I’ve added four HQ versions of stills from Struck By Lightning.
At the age of 22, Chris Colfer is a Golden Globe–winning actor, a New York Times best-selling author, and, with Struck by Lightning, which opens in theaters on Friday, a first-time screenwriter. In the black comedy, Colfer stars as a precocious high-school misfit, Carson Phillips, who—unlike his flamboyant character, Kurt Hummel, on Glee— does not have a singing support group to turn to in his small town. After he is struck dead by lightning in the first few moments of the film, Carson has flashbacks to different moments in his dissatisfied life, in particular his attempts to wrangle fellow students into producing a literary magazine— a résumé-building effort that he hoped would help him get accepted into a prestigious college. The cast is rounded out by Rebel Wilson (who plays Carson’s best friend), Allison Janney (his medicated mother), Dermot Mulroney (his oblivious father), and Christina Hendricks (his father’s pharmacist girlfriend).
Last month, Colfer phoned VF.com to discuss his debut as a feature screenwriter, his author-ly endorphin rushes, and the one scenario in which he would sell, um, bottled tears.
Julie Miller: I had no idea how dark your sense of humor was before seeing Struck by Lightning! When did you realize you had such a black sense of humor? Were you an eight-year-old doing gallows knock-knock jokes?
Chris Colfer: I think so. I have a very large, witty, dark-humor family. That is part of the reason why I became that way, but I’ve always had a dark sense of humor. I always found things that people might find to be obnoxious or extreme to be funny.
At one point, Allison Janney jokes about how she used to Roofie you with antidepressants as a child. Where did that come from?
I used to come up with these conspiracy theories against my parents when I was younger because I wanted something really cool to hold against them. I never really [followed through], but maybe that was one of the things I came up with.
Your character blackmails his classmates. Without giving away the victims’ names, what is Chris Colfer’s proudest moment in blackmail?
In senior year of high school, I did a show called Shirley Todd, which is a spoof of Sweeney Todd. To get my friends to be in the show with me was a really big challenge and I blackmailed a couple of them to be in it. One of the girls was a very proud vegetarian, and I found a hamburger receipt in her car and used that against her.
Did you break into her car?
No. We were riding to lunch one day or something. I saw it and said, “Wait, aren’t you a vegetarian?” And she said, “Of course, I’m a diehard vegetarian.” And I said, “Then what is this Wendy’s receipt doing on the floor here?”
You named the high school, Clover, pretty closely after your hometown, Clovis, California. Are you hoping that your former classmates see the movie?
Not really. No character is really an exact duplicate of someone I knew except for the character of Malerie [played by Rebel Wilson]. She is based on a friend I very much had in high school. I’m not really worried about other people seeing it. I just think that the name of the high school is hopefully more of a wink to the people that I grew up with.
Did you have a superlative in high school?
I was not voted anything!
What would you have wanted to be voted?
I would have loved “Next Big Star” or “Next Big Writer,” but I was never popular enough for those titles, I guess.
At what point did you meet Rebel Wilson?
Her being in this movie was really a miracle, because we cast her the night before we started filming. We had gone through dozens of auditions, and everyone who auditioned for the role was amazing but they just weren’t the exact right type for the character. She auditioned the night before, and we cast her right then. My initial response was probably a little scary to her, because I kept saying, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for being a part of this! You saved the movie!”
So you wrote this script and you are writing the sequel to your children’s novel, The Land of Stories, now. Do you have a strict writing regimen?
Whether it’s a chapter or a scene that I’m writing, I always try to do a quick skeleton of it first and get it all out. Then I go back and edit it to perfection, to my greatest capability.
Do you reward yourself after?
Just the feeling alone is the greatest reward. I finished a chapter last night for The Land of Stories sequel and you get, like, this endorphin release that you’ve accomplished something and that your day was not a waste. I usually treat myself before I start writing, though. [Laughs.]
In another interview, you said that you would love to retire by the age of 25. Do you still feel that way?
No. I feel like I’m going to be one of those people who has to be forced into retirement, probably with a court order. But as long as I am able to keep doing what I love doing, which is making movies, writing books, and having some kind of TV base, to kind of go off, then I’ll always be happy.
Kurt is such an empowering character on television. How much responsibility do you feel to that TV audience when you branch out into film and books?
Thank you for saying that. I do probably receive a thousand letters from people a week who love [Kurt] and feel empowered by him, but I always feel responsibility as a role model in the public eye in how I present myself personally. But I never feel pressure as an actor or a writer. I never feel that I can’t write this or play that role. It’s always just like when I’m being interviewed or how I present myself in the real world.
Speaking of Kurt, he got an internship at Vogue this season and interacted with, I suppose, Anna Wintour’s Glee surrogate, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. Are you as into fashion as Kurt is, and have you ever interacted with Wintour?
I’ve never met her, but I’ve seen The September Issue like eight times. It is one of my favorite documentaries, especially because I really was not very into fashion before I saw it. But after seeing that and watching her in her interviews, I have nothing but respect for her. I was kind of like the rest of people who don’t really understand it, but once I heard her passion from her point of view, my whole entire perspective was changed. I had nothing but respect for her.
You’ve tried television, film, children’s novels—what’s next? A fragrance?
I don’t know that people want to smell like me!
Well, if you had to create a scent, what would it be called?
It’s funny because I don’t think it would have anything to do with me, but if I ever did something like that, it would have to be a merchandise line to go along with The Land of Stories. In it, the kids have to collect fairy tears, so I think that would be a cool perfume. Fairy Tears—not by Chris Colfer, but by Land of Stories. Let that be clarified. [Laughs.]
Chris Colfer, best known for portraying the openly gay Kurt Hummel on the hit musical television series “Glee,” will make his feature-film acting and writing debut in dark indie comedy “Struck by Lightning” on Friday.
Colfer, 22, plays a high-school student who blackmails the popular kids into contributing to his literary magazine. The film also stars comedienne Rebel Wilson and “Modern Family’s” Sarah Hyland.
Colfer sat down with Reuters to talk about the film, and his day job on “Glee,” which is now in its fourth season on U.S. network Fox.
Q: You play a high-school student on television. What made you want to stick to the high-school genre for your debut film?
A: “I really wanted to tell a story of a genre of high-school students that often doesn’t get told – the under-appreciated over-achieving student, like I was in high school.”
Q: Was it hard to get financiers to see you as a credible writer because you are known primarily as an actor?
A: “Anytime an actor associated with something larger than life like ‘Glee,’ I think there is automatic suspicion and doubt that the script would be good. Once people got the script, it wasn’t hard to convince them to read it, but it was difficult getting it made. Had I sold it to a studio, I bet you anything it would have been turned into a movie with me not in it and about a kid losing his virginity or doing drugs. Because that’s what happens and that’s not what I wanted.”
Q: Why did you choose to make this movie as your debut? Were you not getting other offers?
A: “I have been getting offers but for the most part they were Kurt Hummel 2.0-type roles. Which I don’t mind because I see typecasting differently. My attitude is as long as I’m employed, I really don’t mind. But this character that I wrote just happened not to be a Kurt Hummel-type. I really wanted to play this character and tell his story.”
Q: You shot this while on hiatus from “Glee.” Was that tough?
A: “With ‘Glee,’ every time we go on hiatus, we go on a tour. As soon as we were done with that tour, I had 2 1/2 weeks off before shooting season three. I was the only cast member who decided to do a movie during that time, so the odds were definitely against me. We shot the film in 16 days. We shot digitally, which helped a lot because there wasn’t quite as much lighting to set up or time needed to reload the camera and get film. So that helped. And the locations were all very close to one another.”
Q: This latest season of “Glee” sees a split in storylines as the show follows both a new generation of students at William McKinley High and graduates – like Kurt Hummel – at their new school in New York. What do you think of this change?
A: “I love it. I think we all love it because it means not all of us are working eight days a week, 25 hours a day like we used to. We all get a few days off every week, which is really nice. It’s been fun to leave the choir room and experience what else is out there for Kurt. That’s been great.”
Q: You published a children’s fiction novel, “The Land of Stories,” last year, which topped the New York Times bestseller list, and you have a sequel due out this year. Is writing important to you?
A: “Unless you fit the standard Hollywood template perfectly, to survive in this business you have to generate your own stuff. But for me, it’s more the drive of wanting to tell stories. I’ve always been a storyteller ever since I was a kid.”
A: “One of my biggest blessings ever was being born knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I have a very long bucket list of films and stories – mostly stories – that I want to tell. I love creating characters and I love creating worlds that represent something that’s not so on the nose.”
Q: Because Kurt Hummel is openly gay, do you feel responsibility to represent the gay community in real life?
A: “Everyone automatically associates me with being the poster boy for gay youth. But I feel like Kurt put me in a position to be the poster boy for anyone who is at all uniquely different. I feel anyone who has that one secretive element that makes them different from the rest is my demographic. And with all the writing I’ve done and with this movie, I feel like I’ve added another straw to my cap in representing all the ambitious kids out there, which is a dream for me.”
(Reporting by Zorianna Kit; Editing by Eric Kelsey, Piya Sinha-Roy and Peter Cooney)
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.
LOS ANGELES – If ever there was a person who deserved the title of overnight success, it is Chris Colfer.
A little more than three years ago, not too many people outside the speech and theater world at Clovis East High School had heard of him. That changed in a blink when TV producer Ryan Murphy was so impressed with Colfer, he created a role for him in his new FOX series “Glee.”
Colfer’s anonymity melted away faster than a Popsicle in a Fresno summer. He became an instant TV star as the series became a bona fide hit. Music released from the show charted so high and so often that Colfer and the “Glee” gang have had more songs on the Billboard Hot 100 than the Beatles. He wrote a children’s book, “The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell,” that’s gone into multiple printings.
The whirlwind rise continues with Colfer as a screenwriter and movie star in his “Struck By Lightning.” The film opens in a few markets Friday, including Fresno at Colfer’s insistence.
In mid-December, Colfer spent the day talking with TV, radio and print reporters about the movie. Seated on a small sofa in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel, he reflects on the latest madness in a rocket rise to fame.
“It’s not overwhelming only because being overwhelmed is so normal now,” Colfer says. “The point of being overwhelmed is normalcy for me. It’s not a stressful thing anymore.”
But it did take him back a little when he saw the movie poster for “Struck By Lightning.” It was the first time he fully realized the magnitude of having his script made into a feature film.
The idea for the screenplay came from a Friday night in the fall of Colfer’s sophomore year in high school when he was working late on the school’s literary magazine. Except for the janitor, Colfer was the only person in the school. As he made his way to his car, the loneliness of that moment struck him.
“I was so tired because I’d just been typing in all the submissions we had gotten for our literary magazine and felt so overachieving but underappreciated. And I thought, ‘Wow, no one works as hard as me at this school, yet no one cares.’ I looked at the sky and I was like, ‘If I was struck by lightning right now, it would probably take three days for anyone to find my body,’ ” Colfer says.
That moment became the trigger for his script about an underappreciated high school student who gets killed by a bolt of lightning. Turning what looked like a negative moment from his own life into the positive of a feature film is an example of a commitment Colfer made years ago. He’s not quite certain when, or why, it happened. But he made a conscious decision that he was going to take all his frustration and hurt and channel it into something good.
Although Colfer and his “Struck By Lightning” character Carson share a few traits — such as being the president of a high school writers club — the two are very different. Colfer explains that Carson is who he wanted to be in high school — a student with the bravery to vent about what he doesn’t like and say exactly what he means.
Colfer describes himself as a “coward” when he was in high school because he internalized all of the negative feelings he had about being harassed for not fitting the student body’s idea of what is the norm. He feels like he let himself be a victim and that’s a point he wants to make to anyone who sees the film.
“I hope it inspires aspiration. I think there are many different elements people can relate to. I think Carson is unique because he lives his life in the future and unfortunately the future hasn’t happened. Seeing the potential that he’s robbed of will make people see the potential in themselves,” Colfer says.
One thing Colfer couldn’t see when he was in high school was how one day he would become a role model. He’s been told countless times how his “Glee” character Kurt, a gay teen who openly deals with his sexuality, has been an inspiration.
The power of the character is something Colfer fully understands and appreciates, but he’s concerned some people may have the wrong idea when it comes to the role model tag he now wears.
“I’ve never tried to make it a big deal. I’ve never tried to be something that I’m not. People do that for you,” Colfer says. “There’s such a difference from being watched in general and being watched as a role model. I feel like it will be OK as long as people understand that my position of role model was given to me. It’s not the sort of thing that I created for myself. I will always praise the material that I was given on ‘Glee,’ which is what made me a role model.
“But people must realize I’m an actor, an actor fortunate enough to be given that title. I will never stop myself from doing a project because it might be risky, or might go against something I have said before, because I’m an actor first. How I conduct myself in public and the choices I make in my personal life, I will always take into consideration that I’m a role model. Otherwise, I would be running around naked on jungle gyms. But I refrain from doing that.”That’s one reason Colfer was determined that Carson’s sexuality be left unclear in “Struck By Lightning.” He wants all moviegoers to go on the journey with this character.
It was also nice that this isn’t another gay character for Colfer to play. He’s already seen how those in show business have tried to pigeonhole him as a certain type of character despite never seeing him in anything major past “Glee.” He would prefer his critics wait for his next role, or the next, before making up their mind as to how his career will go.
So far his career — the TV show, concerts and movie — have been a source of great joy for Colfer. But he’s particularly happy about the children’s book he’s written and its upcoming sequel. Some of Colfer’s happiest memories are going to bookstores to find new books to read, even waiting in lines for hours for the new “Harry Potter” offering.
Colfer’s had some meetings about turning “The Land of Stories” into a film, but he’s in no hurry.
“Right now, I just want it to be a book that kids read,” Colfer says.
Those who watch “Glee” have seen big changes this season — splitting the cast and sending Colfer and Lea Michele to New York. The changes have given Colfer more time to work on other projects because during the first two seasons of “Glee,” Colfer and the cast worked a vicious schedule where they had musical numbers to record and choreography to learn, along with the acting. This year, the workload has been much lighter.
There’s a chance that could change because there’s talk the New York portion could become its own series. Colfer says he has no idea whether that’s true.
Either way, Colfer will have plenty to keep him busy. Along with what’s already on his hectic schedule, there are sci-fi, historical and superhero movies he’s written that he would like to see made. And he’s not completely against the idea of directing, but he would probably want to be a hyphenate such as writer-director.
“There are still hundreds of dreams left. There are adaptations I want to write and other films I want to make that I’m in the process of making right now. There are books I want to write when I’m done with the ones I’m writing now. I’ll always have something that I want to do,” Colfer says. “This business is so crazy. You never know who is considered relevant and there’s just as many people who believe I’m going to be a big name one day as there are people doubting everything I do.
“I will always have that element of feeling of overachieving and does anyone care? That’s a personality trait that I developed in high school that will never leave me.”Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/01/04/3122105_p2/conferring-with-chris-colfer.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/01/04/3122105/conferring-with-chris-colfer.html?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=t.co#storylink=cpy