Firstly I apologise for the headline pun and secondly, don’t you just hate it when people the same age as you are making about $10m per film?
I do. But when it is Michael Cera, there’s a willingness to accept it. A Canadian who has broken into the proverbial Hollywood comedy womb, Cera is improving, growing, evolving as a young comedic actor with every new role. The fresh faced thesp with a distinct geek-chic style continues surprise.
With the highly anticipated Scott Pilgrim Versus The World about to be powered up, I thought it would be a good chance to chart the evolution of Cera going from a ten year old who can kill you with the power of his mind (seriously) – to creating classic comedy characters like George Michael, Francois Dillinger and Seth’s other half Evan. Not to mention, Scott Pilgrim himself.
Starting out with a voice role at the age of 11 for Noddy, Michael Cera’s career path was far from certain in 1998. The first major live action role he auditioned for was the role of ‘I-see-dead-people’ child lead in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense losing out to Hayley Joel Osmont.
The movie was an instant hit and made Osmont a huge star at the turn of the Millennium but it would probably have been the death of Cera’s career at such a young age. Too much pressure too soon, he would have been propelled into movies he wasn’t ready for. He still needed to grown as an actor.
After Noddy a slew of small minor dramatic TV appearances followed and a compendium of embarrassing clips to show on interview shows were inevitable. Starring in such classics as Walter and Henry;
and My Louisiana Sky;
But the best role he took, which was recently shown on an appearance with Letterman, was on the American TV series remake of La Femme Nikita.
Playing a ten year old with the capability to kill with the power of his mind (I know I didn’t think that Nikita had any element of supernatural powers), Cera manages to escape a foam cubed prison by killing two guards. Put it simply; watch the clip
“I Gotta Have Faith”
Following a few voice over stints on popular children TV shows in his teens, BraceFace and Rolie Polie Olie, along came the comedy breakthrough that would define Cera to his die hard fans. Thanks to Ron Howard and Michael Hurwitz - Arrested Development was born as to was Michael Cera as George Michael.
Revolving around the riches to rags story of the Bluth family, Cera played the son of Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth who attempted to keep the family together when his own father was involved in fraudulent behaviour with the Bluth company. Cera played the role of a pubescent awkward teenager who works on his fathers frozen banana stand who falls for his own cousin (Or is she?).
Cera portrayed such a convincing character that to this day I believe that Michael Cera is George Michael (not the singer) and vice versa. Every actor and actress on the show were brilliant, but the burgeoning deadpan comedic talent of Cera seemed to shine through. His interaction with Maeby (Alia Shawkat) helped to turn incest into a subject for comedy, as if it wasn’t already. But before I go into my huge rant about Arrested Development being destroyed by bad ratings (Shame on you American audiences), I want to visit a little seen gem which arose from AD.
When Michael Met Clark
Becoming friend over a fence being opened, Clark was polite enough to let Cera in when he was locked out, and a webisode series was created which can be seen on YouTube;
The show followed the two friends as they write scripts and attempt to sell them while being followed round by a faux-documentary crew which documents their successes, but mostly failures. The result is actually really good and I recommend that if you are a Cera fan, check it out.
As Arrested Development developed into one of the best sitcoms in many a year, the ratings unfortunately never followed. We got to watch as George Michael shared a kiss with Maeby and then get a girlfriend, Ann (Mae Whitman) who presented limitless comedy potential which the shows incredible writers never failed to avoid (she can next be seen beating up Scott Pilgrim). He continued to work the frozen banana stand and also did a hilarious tribute to the lightsaber wielding teenager who became an internet hit.
Working on such a critically successful comedy with such brilliant writers was exactly what Cera’s career needed and he left Arrested Development after its cancellation in 2006 after three brilliant seasons. With rumours of an Arrested Development film constantly littering the internet, we may not have seen the last of George Michael and this can only be a good thing.
Michael Cera himself was quoted in an interview with Esquire magazine as saying,
“Arrested Development never felt safe. Even the first season, we did thirteen episodes, and we thought we’d never do a back nine. So I never thought in a million years we’d get to make three seasons…I don’t think we made a bad episode.”
He’s not wrong. If you haven’t seen it, just buy the DVDs and if you have seen it, join me in saying “Screw you FOX, screw you”. George Michael’s greatest bits;
Without George Michael there would be no Evan and I’ll even go as far as saying, no Superbad. If you take George Michael and place him in high school you have Evan, simple as that. Seeing as nobody had really seen Arrested Development, Michael Cera suddenly emerged as a comedy genius along with Jonah Hill.
I stand by my opinion that Superbad is one of the best comedies from the last 25 years and that is down to the comedic chemistry that Hill and Cera share, and lets not forget McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Playing a teenager with the increasing urge to lose his virginity, Cera plays it effortlessly and again it is easy to imagine him embodying his character in reality.
His awkwardness around Becca (Martha MacIsaac) is both realistic and extremely funny. A tearaway hit that created numerous quoting opportunities for everyone, Superbad helped define Cera to the mainstream audience and super comedy produce, Judd Apatow, owes a lot to both Cera and Hill for helping to create such iconic characters.
Here is an interesting video of his audition opposite the already extremely popular Seth Rogen;
Which is almost as good as his singing;
As much as Superbad opened all the right mainstream comedy doors for Cera, it was another film in the same year which showed Cera’s capability to pick the right scripts at the right time. Juno the small indie film that dreamt big ended up being both commercially successful and garnered much critical acclaim. But what I find most important about this film in terms of Cera’s career is how it enabled him to display his acting talents in both comedy and drama.
Starring opposite Ellen Page, Juno in a very indie kooky style told the story of a teenage girl who gets pregnant and the choices she must make. Cera playing the teenager who impregnates her, may play second fiddle to Page, she is the focal point of the film after all, but his acting is superb. Going from comedy to drama like flicking a switch, it almost proved the Cera doubters wrong. It might not be his most prominent acting performance or even his best in such a short career but in my eyes you would be hard pressed to find a more touching moment from two young actors than the scene where he comforts her after the baby has been delivered.
It may be a small scene but its subtlety is its power, and there is something beautiful about that. You also get a taste of his guitar playing habits at the end of the film with a cute little duet between Page and Cera;
Nick and Norah have a Paper Heart in Revolt
As Cera has evolved he has jumped from small productions to big productions. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is somewhere in the middle, having a small budget yet also via its soundtrack attracting an indie audience which has steadily been increasing and spreading into the mainstream. With a budget of $9m it made $11m in its opening weekend in the US. In the film he plays Nick who has recently been made single, opposite Norah (Kat Dennings) who inadvertedly has been finding Nick’s mix CD’s that were made for his now ex-girlfriend.
Norah asks Nick to pretend to be her boyfriend for 5 minutes to impress a friend, a friend who happens to be Nick’s ex. What ensues is a love story told over one night with a brilliant soundtrack.
Continuing on with the smaller films, Cera joined his then girlfriend Charlene Yi to star in the insanely cute Paper Heart. Unlike Nick & Norah however, the film did not ascertain much commercial success which is a shame because it truly is a beautiful piece of cinema.
Charlene Yi plays herself, believing that she can never fall in love she sets out to find out what love is, documenting it along the way. Played as a mockumentary, Cera plays himself as well and through the film they both meet and slowly they fall for one another with the documentary filming acting as a stumbling block in their weird relationship. Although it might have been easier for them to act this out due to their real-life relationship, the film is a beautiful little gem and their relationship is heart-warming and real.
Check out the trailer if you haven’t seen the film and then, see the film!
Youth in Revolt on the other hand benefited from mass marketing and a much larger budget than both Nick & Norah & Paper Heart.
Playing a duel role as both straight laced Nick Twisp and his devilish alter-ego Francois Dillinger, Cera began to cement his position as the youthful comedic power in Hollywood. The film got so-so reviews and I have to admit I didn’t actually enjoy it as much as I thought I would, however this wasn’t down to Cera. And as much as I have been raving about the man, he still has his faults.
At Least It Wasn’t A Date Movie
In his relatively short acting career Cera has had very few bumps, but some has been severe luckily for him he has managed to come out unscathed. The big production and advertising drive that came with Year One drove many of us to believe that another comedy classic was on the horizon. It had Jack Black and Cera got to team up once more with his Arrested Development buddy David Cross, yet the film bombed. As Empire magazine said “You’ll find more laughs in the old testament itself”.
Yet surely this isn’t his worst film? It isn’t, that belongs to Extreme movie.
So to those lucky ones who managed to see it at Comic-Con, well done I’m extremely jealous of you.
To those of you who didn’t, like me, just keep watching the trailers in anticipation. The buzz coming out of Comic-Con is one of geek frenzy.And I for one can’t blame them, the mind behind Shaun of The Dead and Michael Cera coming together was always going to be good. But when it is based on such a cool graphic novel that is when I begin counting down the days till release.
Count down with me now…. 1….2……3
I for one will always be watching for Michael Cera’s next career move and whether or not he takes his teenage looks with him into adulthood. Whether or not he ever takes a fully dramatic role, other than La Femme Nikita, is neither here nor there. He, along with a few others such as Jonah Hill, is the fresh young comedic faces of Hollywood. If he needs to make the jump from comedy to drama I have absolutely no doubts that he can do it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World opens August 25th in the U.K.