While summer blockbuster season is upon us, and large-scale spectacles are being released every week, there’s a little film called Crystal Fairy that has provided one of the most unique watches of the summer. Independent to the core and full of heartfelt creativity, Michael Cera takes us on a journey of psychedelic self-discovery, with the help of a wild spirit named Crystal Fairy (played by the magnificent Gaby Hoffmann).
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with both Michael Cera and the film’s director, Sebastián Silva, while they were attending Crystal Fairy‘s New York City press day, and it was a pleasure listening to their experiences while working on this mainly improvised film which only took 12 days to shoot. Read on to learn about Cera’s reaction to actually drinking the San Pedro cactus on camera (which is supposed to get you hallucinating), the challenges Sebastián faced having only an outline for the film, and what makes classic comedy.
Before working with Sebastián on Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic, Michael appeared on Siva’s HBO Digital Comedy The Boring Life Of Jacqueline. We asked the duo what it was like going from working on the comedy to filming these two movies:
Michael Cera: I was only on the webshow for one afternoon, and it was a fairly similar experience to Crystal Fairy. It was Sebastián holding the camera, finding things, and us figuring it out as we went – which was basically the process of Crystal Fairy when we were on set.
Going off of the improvisational tone, both talent were asked how important it is to take risks in their respective roles, and if there’s a challenge to be original these days:
Sebastián Silva: I never want to find myself repeating anything, or quoting myself – really being trapped into a formula. I think it’s very dangerous and it’s very easy for that to happen. I really like taking risks. In Crystal Fairy, for instance, I’ve never done a movie without a screenplay. Even though I went out with an outline, and it was very detailed, it was only just an outline.
It’s good to have a fear of failure. It keeps you awake and keeps you creative. It’s really important not to feel so self-confident, so it’s good to challenge yourself with things or genres you don’t know. I would eventually like to make a film with cars chasing each other just to see what would happen. It would totally suck [Laughs], but I’d be totally content with a failure like that.
The risk of failure is an important thing to have as a threat constantly.
Speaking on originality, it’s not that you want to be original for the sake of being original. It comes with the package. Not that I’m constantly original, I guess in terms of storytelling, I just want to share some stories, some feelings, and some insights, and they just happen to be original. But I’m not really sitting there thinking “What can bo original.” It’s not what it is, but it’s how you do it. I think a love story is the least original thing possible, but it depends what the story is or how you execute it. It’s more about the how than the what.
Michael Cera: Am I risk averse? I don’t think so. It’s never really a consideration when finding a job. It’s not like what’s risky and what’s not – that’s not how I am drawn to things. For me it’s more about the people you’re collaborating with. I’ve never said no to something because it’s a risk I’ve been afraid of, I haven’t found a risk I’ve been afraid of yet, but I’m sure they’re out there.
Since Crystal Fairy is about drinking the juices of the San Pedro cactus and hallucinating, and since Michael’s performance was so convincing, we of course had to ask if either had every taken psychedelic drugs:
Michael Cera: We actually drank the San Pedro while we were shooting, on camera we’re drinking it, but it had no real effect for me or the Silva brothers [Michael’s co-stars/Sebastián’s actual family]. Yeah, we have a few theories why, but it just didn’t work. There had been a build-up to it, we knew we were going to drink it, I was nervous, and it was just very underwhelming. Sebastián has a theory that we were all in work mode, and just keeping it at bay, but I don’t think it worked. It wasn’t a very potent batch or something.
When asking Sebastián where he got the idea for Crystal Fairy’s story, we learned some very interesting information:
Sebastián Silva: The movie is based on a true story. This actually happened about 12 years ago to me and my best friend. I met a woman from San Francisco whose name was Crystal Fairy, and the three of us went to the North to drink San Pedro. All of that really happened. I got along with Crystal, and my friend did too, but the inspiration was that event 12 years ago.