason was doing a lot of cool things. He just had a baby and I think that was really contributing to his, he always had, like I feel Ellen's stomach in one scene and he's like "man, that's like the craziest feeling. You have know idea what this feels like, you have to be like, your mind has to be blown by this". So that helped a lot. I felt really good about it. I knew it was a good script and really liked it and thought it had potential to be really good and I think it felt it was going well when we were doing it.
Ellen Page: I pretty much agree with that. Good script, good people coming together. Good vibes all around.
I'm curious about the tone of the movie because it could so easily turn into one of those teen-quirky-indie movies, and it doesn't. It keeps itself right the whole time. Is that something you guys were really focusing on, not making yourselves too quirky and cute? When you were making this, was this something that Jason was focusing on, sort of how the tone came together.
Ellen Page: Yeah, you make a good point. It's really crucial to achieve that balance with a film like this, cause it is unique and witty and then there's the tendency to force that. It becomes contrived and I know the feeling like, give me a fork that I can stab in my eye in those kinds of movies. It was about, there's a lot to say about Jason's directing style and the cast he put together. Michael, Jason Batemen, Jen, Allyson, J.K. ... they are all so funny. It's so understated and extremely sincere and it was just about bringing the sincerity and the honesty into it.
What was the level of improv on this? Some of the dialogue is so naturalistic. Is that all Diablo, or is there improv on set?
Michael Cera: A lot of it was pretty stuck to the script. A lot of the watching the movie, I remember a lot of those exactly how they were in the script. A lot of my favorite lines in the movie. There was never a need for it. It always felt really, like everything was there, and felt great running the scenes. I think everyone was so excited about the script that it just being able to do it was enough.
Did you guys rehearse for this, or do you believe in rehearsal, or do you like kinda get on set and kinda find it as it happens?
Ellen Page: Very minimally. It's just getting to know each other. I think it depends on the projects.
What sort of things did you guys do to try and bond and...?
Michael Cera: It was pretty minimal.
Ellen Page: There was some Wii playing. I boxed him and I beat him. We went to the aquarium.
Michael Cera: Yeah, Went to the Vancouver aquarium, which was amazing. Watched some movies: "Red Hot American Summer", Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Some other stuff.
Ellen Page: Some walks, sun was setting.
Did it take you time to get into the fat suit?
Ellen Page: NO, no, it's called pregnancy by the way ... I'm teasing you. It's like almost like a corset in the back. It didn't take much time.
Your character's relationship with Mark and maybe his feelings towards her. Is there some...?
Ellen Page: Yeah, ambiguous, if I may. I think my job in that sense was a lot easier. I think Jason Bateman had a more difficult line to walk down because I'm playing the character and there's a line in the film where Juno says "I've just like being a piece of furniture in your weird life" and I think that's very much the way she felt. This situation she found herself in gave her a portal into adulthood. A portal into being a part of that which I think when your 16 is something that is exciting, but growing up what-have-you. I think she was just kind of infatuated by him and was there and really was naive in understanding that whole other aspect of the situation and I think it's two people that respect each other's individual situation. Jason Batemen, Mark's character, sees Juno as a sense of promise and a sense of freedom and something that he feels trapped in his adulthood I guess.
Did you guys have many conversations about how to avoid the sort-of "dirty old man" vibes, so it wouldn't felt like a prequel to Hard Candy maybe?
Ellen Page: Yeah. We cut out, there's a seen where I kind of attack him in the basement, and it will be on the DVD. No, I think it was ... Jason Bateman kind of had the harder side of that. He talked a lot with (director Jason) Reitman about it. It was just about, again maintaining that balance and that kind of purposely ambiguous, I think.
What do you think of Mark? Do you think he's an asshole?
Ellen Page: No, not at all. I think he feels trapped in his life. The timing wasn't great, but these things happen and I think that if the situation had remained, it probably would have been a much more unhealthy environment bringing up a child.
Would you guys talk about what you have coming up?
Michael Cera: I'm working on a movie right now in New York called "Nick and Nora". It's probably going to come out in a year or something. Hopefully it will be good. It's a guy and a girl meet and it takes place in one night and we meet in New York and we spend the night traveling around New York City looking for this band.
How close is the personality of your character consistent with your personality? Was it like, "hey, I'm a smart-aleck too and this is written down in script form" or is it like you pretty-much have to put yourself into that persona for the role?
Ellen Page: I think, and that's an interesting question, in how to you relate!? You get it, no matter what character your play. I feel like whenever anyone is honest and whole and well-written, you're going to be able to connect to that person because we're all kinda made up of the same stuff and I think that's always one of the really powerful things about approaching each individual character and role and film. With Juno, it's specific, again it's like in some ways I'm like her and some ways I'm not.
Juno lands in theatres nationwide on December 7th.