LOS ANGELESÂ – 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
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Looking for a unique way to ring in the cinematic New Year? You can celebrate by attending the U.S theatrical premiere of Struck By Lightning this Sunday, January 6, at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT. Check to see if you live near a participating theater!
While audiences around the country watch the film, the stars of Struck By Lightning will be walking the red carpet in Los Angeles just before the Hollywood premiere. After the final credits roll, Chris Colfer will join audiences via a live webcast for a post-screening Q & A session. Questions and comments will be taken from fans and movie lovers using Twitter and the hashtag #AskChrisSBL.
I’ve also added ten scans from the digital edition of the book
Struck by Lightning > Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal (Scans)
The 22-year-old actor may have made his name as being an outspoken high school student on Glee. But now, as the first film he wrote and stars in, Struck By Lightning, sets to debut online, he talks about death, blackmail, and veryÂ odd part-time jobs as the book version hits November 20.
Out: What made you want to make this movie?
Chris Colfer:Â In high school I was annoyed that everything targeted to the teenage audience was about sex and drugs. I wanted to write a film about those kids who are overachieving and underappreciated.
Are your character Carsonâ€™s battles based on your own?
Everything related to the writerâ€™s club in the film is true. I was president of the writerâ€™s club at my school, and it was not fun. Doing the literary magazine every year was like pulling teeth. At homecoming, our writerâ€™s club homecoming float was so sadâ€”there were all these huge theatrical structures, and our float was literally a poster on my dadâ€™s old pick-up truck.
Carson tries to blackmail the popular kids into contributing to his literary mag. Did you?
I tried, but just didnâ€™t have the balls. Part of Carson is who I wishÂ I was in high school. Heâ€™s so witty and brave and says all the things I was too afraid to say.
Surprisingly, the flaming theater kid and the big girl in your movie donâ€™t get bullied.
I wanted to make this movie as authentic as I could. At my high school, there were kids who were bullied and teasedâ€”I know I wasâ€”but there was never that â€śCarrie and the bucket of bloodâ€ť moment.
The movieâ€™s title gives away a major plot point. Have you had a near-death experience?
Not really. But for a time, I spent summers making funeral videos. That was my part-time job in high school: I would make videos about people who had died that theyâ€™d show at funerals. It was such a part of me that it never seemed morbid.
Struck By LightningÂ is availableÂ VOD and iTunes December 19. ItÂ opens in select theaters in January 2013