Can you tell us about your character?
Andrew is a poor kid who comes from a rough family background. His mom is really sick and his dad is on disability from being a firefighter, so for him, things are really tough. But his circumstances extend to other areas of his life as well. He is, by all means, a loser in school and not just a kid who goes under the radar, but the kind of kid that people really go out of their way to make fun of and bully. In that way he’s a victim.
In the movie the kids then start to get superpowers, and this event really changes him in a very big way. It’s really the first time in his life he’s had any sort of power at all, let alone a super power.
Do you think he struggles with the responsibility of the power?
Yes, but it’s not a case of “How responsible am I going to be with this power?” I think he just really enjoys messing around and finally having friends. It does, in the end, overtake him.
Is it more fun to play a character that is conflicted?
It’s always fun to play a complicated character, definitely. It’s not always fun to go to dark places, but it’s always fun to play a character who has such an extreme arc, who goes through so much. I don’t think I’ve ever played a character like him.
How was the dynamic with the other actors?
It’s good. I always try to form some sort of relationship with the people I work with that mimics the relationship I have with them in the movie. I think we did a pretty good job of that. Michael (B. Jordan), Alex (Russell), and I have all become pretty close and friendly. We can hang out and have a good time. Doing that in our personal lives away from work has definitely had a positive influence on the movie.
When did you become involved in the project?
I had a meeting with the people who are the heads of casting at Fox and they told me they had this movie that was perfect for me. About two weeks later the auditions and the meetings were finished. It was a very fast project. Usually meetings like that are just to get to know you. It was quite amazing to go to Fox, meet with the casting people, and then be told right there and then, “Oh, by the way, we have a movie for you and the lead is perfect.” Then I read the script and I loved it. It really just drove me; it’s a very original idea and definitely my style. If I’m going to do this kind of big, action movie, it definitely melds well with the things I normally look for in a project.
What attracted you to the project?
When I first read the script I didn’t have an audition lined up for it; I read about 20 pages and wrote an e-mail with 15 exclamation marks in it, and it was only about two sentences long! It said, “Please, please, I must go in for it! It’s incredible!” It’s this incredible story where incredible things are happening—telekinetic abilities and superpowers and flying—but it’s ingrained in reality. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read. It’s a kid with a video camera filming everything around him. And this camera happens to get to capture all of it. The uniqueness of that made me lose my mind.
It’s not like a traditional Marvel or DC superhero movie. Was that part of the attraction?
You get to do all these incredible action sequences. You get to do superhero stuff, but the characters are so layered. Not to say that isn’t always the case, but if there’s a superhero movie the prime thing is to sell that aspect of it—the superpowers and the function of a superhero. This is more about characters learning about themselves and developing as people. It’s interesting to think about what Matt, Andrew, and Steve would have been like if they hadn’t had superpowers.
The beautiful thing about this story is it brings these three unlikely friends together. Sure, Matt, and Andrew are cousins so Matt is there for him, but they would have never been as close if not for what happens in the story. Chances are someone like Steve Montgomery and Andrew would never have been friends. It’s beautiful that they all share that experience, to see that bring them together, and to see them develop differently as people.
Can you introduce us to Matt, your character?
Matt Garetty is in his senior year. He’s spent much of his high school life with a “screw you” attitude toward everyone and everything around him. He’s had this nihilistic approach, up until recently, all through his high school years. He’s intelligent, but he doesn’t do well in school because at some stage he turned against the system. He justifies it to himself by referencing all these old philosophers that predate everything the modern system is about. So anything that supports his argument from an ancient philosopher he will rattle off to suit his purpose.
He’s gone through phases and hung out with different groups of people, then pissed them off and hung out with new ones and pissed them off because he tends to pontificate. Now he’s in his senior year and while that’s a huge part of him, he does have that desire to want to connect with people again. The arc of Matt’s character throughout the film is huge.
MICHAEL B. JORDAN
You play Steve—he’s a cool guy, isn’t he?
Yes, he’s the most popular kid in school; he’s running for class president. He’s running with the bullies, he’s friends with the jocks, the athletes, the cheerleaders, everybody. I think deep down he is a great guy. But with most people that you find in high school or any social group, on the outside they put up a front which is hiding what they feel deep down inside. Everything that glitters isn’t gold.
Steve is definitely a mix of all of that blended into one guy. He genuinely cares about everybody. He wants to see everybody succeed and he puts other people before himself. It’s not about the spotlight for him; it’s not about the fame or attention. He’s just genuinely a good guy.
Did the off-screen bonding help the on-screen chemistry?
Hands down. I think it was the smartest thing ever to put us in a house for two weeks. We were forced to deal with each other—three strangers—and forced to get to know one another. Everybody had his own schedule and everybody had his own habits throughout the house. It was like having roommates.
When you have roommates for the first time, you think, “I can’t walk around the house naked. That is not cool!” It definitely carries on-screen. That camaraderie; you can’t fake it. We’re thick as thieves right now. The film has definitely built a real friend ship.
What was the process of shooting like?
At first it was a little intimidating. Sometimes you’re so used to shooting something one way. Personally I’ve been fortunate because I worked on “Friday Night Lights” and our style of shooting is a little looser, less blocked out. We don’t get many masters and covers and close-ups. We usually just have three cameras shooting all the time, getting different angles, getting loose, dirty shots.
So I kind of applied that improve technique to this film because everything is shot through Andrew’s camera. There are no marks to hit in real life. People are going to talk over each other in real life. It’s going to be a little messy; it’s going to be organic. We’ve had so many organic moments on set that it was unreal.
Will this deliver a different experience, do you think?
Definitely. Today is the day of Marvel movies; everybody wants comic book heroes. Everybody wants to escape to this world of fantasy; just escape current conditions. There’s so much stuff going on in the world today, between war and the economy.
These films sometimes give people an escape, even for a couple of hours in a movie theatre. You’re sitting down watching these three kids and the audience wants to relate. They want to fantasize—“What if that happened to me? What if I could get away from my job, or my class, or my school, or another term paper, another midterm? Or Mom and Dad, would stop arguing? I just want to fly away. I just want to go and hang out with my friends.”
Nothing is forced in the movie. Things unfold the way they unfold. It’s not like we have a story to rush through. We don’t have plot points that we’re in a hurry to get to. Everything happens in such a natural way. People are going to think, “That was real! I feel like I’m a fly on the wall right now. This is found footage of these kids, and what the hell happened to them?” That’s the perspective people are going to get.