Michael Cera, Kat Dennings Interview, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline sat down with Michael Cera and Kat Dennings at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about their new movie, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” a comedy about two people thrust together for one hilarious, sleepless night of adventure in a world of mix tapes, late-night living, and live, loud music.

Nick (Cera) frequents New York's indie rock scene nursing a broken heart and a vague ability to play the bass. Norah (Dennings) is questioning pretty much all of her assumptions about the world. Although they have nothing in common except for their taste in music, their chance encounter leads to an all-night quest to find a legendary band's secret show and ends up becoming the first date in a romance that could change both their lives.

Here’s what they had to tell us about their new movie, their love of music and their upcoming projects:

MoviesOnline: How did this project come to both of you?

Kat Dennings: The script came to my representatives. They sent it to me and I thought it was great. It was pretty average my part of it. [to Michael] What about you?

Michael Cera: Well my manager sent me Raising Victor Vargas which is the movie that Pete (Sollett) did and I really loved it and wanted to meet him and then I went to New York and met him and really liked him and wanted to work with him. I thought he would do the movie really well and we made it.

MoviesOnline: Your career has taken off pretty astronomically in the last year or so. How do you feel about the way things are going? Are you comfortable with it? Do you enjoy it?

Michael Cera: Yeah. I’ve been enjoying it. I enjoy working. I really like it. Being on the sets. It’s nice being able to do that, being able to continue doing it.

MoviesOnline: When you were doing Arrested Development, did you expect that you would achieve this kind of success?

Michael Cera: No, I never think about it or expect anything. I still don’t. I just like working and being on sets.

MoviesOnline: Is it nice to work on a project where you have the opportunity to showcase your improvisational skills?

Michael Cera: Yeah, that’s fun. It’s fun doing that, just having a conversation. It always feels real because it is real. I mean you’re just talking off the top of your head.

Kat Dennings: Like life.

Michael Cera: It’s nice being able to do that. It’s also nice having a script. It’s kind of fun doing both where a script is really carefully plotted. With this movie, the whole plot is us getting to know each other so we could just talk about anything and it would establish that we’re getting to know each other. That’s kind of the driving force of the movie so with this we could just talk.

MoviesOnline: Have you studied improvisation or is it just something you guys did?

Michael Cera: I did these games where you can take Second City classes here and you just play games with other kids. I guess I probably learned something from that. You know, just listen, that’s all you have to do. I think anyone can do it. If you can have a conversation, you can improvise as long as you’re not trying to be funny. That’s when you can start to trick yourself. It’s just much easier to talk and not have to worry about being funny.

Kat Dennings: I’ve never taken any acting classes. I took an acting class when I first started acting when I was 10. The guy who owned the school told me I would never be an actress and I should stop immediately. I deduced that he didn’t know what he was talking about and left.

Michael Cera: That’s mean. How old were you?

Kat Dennings: I was 10 years old. He gave me a commercial on a piece of paper to read to a camcorder in front of the class. It was Chiclets. I’ll never forget it. I was trying to sell an imaginary audience Chiclets.

Michael Cera: If you can’t sell Chiclets, what are you doing acting?

Kat Dennings: Clearly you’re not supposed to be an actor. I was a little kid and I was like “I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about.” So I quit.

MoviesOnline: Is acting kind of like having a musical ear? You can get better at it but people can either do it or not do it.

Kat Dennings: That’s an interesting way to put it. I don’t know. I know there are some people…like I think if I were doing a movie where there was some kind of insane accent or something… I don’t know. There’s not enough… Maybe if I watched Lord of the Rings enough.

Michael Cera: You could probably do that with a coach or something?

Kat Dennings: Right. Exactly. I would definitely need help doing an accent or a dialect or something I really didn’t know anything about. I couldn’t watch stuff where I was 13 and be like “Oh my god. Wooden! I was wooden. I wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t in the eyes.” I think it’s like anything, you get better with practice. So I’d rather have it go naturally than take classes. That kind of ruined acting classes for me. I’ve never gone again ever.

MoviesOnline: You guys are in the target demo for movies like this, Super Bad and Juno are aimed at, what do you think is different about these movies of the last couple years and the ones that are coming out now?

Michael Cera: Well I like anything that feels authentic and comes from a real place, comes from someone’s heart. I’ve never liked those gross out comedies. I watch a lot of movies and that’s not really what I watch or like. I just try to do things that I think I would like.

Kat Dennings: I don’t know. Younger people are sort of getting more worldly I guess. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world and I think people are trying to be conscious of just being better people maybe. I don’t know what I’m trying to do.

Michael Cera: It’s not working.

Kat Dennings: Clearly it’s not. I know.

Michael Cera: That was a joke.

Kat Dennings: [laughs] Put that in parentheses.

MoviesOnline: Are there ever situations where you guys will read something in a script, maybe like in this or in another movie that you’ve done, and you’ll say, well okay, this isn’t really how I would respond in this situation and you try to lead them in a more authentic direction?

Michael Cera: Sometimes. Yeah. But sometimes it’s good to not respond the way you would respond. It depends, I guess. But sometimes I’m feeling like well this doesn’t really ring true and you can work with the director or the writers on that.

Kat Dennings: Pete was the best at that.

Michael Cera: Yeah. It’s good when you work with people that are collaborative and open minded. That’s what I’ve always found. The people that aren’t afraid forfeiting control kind of always come up with the best products. If you’re afraid of forfeiting control…you shouldn’t be afraid at all because you can make decisions in the editing room. That’s totally where that happens, but you create options on set. You can only get it once unless you come back and re-shoot.

MoviesOnline: This movie centers around music. Both this and Juno have amazing soundtracks. I’m curious with both of you what your relationship is with music and how you feel about the use of it in movies?

Kat Dennings: Music and I have been dating for 22 years now.

MoviesOnline: Is it a serious commitment?

Kat Dennings: It’s serious. We’re eloping. I love music I think would be safe to say.

Michael Cera: Music in movies is important I think and can totally change a movie.

Kat Dennings: Yeah. That’s true.

Michael Cera: Absolutely. It really creates the tone.

Kat Dennings: That’s so true.

Michael Cera: Yeah.

MoviesOnline: You sound surprised.

Michael Cera: Some movies work without music like…

Kat Dennings: …No Country for Old Men.

Michael Cera: No Country for Old Men, Annie Hall. But it’s a conscious choice. You feel that. You feel that lack of music.

Kat Dennings: And then those mariachis come on in No Country for Old Men and he just wakes up and it’s like the most jarring moment. You’re like “Oh my god!”

Michael Cera: Like in The Long Goodbye. Have you ever seen The Long Goodbye? There’s that theme song all throughout it, like different versions of that wherever he goes. You always recognize it every time. It’s great.

MoviesOnline: One of the problems with movies that have music incorporated into them as part of the theme is that you’re doing kind of a balancing act because you want music that’s hip but you also don’t want music that’s obscure and is going to pin it down to too small an area. What are your thoughts on the music in this film and who did it come from?

Michael Cera: It’s Peter and Myron (Kerstein).

Kat Dennings: Peter and Myron and the editor.

Michael Cera: Those guys are smart.

Kat Dennings: Pete’s really up and a music buff. His iPod is like a treasure chest. He knows what he’s talking about. I tend to just listen to the same things over and over.

Michael Cera: Yeah. I do the same.

MoviesOnline: What’s on your iPods?

Michael Cera: I’m lost.

Kat Dennings: I know. There’s a lot. I listen to a lot of orchestral things. I listen to the Jungle Brothers a lot and I listen to David Bowie a lot.

MoviesOnline: Wow, you’re taking us back.

Kat Dennings: I know. A lot of people don’t know who they are [referring to Jungle Brothers]. It’s really upsetting. Upsetting! It’s like not knowing who George Washington is. It’s upsetting.

MoviesOnline: What about you, Michael? What do you listen to?

Michael Cera: I like movie music a lot and I like Neil Young and the Beach Boys and Alan Price and Alden Penner. Do you know Alan Price? Have you seen Oh Lucky Man!? That’s a great sound track. That’s a fantastic movie. That’s not on my iPod, that movie, but it…

Kat Dennings: …could be.

Michael Cera: Could be. Should be. The sound track definitely is and I listen to it often.

MoviesOnline: Ari Graynor told us you took some hand in the music on Youth and Revolt? Is that right?

Michael Cera: Oh no. No. No.

Kat Dennings: She’s wrong.

Michael Cera: Not true. No, that’s all Miguel choosing that. I did a score for a documentary that my friends made. We did the music for it but it’s just very bare bones, you know, like guitar and that kind of thing.

MoviesOnline: Do you play guitar?

Michael Cera: Yeah.

Kat Dennings: And he plays piano.

Michael Cera: A little piano.

MoviesOnline: Did you have to learn how to play bass for this one?

Michael Cera: Or fake it. I just kind of faked it. [laughs]

MoviesOnline: If you play guitar, you can play bass.

Michael Cera: Yeah. I felt confident in faking it.

MoviesOnline: What kind of music do you write? What’s your style?

Michael Cera: I don’t know.

Kat Dennings: Ari said that it sounds like Amalie and it’s beautiful.

Michael Cera: Oh, Amalie Music.

Kat Dennings: That’s pretty incredible. I have the whole Amalie soundtrack on my iPod. She compared it to…

Michael Cera: What kind of music was she talking about?

Kat Dennings: Your score.

Michael Cera: How did she hear that?

Kat Dennings: I don’t know. Maybe you in your sleep played it for her.

Michael Cera: That’s so weird.

Kat Dennings: Maybe it wasn’t Ari. Maybe it was Seth. But somebody compared it to that which is pretty great.

Michael Cera: Huh!

Kat Dennings: Forget about it.

Michael Cera: I don’t think I’ve ever…I can’t recall that music.

Kat Dennings: It’s gorgeous.

MoviesOnline: Lot of accordions.

Michael Cera: French sounding?

Kat Dennings: Yeah.

MoviesOnline: Michael, do you get kids who come up and feel they can share things that are going on in their lives? Kids clearly relate to you. How do you handle that?

Michael Cera: No. I’ve never had that. I’ve never had a kid open up to me about something.

MoviesOnline: But if you’re out and someone recognizes you?

Michael Cera: If I get recognized, it’s normally like a brief exchange. Someone will say, “I really like your work.” It’s always very pleasant. Or someone will shout something out. I’ve never had someone come up to me and say…

Kat Dennings:…”I love you. Oh, I’m having the worst time right now. My girlfriend dumped me.”

Michael Cera: Yeah.

Kat Dennings: That’d be terrible.

Michael Cera: Yeah. I don’t know. Do people get that?

MoviesOnline: Yeah. You’ve been in two of the biggest movies in the last year and a lot of people when they have that, there’s a certain change that comes over them. Everybody that talks about you points out how grounded you are. So I’m just curious where does that come from? What keeps you grounded?

Michael Cera: Uhhhh…

MoviesOnline: You seem normal?

Michael Cera: [laughs] That’s good. I don’t know. Do people change? I’ve never met someone who has changed. I think that’s probably bound to happen to them no matter what they were doing. It depends on who you are, I guess. I don’t know.

MoviesOnline: How much do each of you relate to your characters in real life?

Michael Cera: I can relate to being broken up with, heartache, and meeting someone and striking up a friendship.

Kat Dennings: Yeah. I can relate to that as well.

Michael Cera: A lot of people can.

Kat Dennings: Yeah. There’s something for everyone to relate to in every part of it. Basically every character has something.

Michael Cera: Definitely.

MoviesOnline: Any tips for getting over a break up?

Michael Cera: Yeah. Watch this movie. [laughs]

Kat Dennings: That’s the best advice I’ve ever heard.

MoviesOnline: You could create a break-up CD.

Michael Cera: [laughs] Yeah. Right.

MoviesOnline: We keep hearing things about the Arrested Development movie. Is it happening as far as you know?

Michael Cera: I mean we’re not in production and I haven’t read a script. I know Jason wants to and I don’t know if Mitch wants to, but I would only want to be a part of it if it was going to be good. It’s good to end on a high note I think. Go out with a bang and leave them wanting more. That’s just my instinct. I don’t think it would be worth doing unless it was going to live up to the expectation that might come with it.

MoviesOnline: Can you talk a little about the legacy of that show? For certain people, it’s like Freaks and Geeks that got taken away before its time.

Michael Cera: I love Freaks and Geeks. But we did have a good run. Three seasons was more than I ever expected when we started because right off the bat we were told it’s not doing too good and it might not get a back nine. So I was surprised every time we got picked up. It was nice. And it had a nice following. I mean it’s nice to have a handful of people who really love it. It’s nice. It really makes you feel good whenever people come up and talk about it. It feels like a really tight knit group of fans. That’s nice. And I think it had a pretty good run. We told a long story, you know.

Kat Dennings: It’s like My So-Called Life.

Michael Cera: That only made 12, 18 episodes?

Kat Dennings: That was one season. I just realized when you said that, that was really before its time. It’s not fair. I’ve watched it so many times and thought “Can’t there be just one more episode that will appear on this DVD menu?” I’d love a movie of that.

Michael Cera: I loved Freaks and Geeks too. I just treasure those episodes. I’ve watched them over and over.

MoviesOnline: Is it cool now to be part of the Apatow family?

Michael Cera: It’s cool. Yeah. I like those guys. I like hanging out with them. It’s nice.

MoviesOnline: Could you each talk about your next projects?

Kat Dennings: I have Shorts and a movie called The Dream of the Romans. I have a really small part in that. It was a really amazing script and I just decided I don’t care what, I’m in. Can I please be in? My part was written for a 45-year-old woman and so you can imagine then what the role is like with me in it.

MoviesOnline: Where is Shorts being shot?

Kat Dennings: We shot Shorts. I finished in June in Austin, Texas. It was great.

MoviesOnline: And what about your projects, Michael?

Michael Cera: Youth and Revolt is coming out in February I think. It’s based on the book.

MoviesOnline: Is that your favorite book?

Michael Cera: Yeah. I loved the book. It’s a great book.

MoviesOnline: What’s it about?

Michael Cera: It’s about a young guy who meets a girl on a family vacation and then becomes obsessed with her. It’s a great book by C.D. Payne and anyone should read it if they have the time. I’ve read it five times. I loved the book and loved the character and was so excited to do it and then I’m really happy with the experience and I think the movie will be good.

MoviesOnline: Who plays the girl?

Michael Cera: Portia Doubleday. She’s an actress that I don’t think has done very much and she’s great.

MoviesOnline: Where was it shot?

Michael Cera: In Michigan around the Detroit area and Ann Arbor.

MoviesOnline: Do you get home a lot?

Michael Cera: Yeah. I’m home right now. I’m going to be here for a little while after the festival. My family still lives in Brampton.

“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” opens in theaters on October 3, 2008.

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