Although many actors secretly want to be directors, Ethan Suplee gets to play one in Terry Zwigoff's "Art School Confidential."
Suplee plays Vince, the obnoxious roommate of protagonist Jerome (Max Minghella) at the artsy Strathmore Institute. While Jerome is a shy, earnest drawing student, Vince is an aspiring filmmaker whose idea of snappy dialogue and special effects are four-letter words and fake blood.
"I've definitely worked with people that had -- not as generalized and exaggerated as Vince -- but certain aspects of him," he says. "Obviously, he just wants to get laid and just wants money. That's not going to get him anywhere good, but there are definitely people out there with those motives as well as a passion for making movies."
Jerome seeks to be a great artist, but becomes disillusioned when his fellow students and his dream girl (Sophia Myles) fail to see his genius. In contrast, Vince ruthlessly decides to exploit the story of a serial killer still at large on campus to achieve fame. In the end, both roommates find their dreams fulfilled in unexpected ways.
"I don't think either character is really sympathetic," Suplee tells Zap2it.com. "You have my character who kind of starts out wanting to do something for probably not the right reasons, and then ultimately getting there for not the right reasons. Then you have Jerome's character who starts out wanting to do something for the right reasons, but gets there for the wrong reasons.
"You have fame and wealth and power and recognition as your motivation," he continues, "rather than just your outlet for communication which is what art is. It suddenly doesn't become about art. It becomes about corporate sponsorship or something like that."
It's a tricky balance Suplee has to face making his own career decisions.
"I face paying my mortgage and putting money aside for my kids to go to college," he remarks. "I also enjoy acting. It's a pleasure unlike any other that I've ever experienced in my life, so I feel passionate about it and yeah, I want to do the best movies I can, but I also need to pay my rent."
Sporting a full beard, glasses, and reversed baseball cap, Vince physically resembles Kevin Smith, the director Suplee worked with on several films.
"I don't see how the character could be inspired by Kevin Smith because Kevin's nothing like this guy," he says. "Kevin Smith's the most iconic independent filmmaker of our generation, so Vince probably ... aspires to be a Kevin Smith. But I've worked with Kevin Smith and Kevin Smith is nothing like Vince."
With the hit NBC sitcom "My Name Is Earl" and more than two dozen films under his belt, Suplee's come full circle from playing a guy who can't see the hidden sailboat in a MagicEye picture in Smith's "Mallrats" to making an appearance in the director's upcoming "Clerks II."
"Yeah, I have a small part in that. I buy pot from Jay and Silent Bob," he says. "I'm sure I'm not the only person that does that."
"Art School Confidential" opens in limited release on Friday, May 5.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times