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The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Real life on the screen

Staff writer Liz Walsh attended a round-table interview with director Greg Mottola and actress Margarita Levieva of the new movie Adventureland.

So, Greg, we know that a lot of this is semi-autobiographical. What didn’t make it in that you did experience while working
at Adventureland?

Greg Mottola: The only story I can remember that didn’t make it in was the day that Brian Sezter from the Stray Cats came in with his super cool girlfriend and a bunch of friends. They played the clown game, the squirt gun clown balloon game, and she won. The prize was a banana with eyes, which I put in the movie, and I just remember feeling really pathetic because she was like “No, give me the bulldog,” and I was under strict orders that if I gave the wrong prize out I would be fired on the spot. I was so desperate.

So other than that, everything else was factual in the film?

Mottola: Everything else happened. No, there weren’t quite as many beautiful women in the park as there are in the movie but, you know, artistic license.

Do Lisa P. and Emily really exist or are they symbolic characters?

Mottola: No, they existed. Certainly with Kristen’s character; she is a composite of some of my early relationships and remembering what it’s like to go from being just infatuated with women and then scared away when they reveal themselves as genuinely real human beings with problems as complications and then finally realizing “oh no, that’s what love is.” You actually withstand that: you love them for their flaws and for what’s great about them.

There are some complicated young women I fell in love with in my twenties that are squashed together in that character.

What did the director have to teach you about in terms of the times, or what is it that you learned about the times?

Margarita Levieva: I got to watch a lot of videos of people dancing in funny clothes. The nails are certainly a fun aspect that I learned. I never had nails that long or that pink in my life. I mean, all the stuff.

I feel very privileged because I feel like Lisa P. was one of the characters that really got to embody the times so the hair, the makeup, the clothes… I basically said to the wardrobe people ‘I put my hands up, whatever you guys think is right I’m willing to do’ so that’s the hot pink, leopard tights and the big shoulders, the turquoise dress. I mean, it was amazing.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you know, I get to go back to the ’80s which is what I never got to do myself.

How did the role come to you? Did you

Levieva: I did. Greg and I had a meeting and I, funny enough, didn’t think I was that right for the part because I don’t find myself that hot. I mean, it’s just that scene when Lisa P. comes out and the boys are running through the park like “Lisa P.’s back! Lisa P.’s back!” and I just didn’t see myself as that girl.

Greg did and asked me to audition for it. I did and as I was auditioning I really fell in love with her, you know, and something started coming out that wasn’t mine and it was a lot of fun.

Mottola: Yeah, Margarita really threw herself into it in a way that was not condescending to the character. The character is silly on some level.

I did know sort of these princess-y women from Long Island where I grew up who were flaunting their sexuality in a way that was kind of based on what they were picking up from the culture.

There was a disconnect, maybe, between their life experiences and how they presented themselves to the world. Margarita really threw herself into trying to get inside that person without just making her completely a punch line.

She researched all these music videos from the time and learned all these dance steps and took all that stuff very seriously.

What are the challenges of shooting in a real amusement park? Did you take advantage of going on their rides?

Levieva: I didn’t get to go on any rides

Mottola: You didn’t go on any? I went on rides.

What park was it?

Mottola: Kennywood in Pittsburgh. It’s one of the few parks that is on the National Historic so it hasn’t changed much. Every other park we’ve researched has been bought up by some corporation as part of a chain now. To make it look like the ’80s would have been almost impossible anywhere else. This place we could sort of build on.

Jesse Eisenberg seems to possess a very pure, innocent quality even though he’s in his mid 20’s right now. So, could you talk about casting him?

Mottola: My only hesitation with Jesse was that I had liked him so much in The Squid and the Whale, and there was some overlaps with the characters he played that I didn’t want to beg comparisons between the films.

I didn’t want to be the movie that wasn’t as good. Then I sat down and met with him and I just thought “there’s no one else who I’ve met that I like as much for this part.” Jesse is very neurotic. He’s very innocent, very sweet, he has all those yearning qualities the character needed.

How did you conceptually and professionally make the decisions that you made? People are invariably going to say “Why can’t it be more crazy like Superbad?” because it’s from the director of Superbad.

Mottola: I think my first feeling was to make a messy relationship story about young people. Sort of secondary to that was to make a story about life in the suburbs and middle-class life at a certain time and place.

I feel like a lot of movies about middleclass suburban life in the mainstream version, the Hollywood version, can be great but they just sweep the ugly stuff under the rug. Then there’s sort of an indie version that I feel has been done a little bit too much.

I wanted to try and catch something nuanced. I wanted to try and show people that their behavior is constantly changing based on the people around them. Jesse’s character is surrounded by people who are stuck. He has no role model. No one is really helping him out and he’s very na’ve and ill-equipped for life.

What do you do? You’ve got to find it somewhere. You’ve got to find it in yourself, theoretically, and that that to me is a small drama but it’s a kind of drama.

What was the evolution of Bill Hader’s moustache? It looks like it had a life of its own.

Mottola: Bill Hader’s moustache had its own trailer, actually. It was the most difficult person on the set. The problem with working with Bill Hader is, because he’s on SNL, you can never do anything to his hair or face. He can’t grow a beard.

You can’t cut his hair. When we did Superbad, SNL made us sign a contract saying that we will not go near his hair with scissors so you can’t do anything to his look except comb it. We wanted him to have a moustache. We wanted a big bushy Tom Selleck moustache, though on Bill Hader it takes on a different quality.

He looks like he’s going to do a root beer commercial and the first day he wore it we thought “Oh, that looks ridiculous. We can’t do that,” but he just loved it so much and I liked it too much.

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