It's not unusual to see actors bond with their directors, but Michael Cera (of Arrested Development and Juno fame) and filmmaker Sebastián Silva (who won a Sundance award for The Maid in 2009) may have one of the breeziest muse-maestro friendships in the biz. Together, they're releasing two new projects: The paranoid thriller Magic Magic (slated for release in August) and the trippy-yet-heartfelt curio Crystal Fairy (opening this weekend), about a group of friends in Chile that trek to the beach to get high on cactus juice (a.k.a. mescaline), and the surprising humanity that ensues.
We caught up with Cera and Silva and learned a ton about drugs, drinking, and where to stop and eat on a cross-country road trip.
DETAILS: Both Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic seem intent on dismantling the nice-guy image that's so associated with you, Michael. Is turning that image on its head something that drew the two of you to work together?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: No, not really. When I first met Michael around 2009, I really had no notion of his career. I had only seen Juno. I really was not aware of any typecasting. When you know Michael, you can immediately tell that he can play whatever he wants, or whatever you want. I was not consciously trying to disarm anything.
MICHAEL CERA: Yeah, basically we just met and liked each other, and Sebastián had this script, Magic Magic, that was great. There was this part that I loved that was actually written as a Chilean character. After we met, Sebastián changed it to an American, and that was how we hit it off.
DETAILS: Who would each of you rather spend a weekend with: Cynical, self-centered Michael Cera from Crystal Fairy or creepy, volatile Michael Cera from Magic Magic?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: Oh…such a good question. I think the Michael from Magic Magic just because he's such a creepo, man. [Laughs.] I would want to know more about him and just hear him talk. The character's name is Brink, and he's so much more intriguing than Jamie [from Crystal Fairy]. Jamie's just a kid who's obnoxious and won't let you talk. Brink is more secretive.
MICHAEL CERA: Uh, I don't know if I'd want to spend time with that guy. But, then, there's something really nice about being around bizarre people, so maybe I'd go for Brink too. I have voluntarily spent a weekend with people who you know you're never really gonna understand, but you just enjoy the show.
DETAILS: Crystal Fairy comes on the heels of the new season of Arrested Development, a show that helped to establish Michael's career. What do you think of its revival?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA:: I watched the first episode of the first season, and then the first episode of this last season. I told Michael. I'm so bad at watching TV.
MICHAEL CERA: Well, you don't owe it to me. Don't do it for my sake.
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: The only series I watch is Mad Men, and I gave up on the last season even though it was my favorite thing.
MICHAEL CERA: I've never watched Mad Men. But I was really pleased with the new Arrested. I'm just glad that we did it. I think it's kind of an unprecedented thing, to resurrect a show that's been canceled. And I like how bold it was, too. It wasn't just content with trying to be the old show.
DETAILS: Anything else that you binge-watch?
MICHAEL CERA: Breaking Bad. I watched all of Breaking Bad in no time. There's also this six-part documentary called The Staircase. It's a miniseries, and, oh my god, you'll never watch anything faster than this. It's a murder investigation, and this amazing French documentarian gets incredible access to this family, and the father is being accused of murdering his wife. It's incredible.
DETAILS: Sebastián, I laughed out loud reading the Crystal Fairy press notes, because you offer this pretentious director's statement, then dismiss it with, "everything you have just read is a joke." Was the film's jokey lack of pretense achieved on the fly—or highly planned?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: There was a lot of improv, but we had a very detailed outline. Basically, we had a screenplay with no dialogue, and then the dialogue was deeply discussed before every scene. How it was said was kind of up to how the actors felt and the movement of the scene.
MICHAEL CERA: There were no stakes, really, when we made this movie. It was great that we were getting a chance to make it, and we were all kind of having a vacation at the same time. We wanted to do good work, but it was also about having a good time.
DETAILS: The movie centers on a drug pilgrimage to Chile's Atacama Desert. What's the best place you've ever gone to unwind?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: The last place I went to unwind was just Brighton Beach. I live in Fort Greene and I take the Q train there. The ocean really does it for me, man. Movement and the ocean—being on a highway or going to the ocean and swimming.
MICHAEL CERA: Yeah, I love long road trips. I've driven across the country, like, four times. I don't know why, but it's my favorite vacation. Just the movement, and the freedom, and stopping wherever you want, and then stretching your legs and getting back in your car and being somewhere totally different in an hour.
DETAILS: Where would you recommend we definitely stop on a cross-country road trip?
MICHAEL CERA: Brother Sebastian's steakhouse in Omaha.
DETAILS: The San Pedro cactus that Michael's character is searching for serves as a really unique plot device. How did the idea come into being?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: It wasn't an isolated idea. This is something that actually happened when I was around 20 or 22. I was with my very good friend and a woman who went by the name of Crystal Fairy, who I met at a concert. I invited her to tag along with us, and we went to the desert to take the San Pedro. So it's not like I was looking for exotic or weird elements to add to the story. It was part of the whole thing.
DETAILS: Did you drink it, Michael?
MICHAEL CERA: We drank it on set. But we didn't really feel the effects of it, me or Sebastián's brothers. But that was okay. Maybe I felt something and just expected something stronger, but we were in work mode and doing the scenes.
DETAILS: What are your favorite drinks otherwise?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: I'm not a big drinker, but I really like mezcal. I don't like drinking too much of anything. Like, three glasses of vodka is disgusting, or six beers; it's just like, "What are you doing to your body?" But mezcal, you drink two and you're good—high in a different way.
MICHAEL CERA: I like a good hot toddy. Or a Moscow Mule.
DETAILS: The movie suggests that literal trips and drug-induced trips promote bonds and self-improvement. Would you argue that drugs, for all their dangers, can provide certain unsung benefits like that?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: It's a mix. I always say that drugs don't have a personality. Like when you take a drug, it's you, just acting under the effects of the drug. You never cease to be yourself. But I absolutely believe there are benefits. Not all drugs—speed is stupid, crack is ridiculous, and crystal meth is super bad. But mescaline or LSD, taken in a wise way, I think it's great.
DETAILS: Sebastián, you also cast your three brothers in this film alongside Michael. Has he been unofficially adopted as the fifth Silva sibling?
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
MICHAEL CERA: Yeah, if the qualifier for that is being housed and fed by Sebastián's parents for over three months, then definitely.
SEBASTIÁN SILVA: Michael has even Skyped with my mom by himself. I mean, that's weird.
MICHAEL CERA: [Laughs] It's true. They're lovely people.
—R. Kurt Osenlund is an arts and entertainment writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Follow him at @AddisonDeTwitt.
Magic Magic official trailer
Crystal Fairy official trailer