In real life, Mark Webber and the mother of his son ended their relationship. In "The End of Love," the mother of his son dies in a car accident. (As Webber admits, it was a "tough sell" to his ex, you know, killing her off and all; she eventually relented and accepted a minor role in the film.) In real life and in this film, Webber is friends with Michael Cera. (I'm going to go ahead and assume that the real-life Cera does not walk around with a possibly loaded pistol at parties, as the fictionalized version of Cera does in this film.) I spoke to Webber about co-staring with a two-year old (played by his son), the origins of the film's fictionalized Michael Cera, and his theory on why "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" failed at the box office.
Where did this story come from? You're playing a fictional version of yourself in which your wife died. Setting out to make my next film, I knew I wanted to create an environment for myself as an actor that was ideal. On normal movies that I make, I spend so much time just trying to forget that we're even making a film. Sometimes just having PA's take you from a trailer to a set makes you conscious and aware that you're trying to make something. And, for me, I'm always up against that...
OK, but how does that turn into, "This is me, but I'm giving myself a really sad story"? This is what I happened to be going through in my life. I had just become a new father and I was just out of this relationship with the son's mother. That turned into a hotbed of motivation.
I have to ask. How does your son's mother feel about this movie? She loves it. I mean, she's in it. She's in the flashbacks.
But at one point you had to tell her, "I'm going to kill you." It was a tough sell to begin with.
What was her concern? [Laughs] I think people's reaction to "Well, so you're dead," is a little, like, "Come on, man." But what she was most supportive of was this idea that I had to make a film with our son. To have a two-year old carry a film and to show a dynamic that we've never really seen authentically on screen before.
In the universe that this movie takes place in, is that Mark Webber in "Scott Pilgrim"? [Pauses] Yes! Because that is the Michael Cera connection.
I thought maybe you knew him before "Scott Pilgrim." I didn't. We met on "Scott Pilgrim." We basically lived together for six months making that movie and we just became like brothers.
Michael Cera, playing himself, hosts a party in which he carries around a possibly loaded pistol. Where did that come from? That came from him bringing a gun to set, basically.
Is that an L.A. thing? Offering $2,000 to anyone who will put the gun to their chin and pull the trigger, as Cera's character does in the film? That is from the deep, dark mind of Michael Cera. Basically, for me, my job was to set the stage and make sure we were hitting all of the important emotional beats in the film. And so, for that night in particular, it was, "Let me invite all of my great, young actor friends, set the stage, and let them know that these are the points i need to hit. But whatever you do is going to be right."
Was that actually someone's house? It's very big. No. At least not Michael's house. That's someone else's house. Michael lives in a very modest place.
There's an awkward scene where you bring your son to an audition. Is that based on an actual experience? I've done that before.
Is it that awkward? A little less. In the film, you get the sense that there's a slight bit of irritation about the situation. But when it happened to me in real life, it was a little bit more like, "It's all good, Mark. We totally understand."
What's your worst audition? Oh, man, I've had so many bad auditions. It's the one thing... the bane of my existence. I hate auditioning. I hate it.
So that's why you made your own movie. Basically.
How did you decide who gets to play themselves and who plays a character? Michael was the prime candidate to embody an obnoxious young Hollywood type. And he was game for playing with it. And I'm good friends with Amanda [Seyfried], who was perfect. She green-lights movies now, basically. She's a huge star, so I knew that this big audition should be with someone who's really famous. And she was totally game for doing it. And Shannyn [Sossamon] is an incredible actress, and the way I wrote the script, that's a real person, not a celebrity.
How has the reaction been so far to your film? Really positive. What's been really fascinating for me is that I've been through this so many times now in my life -- you know, as an actor. And it's been really interesting seeing where someone whose job it is to write about films -- where their reactions match up with that of the audience member.
What have you noticed? Well, it has really been coinciding. People who write about films can have the tendency to... you know, you're coming from seeing four other movies and you're coming with the goggles of critiquing.
I have no idea what you're talking about. [Laughs]
No clue. You're speaking a foreign language. And then you have some random person who's just coming to see a movie. But it's been matching up really nicely.
I've seen some comparisons made to "Paper Heart," most likely due to the presence of Michael Cera playing himself. What do you think of that? Actually, I didn't see that film. You know, I get it. We have a tendency to... Some of the other movies here, it's like, "movie about a wedding: 'Bridesmaids.'"
You're referring to "Bachelorette"? Yeah. So it's something that you're always up against. But I think this movie stands alone. It's unique in its approach and I think that's what people are responding to.
Were you surprised that "Scott Pilgrim" didn't do that well at the box office? Yeah... [a woman sitting next to us interrupts to mention how much she loves "Scott Pilgrim"]
See, there's a good example. It does have a huge following now. What happened on its release? Oh my God, man. I left Comic-Con and I'm like, "This is the first $100 million box-office film I'm going to be a part of. You know, maybe I'll be able to relax a little bit." I think we were all really shocked. I think what was good about it, though, is that Universal took a lot of the responsibility and bore the brunt of the blame for the way they marketed the film. But, I gotta say, now it's a midnight screening in L.A. -- people come in costume. It's kind of cool seeing the life that it's now having. But, yeah, we were all kind of shocked and bummed out about it. You know, I love that movie.
I feel a lot of the references are for someone in their 30s -- Seinfeld, Pac-Man -- but it felt like it was marketed to teenagers. Yeah, totally. If I were to have one criticism, I think that the poster -- the one sheet of just Scott with the guitar -- it made it seem like maybe this is a movie about a band. It didn't capitalize on how unique and different it was. And I think that's why people may have thought it was something that it was not. So that's why when it's being discovered now, it's like, "Why didn't this do well?"
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter