Not just McLovin
He has a name, people.
It’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and yes, you may go to see the new comedy “Role Models” -- in which he plays Augie, a medieval-role-playing teen in desperate need of a mentor -- hoping for another helping of McLovin, his “Superbad” dweeb hero, inspiration to ID-challenged, underage kids everywhere. Mintz-Plasse’s inventive performance in that 2007 hit has made him pop culture’s poster boy of adenoidal outsiderdom, but in Augie, audiences will find that the 19-year-old actor has plenty of new material to offer the nerd canon.
“McLovin was nerdy, but he knew he was the man,” Mintz-Plasse said recently over a hamburger lunch at a mid-Wilshire eatery, sporting a short-sleeve shirt, tie and jeans look that accentuated his geek-chic persona. “He had the confidence that he could get anyone. [Augie] has nothing whatsoever. He’s very lonely and friendless.” Augie can only really be himself when playing Laire, the fictionalized (and hilariously self-serious) kings-and-knights league depicted in the movie, “but his mom and her boyfriend shun it and make fun of him,” Mintz-Plasse explains. “He can’t even talk to the girl he likes.”
No such alienation has happened with Mintz-Plasse in Hollywood, however, where he’s impressed the movie world with the subtle depth and laugh-getting acumen behind his awkward-adolescent aura. “He has that great combination of knowing how to be real but also being aware of where the comedy is,” says “Role Models” director and co-writer David Wain, who asked Mintz-Plasse to audition after meeting him backstage at Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show last summer. “If you can achieve both of those things effortlessly, then you’re a great comic actor. He’s got the goods.”
Flair for improv
Discovered by “Superbad” casting director Allison Jones after she passed on hundreds of professional actors for the McLovin part, Mintz-Plasse made his mark at the callbacks when his ad-libbing abilities, sharpened from being on a high school improv team, impressed producer Judd Apatow’s gang of improv adherents. Where the other aspiring McLovins would answer star Jonah Hill’s off-the-cuff insults with expected weakling apologies, the gawky, bespectacled nobody from suburban West Hills razzed Hill right back and ultimately won the part. Any competitive feelings between the two were put to rest after the first table read. “We talked, we’re both really nice guys, and we hit it off,” Mintz-Plasse says.
“Superbad” was Mintz-Plasse’s first film, and now filmmakers are crafting parts for him. “Role Models” star and co-writer Paul Rudd, who plays Augie’s malcontent minder, Danny, says Augie was originally intended as a silent 13-year-old. “Then we thought, ‘We have to change some stuff,’ because when you have Chris, you don’t want him to be silent for half the movie. You want to hear him.”
After two movies, though, Mintz-Plasse is already edging away from nerds.
He’s Isaac in Harold Ramis’ upcoming biblical-era comedy, “The Year One,” and is currently playing a superhero named Red Mist for director Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass.”
Mintz-Plasse has gone from 0 to 60 so quickly he sounds like both a veteran and a spotlight-loving teenager in the giddy glow of first fame when he describes the bloody, comics-adapted “Kick-Ass” as “a completely different movie than anything I’ve ever done.”
Shock of stardom
Mintz-Plasse has also appeared in a body-snatching chase thriller, or at least that’s what it felt like for the actor when he first encountered the viral effect of his debut film role. It started Halloween night a year ago, seeing people at a college party in Santa Barbara dressed as McLovin -- “that was pretty intense,” Mintz-Plasse says -- and continued the next day during an outing with friends to a Chipotle restaurant. Filled with teenagers. Whispering. Staring. A loud girl nearby started up. “For 10 minutes all she was saying was [in a high, shrieking voice] ‘It’s not him! I swear you guys!’ I was getting so angry at her I yelled, ‘It’s me! Will you shut up?’ She gets up, runs over to my booth, jumps over my friend’s lap, violently grabs my face and takes out her camera.”
Mintz-Plasse implored his friends to leave, which is when he heard Relentless Fan Girl ordering everyone to pursue him home. “We ran out, and 30 teenagers followed me, going up to my car and hitting the window,” and repeating a certain declaration-of-sexual-readiness line from “Superbad,” he recalled. Normally excited by the appreciation of fans, that “A Hard Days Night” experience freaked him out.
“That’s when I knew I needed to wear hats in public,” he says. And from then on get his buddies to pick up burritos on the way to his house.
A family guy
Mintz-Plasse still lives at his family home in West Hills with his mailman father, Ray Plasse, and mother, Ellen Mintz, a school counselor, both of whom are (sort of) thrilled with his success. Sure, Mom wanted her younger son to consider acting in “Superbad” a pleasant diversion amid educational imperatives, but even she couldn’t ignore what followed.
“She was like, ‘OK, you can do more movies and not go to college, for now,” says Mintz-Plasse, purposely exaggerating a parental edict. “I said, ‘All right, Mom. Thank you for your permission to have a career.’ ” He laughs. “But they’ve always loved that I was acting, because I loved it. And it was really helpful.”
He’s also hewing to advice from his “Superbad” costar Michael Cera that, no matter what Mintz-Plasse’s agent, manager or parents tell him, to pick movies based on his gut instinct of what he thinks is right for him. So far, he says, so good.
He has a few serious moments in “Role Models” and “Kick-Ass,” and full-on dramas are something he’s thinking about. “But I feel like right now I’m still kind of young and my voice is whiny,” he says. “It’s an annoying voice, some people tell me, and on message boards people say that.” He pauses. “Which I’ve got to stop reading.”
Music and girls
In the meantime, he bought himself a drum set and has started up a band with friends. He enjoys sports. Girls are in the picture too. But availability isn’t the same as compatibility. “I’ve hooked up with some girls,” he notes, “but like, finding girls who will just come right back at what I say with something and keep me on my toes, that’s what I really find sexy in a girl.”
Hey, if verbal sparring won him a part in “Superbad,” why wouldn’t it work for potential girlfriends?
Just remember, ladies, it is him, and his name is Chris.
Abele is a freelance writer.