Sundance 2013 Interview: Michael Cera and Gabby Hoffman

The co-stars of Crystal Fairy talk drugs, hairy body parts and Cera's upcoming shower scene in Arrested Development.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

It’s another Sundance for Michael Cera, and Gaby Hoffman’s first time. Cera enjoyed recent success hot off “Arrested Development” and Superbad, while Hoffman was a prolific child actor who took some time off for college. They co-star in the Sundance movie Crystal Fairy, one of two films at the fest by director Sebastian Silva. Hoffman plays the title character, a free spirit who tags along with Jamie (Cera) on a road trip in Argentina, annoying him with her new age spirituality when he just wants to get high. We got to speak with the actors at the Festival Co-Op on Main Street, and closed with a retrospective analysis of the 1997 classic Volcano.

CraveOnline: Where did you start in developing the character Crystal Fairy?

Gaby Hoffman: Well, I don’t usually do a lot of character development prior to shooting, or prior to rehearsal or prior to whenever we start. I just do it. But Crystal Fairy was a little different because she was a real person and Sebastian had told me a lot about her so I just thought about her a lot and I thought about the elements of her that I could relate to and the ones that I didn’t quite understand, I thought about more. He also asked me to read a lot about 2012. I read this book that I became very obsessed with which I wish I could remember the author because I think he’s amazing. So I was just reading this book a lot and I was making the book that you see in the movie, her book and that was it. I didn’t try to get more intellectually involved in it that that. I was just reading what she would have been reading, writing and drawing what she would be writing and drawing and musing about her sort of in my sleep. Then I just forgot about all of that when the cameras turned on which is generally my process.

With the 2012 stuff, was this always intended to come out after 2012 passed?

Gaby Hoffman: I don’t know if we thought it would ever come out. We didn’t know. I don’t know.

Michael Cera: Good question. I think Sebastian cared for a second about it coming out before 2012, but I don’t think it’s that important for the viewing experience.

I bet we’d be surprised which aspects of her you did relate to her and which you didn’t understand. Would you share which those were?

Gaby Hoffman: Well, there are no words that I can use that I like. I don’t like the phrase “free spirited.” I’m a fairly comfortable, adventurous, impulsive person so ending up on that trip is something I could easily imagine. I’m not so much into the new agey stuff, but I am curious about the world in that way, so getting that element sort of married to the part of myself that relates to it was the trick for me, without making it feel false. Am I making sense, you guys? Just tell me.

As much sense as anything on Sunday morning at Sundance can.

Michael Cera: It doesn’t make as much sense as an egg sandwich.

Michael, what was your take on Jamie, who was so desperate to hurry up and do drugs?

Michael Cera: Well, I kind of know that guy a little bit. I grew up with people who, like everyone does with drugs, [use them] as a big kind of trading card almost where they’re like, “I’ve done this, I’ve done this.” They read about it, they know all this information, medicinal advantages of things and all these misconceptions. So I kind of knew that guy a little bit and it wasn’t that important to me why he was so desperate. There are a million reasons why he could be down in South America desperate to do some drug he’s never tried.

What usually happens to those people you know in real life? Do they find fulfillment or can it get bad?

Michael Cera: Well, it has yet to be seen, I think. I think sometimes it gets bad pretty easily. Drugs, you know.

Drugs are bad, I think.

Michael Cera: Yeah, we’ve all heard it.

Since Crystal Fairy is very hippie, did you enjoy the chance to grow all of your hair out?

Gaby Hoffman: Actually, that’s how I am.

All of it?

Gaby Hoffman: Yup.


Gaby Hoffman: Yes.

So it’s everything, even the armpits?

Gaby Hoffman: Yes, I don’t shave my armpits. Somebody told me last night at the party that they thought that my vagina was a wig.

Michael Cera: A merkin?

Gaby Hoffman: A merkin. It’s not.

Michael Cera: We didn’t have that kind of budget.

Gaby Hoffman: I shave my legs because I like the way it feels, but otherwise, I’m hairy. So yes, Sebastian knew what he was getting when he called me.

Have you each had films in Sundance before?

Gaby Hoffman: No.

Michael Cera: I have. I was here for Paper Heart and The End of Love last year.

How does this experience compare to your previous Sundances?

Michael Cera: It’s different. For me, all three have been very different. Paper Heart was kind of intense because we were here the whole week kind of carrying the movie. Last year, I was here with my friend’s movie and I was just coming out to see it and hang out and I was here for like three days, and it was very easy and stress-free. I wasn’t working, I was kind of just having fun. It was great. This week has been really fun so far, but we’re at the halfway point and we’re all taking a big breath right now, getting ready for the next three days.

Do you think Jamie provokes some of the awkwardness, where it could have been a lot smoother if he’d been more accepting that he got himself into this with Crystal Fairy?

Michael Cera: Yeah, I think so. I think he’s addicted to negativity or something because all these other people are having a great time seemingly. I don’t know about Crystal. Maybe Crystal’s having a weird time in her life, but the brothers are pretty easy and they’re so easygoing that his negativity doesn’t even have an effect on them.

Addiction to negativity is a really good point.

Michael Cera: Right, it’s a battle of wills where he needs things to be negative or something. Yeah, I think he’s a big part of it. I think he’s having a weird time in his life and he’s trying to drag people down.

Gaby, did you expect the nude scene to be so confronting?

Gaby Hoffman: I didn’t think about it. I thought it sounded funny. I thought the idea that she walks back into the room and drops her towel with these four boys and then takes these pebbles out, I just thought it was funny. Again, the nudity doesn’t bother me so I was just happy to provide a moment that was going to work.

Michael, I was at the TCA session for “Arrested Development” and saw some of the funny clips they showed, including you in the shower.

Gaby Hoffman: You have a nude scene too?

Michael Cera: You know it. It’s an 18-minute scene. Just a shower. The show got really experimental and abstract.

Gaby Hoffman: It’s just like Irreversible, the 45 minute rape scene.

Michael Cera: Oh my God, yeah, it’s like that. “Arrested”’s like Irreversible.

Gaby Hoffman: “Arrested Development” goes Irreversible with a 20 minute shower scene.

Since that’s the only scene I’ve seen of you in the new shows, what’s going on for George Michael in that scene?

Michael Cera: Well, all I can say is it’s actually more hard to watch than the rape scene in Irreversible, if you can imagine. That’s the experiment of it. Me in the shower for 18 minutes.

Gaby Hoffman: And then Michael Haneke is going to do a version in two different languages.

Gaby, I was a big fan of Volcano.

Gaby Hoffman: Are you kidding?

Not at all. Are you aware of the movie Detention, which references Volcano?

Gaby Hoffman: No.

Well, there is a movie called Detention all about ‘90s nostalgia, and one of the things they call out is Volcano.

Gaby Hoffman: Wow.

Michael Cera: You know, I don’t know what Volcano is.

Gaby Hoffman: It’s one of the worst movies ever made, but it paid for my college education and bought me a house.

Michael Cera: It’s a big movie.

Gaby Hoffman: It was a huge movie I made when I was 15 with Tommy Lee Jones about a volcano erupting under L.A. but the weirdest thing is that same year, they made another movie about a volcano erupting in L.A.

Michael Cera: What was that movie?

Gaby Hoffman: Dante’s Peak.

No, no. Dante’s Peak wasn’t in L.A. That’s why Volcano was awesome, because it was in the city.

Gaby Hoffman: I don’t think I even saw Volcano.

And it was a metaphor for racism.

Gaby Hoffman: Really?

Michael Cera: Really?

Gaby Hoffman: Are you sure?

Don’t you remember the ash at the end when finally everyone looked the same?

Gaby Hoffman: Oh wow. That’s interesting. Now I want to watch it again.


Make sure to check out all of Crave Online's coverage of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival here!

Photo Credit: Sofa Subercaseaux

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.