TORONTO—In Youth in Revolt, Michael Cera isn’t just the unlikely leading man, he’s two leading men. The 21-year-old Cera plays 16-year-old Nick Twisp, a gawky hero on an epic mission to lose his virginity to the neighbourhood bad girl (Portia Doubleday), and Nick’s rebellious, mustachioed alter ego, the oh-so-French—and not quite as suave as he thinks he is—Franí§ois Dilinger.
Watch the trailer for Youth in Revolt.
Sitting in a Toronto hotel room, Cera tells the Georgia Straight that he was a fan of C. D. Payne’s book Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp and wanted to work in the film version (which opens Friday [January 8]), but the project seemed stalled until the titular heroine of Juno became America’s most beloved pregnant teen.
“Juno came out and some more people were aware of me. I guess they felt more confident attaching me to it,” Cera says, sounding so modest that if he wasn’t Canadian, you’d have to suspect he was parodying one. Between his leading nerd turns in Juno, Superbad, and the much-mourned sitcom Arrested Development—which topped all sorts of “best of the decade” lists—Cera’s self-aware sweetness has turned him into a star.
He’s not sure how some of his projects have gone from movies to pop-culture touchstones, though. “Juno, I saw the premiere and thought everyone was great. I thought Jason [Reitman] did a good job, so, you know, I was really proud of it and it was nice that people saw it and liked it. And, yeah, I can see how people would be touched by it. But it’s hard to explain when things become kinda popular; people just sort of gravitate towards certain things that can’t be predicted.”
Asked about his unpredictable journey to leading man, Cera won’t accept the designation. “I don’t consider myself that. I have been cast in these roles where people have put a lot of trust into me, so that’s a good feeling and scary, but I’ve been acting since I was nine, so I wasn’t thinking about it too much when we were shooting.”
Cera does like the juicier roles, though. “It’s nice because I like to act, and when you have a big part you get to do a lot of acting. And you get to really collaborate with a lot of actors. I had a lot of scenes with a lot of people in this movie, and that’s really nice; it’s fun. It’s an amazing cast.”
Those fun scenes included sharing screen time with Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, and Fred Willard.
Director Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck) told the Straight in a separate interview that Cera is like “a young Peter Sellers” and he fully expects the Ontario-born and -raised actor to be directing his own work someday soon.
Cera politely shrugs off the compliment. “I wouldn’t ever be able to direct unless I felt 100 percent confident, which is a tough thing to be.”