Michael Cera Talks 'Crystal Fairy,' 'Cheech and Chong,' & Other Drug Movies

(Getty Images | IFC)In the summer of 2012, Michael Cera and Sebastian Silva traveled to Chile to make a movie called Magic Magic, but due to some financing issues, production was delayed and the actor and his director had some time on their hands. Silva proposed they make a different movie that wouldn't cost as much and, in a matter of weeks, Crystal Fairy was in the can.

Crystal Fairy's a departure for Cera, known for his endearing comedic shyness and quiet deadpan delivery. The actor plays a narrow-minded American named Jamie who devotes himself to scoring a fabled hallucinogenic cactus—the San Pedro. Along the way, however, he rashly invites along another American he meets in Chile, a flower child named Crystal Fairy, played by Gaby Hoffman. She soon drives him nuts with her positive energy and their trip to the desert becomes a test of Jamie's true self.

We spoke with Cera and Silva about getting Crystal Fairy made in under a month, the inspiration for the characters, Cera's favorite scene, drug movies, and why the movie reminded us of The Royal Tenenbaums.

Zimbio: You guys made two films in Chile, Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic, and I wondered if that was the plan or did one film kind of make the other one happen?
Michael Cera: The plan was to make Magic Magic and then it seemed like that might not be able to happen because we couldn't get the money for a while. And the time we had planned to shoot the movie slipped away...
Sebastian Silva: Yeah, a couple times.
Cera: ...We went to Chile in June and were planning on shooting in July and then it got to be September and I said, "I think I gotta leave now." It seemed like we might not get to make it and Sebastian just said, "Why don't we just go make this other movie and then we'll be able to make something. It won't cost as much as Magic Magic and we can go make it right away." It was a good solution.
Silva: Yeah it was a great solution and I guess it helped us get to know each other better. It helped move my hand for Magic Magic, it was a great "experiment," but it actually came out pretty legit, got an award, and I'm really really proud of the movie... It was something we pulled out of nowhere really. I think pre-production was two weeks or ten days, the shooting was twelve days, then, editing, longer, but the process of getting stuff in the can was really short.

I know these characters. Were they based in reality at all?
Silva: Yeah they are. This was an experience I went through 13-14 years ago. I went with my best friend and this girl from San Francisco, actually, that I ran into at a concert in Santiago. She went by the name of Crystal Fairy and we smoked weed at that party or something and I invited her over to take mescaline with us in the desert.

Jamie's an interesting character. I
know dudes like that who just dedicate themselves to getting wasted...

Cera: Yeah but he's not a party guy weirdly enough. He's dedicated to doing this drug but it's not because he's addicted to fun.
Silva: A lot of people take drugs for other reasons, as self-exploration and I feel that Jamie doesn't strike you as a character who's self-exploring himself seriously. I mean, he quotes (Aldous) Huxley and The Doors of Perception at the beginning of the movie. That's his quest. He's not really trying to do mescaline and rum at the same time.
Cera: It's like he's trying to become an authority on drugs.

I thought the funniest parts came out of Jamie reacting to Crystal Fairy and her "hippie-ness." What scene was the most fun for you to make?
Cera: I really like the scene where Gaby comes in naked to the hostel and we're all very confused and surprised (laughs). We make fun of her and laugh about it. That was so much fun to shoot that scene. And then we actually shot something where she makes us do a breathing technique. It's not in the movie but it was fun to shoot.

Check out the full interview below as we talk to Michael and Sebastian about Crystal Fairy beginning like a horror movie, the tripping sequence, avoiding psychedelic cliche, and Michael's favorite drug movies.

Senior Editor at Zimbio. I'll take Johnny Clay, the Rev. Harry Powell, and Annie Savoy. You can have the rest.