October 1, 2008

Cera and Dennings’ Infinite Wit

By Jessica Yadegaran

In the romantic comedy "Nick and Norah's Infinite Play- list," Michael Cera and Kat Dennings are musical soul mates thrust together on a crazy Manhattan night that involves dramatic exes, an underground concert and way too much parking karma.

It's "High Fidelity" for teens, and Cera's their Cusack.

At 20, the Canadian actor already has the resume for such comparisons. To many of us, he's George Michael Bluth, the awkward, approval-hungry adolescent from Fox's critically acclaimed "Arrested Development." Four years later, he's cemented his brand of dry, child-man wit in memorable leading roles in "Juno" and "Superbad." All that's left is for Cera and his best friend to sell a Web sitcom to a major network like CBS. Wait -- he's done that, too. See it at www.clarkandmichael.com.

The child-star complex never set in, and it's doubtful it ever will. Cera's been in the biz since he was 9, and still lives with his parents in Brampton, Ontario. He can't believe all the food is free on publicity tours. And he really can't believe girls he's never met want to marry him. In fact, he gets squirmy when reminded that his co-star, Dennings, once called him "the cutest thing in the universe."

It's understandable. Dennings, 22, is a Boticelli-like beauty with a breezy "I-don't-want-the-fame" attitude and a comedic timing similar to Cera's. Her first major role was as Catherine Keener's angst-ridden daughter in 2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Since, she's starred in "Charlie Bartlett" and "The House Bunny," and recently wrapped up the Robert Rodriguez family movie "Shorts," due out next year. "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" brings out a Janeane Garofalo spirit in her. She's the smart, hot brunette who will never cut her hair or get highlights.

Recently, we sat down with Cera and Dennings at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco to discuss nerds, night shoots, and their film, which opens Friday.

Q: You guys spent 29 consecutive days shooting this film, sundown to sunup. What are night shoots like?

Dennings: I love them. They're so much fun. Except you have to find a way to sleep during the day or you'll die.

Cera: Yeah, it's like camp.

Q: The film seems very realistic: a bunch of music-loving teens trying to get to the hottest show in town and all the crazy adventures that befall them. Do you agree?

Cera: Yeah, nothing seems to far-fetched. The only thing people are bringing up is how we always found parking spaces in Manhattan.

Dennings: Yeah, that's where the fantasy element comes through. I think it's nice, though. People can relate and draw their own conclusions. You know, about if they stay together. Or they can read the book.

Q: Michael, you turn 21 next year. Kat, do you have any advice for how he should celebrate?

Dennings: Not much. On my 21st I went to Chinatown with my best friend to get noodles. Then we bought toys and went home and took a nap. You're already legal in Canada anyway, so the mystique is gone.

Q: Michael, are you concerned about being typecast as a nerd?

Dennings: I'm sick of people saying that Michael is a nerd! He's not a nerd and his roles are not nerdy.

Cera: No, I'm not worried. I'm more excited about who is involved and what I'm working on in terms of the scripts. I know that I don't want to play something that doesn't feel authentic, like a bully or a quarterback. I'm not going to do something that feels ridiculous. Woody Allen kind of plays the same characters.

Q: How do you feel about being an unwilling heartthrob?

Dennings: You mean a sex symbol? (smiles)

Cera: I don't know. It has nothing to do with me, though. No one knows me. My family knows me. People who have crushes identify with the character. I'm not myself in these films.

Q: You both have so much ahead of you. What kind of careers do you want to have?

Cera: I just like being on sets and have always enjoyed doing it since I was young. So I want to continue doing that and work with really good people.

Dennings: I want to have a successful, respectable career. I don't desire the fame part of it. But I guess things come with success that you can't avoid. I don't have to deal with it at all right now. But the idea that I can't live my normal life or that people around me will be bothered isn't pleasant.

Q: Any plans to go to college?

Cera: Jeffrey Tambor (of "Arrested Development") told me not to go to college. He just told me I wouldn't have any use for it. I'm never going to rule it out, but I wouldn't do it for a B.A. or anything. I may take a course here and there. That definitely sounds like more fun.

Dennings: Robert Downey Jr. said something about how everything you need to learn you do by just growing as an actor. You can read a geography book anytime. My dad is a biochemist and I thought he was going to freak out, but he said the reason for college is to figure out what you want to do with your life. I've always wanted to do this and have never wanted to do anything else. It feels right.

Reach Jessica Yadegaran at 925-943-8155 or [email protected]

Originally published by Jessica Yadegaran, Contra Costa Times.

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