Celebrity interview: A novel performance from Michael Cera

Michael Cera

Michael Cera made his name as Juno's shy boyfriend in the hit pregnancy comedy. He's now back on screen in Youth In Revolt, released on Friday February 5. The young actor talks about not getting pigeon-holed and life after Juno.

Bookshelves have long been plundered for movie inspiration, but when supermarket giant Tesco announces that it's going to begin turning books into movies, you know the adaption business is thriving.

The recent decision of the supermarket chain to team up with bestselling authors, like Jackie Collins, and make movies which will be sold on DVD exclusively in their stores, is just another example of the film industry's growing reliance on bestselling novels to pull in the punters.

This year alone, countless adaptations are set to hit the big screen, including Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones next month, Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland (getting the Tim Burton treatment) in March and further instalments of Harry Potter and Twilight to look forward to.

For fans of Catcher In The Rye, there's a coming-of-age treat in the form of Youth In Revolt, an adaptation of American absurdist writer C.D. Payne's Youth In Revolt: The Journals Of Nick Twisp.

The film stars one Michael Cera, who's made his name through a string of geeky roles in Juno, Superbad and last year's Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist.

At 21, Cera is no newcomer to Hollywood - he's been acting since he was nine - but it was his role as High School student father Paulie Bleeker in Juno that made critics take notice. He was even nominated last year for the Bafta Orange Rising Star Award.

In Youth In Revolt, he plays straight-laced teen Nick Twisp, who has a taste for the finer things in life like Sinatra and Fellini.

On a family holiday, he falls for free-spirited Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) and she eggs him on to create a rebellious French alter-ego: Francois. Sporting a moustache and smoking, Francois takes Nick in an outrageous new direction, as he tries to win Sheeni's love.

Canadian Cera had long been a fan of author C.D. Payne and was signed up to the project before Juno and Superbad even hit our screens.

"The book is really funny. It's got a really unique voice and it's gigantic, it takes months to read if you're a slow reader. I was around the age of [Nick] when I read it and I completely related to it," says Cera, with a half-smile.

"I related to the agony of not knowing what's going on and being obsessed with a girl and not having any control, which [Payne] wrote really perfectly."

When Nick meets Sheeni, he's feeling completely disillusioned about his mundane existence, as Cera explains: "Nick doesn't have a great home life. His parents are divorced, his mother has an idiot boyfriend and his life is stagnant. He meets this girl who blows his mind and he feels that he had to hang onto her."

Cera reportedly split from his actress girlfriend Charlyne Yi last summer after they co-starred in indie project Paper Heart.

He says he can relate to the "torment" Nick suffers through his love for the mysterious Sheeni.

"You never know what she feels about you or what she's really thinking. She's such a puzzle. That's really what I loved about the character. She's so well-depicted in the book."

Despite having to play two very different characters in the same film, Cera insists he didn't find this a difficult task. In fact, he loved the opportunity to play a naughty French version of Nick.

"It was just a lot of fun to play. I wouldn't say it was hard, except for the technical tricks of it. I can't think of any challenges, except for trying to figure out how to play Francois initially, and what the voice was going to be like."

After some consultation with director Miguel Arteta, Cera decided not to give Francois an obvious French accent.

"I think it would have been confusing," he says. "He wouldn't have sounded French, he would have sounded like Nick trying to sound French. There was a lot to take in there already without him having an accent. And I didn't want to take lessons in how to sound French without knowing how to speak it."

With the help of a special effects team and a pair of aviators, Cera was able to inhabit both Nick and Francois on screen. It was no mean feat, but the cast and crew turned to the Nick Twisp books for inspiration.

"Every situation was different, how we were going to get the two characters into the same frame or sometimes not in the same frame. We developed the characters by rehearsing a lot and talking about the book a lot. The books were a great help in developing the characters, so we had that advantage, which most movies don't have."

Cera was born in Ontario and began his showbiz career in TV adverts. At 11, he landed a role in Canadian series I Was A Sixth Grade Alien and went on to star in sitcom Arrested Development for three series before it was cancelled.

It was 2007 that would see his film career blossom, when he starred in Superbad, written by fellow Canadian Seth Rogen. Then came Juno, the small indie film that won over audiences and critics through its honest and light-hearted study of teenage pregnancy. Juno opened up more doors for Cera and won him bigger and better parts including a role opposite comedy heavyweight Jack Black in last year's Year One.

Has Cera been surprised by his success over the last few years?

"Yeah I've been surprised, but I started acting when I was nine, so it took a while to start feeling that I was going to be able to keep working. It's just nice to make movies and work with great people. It's something that I really value a lot."

He may now be the poster boy for the geeky indie romantic lead, but he's convinced he hasn't been stereotyped.

"I don't think I'll be pigeon-holed," he says. "The way I choose my projects normally is I see who is involved and I see if they're people I can work with and get along with. That's how I've chosen my projects so far and I've been really lucky, so hopefully that will continue."

His policy seems to be working and his next role will be something different again - he plays a guy who must defeat his girlfriend's evil boyfriends in Scot Pilgrim Vs The World, adapted from a graphic novel.

"It's going to be really fast," he says. "It's a lot like the graphic novel but it has it's own voice."

Whatever Cera does after that, it seems the world will definitely be watching.