May 14, 2012 – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” host JIMMY KIMMEL co-hosts with Kelly today. Kelly and Jimmy chat with “Glee” star Chris Colfer, and the latest eliminated contestant from “American Idol” performs.
Chris Colfer, one of the stars of the hit TV show Glee, is known for his portrayal of Kurt, a confident and openly gay high school student (who also possesses pipes like a diva). In the new film Struck By Lightning, which Colfer wrote, he plays a very different character: Carson Phillips, an ambitious high school student who starts a literary magazine in order to get into Northwestern. The character is arrogant and not exactly well-liked, so how does he collect submissions? By blackmailing the popular kids, of course.
The film is set in fictional Clover, California, a name not unlike where Colfer grew up in Clovis, a small town just outside Fresno. Colfer, who wrote the script while working 70 hours a week on Glee, says that while the film is not autobiographical, some major plot points ring true. How about that blackmail thing?
“That actually was a little close to something I might actually have done in high school,” Colfer tells Weekend Edition’s Guy Raz. “When I was in high school, we had this thing called the senior project where one senior was selected every year to have their own show. … All the seniors before me always just did an SNL-like format with a bunch of skits and gags and songs, and I was the only student that ever was like, “Nope, I’m going to write a show, and we’re going to do a full production.”"
Colfer says when his classmates didn’t want to participate, suffering from major bouts of senioritis, he may have used a few things against them to get them into his show.
One thing Colfer doesn’t have in common with Carson, however, is a little more elemental: as we learn at the beginning of the movie, Carson is dead and sees his story in flashback. Asked why that’s the structure, Colfer says part of it has to do with the way people talk about the dead. “One of the biggest things I wanted to do is have a character call these people out on their fake grief and mourning. I mean, how many times are we at someone’s funeral and someone speaks at the podium, and we think, ‘Oh my God, they’re such a liar, they never knew them like I knew them, they weren’t as close as they’re saying they are.’ I think one of my character’s lines in the movie is, ‘It’s amazing how popular you become once you die.’ I just thought it’d be a great way to tell a story, from the perspective of being dead.”
But other than that little hitch, there are things about Carson that Colfer says he envies a bit, compared to his own experiences. “I really wish I could be like that and say exactly what I meant exactly when I felt it and not really give a crap what people thought. But I was the exact opposite — I really did care a lot what people thought of me. And I was not as manipulative or as smart and conniving as he is.”
On Glee, Colfer was at the center of a major bullying storyline that he says hit home in a big way. Not only was he bullied himself when he was younger, but it got so bad that he was home-schooled. “When I was in seventh grade, I was home-schooled for the second half of my seventh grade year and eighth grade year because I was really made the target of by a lot of students, and I was having my locker vandalized and my PE clothes stolen and had horrible things written on it, and my mom and my dad finally got sick of it and just home-schooled me for the rest of junior high. But then I went back to high school, and I was thrown back into the world of public schooling.”
Colfer is hesitant to take credit for how much his portrayal of Kurt has resonated with gay kids especially, giving much of it to the Glee writers, but he remembers having strong feelings about what he wanted to accomplish. “I was very, very nervous about playing a gay character and I kind of went into it knowing I wanted to make him more than just the punching bag that gay characters usually are on TV—the quirky best friend with the bitchy one-liners that we see on almost every other show.” For one thing, when Kurt came out to his father in a widely praised scene, he didn’t want it to be all about fearlessness that might ring false. “It’s the most terrifying thing kids can ever do in their life, especially at an early age, so I really just wanted to make sure there was a lot of honesty in that scene and it wasn’t so forced or arrogant, but it really was just this kid who was terrified of telling his father the truth.”
In the end, Colfer says, his high-pitched voice — which caused him no end of trouble with bullies at school — has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allows him to perform numbers like “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard on Glee. “It’s crazy,” he says. “A voice that was never wanted has become a voice for so many people who don’t have one.”
He doesn’t expect, however, that that voice will necessarily last forever. “I would love to retire by the time I’m 25,” he says, “because by then I probably won’t be considered relevant anymore and no one is going to care about me. And I’m very very well aware that every actor has a shelf life, and I’m just trying to squeeze in as much as I possibly can while I can.”
He’s on track for now: Struck By Lightning is currently playing at the Tribeca Film Festival and will open wider later this year.
NEW YORK — When “Glee” star Chris Colfer was 8, he began writing a novel. He wrote two pages, called it the first chapter and proudly showed it to his grandmother.
“She said, ‘OK, could use some development,’” laughed Colfer in a recent interview.
That memory was worked into his script for the movie “Struck by Lightning,” which premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Colfer wrote and stars in the movie. He plays Carson, an ambitious high-school senior who blackmails his fellow students into helping him get into Northwestern University.
The 21-year-old actor came up with the idea for the story when he was a teen as a way to vent about his teachers and classmates. He then taught himself how to write a screenplay.
“I would go to my local Borders in Fresno (Calif.) and I would study Sofia Coppola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ published screenplay. I’d sit there — ’cause I couldn’t afford it — and I’d read it and I’d read it and I’d teach myself how to screenwrite and how to, you know, frame everything.”
Allison Janney plays his mother, and Colfer says he always pictured her in the part.
“I always had her voice in my head for some reason. Always, always,” he said.
Janney said she was unaware the part was written for her, but loved it immediately.
“I was blown away by Chris’ script,” she said. “The writing has always been the most important thing to me, and I had an instant connection to his script. The characters were funny and flawed, especially the part of his mother. Then I met with him and was completely charmed by him. … How can he be so talented and accomplished and charming and be so impossibly young? I can’t wait to see what’s next for him. Maybe directing?”
Dermot Mulroney, Christina Hendricks and Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) also star in the movie.
Colfer has just finished a psychological drama he hopes to shoot independently this summer. He also adapted a pilot for the Disney Channel based on Florence Laughlin’s children’s book “The Little Leftover Witch.”
He also inked a deal to publish two children’s books. “The Land of Stories,” which will be in bookstores in July, is essentially the completion of that story he began writing when he was 8.
“It came from me being a young, curious kid holding a book in my hand and wishing with all my heart that I could just fall into the book and go on these adventures with all the characters,” he said.
Colfer said he told his parents when he was growing up that he was going to write and act, and he has made good on those bold declarations. His portrayal of gay teen Kurt Hummel on the Fox show “Glee” has earned him a Golden Globe Award and two Emmy nominations.
Despite the opportunities he’s had since “Glee,” Colfer says he cannot ever really get used to fame.
“I don’t think anyone can prepare you for it. … You find different ways of dealing with it and getting used to it, but it’s not something you can totally settle your mind into. For me, I always feel like I have this massive responsibility because of the kind of platform that ‘Glee’ gave me. I can never do anything that disappoints anyone. That’s my biggest fear — disappointing those people who look up to me.”
At only 21, Chris Colfer is already becoming a renaissance man.
Known primarily for his Golden Globe-winning turn as Kurt Hummel on Fox TV’s “Glee,” the actor surprised and impressed fans when it was announced more than a year ago that the screenplay he penned, “Struck By Lightning,” was being made into a movie. Oh, and that he’d also be starring and executive producing the flick – which also stars Allison Janney, Christina Hendricks and “Modern Family”‘s Sarah Hyland – about an unpopular high school senior who blackmails his classmates into participating in a project that’ll better his odds of getting into college.
Fast forward to the present day and “Struck By Lightning” is making its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. For his sake, Colfer jokes he’s “wearing long sleeves” because he’s “covered in welts” from pinching himself over his latest success.Suzanne Houchin
What inspired you to keep pushing and get this movie made?
“Glee” fans, in short. When we were on the road for “Glee,” I met a lot of kids that were full of aspirations and had no drive themselves and had no self confidence to actually pursue what they wanted to do. I thought, there’s not too many movies made targeted toward that audience that really are uplifting and show you ways it could happen. I wanted to make a movie that was funny and had all the teenage raunchiness that kids want in a movie to be entertained and also had an underlying strong message, too.
I read that Allison Janney was who you pictured to play your mom when you first wrote the script. How surreal was actually getting her?
From the very beginning. It was insane. The only difference between her performance in the movie and what I pictured in my head was her hair was just a little shorter in my head. That’s all. Everything else is exactly how I had always imagined it.
Are you working on other screenplays?
My next project, hopefully we’re going to do it this summer. We’re going the same exact production route, doing it as an independent movie. I have a director. It’s a very different movie for me – it takes place in an asylum in the 1930s, which is very similar to high school if you think about it. Crazy people running around with other people telling them what to do. Did you have restraints in your high school? Because I did.
I actually had to do tons and tons of research on it. I had these crazy, suggestive books that I was carrying around with me – like “Asylums for Dummies” and “Schizophrenia for Dummies” and “How to Deal With Mental Health” – all these things that I was reading and highlighting on set and people were giving me these weird looks like “He’s finally lost it.” I really immersed myself with the material.
So are all your “Glee” castmates begging for parts?
Jokingly, yes, but they’re all off doing their own things. They’re having albums coming out and little projects here and there. They don’t need me. They’re all busy too.
With Kurt graduating this year, are you going to be on “Glee” next season?
I think so. Things are still kind of up in the air. I’ve heard rumors and I’ve been told a couple things so I’m anxious to see how they’re going to do it.