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I was fortunate enough to have a chance to sit down with Chris Colfer, the breakout star from TV’s Glee, and talk about his upcoming film ‘Struck by Lightning’ premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. Not only does Colfer star in the film as spitfire Carson, but he also wrote the screenplay when he was just in high school! It’s pretty impressive stuff. I can honestly say Chris Colfer is not only one of the most talented young actors out there, but he is also one of the nicest! Completely humbled and charming, and also extremely funny! Take a look at some highlights from the interview below:
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing this screenplay, how long did it take you?
COLFER: Well the concept of the project came to me in high school and I really just kind of used it as a way to vent therapeutically about my frustrations in high school, and my peers, and my teachers, and my parents. And I internalized everything in high school, I never said how I felt out loud and I really kind of created this character who did. And I did it at home on my computer where nobody could beat me up for saying it. And it kind of took on a life of its own and I thought wow this could be a really great movie with a character like this because I had never seen a character like this before so passionate about writing, except for maybe Harriet the Spy? I could teach teenagers maybe some valuable lessons along the way. I would work on it here and there as a little side passion project for myself. Then I got on Glee and found myself in a place where I said wow this Glee thing could be really big and if it is big I could maybe use it as a platform to get this done. And I did and I wrote the script, the first draft was 150 pages, which is a ridiculously long script about a high school movie!
Q: What I loved about this character was that there was no romantic sub-plot, there are so many teen movies out there where the lead has to have a love interest but that wasn’t even addressed so why did you decide to exclude that from the script?
COLFER: Many reasons! For one I didn’t want to do, me of all people, did not want to do another sexually identification story. And I definitely in my opinion, I feel like if you address a characters orientation and the have a really strong message to tell, kids who don’t identify with that orientation wont identify with the message being told. So I felt that if he was gay in the movie kids wouldn’t listen as much and if he was straight the gay kids would stop listening. I think selfishly being on Glee I did not want to do another couple. I just wanted the point of the movie to be the message not who he was sleeping with or not what he jacked off to. To identify Carson’s orientation I think he has a crush on Rachel Maddow and it confuses him!
Tribeca Exclusive: Chris Colfer on Struck By Lightning & More!
ComingSoon.net is thrilled to have gotten the able aid of Jeremy Wein, host of This My Show, to help us cover this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, having met him when he won our Tribeca Film Festival contest last year.
Jeremy’s coverage begins with an exclusive interview with “Glee” star Chris Colfer who came to Tribeca with his first movie based on his own screenplay, a high school comedy called Struck By Lightning. Jeremy (who is the same age as Colfer!) got him to talk about that and upcoming episodes of “Glee,” his children’s book and even the next movie he’s writing!
Struck By Lightning tells the story of Carson Phillips (Colfer), a young man, who after being struck by lightning and killed, recounts the way he blackmailed his fellow classmates into contributing to his literary magazine. The dark comedy, which also stars Allison Janney (Juno), Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”), Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids), Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) and Dermot Mulroney (“New Girl”), recently had its world premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.
ComingSoon.net sat down with Chris to talk about the movie, the future of “Glee,” his next film project and being named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential people.
ComingSoon.net: Congrats on a great premiere I heard it went really well. It’s very deserved; the movie is fantastic.
Chris Colfer: Thank you!
CS: Can you talk about what the genesis of the film was? I know it started as a project for your speech and debate club.
Colfer: I’d always known that I’d wanted to screenwrite from a very early age, since I knew what it was I’ve wanted to do, and I started this project when I was 16 (laughs) – I’m talking like it was official. It really started as like a diary almost of sorts as a way to vent my daily frustrations at public high school. I was in speech and debate and I used this story as an OPP which is a “original prose and poetry,” which is an event in the speech & debate world. So I performed all the characters as a little mini one-man show, and then I knew I always wanted to try to turn it into a movie if I ever had the chance and then the success of “Glee” kind of came, and I was thinking, “Wow I could possibly have a platform to actually make this happen” and I did.
Tribeca Dialogue: ‘Glee’s Chris Colfer on the Transition from Writing Stories for Grandma to His First Feature ‘Struck By Lightning’
When you break out courtesy of a monumental hit like Glee, being branded “the kid from Glee” is basically inevitable. However, not only is Chris Colfer a talented actor, singer and dancer, but the guy can write, too!
Colfer wrote and stars in Struck By Lightning. His character, Carson, is the head of the writing club and the editor of the Cheddar High Paper. Whether he’s writing, pleading with his paper staff to actually submit articles, attending student council meetings or really doing just about anything, Carson is outspoken and has no problem putting anyone in their place. While his brash attitude can be a turnoff and certainly doesn’t earn him “cool kid” status, Carson knows what’s important and has dreams he’ll fight for no matter what.
In honor of Struck By Lightning’s Tribeca Film Festival world premiere, Colfer sat down to discuss the process of bringing his first feature script to life. He covers the good old days when his grandmother was his very first editor to finding a director for the film to making the transition from script to screen to working with Rebel Wilson’s hilarious adlibbing skills and more. Check it all out in the video interview below.
Chris Colfer on Struck By Lightning, His Future on Glee, and Wanting the Rights to Candy Land
Chris Colfer is known as an actor — he won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Kurt on Glee — but this Tribeca Film Festival, he’s making his debut as a writer as well. His first film, Struck by Lightning, premiered over the weekend with eager Harry Potter star Emma Watson in the audience (she even asked a question during the Q&A!), and he’s got a second film already in the works, in addition to a children’s book, a Disney Channel pilot, and probably ten other projects by now. So it’s only fitting that his character in Struck is an overachieving high school student who wants to take his writing to the next level — even if he has to commit blackmail to do it. Colfer chatted with Vulture about his own literary high school experiences, his future on Glee, and why he’ll be auditioning for an Adam Sandler movie soon.
With me sitting behind this desk in this office, this feels like a job interview.
Go for it! Give me a job! [Laughs.] Please hire me someday!
Okay — convince me. What are your strengths?
I can sing and dance. I can smile — a lot. I can act … I do a little writing as well. And I’m good at typing. I’m a creative typist, actually.
Chris Colfer: ‘I Can’t Be Expected to Promote the Same Stuff in Everything That I Do’
Fans of Chris Colfer, a two-time Emmy nominated and Golden Globe winner for his supporting role as Kurt on Glee, knew it was only a matter of time before the actor broke out on the big screen. But what they may not have expected is that the 21-year-old actor would do it with a script of his very own. The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival played host to Colfer’s screenwriting debut, Struck By Lightning, a coming of age tale that draws on many of the young renaissance man’s own experiences. The film follows Carson Phillips, an ambitious small towner who dreams of one day being a writer for the New Yorker. Unfortunately, he can’t get any of his unmotivated peers to contribute to his lowly literary magazine. So Carson resorts to drastic measures: blackmail.
Kurt is a lovable teen (despite some of his diva like qualities), but Carson is a comparatively darker turn for Colfer. He’s abrasive, arrogant and bent on getting his way. Colfer told me he couldn’t wait to let him loose into the world. “He was never a way for me to differentiate myself from Glee. He’s been with me much longer than Kurt Hummel. And he was created as a way for me to vent. A way for me therapeutically get out what I wanted to say to people who I went to school with everyday because I’d get my ass kicked. So I’d write it in a script and say, ‘Ha, there!’ I think the big thing about him is that he’s so unlikable, but you support him on his journey. You’re not supposed to like him, but you give him credit for being ambitious.”
Move over Lea Michele: It looks like Chris Colfer is the new “Glee” star to watch. When he won a Golden Globe in 2011 for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, entertainment gurus started paying attention to the guy who plays Kurt Hummel.
Colfer originally auditioned for “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy in the hopes of landing the role of Artie, a paraplegic nerd with insane rapping skills. The part went to Kevin McHale, but Murphy liked Colfer so much that he created the role of Kurt specifically for him. The charisma that won Murphy over has since stolen the hearts of audiences, and the actor has used his fame to launch his own side projects — including “Struck by Lightning,” a feature premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Colfer wrote the screenplay and stars in the film as Carson Phillips, a driven high school senior and promising journalist focused on making it in New York. His plan is to attend his dream college and become editor of The New Yorker, but things change abruptly when he is — you guessed it — struck by lightning.
“The project kind of started [as] a way for me to vent out my high school annoyances with my classmates and my teachers and the town that I lived in,” Colfer told MTV News. “It just kept evolving, evolving … [until] I just kind of said to myself, ‘I really need to make this into a movie someday.’ ”
Even though the story is loosely based on Colfer’s high school experience, he tells us that it is not autobiographical. “Carson is a very, very driven kid who really just wants to get out of his town and is waiting for his life to begin in New York City,” he said. “That’s his goal. Meanwhile, he’s stuck in this really small town with these people whose aspirations are becoming a fireman, becoming a nurse, becoming principal of the school, and he has a hard time with it. And I think he has a really important message for kids to hear these days.”
It’s a message that can now be heard thanks to the phenomenon of the Fox musical series. “[‘Glee’] kind of created a possibility for me to do this,” the actor revealed. “Making movies, writing stuff, has always been my plan. Always, always, always. And sometimes I laugh when people are surprised that I do that because it’s always been so much a passion for me to get into someday.
“I feel like every actor has a shelf life, and luckily I’m relevant now because I’m on ‘Glee’ and there [are] just a lot of things I want to get done before my shelf life is over,” he added, laughing. “So I’m just trying to get everything on my bucket list off while I can.”
We’d say he’s off to a good start. “Struck by Lightning” will continue playing at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 27, and Sunday, April 29. Rush tickets will be available. The movie is set to hit theaters later this year.
“I really thought I had the hardest one because they were really hard to nail — they’re not over the top by any means,” Colfer told TVLine at the premiere of his new film Struck by Lightning, which he penned and starred in. “But it was also nerve wracking because I didn’t want to disrespect anybody!”
Although Colfer wouldn’t confirm which member of New Directions he was tasked with playing, he did suggest that those leaked photos showing Cory Monteith channeling Kurt were a big clue. (Another pretty significant clue can be found in the image accompanying this story.)
“It’s kind of like a switch in your mind,” he said of getting into
Finn’s his new alter ego’s mindset. “You see yourself in a different mirror, and then you go for it!”
As TVLine first reported on Friday, NDs’ bizarro reality — which will air as part of a special two-hour event on May 15 — takes shape when Tina suffers a mild head injury while rehearsing for Nationals.
Chris Colfer Takes Tribeca Fest by Storm, Talks Bullying and His Character’s Sexuality
Meet Hollywood’s newest hyphenate. Except you’ve already met him!
Yep, it’s Glee star Chris Colfer, who wrote and starred in Struck by Lightning, the dark, irreverent coming-of-age comedy that premiered Saturday night at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“It was insane. It was really crazy,” he said. “It was easily one of the best nights of my life.”
He was also “shocked” and elated by the all-star cast that signed on to the project, including Allison Janney, Dermot Mulroney, Polly Bergen, Christina Hendricks, Angela Kinsey, Sarah Hyland and Bridesmaids‘ Rebel Wilson.
In Struck by Lightning, Colfer plays Carson, a high school senior fiercely determined to attend Northwestern University and become a famous writer. To set himself apart from the competition, he starts a literary magazine and blackmails his classmates into writing for it.
Chris Colfer Talks ‘Struck By Lightning’ & Ninja Turtles
“I think he has a crush on Rachel Maddow and it confuses him,” laughed Chris Colfer Sunday afternoon, describing the main character of his film Struck By Lightning, which had its world premiere Saturday night at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows Carson Phillips, an extremely ambitious high school senior who, uniquely for most stories with a high school setting, is devoid of a romantic plotline, or even an overt sexual orientation.
“For one, me of all people, I didn’t want to do another sexual identification story,” Colfer, who both wrote and starred in the movie, explained. “In my opinion, if you address a character’s orientation and they have a really strong message to tell, kids who don’t identify with that orientation won’t identify with the message. So I feel like if he was gay in the movie, straight kids wouldn’t listen as much, and if he was straight the gay kids wouldn’t identify as much. And I think, selfishly, being part of Glee, I didn’t want to do another couple! (Laughs.) I just wanted the point of the movie to be the message, not who he was sleeping with or what he jacked off to.”
The film has bigger fish to fry than sexual identity, as Carson fights against a variety of forces holding him back — inept teachers and administrators, a student body satisfied with the simple status quo, and a mother who thinks it’s better to sabotage his dreams then let him suffer the same fate of hope and rejection that’s befallen her. The trick of the film, however, is from the first moments you know Carson is doomed to never achieve his most lofty goals, as he’s struck by a bolt of lightning, with the film told in flashback through his senior year. Colfer says the real tragedy of the story is that Carson doesn’t realize he’s happy until just before his death.
Chris Colfer Charms and Disarms at the Tribeca Premiere of “Struck By Lightning”
On Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of the new film Struck By Lightning at the Tribeca Film Festival. I was excited to see the movie for a few reasons: first, it was written by and stars Glee‘s Chris Colfer, a young talent who has continually impressed me and from whom I am interested in seeing more. Second, the film was directed by Brian Dannelly, the genius behind Saved!, one of the greatest (and gayest) high school comedies ever made. And third, I like to support film festivals and independent movies whenever I can, because I know how hard it can be for them to find an audience.
Though finding an audience was not even remotely a problem, in this case. The sold-out show was a complete madhouse – red carpet arrivals, throngs of screaming fans clamoring to get a glimpse of Kurt Hummel in the flesh, and enough festival workers to staff a small army. We made our way to our seats – waaaaaaay up in the nosebleeds – and settled down to wait for the film to start. So imagine our surprise when, just before the lights dimmed, a festival programmer come out on stage to introduce the film and its writer and director, Chris Colfer and Brian Dannelly.
Apple Store “Struck by Lightning” Q&A
Self-motivated stars are finding the Tribeca Film Festival a friendly place to be, with a lineup peppered with projects produced, written or directed by actors continuing to branch out into other parts of the biz.
This year’s fest, running April 18-29, includes films from Jenna Fischer (“The Office”), who produced romantic comedy “The Giant Mechanical Man,” and Chris Colfer (“Glee”), who wrote and exec produced coming-of-age pic “Struck by Lightning.” The approach may lead to more prominent film roles for up-and-comers like “Whitney” co-star Zoe Lister-Jones, who wrote “Lola Versus” (after having gotten her writing-producing start with 2009’s “Breaking Upwards”); mumblecore mainstay Alex Karpovsky, writer-director of “Rubberneck”; and legit thesp Tom O’Brien, writer-director of “Fairhaven.”
Even more experienced names, like Rob Lowe, are on offer, with the multihyphenate having exec produced political satire “Knife Fight.” (Exec producer/co-writer/actor Jason Segel’s “The Five Year Engagement” will open the fest.)
“In the old days, the people who controlled actors’ careers kind of told them, ‘No, you’re a TV actor and that’s all you’re going to do,’ and studios were less willing to cast TV actors in films. Independents saw it as a way of getting a marketable actor in a story that had risks,” says Tribeca Enterprises’ Geoff Gilmore, who recently joined the festival’s programming team and also oversees TribecaFilm, the day-and-date distribution outfit that picked up U.S. rights to Fischer’s “Mechanical Man,” set for an April 17 VOD bow and a limited theatrical run.
Colfer’s rise from obscurity to a starring role on “Glee” happened quickly, but his transition to features wasn’t quite as easy.
“A lot of what I was offered was very similar to what I’ve already been doing on ‘Glee,’ and was almost the opposite of what I wanted (“Struck by Lightning”) to be — an inspirational, motivational film.”
He wrote “Lightning” as a therapeutic way to vent about his high school experience, he says. Taking the reins as executive producer, Colfer shot the project during “Glee’s” hiatus. The 22 year old says his writing projects came from ideas developed in high school and earlier, including a Disney TV pilot based on a children’s book he penned, and the concept for a suspense thriller he recently scripted and hopes to exec produce and star in this summer.
“Every person has a shelf life, whether they choose to accept it or not,” Colfer says, “and I have a lot of things I’d like to do before mine expires.”
Not all actors enjoy writing as much as Colfer, but Fischer’s less-than-pleasant first experience as a writer-director — 2004 mockumentary “LolliLove” — ultimately led her to produce instead.
“It was just too hard,” she says. “But I loved getting the film up off the ground and helping assemble the team. I love Excel spreadsheets, being organized, making phone calls. … I think my secret calling in life is to be a really high-powered executive secretary.”
Fischer notes she had been in Los Angeles for eight years before she got her audition for “The Office.”
“I’ve always had to be very scrappy and industrious,” she says. “That aspect of my personality lends itself to producing, and I think that’s what I like about it. You can sit around and wait for work to come to you, or you can go out and make the work yourself.”
Perhaps “Parks and Recreation” star Lowe is the best case study of an actor straddling different parts of the media to achieve career longevity.
“My plan is no different from others who have remained relevant over a long term: You’re always working on something self-generated that you’re passionate about,” he says, who is also a strategic adviser and investor in Miramax. “Inevitably most of them go nowhere, but some of them go somewhere, and that’s the horse you ride.”
On April 10, Glee will return with a fresh batch of new episodes, which all lead up to Kurt’s big high school graduation (fret not, as Insider.com first reported, Chris will be back in season four). April 21 brings the world premiere of Chris’ feature-writing debut when Struck By Lightning screens at The Tribeca Film Festival while his debut novel, Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, hits shelves on July 17.
Like I said, big year.
But that’s not all! As I discovered during my exclusive chat with Chris this afternoon, another idea that’s been banging around his brain has finally made its way to paper. So what is Chris’ next script about? And what do the final season three episodes of Glee have in store for us? Keep reading to find out!
Insider.com: We’re less than a month away from the world premiere of Struck By Lightning — how are you feeling?
Chris Colfer: I can not wait. I’m giddy [but] terrified to see it with an audience. Recently I saw it with an audience full of my family and friends. It’s going to be quite a different audience in NY – I’m terrified of that. There’s a lot of pressure on this for me.
Insider: What were some of the reactions you got at that friends and family screening?
Chris: The best reaction I got, and I got this a lot, was, “Oh my God Chris, we’re so glad that was good! We talked in the car on the way here about what we’d say if it was bad.” That was the most honest reaction, so it was the best.
Insider: Are you working on any other movie scripts right now?
Chris: Yes. This next one is definitely a genre change for me. It’s not set in the high school world. For the first time, it’s something I had to do a lot, a lot, a lot of research for before I started working. It’s a period piece that takes place at an asylum in the early 30s. It’s interesting because while I was doing my research I met with a UCLA professor to talk about different disorders and conditions of asylums back in the day and I got so many suggestive looks on the Glee set because I would have all my books with me. People kept asking, “Chris, why are you reading books on asylums and schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder?” I think everyone thought I finally lost it when I was reading the Coping With Mental Illness book [laughs].
Insider: Sounds scary — is it a horror movie?
Chris: It’s not horror. There’s no ghosts or monsters popping out at you. It’s almost like a movie about characters after they have an experience like characters do in a horror movie. Almost like the aftermath of what a traumatic experience, a la a horror movie, would do to someone.
Insider: What inspired you to write this movie?
Chris: Honestly, I just wanted to do something really fun and something I hadn’t done before — something kind of creepy. Instead of waiting to find a script, I just thought, “I’ll write it myself.” And we have a director and producer attached already.
Insider: Will you be starring in this one as well?
Chris: I created a supporting role for myself in this one. I’m not the lead. It’s a role that people don’t write for young men, unfortunately. These types of roles are few and far between, so I thought, screw it – I’ll write it myself!
Insider: It feels like the only hurdle left for you to jump is directing — does that interest you?
Chris: It’s so funny because every one wants me to direct. I’d rather just create the characters at home in my pajamas than be on a set for 20 hours a day, coming up with shots. There are definitely a few things that I would absolutely direct – like if someone called me and said, “Do you want to direct a Candyland movie?” I’d jump at it, but directing is not my goal.
Insider: Fair enough. On another note, Glee is coming off a pretty sizable hiatus on April 10 — how excited are you for fans to see what’s coming up?
Chris: Oh, very excited. We have some great episodes coming up – there’s the Whitney Houston tribute episode, a Bee Gees tribute episode and the episode where Rachel & Kurt finally audition for NYADA. We got to work with Whoopi [Goldberg] who I absolutely love more than life itself. It’s really cool because Whoopi is the reason I started performing in the first place. Sister Act came out in 1992 and it was the first movie I was obsessed with. My mom used to tell me that she’d come home from work and I’d be standing in the living room with a towel on my head saying, “I want to watch Whoopi!” Singing along with the nuns in Sister Act is the first time I’ve ever performed.
Insider: In addition to Whoopi, you also have Lindsay Lohan coming on the show — what do you think about her going from subject of Glee mocking to a guest star?
Chris: There seems to be a pattern with Glee – first we insult you, then we hire you. We did the same thing with John Stamos. If you’ve been insulted by our show, expect a phone call [laughs]. I think it’s funny. A lot of people have strong opinions about it, but I think the fact Lindsay Lohan is judging a show choir competition is pretty damn funny.