As you might know, Chris and co-star Roberto Aguire will be in Paris (France) next month to promote Struck By Lightning and today they started selling tickets for the premiere and guess what … they were sold out in 12 minutes. You can win last tickets though
Here’s the plan of the events Chris will attend:
June 12 – red carpet and Q&A (after they showed the movie) with Chris and Roberto Aguire – 8:30pm local time
June 12 – red carpet and Q&A (after they showed the movie) with Chris and Roberto Aguire – 8:30pm local time
June 15 – book signing at Paris Ternes (Forum de recontres, niveau 4) – 2pm – 4pm local time
Chris Colfer is not a man who wastes time resting on his laurels. In the past four years, we’ve seen him sing and dance on Glee, win a Golden Globe® and two Teen Choice Awards, and become a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author thanks to his young adult novel, The Land of Stories.
And that’s not all. Colfer also managed to find the time to write a screenplay and star in the resulting film: Struck By Lightning.
Directed by Brian Dannelly (Saved!), Struck By Lightning stars Colfer, Allison Janney, Rebel Wilson, Sarah Hyland, Dermot Mulroney, Christina Hendricks, and Polly Bergen, with supporting performances by Allie Grant, Ashley Rickards, Carter Jenkins, Graham Rogers, Matt Prokop, Robbie Amell, Roberto Aguire, Angela Kinsey, and Brad William Henke.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chris Colfer about writing Struck By Lightning and the experience of bringing his words to life on the silver screen.
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Screen Invasion: The first question I have to ask is, they say to “write what you know.” To what extent was this what you knew in high school?
Chris Colfer: Oh, God. To be able to say that…but I tend to write about things that I’m learning, rather than things that I’ve learned or you know for sure. I have no right to be writing about adult[hood] [or] life lessons and whatnot. I always try to write about the advice and the best lessons that I’ve been told, rather than what I’ve learned.
SI: Are there specific dark comedies or other teen movies that inspired your vision for Struck by Lightning?
CC: Yeah, there were a lot of movies that had the same really dark tone that I really was inspired by, like Election, and Saved!, which was amazing just to meet with Brian Dannelly and get him to do this movie. For the most part, I really wanted to tell a movie about a character that I thought never really had a film about them, about the overachieving, under appreciated kid. I thought that was a genre of kid that was never really touched on in high school movies before this one.
SI: There’s a lot of really intelligent humor in Struck by Lightning. Do you think your target audience will get it all?
CC: I think so. If not, the fans will, hopefully. I feel like, in a strange way, I’ve broadened my demographic from musical theater kids who watch Glee to really smart kids in high school that feel the same way I feel. Like, “Come on, we’re people too. Tell our story.” I think they definitely get the humor, but we’ll see. I hope there’s something in this movie for everyone.
SI: Director Brian Dannelly has said it was really important to have actors in the cast that were great at improv. To what extent did the cast improv while filming? Was anyone in particular given a lot of leeway in that regard?
CC: For the most part we followed the script really, really well. Of course, whenever we did things Rebel [Wilson] would go off on these ad libbing tangents that were just hysterical. I watched the movie and I cannot believe I held a straight face for half the scenes I’m in with her because she’s so funny. When the camera was rolling, we would make sure we got everything on script, and then…everyone would be as crazy and creative as possible. A lot of that got to the movie, so there is a fair amount of improv-ing in the movie.
SI: You’ve talked about how one of your high school teachers was so influential in the early stages in Struck by Lightning. Yet the world of the story is one where the adults have either failed or in some cases sabotaged the next generation. What inspired that disconnect? What’s the lesson there?
CC: I don’t know. A lot of it maybe just happened coincidentally. I just wanted to tell a story about people that were in different places in their lives and in their journey. For Carson, it was…he was always stuck in the present or a possible future that he wanted to create for himself. He’d go home, and his mom was completely stuck in the past. I grew up with so many people that were either/or. No one really got that it really was the present that mattered. That’s what I’m still learning. I’m still very impatient in trying to watch things. I’m always looking at who’s next, who’s next. I really thought I would tell a story that was mainly about people and where they were at, how they clashed, and how their opinions differed.
SI: Was it ever difficult to keep a straight face, or not want to cry, with some of the lines that Allison Janney says to you?
CC: Oh, no. Even though that they were really horrible, sad scenes, it was hard not to smile, because I’m like, “Yes, Allison Janney, be mad at me. Be mad.”…It was great. It was just hard not to smile the entire time, even in the sad, dramatic scenes. It’s so exciting for me to have someone like Allison Janney. She’s one of the most loved actresses in the business. I’ve been such a huge fan of hers for years. To see her say the words that I had written, it was crazy. That was the hardest part, was not being on cloud nine the entire experience.
SI: You told Entertainment Weekly recently that you were a victim in high school. Did you enjoy playing the total opposite, being the aggressor in so many cases?
CC: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I don’t think, had I [not had] my connection with Glee and the whole bullying epidemic that swept the country, I don’t know if people would really associate this movie with bullying so much. He’d pick on and tease, but Carson never lets himself be the victim. He’s very…very vocal about…[the fact that] he doesn’t care about anyone’s opinion but his own. I was definitely the exact opposite in high school. I was very much picked on and I very much cared about what people thought about me, and then would try to adapt myself and hope for popularity and acceptance. Initially, a character like Carson—a character that just so didn’t give a crap—I thought that would be very beneficial for kids that were dealing with that.
SI: Do you think that maybe it teaches the opposite side of the bullying lesson? He victimizes some of the people that he encounters, tears them down. Do you think there’s anything that the audience can learn from that aspect?
CC: By no means is he a role model. [laughs] I don’t know. I think it’s just a kid who is constantly…fed up with it [all]. I think it’s good for kids to see a kid that wants to stand up for themself. I maybe wouldn’t recommend blackmailing the student body, but it is good to stand up for yourself.
SI: When you filmed in the summer of 2011, could you have guessed that so many of the younger members of the cast would have achieved such fame in your target demographic by the time that Struck by Lightning was released?
CC: Oh gosh, no. When we filmed it, Rebel had just been cast in Pitch Perfect. Ashley [Rickards] had just finished season one of Awkward. Sarah [Hyland] was a star already. But no, it was really great. Of course, I was so excited by it. Every time I’d get word or hear that someone was doing a movie, then I thought, “Oh great, this is more friends for my movie when it comes out.” There was not a single person in the cast, or a pair that didn’t get along. Everyone was very talented and smart. We lucked out so much. We had such a stellar cast.
SI: Is there one message, a sentence, that you hope the audience takes away from Struck by Lightning?
CC: Yeah. Hopefully, it will be different for everyone, but I really just hope that it inspires aspiration. I hope that by seeing all the potential that Carson was robbed of by tragically being killed, hopefully it will make people find that potential in themselves.
SI: What was your favorite part about this whole experience?
CC: I think, honestly, just getting to do it, being able to have something come from my brain, onto paper, then onto the screen was just incredible. Getting to work with some of the people that I got to work with, like Brian Dannelly, Allison Janney, and Polly Bergen. I spent hours talking to Polly Bergen, just picking her brain about the experiences that she had back in the ’50s filming live television and whatnot. The whole thing was an incredible, amazing experience.
Struck By Lightning is a huge deal for Glee star Chris Colfer – at only 22, he not only stars in the film, but also wrote the screenplay and executive produced. He has also adapted his screenplay for the film into the YA novel Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal, marking his second published novel after The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell.
Directed by Brian Dannelly (Saved!), Struck by Lightning tells the story of high school overachiever Carson Phillips (Colfer) who dreams of leaving behind his small town, getting into Northwestern, and becoming a wildly successful journalist. However, these dreams come to an abrupt end when he is struck by lightning and dies. The film unfolds via Carson’s posthumous narration, as he recounts his struggles with his emotionally-challenged alcoholic mother (Allison Janney), his seldom-seen father (Dermot Mulroney) and his father’s pregnant fiancée (Christina Hendricks), but mainly how he and his best friend Malerie (Rebel Wilson) blackmail their fellow students into writing for their literary magazine.
Colfer was kind enough to talk about his inspirations when writing the screenplay, the exciting festival experience, and other projects that are on his very creative horizon.
A lot of the film seems to be autobiographical – except for the “getting struck by lightning” part. Can you explain what inspired that plot point in your screenplay?
Sure! I remember being in high school, and I was also the President of the Writer’s Club in high school. And I remember feeling so incredibly unappreciated and overachieving – in my own right, maybe not a right that was valued by the school or the students in school. I just remember feeling so disheartened and remember thinking, “Wow, if I got struck my lightning right now, they would pretty much find my body.” Because my parents were out of town, it was a Friday night, and everyone was at the football game. And I thought it would be suitable to write a movie about a kid who was killed and then have in his sarcastic narration about his life in a series of flashbacks.
This film features a great high school societal microcosm like The Breakfast Club, for instance. Were there any high school movies you had in mind when writing the film?
I really kind of wanted it to have the humor of Mean Girls but still have the reality of The Breakfast Club, you know? I wanted it to be one of those movies that hopefully any kid, student, or adult could watch and relate to.
How would you describe the collaborative process with Brian Dannelly?
Yeah, he was great! It was so strange, because Brian and I were always so in sync on everything that we had the same input. I watch things, and I can’t remember what we talked about and what was just 100% him and his vision alone because we were so, so connected. I’m kind of shocked that we were able to find a director that I felt so eye-to-eye with, because this was such a passion project for me. There were days when I wouldn’t have to film, and I’d be like, “I’m not going to come in until I’m needed!” because I had nothing but absolute trust in him.
I know Brian directed Saved! which is a really great stylistic fit with this film…
Oh, I loved Saved! It’s one of my favorite, favorite movies. And I thought it had the exact same sarcastic, witty tone that I wanted this movie to have. And I was like, “He’d be interested? Let’s get him!”
So did you have input on picking the director?
Yeah! Brian was the first director we met with, and he said, “You know, I really like this and I really want to do this because I was this kid.” And when he said that, I was sold. This is our guy! I don’t want to meet with anyone else, this is it.
You adapted the film’s screenplay into the YA novel “Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal.” What were the challenges of translating your text into book form?
It was really difficult because the screenplay of the film acted as the skeleton, and the novel had so much more development that it needed. It needed as much backstory and in-between scenes and situations as possible. So it was kind of like taking my script and stretching it out as much as I could.
The film got great a reception at the Tribeca Film Festival this past Spring – and even received a standing ovation. What was the overall festival experience like?
Oh, it was amazing! I think it was one of the unexpected highlights of my young life because I really was not expecting it to get that good of a response. I’ve always been intimidated by New York and heard that New York audiences would never stand for a movie that they just saw. Even though they knew I was in the room, I never thought they would stand for it. So that was incredible. It was such a magic night. And the afterparty afterwards with the cast and crew was just spectacular.
And Emma Watson publicly supported the film that night, right?
Oh yeah, she’s great! She’s an amazing dancer.
Your character in the film, Carson, and your Glee character, Kurt, are both outcasts who stand up for their respective beliefs, but who are intrinsically different. How would you describe their differences?
They are both vert different people. Kurt always takes the high road – always kind of internalizes and takes the high road. Doesn’t matter what the situation is, he tries to do better than the people around him. While Carson never does that, he always tries to get even with the people that are around him and he doesn’t let people victimize him, he doesn’t let people bully him. I’m glad you brought that up, because a lot of people think I wrote this movie just to do something besides Kurt and I’m like, “Uh… if that was the case, I would not be playing another high school outcast!”
Exactly! In the film, while Carson isn’t exactly popular, he is almost feared by his peers – he suffers no fools.
Yeah, he’s a bit of a jerk! It was fun to play a character who you’re not supposed to like, but you really kind of do. Even though he’s an asshole, you really kind of root for him.
Are they any other screenplays in the works for you?
Oh, many, many. I have another one that we’ll hopefully be shooting in the summer, I have an adaption in the works… If people want to watch movies that I’ve written, I’ll always have a new one.
Struck By Lightning opens in select cities on January 11th and is currently available on VOD. Please visit the film’s website for details.