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Q&A: Michael Cera on Tripping in 'Crystal Fairy' and Getting Slapped By Rihanna

'Arrested Development' star looking to move to Brooklyn

Michael Cera
Jason Merritt/Getty Images
July 12, 2013 12:20 PM ET

In Crystal Fairy, out today, Michael Cera is Jamie, an annoyingly insecure American on a journey to the Chilean desert to take mescaline by way of the San Pedro cactus. He drunkenly invites along Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann), a New Ager who talks to rocks, prefers to be naked and pays her debts with fairy drawings. The film is based a real woman named Crystal Fairy, who met director Sebastián Silva at a Wailers concert in Chile and joined him on the same San Pedro mission Jamie and Gaby take in the film.

"She was from San Francisco, and she had a shaved head and a really unforgettable face," Silva says. "And she really went by [that] name, and we thought we were hanging out with a supernatural creature. Then she disappeared from our lives the same as she came in, and I never heard about her again."

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But the remaining impression was strong enough that a decade later, when Cera and Silva were waiting for financing on their other film Magic, Magic (on VOD August 6th), they jumped into an SUV with Hoffman and Silva's brothers and headed to the Chilean desert with a loose script, a camera and a plan to trip on San Pedro. Cera spoke with Rolling Stone about a comforting drug talk with Bill Murray, his failed mescaline experience, and getting slapped by Rihanna.

You've said you were nervous for this part, taking mescaline and going off into the desert.
I was not nervous about the whole adventure, just that we could possibly get thrown in jail in Chile, and it's like Locked Up Abroad. And Bill Murray said something really funny – it was my one experience with Bill Murray, and I talked to him for five minutes, and it was so magical to me. He was really encouraging. He said, "Well, you'll be tripping anyway, so you won't care. You'll be like, 'I can walk through these bars, man . . . '"

Did that make you feel better?
I was just honored that Bill Murray was being funny with me, being kind to me. That was all I could think about, like, "Wow, he's joking with me. This is an amazing moment in my life!" It was a gift that Jason Schwartzman gave me – he knew how much he meant to me and he invited me to set of [A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III] and very kindly introduced me. They're close.

Your love for him dates to Ghostbusters?
From when I was three years old. Like any person who was born after '84, Bill Murray is the guy.

The mescaline you take on set didn't work for you, but it worked for Gaby Hoffmann. Did you feel short-changed?
No, I didn't feel short-changed. I felt some relief that it was behind me, because when it was looming on the horizon like this thing and I don't know what's going to happen and we're going to be on camera, it was kind of nerve-wracking.

You've said you based the character on your friend who takes sort of an academic approach to drugs.
That element of the character was based on a guy I know. The way he would talk about drugs he's done, he collects them like baseball cards, or something to brag about. He's like an authority on drugs, and very scientific – very academic, even.

You wrote for Arrested Development for the fourth season. Was there anything you were proud you got on?
I mean, for eight hours a day you're sitting with five people and talking, and just talking and talking. The truth is you feel good if you get a laugh out of the room, and if you get, like, an idea in the script, if that happens like four times a day, you're an all-star.

We still don't know what's going to happen with George Michael and Maeby. Does that mean there has to be something else coming?
I don't know what the plan is. It's very open-ended.

Co-director Evan Goldberg said that you should be nominated for an Oscar for your part in This Is The End. How would your Oscar campaign look?
I would actually be really nervous and anxious if I ever got nominated for something where you have to campaign, and it's considered, like, really controversial if you don't. I wouldn't want to do that with my life, and I would be afraid of seeming like an asshole, and then I'd feel forced to do something that I don't relate to at all, campaign for this award. I would think that was a really serious situation, and I would really have to figure that out.

The anti-campaign.
Yeah. But then you're the asshole who doesn't run just because you don't want to do something, and that defines you in some way. It's really strange. It's like getting this thing thrown in your lap and they're like, "Dismantle this bomb." I think it would freak me out.

I understand the one note you gave Evan Goldberg was that you wanted to keep the windbreaker on . . . ?
I showed up with the windbreaker and thought it would be good, because I liked that I could, like, hide behind it. You know, it was physically a nice feeling for me to have it. I was in like a tent. And Evan thought it was a little weird – he pictured me in a cardigan or something. He wanted to change it and then I said, "Can we just – can you give it a second thought?" And then he was like, "OK, fine, wear it." I mean, it's just so irregular – loud colors, and a little obnoxious. Not receding in any way.

And you actually got hurt by Rihanna?
I mean, she hit me hard, but it was like what it feels like to get hit hard. I encouraged her to do it, though. I wanted her to hit me really hard.

You're looking for an apartment in Brooklyn. Are you worried about being considered a hipster?
I don't think I'm worried about being considered anything. Isn't there something Jerry Seinfeld said? "How can there be hipsters if there are so many of them?"

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