Who has the real powers at Sky High?
Wouldn't we all like to have the ablility to fly? Or have super strength? What about both? Well, that's what Michael Angarano has in the new film Sky High. He plays Will Stronghold, the son of the two greatest superheroes in the world - The Commander and Jetstream, played by Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston. Michael was also recently in the hit film, Lords of Dogtown, and you also might remember him as Jack's son on Will and Grace.
We spoke with Michael and his best friend, Danielle Panabaker, an earth-friendly girl - Layla. They talked about what it was like to be on the set with Kurt and Kelly. And what super powers they would have if they could choose.
Take a read:
Did you shoot this or Lords of Dogtown first?
Michael Angarano: I did ‘Dogtown' first, it was pretty funny I did all the auditions with the extensions in my hair and all that. And I had to do a month of fight training and my hair was down to here (pointing to his shoulders). I was like, ‘Guys, can I keep it?' And they were like, ‘No, there's no superheroes that look like Spicoli. My first reading of the script was kind of rough because there's all these funny people and Dave Foley was sitting next to me and Bruce Campbell was sitting across from me and it was kind of intimidating but I was just coming off ‘Dogtown' and I had just seen The Notebook the night before and I was in dramatic mode and they're all ‘SIDEKICK' and being all hysterical, it just wasn't working and I had to get in Sky High mode. Just that process alone; it took about a day just to try on the wardrobe and what I'm going to look like.
Can you talk about your character and how you envisioned him and how you portrayed him?
Michael Angarano: I love Will because I think he's the complete ‘average Joe' who goes to high school and it's really easy to relate to him and it's really easy to kind of envision him. But one of the things that's wasn't easy to was the level of stress he's going through. You know, he's got a lot of things; kids have to look up to their parents and their parents reputations. Will has the greatest superheroes on the planet, maybe the history of the planet as parents and he doesn't even have a spec of superhero ability and so that stress he's going through, I can't even imagine it. He's going through high school; he's going through what I went through. What Will went through on his first day, I went through for a month in my high school not knowing anyone, trying to fit in, trying to get people to like you and so I know what he was going through; I think a lot of people do.
You've already had a pretty amazing career, it would seem you would be a Superhero rather than a Sidekick?
Michael Angarano: It's funny, when you go to an all boys high school they really don't watch tv and they really don't see too many movies, but a lot of people didn't really know me which was great. I didn't really know anyone at all; my sister was a senior and so I knew some of the seniors, but all my class, all my peers they had no idea who I was and it was me trying to get them to like me at first.
Danielle, you moved to LA at age 14 to become an actress; did you do that on your own?
Danielle Panabaker: No, my whole family came out, my younger sister, my mom and dad, we all came out trying to make it and we're still here. My younger sister and I tried to act; my parents have no interest what so ever - but my mom, they're very supportive. My sister and I were given a deadline of one year to make it or break it. We kept the house in Chicago because my mom assumed we'd be back very shortly and we're still here.
If it wasn't in the family, what got you so excited to do this?
Danielle Panabaker: My little sister and I had started in community theater and we had a great time with it and somebody said you should go out to LA and try to be on a tv show. There was a lot of persuading to get my parents to come out here to let us give it a try. Because how fantastic is that – you move to LA and you're a movie star. So we pushed and pushed and begged and begged and we were given the opportunity and sort of tried to make the best of it.
What do they think now? Did they sell the house in Chicago?
Danielle Panabaker: We did sell the house in Chicago. We're here!
Can you talk about your character?
Danielle Panabaker: I love Layla; she's such a great character. She doesn't follow the rules, she makes them. That's great to have that confidence to go into high school which is already such a ferocious place and she's very nurturing and she's a shoulder for Will to lean on and what he's going through.
Are you kind of similar to her in any way?
Danielle Panabaker: I would like to hope so; I suppose you would have to ask my friends.
Can you talk about her and the whole green thing?
Danielle Panabaker: This movie is so great and I love that every character has their own color scheme and I thought green was such a perfect color for Layla because she's so earthy and cares about everyone; she's got such a huge heart so green was always fun. I love the wardrobe on this movie; we always would be picking out the different jewelry and the flowers on the rings, and stuff like that.
Do you guys both go to school at the moment?
Michael Angarano: I just graduated high school about six weeks ago. I went to a normal high school out in the Valley, well, an all boys Catholic school.
Danielle Panabaker: I graduated high school when I was 14 and started going to a community college because that way it was a lot easier to work and go to school at the same time. I'm finishing up my Associates degree and then this fall I'll transfer to UCLA as a junior.
Michael, where are you originally from?
Michael Angarano: I'm originally from New York and lived there pretty much my whole life; we moved out to LA, my family moved out here about five years ago. We were coming out here every pilot season, since I was about 8, we were coming out here and when we were spending more and more time out here for pilot season, we decided we would just pick up and go.
How do you like living in the Valley?
Michael Angarano: I love the Valley, all my friends are there. I love to stay as far away from the hub-bub of Sunset and from all that as possible. I really don't go out at all; I just stay at home and watch movies and skateboard around the house. That's what was so great about filming Will and Grace; my first two years of high school I would finish at 3 [PM] and be able to pick up and go to soccer practice when I got home and so I always have time to fit in friends, especially now that I'm able to drive. Whenever I get home, I go over there or they come over here.
Who plays a better parental figure – Jack from Will and Grace or these two from this movie (Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston)?
Michael Angarano: I don't know; I love what Kurt did in this movie so much. He's Superman in one aspect; he's the world's greatest superhero and then he goes home and is probably the clumsiest and ditsiest father. He just wants the best for his son, he just doesn't know how to put it subtly and so he's so caring. But Jack is completely different; I don't know what's going through Jack's mind (laughter), I don't think anyone does.
How friendly did you get with Kurt and Kelly and did you learn anything from them?
Michael Angarano: I love Kurt and Kelly so much; I think they work so well together; they gel so perfectly. We're getting a lot of questions about what kind of advice did he give; he's not the kind of person who takes you aside and gives you advice, he kind of lets you figure it out for yourself. But it was always with the adult actors and the young cast, it was always really a collaborate effort, it felt like they were never really looking down to us even though it was some of their first time doing a big movie at all so it was a big collaborative feel that we were all doing it together which was so great.
Danielle Panabaker: They helped make it what it is and we all had fun making it and I think that comes through.
You've worked with some huge names already and you're still so young, is there anyone who still wow's you?
Michael Angarano: I got pretty scared of Russell Crowe (lots of laughter). I went to the Cinderella Man premiere and I got to meet him and I was really kind of, I don't want to say it, but I wanted to [sh*t] (does motion for this) in my pants. But he was a really cool guy but such great actors like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, you look up to these people and then there they are in the flesh; it's a really surreal experience. I'm going to always be in awe of them.
Is there someone you've kind of followed and looked up to?
Michael Angarano: I love guys who diversity, who show a drama about death. I think Dustin Hoffman's career I would love to emulate just because it's so diversified. I think of him in Tootsie and you laugh your ass off, then you think Kramer vs Kramer or Straw Dogs which is completely diversified and I think I would be so lucky to have something like that.
Did you have a chance to meet John Travolta?
Michael Angarano: Ugh! The one day; 54 out of 55 days and the one day I'm not on set, he comes to set (laughter).
How did you prepare for the role you were playing?
Michael Angarano: I think for both of us, we knew these people, we knew the people we were playing, they spoke to us. These people are us really, like I said I went through what Will went on the first day for about a month; I think everyone did at one point of their lives if it was middle school or high school or starting a new job, just that urge to fit in.
Danielle Panabaker: That's what's great about this movie; they are superheroes and the kid next door, the boy and girl next door who you've known for years, they're dealing with high school and dealing with bullies and pressure from their parents so you know who they are; they just happen to have really cool super powers.
It was sort of brave of you to admit that you were in love with Will in the movie. Would you ever do that yourself?
Danielle Panabaker: Um, no, I'm not that brave
Your parents sent you to acting camp as a confidence boost. It's hard to see you as needing that.
Danielle Panabaker: Oh, no I was always the biggest nerd in school, I had very few friends, I was always picked on, I used to wear really big glasses. I was the epitome of a nerd.
Michael Angarano: (joking) Isn't that hard to imagine, look at her (laughing)
Danielle Panabaker: (continued) very shy and introverted.
Acting does mean that you are the center of attention even if you are introverted.
Danielle Panabaker: The character I'm playing is the center of attention, I don't have to be me; I don't have to be this really insecure person that I am. I can be Layla who knows what it's all about; she knows she doesn't eat meat, she knows she loves Will, and she's got it figured out. I never know any of those things.
What was it like to work with a director you already knew?
Danielle Panabaker: It was great to work with Mike [Mitchell] not only because I knew him but because he's such a great guy; you can sit and chat with him over jokes and you never feel like he's shouting across the room telling you how he wants it. It's always a collaboration and a lot of fun.
Michael Angarano: Like I've been saying, he's the kind of guy that if you split a trailer with him, you could go in the morning and if it's already 90 degrees, you could turn up the temperature to 105, or go to the plants department and put a big plant in the middle of his room or take some meatloaf from catering and put it in his toilet bowl – he's the kind of guy you could do all that too and he'd still laugh.
Did you get to go to prom?
Michael Angarano: I didn't get to go to prom; I was filming a death scene on my prom night. But I got to go to all the homecomings and even the winter formals I got to go to but the only thing I missed was the prom, but everything else was great.
What was the biggest special effect or stunt challenge for each of you?
Danielle Panabaker: I didn't have many special effects to do; the biggest challenge for me was not to scream when everyone was up on the wires cause I was so nervous that someone was going to fall or get hurt. So I just had to hold my breath, you know, like when Warren [Peace] (Steven Straight) is on top of the table on top of him terrified me.
Was there any work done when the plants are growing beside you?
Danielle Panabaker: No, I was in front of a green screen.
Michael Angarano: Yeah, I got to go in the harness and throw people 50 feet, I got to do all that. But there was one that I'll never forget; there's this one harness they call the ‘iron maiden' and that was the name of it. It's this big iron thing and what differentiates it from all the others is it's this iron belt going all around and it's got these nuts and bolts poking you and digging into your hip a little bit. It takes your hip and it takes your waist and it must have squeezed it just a few inches in because I couldn't breathe and I was like (in an out of breath voice) ‘This f*cking thing sucks!' and I was up there and all the weight is taken off.
What does it do?
Michael Angarano: It allows you to flip and turn in the air.
Did you have to do any training?
Michael Angarano: Yeah, I did a month of what they call fight training and I had really long hair and long blonde streaks in my hair because I had just come off of ‘Dogtown' and I really looked like a girl flying through the air trying to punch and they really try to make you look manly and that's all that was.
Do you listen to Pink Floyd? (referencing the shirt he wore in the interview)
Michael Angarano: I do. I love Pink Floyd.
Who introduced you, was that your parents?
Michael Angarano: Yeah, my dad is with me wherever we go and he listens to all that music and he's got me completely into it. If you look in my cd case, you'll see it's Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, now I can't think of anyone else, but all that stuff.
Did you see them on Live 8?
Michael Angarano: I just watched it last night and I was practically in tears crying.
Have you been courted by the stylists that all the Hollywood girls are?
Danielle Panabaker: Not yet, but I could probably use one.
Would you let them do that to you?
Danielle Panabaker: I think the important part is picking clothes that are flattering to your figure and obviously I want a big say what I was going to wear cause it's still me that's still out there.
What do you think of all people looking into your private life?
Danielle Panabaker: I don't think anyone would care about my private life because I don't do anything. I'm at home with my dog.
If you guys could choose a superpower, what would it be?
Michael Angarano: I would fly, 110% I would fly. Who wouldn't want to, just to beat the traffic, man. Go back to New York whenever I want, go to Hawaii whenever I want, just flying, of course.
Have you ever done skydiving?
Michael Angarano: No, I never have. That's a way to fly.
You mention Hawaii, do you surf there?
Michael Angarano: I've surfed only once in my life, and I stood up the whole time, but no, just to go to Hawaii, why not!
Danielle Panabaker: I would love the ability to multiply cause then I'd be able to be in a lot of places at once. You know, one of them could be here, one of them could be still in bed, one of them could be in vacation in Hawaii - see Hawaii, it's on my brain.
Michael Angarano: Who wouldn't want to go to Hawaii!
How much are you like the environmental part of your character?
Danielle Panabaker: Um, a little bit; I don't eat red meat. And I think it's important to be kind to the world before it disappears if we don't take care of it.
Have you ever done anything superhero like in your own life?
Danielle Panabaker: He saved my life so many times. Go ahead –
Michael Angarano: There's this one scene that we film on the roof of Will's house and I swear this girl must have slipped off, almost slipped off three times and I grabbed her. I'm superhero like that.
Danielle Panabaker: He's my superhero. He saved my life.
Are you doing a sequel for Sky High?
Michael Angarano: Are we? (laughing)
Danielle Panabaker: I would love to do a sequel; I had so much fun making Sky High that to do a sequel would be such a blessing.
Are you best friends now?
Danielle Panabaker: Of course, even though he doesn't return my phone calls because he's a big movie star.
You can check out all the superheroes in Sky High. It's in theaters now!