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Michael Angarano on the making of Ceremony


Ceremony hits our sweet spot: young, hip director makes low-budget movie about misguided love, starring young, hip actors and Uma Thurman. We’ve been on this picture like a model on a scale, publishing interviews with its director, Max Winkler, and with one of its stars, Reece Thompson. Here, in the final installment of our informal, fanboy Ceremony series, another of the film’s stars, Michael Angarano, talks about Jesse Eisenberg, catharsis, and making movies in your 20s.

How did you get involved with the film?
I met with Max, read the script, and thought it was a very unconventional type of romantic comedy. It was very well written and very witty, and reminded me of a Billy Wilder movie or something. Originally I was going to play Marshall, and when Jesse Eisenberg had to drop out I spoke with Max and we thought I was kind of in the right place to play Sam.

It would have been such a different movie had Jesse been in it.
Yeah, Jesse’s amazing, I think he’s one of the best actors of our generation and it’s just so interesting to think about what it could have turned out to be.

Could you relate to your character?
Sam was 23 years old and Max wrote it when he was 23 and I was 21. It’s that time in your life when you feel so impressionable by everything around you—the latest book you read, or the latest movie you see, basically defines your wardrobe or how you talk the next day. Sam has this utterly romanticized idea of love and life, and imagines himself to be a Cary Grant or a character out of some old movie, and he’s just not that guy. His references kind of build him up to be this person he’s not, especially with the woman he loves.

My favorite thing was watching Sam go from pompous to a really deconstructed mess.
It’s so obvious he’s not that guy. He’s really just overly sensitive, and very insecure and deeply flawed, and that’s his realization, and it takes a smack in the face by the woman he loves to realize that this is not reality. What I do relate to is Sam’s idea of love, really. I think this is the question that the movie poses: Is Sam’s love for Zoe the right kind of love? It’s kind of unbridled, unmitigated, unconditional puppy love that’s completely untainted by real life. Is that real love?

What was it like working with Max?
This whole experience has been so personal and cathartic for both of us, it was like a therapy session. He wrote it in a stage of heartbreak, and I acted in it in a stage of heartbreak. It’s just two young guys coming together and creating art, and channeling their emotions in art.

Do you ever want to make your own films?
I’ve always said that that’s a goal of mine. My idols in life are Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Marx Brothers, people that really kind of create themselves and then manifest it on the big screen. Watching Max, such a young guy write and direct something, it was incredibly inspiring.

This is the first time a lot of audiences are seeing you as an adult. Is that something that was important to you?
I hadn’t worked for about a year and a half before this movie, and I felt like a completely different person, like a young adult and that’s what it is. So I was dealing with all these issues and it felt natural. I’m excited for people to see it because I do feel that it’s different from things that I’ve done.

Blackbook.

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