Cory Monteith and Dustin Milligan Get Brotherly in Carl Bessai’s Family Drama
Back when they were struggling actors living in Vancouver, Cory Monteith got his friend Dustin Milligan a job in a cake shop. After several years — and several of TV and film roles (Glee and Monte Carlo for Monteith, 90210 and Shark Night 3D for Milligan) — Milligan has returned the favour, recruiting his former roommate for the new Carl Bessai film Sisters & Brothers. In the low-budget drama, opening March 23, the two play estranged siblings, with Monteith as a Hollywood star enjoying the high-life while Milligan plays a former actor who quit to do charity work. The two spoke to the Post’s Melissa Leong about improvising their lines, dwelling in crappy apartments and living the Hollywood dream.
Q How did you meet?
Milligan: We met in an acting class and we had the same coach/mentor, and Cory got me this job [at a cake shop] because I had just moved from Yellowknife to the city and he had just moved over from the Island a few months prior. We were both in the same boat, doing the same thing.
Monteith: We shared a one-bedroom apartment. I slept in the living room because … Dustin, uh, why was that?
Milligan: Because I paid $100 more.
Monteith: I set up a network of bamboo screens so when you came through the front door, you wouldn’t see into my living space. I had a futon that was my bed but I’d fold it up into a couch.
Milligan: Then there was also that grey couch that smelled like cat urine.
Monteith: It was a sh–ty apartment.
Q So how does this former-roomies dynamic translate on screen?
Milligan: As far as how it relates to our characters, they are brothers and they’ve kind of drifted emotionally away from each other. We were able to fake that tension because of our relationship in real life; we have a quick banter and we do know each other enough that we can push each other’s buttons.
Q You each play actors. What else echoes your own lives?
Milligan: We play caricatures of some aspects of our real lives.
Monteith: My character is something I’m surrounded by in Hollywood. It’s very much the actor that no Canadian actor wants to move to the States and become.
Milligan: It’s like someone trying to live Entourage as a reality. Then my character is someone who was an actor but decided to give it all up so that he can go and do real work in Africa.
Monteith: Things that matter.
Milligan: That in itself is very common, at least in my experience in L.A. You have a lot of people who want to do something real [he does air quotes with his fingers] — like charity work but it’s ultimately self-serving. When our characters meet, he’s calling me out on my bulls–t and I’m calling him out on his bulls–t.
Monteith: As brothers do.
Q Why did you want to be involved in Carl’s film?
Monteith: When the offer came, it came from Dustin: “Do you want to play my brother in a movie?” “What movie?” “Carl Bessai.” “Of course.” It was that quick. Having a lot of input, it being a real artistic process with interesting actors — it was a no-brainer.
Milligan: It’s such a rare opportunity to work in this guerrilla style. We’re told that success means you have to move to L.A. to live this Hollywood lifestyle but the reality as actors is that the further up you go in the studio system, in a way, it becomes more creatively stifling because there are more people with money invested in the final product. It becomes about commercialism and accountability. Where as with Carl, it’s the exact opposite. He’s behind one camera and it’s about Cory and I having fun, improvising for a day and seeing what comes out it.
Q And what kind of improv came out of it?
Monteith: [My character] was with all of these hot girls who I had invited to the house and he said that I used to get cold sores. He just pulled that out of his ass.
Milligan: I love the part where we are driving and I’m describing my charity to him and I’m eager and happy about it. He’s literally yawning and looking outside. That is something you see at every single party that you go to in L.A., you say “hi” to somebody and you shake their hand and …
Monteith: … they’re shaking your hand and looking over your shoulder. It’s a lovely place.
Milligan: That’s what’s nice about Canada. These parties, you have a bunch of real Canadians who don’t really know how to do that yet.
Sisters & Brothers opens March 23 in Toronto and Vancouver.