Those tired of trying to make fetch happen, fear not: "G.B.F.," a.k.a. the next high school movie with enough quotable dialogue to produce Tumblr memes from now until forever, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival this year.
"You kind of come into it and you don't know what to expect. Then once you're in, it just gets better and better," star Michael J. Willett told HuffPost Entertainment about the teen comedy. "People came up to me and said, I was laughing so hard and then you made me cry. I thought that was perfect."
Directed by Darren Stein (whose last feature film was 1999's "Jawbreaker") and written by George Northy, "G.B.F." focuses on what happens after Tanner (Willett) is unwittingly outed by some nosy classmates and becomes the title "gay best friend," the acquaintance-cum-accessary who three high school queen bees (played by Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen and Xosha Roquemore) all want on their arm. In early reviews, "G.B.F." has already drawn comparisons to "Mean Girls," "Heathers," "Clueless" and the aforementioned "Jawbreaker"; it's an "lol" comedy with a great message of acceptance and equality.
"Everyone was really in love with the project," Willett said of the "G.B.F." ensemble, which also includes young stars Paul Iacono ("The Hard Times Of RJ Berger"), Molly Tarlov ("Awkward"), Evanna Lynch ("Harry Potter") and adults like Natasha Lyonne, Jonathan Silverman, Rebecca Gayheart and Megan Mullally. "When you have good casting and find people who are right for the roles, you don't have to do much, you just let them go. Darren is really good about letting the actors go and trusting what they do."
Willett, 23, spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about why he was so excited about playing Tanner, how Diablo Cody inadvertently prepared him for the part, and what he hopes audiences will take away from "G.B.F."
You worked on Diablo Cody's "The United States Of Tara," and this film reminded me of her first script, "Juno" -- especially with how it seems to have its own language. Do you think that experience helped you hit the ground running with this one?
Absolutely. I definitely think this is how young people talk, just in a more exaggerated way. I think being on a show like "The United States of Tara" helps with dealing with this type of language. You have to treat it like it's coming from a real place. You don't play the jokes, you don't play how exaggerated how it really is -- at least I didn't. It's funny that I was playing the straight man, but he's the gay character [laughs].
This is your first film and a huge lead role. Did you have to really fight to get this chance?
I did a few readings of it in L.A. I did the first one at OutFest. George later told me that he had written it with me in mind; I was at the top of his list. He had seen "Tara" and thought, "I think that kid can be nice."
It was kind of a thing for me: I didn't want to do another gay character -- or just any gay character. I haven't seen that many gay movies, but I haven't loved a lot of the ones I've seen. When I got this one, I knew right away that it was special. That it was sort of historic and monumental. As soon as I did the readings of it, I felt so close to this character. Tanner was a friend. He was somebody that I knew. I still had to audition for it, just like anyone else. I didn't know how it was going to go. In fact, it wasn't until a few days before we started shooting, on my birthday in September, when Darren called me and said I had gotten it. I didn't hear until a few days before we started shooting. It was something I so wanted to do, because I felt like it could really represent this kind of person -- this character.
What kind of reactions have you gotten from the gay community about the film?
I did get one review and it was all about my character. I thought that was really special because I don't know that you can really do that with a lot of gay characters. One of the first lines in the review said "you cannot reduce him to masculine or feminine." He's unique and complicated and he's kind of the anti-hero sometimes. He's just a person. He's complex and he happens to be gay. I definitely think people are getting it. I think, more than anything, it's sparking a conversation.
It helps that the movie doesn't preach, despite discussing a lot of very serious issues. I liked, for instance, how it handled your relationship with Paul's character, who is also gay.
It's really complicated. It explores the gay best friend, not just in relation with teen girls. When you have the gay best friend who's also gay, how do you have that relationship? Are you attracted to them just because you're in close proximity to them? What is that relationship like? Those things have never been explored before. At least as far as I know.
What did Darren bring to this film?
I really think that this is such a perfect project for him, because he does such a good job at creating alternate realities. Hyper-realities. Worlds that are brighter and more fun than real life. Because especially when you're dealing with such uncomfortable issues, it's important to do it in a way that is not going to hurt as much. It's going to be fun and entertaining. It's dealing with real issues in an unreal fashion.
Now having seen "G.B.F.," what surprised you most about the finished product that maybe you didn't think of during the production?
I think that a lot of the performances surprised me. You know people are good and you see them when you're working with them, but then when you see how that translates on film -- I have a really good respect for the people I work with afterward. I kind of got choked up after the first screening because I was just so proud of everyone. Everyone. The people who go unspoken: the crew, everyone involved. The pressure had been released. It was over. We can have fun now.
Speaking of fun, on your Twitter account you identify as a musician first, actor second. Do you want to keep making films?
Well, definitely I want to continue doing films and television, but my heart is in music. I've written for most of my life. I'm coming out with an album soon -- I was going to come out with an eight-song EP, but I'm so proud of all the songs and they're really solid, so we're going to come out with an album. It's really different for me. Acting, I get to explore other people and other characters; with music, I get to express and explore myself. I don't have a journal; I write music. Any way I can be creative is cool for me. I like to do all kinds of things.
"G.B.F." screens twice more at the Tribeca Film Festival; the film does not have distribution just yet.