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By Meredith Alloway · July 13, 2013
Making mistakes is genius. It’s a quote that applies perfectly to the case of Crystal Fairy. Sebastian Silva, who won the 2009 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for The Maid, kept having the production of his latest film Magic, Magic pushed back. Michael Cera, one of the actors starring, was stranded in Santiago, Chile thinking perhaps it would just never get made.
But Silva decided they’d use the down time to make another movie. There was no script, no cast and not much of a crew. But with an outline of the narrative and a story based in the reality of Silva’s own life, both Cera and Gaby Hoffmann came on board for Crystal Fairy. Silva’s three brothers Juan, Jose and Agustin rounded out the cast to provide the perfect on screen chemistry.
Cera plays Jamie, a kid obsessed with finding the magical San Pedro cactus. He assumes it will provide an out-of-this-world trip and satiate a certain longing, where perhaps the root is greater than just the need for the plant. Along the way Jamie and his crew of Chilean friends, played by the Silva brothers, meet a bizarre woman, Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann). As much as Jamie is vexed by her strange beliefs and habits, he grows to understand and maybe even need his fairy friend.
Silva took home the Directing Award at Sundance this year as well as the distributor IFC Films which is releasing it this Friday July 12th! In LA, I got to sit down with a few other journalists and chat with Cera and Silva about the making of such a wild movie.
You took the juice from the cactus and drank it. Michael, Do you have any second thoughts about coming out as someone who experiments with drugs?
C: It wasn’t about that for me. It was so casual. Maybe we’ll do this on camera? Are you comfortable with it? I was nervous but also like we’re here doing this strange thing, why not?
S: With drugs in movies, it’s so ignorant from the media to call this a drug movie and put mescaline in the same bag as cocaine or crystal meth or crack. Mescaline, there’s beautiful literature written about it. Were reaching out to the smart people [Michael chuckles], whoever don’t get it, then that’s how you have to cope with it.
C: I am a little nervous about people who smoke meth coming up and being like You made that movie for us!
Michael how did you decide to sign on to the project?
C: We were all lined up to do this other movie. I went to Santiago and then I’d been there for three months…it felt like we might not make it at all. Sebastian called me and said, ‘Let’s do this movie that nothing will stop us from making.’
As Jamie, you were playing Sebastian in a sense, how did you two work together to evolve that character?
C: My role in that situation is what he had gone through. But my spirit and the conflicts of the character were not him-he’s a nice guy.
S: I was completely obsessed with the San Pedro. I would be an asshole to the people, not an asshole but I’d be like money, money a little bit like Jamie.
Michael, have we ever seen you play that kind of a dick before on screen?
C: Yea, I think I have. When I was nine I did a Lifetime movie called Custody of the Heart. You might remember. When you’re under 13 you have to say brat…you can’t call a nine year old a dick, even if they are. It’s really fun to play that.
Here you are, you’re going to make this movie in paradise, you have to make everything up, you have to take drugs-what was it that appealed to you about it?
C: The movie was so much fun to make. We shot it in two weeks. The time line of the story is what we were actually going through. We weren’t really making up the story or the relationships that was all scripted.
S: It was a very thought out outline. Every single scene was detailed and the characters knew their responsibility of keeping the narrative going. Even the dialogue that needed to happen was discussed before the scene.
There are a lot of actors who would never take on a role contingent on that.
C: Some actors are really methodical and like to know every detail of their performance before they get there, I’ve worked with those kinds of actors. For them it would be really uncomfortable. But it’s fun. It’s very freeing. It wasn’t like any other working experience I’ve had. There aren’t people constantly keeping tabs on where you are. On a normal movie set actors are such a liability. If you want to get a coffee someone walks with you like yea, I got him over here! This was just hanging out with friends.
We recently saw Eli Roth shoot a film with a Chilean filmmaker. He wants to create a Chilewood! What is it about country now? More Americans are going over there.
S: I don’t know anything about the Chilean industry and when I’m talking to press I’d rather talk about the craft than the industry.
C: You have a real prejudice.
S: The other day I was invited to USC. They put me on a panel to talk about Chilean industry and I have no idea. I can tell you about improv so much more or the craft of screenwriting or the psychology of my characters. Chilewood? I hate Hollywood to start with.
What was the DNA of this woman that you so decided to commit to doing a film about it?
S: It’s not really about the woman it’s about two different journeys that any person can go through. Jamie’s journey is about learning compassion for the first time, something you tap into in your early 20s. For Crystal Fairy, is was beautiful for me to experience this 12 years ago, and to see that the entire costume she’s put herself in as a fairy. It was just a cover up trying to avoid the pain she’s been through for so long. She was hiding being all this new age, extremely positive thinking. The story stuck with me. I have pictures of me and my friend and the real Crystal Fairy cooking the San Pedro and she disappeared. She said her goodbyes and she left. She popped into our lives and then left.
Do you see filmmaking as a process of self-discovery?
S: Absolutely. When I pick my movies I make sure it’s a subject matter I want to be dealing with for that length. Movies take forever so I would never make a movie about something silly and empty because my life would become that.