The word "fun" comes up a lot when talking to Jonathan Keltz, the New York-born, formerly Toronto-based actor, with credits like Disney's Prom and the last few seasons of "Entourage" under his belt, about the new college comedy 21 & Over that has him playing a hot-headed cheer captain and foil to a couple of bros (Miles Teller, Skylar Astin) trying to show their stressed-out friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) a good time on his, you guessed it, 21st birthday.
The directorial debut of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore has all the calling cards you'd expect from the minds behind the first two Hangover flicks - a world-class bender that involves body shots, stolen cars, a rogue animal (this time a bull) and falls from building windows while a clock ticks loudly – but smartly makes time for some sincere male bonding.
Keltz was ecstatic to be part of the duo's first time behind the camera, admitting that The Hangover is one of his favourite comedies, and talked to us about playing the douche bag, why this movie is about more than drinking and his love of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. Seriously.
CINEPLEX: Did you go to college?
JONATHAN KELTZ: "I did not. Well, I sort of did. I enrolled in one class at U of T. I was in an English lit class. I ended up being pretty much too busy to really go; I was shooting [TV show] "ReGenesis" at the time and then we decided I was going to L.A. for pilot season and that was that."
CINEPLEX: So do you feel like you missed out on adventures like the one in the movie? Or those seminal college moments?
JK: "Yes and no. I mean, I had a pretty adventurous high school experience and then on top of that, moving to L.A. at 18 was its own adventure. I've known almost my entire life that this is what I wanted to do for a living and this is what my passion and my dream was so I will never regret spending any seconds that I did doing this."
CINEPLEX: Let's talk about the guys behind this one; they wrote both Hangover movies. Do they have a wealth of hard-partying stories to share? Are they, in some way, those guys?
JK: "You'd think so but they're so mellow, they're so chill. They're so funny and so on-point but they're like completely relaxed. I'm sure that they've each been every single one of the characters in this movie, maybe a little bit of Randy, maybe not. These are guys that have been paying attention their whole lives so they know what to talk about. But there wasn't any like, 'This is [based on] a real person or this is a real moment.' But god, I wish I could find out that one of them was in a pink bra and had a teddy bear, you know, strapped to them. [Laughs] But I don't think that's the case."
CINEPLEX: Aside from Jeff Chang's domineering father, you're the only villain in the movie. Is it fun playing a jerk?
JK: "Oh man, it's so much fun! It's an absolute blast, especially given the parameters that were sort of set up and the relationship that I had with the guys. We were all buddies and we were hanging out; I knew Miles before we shot the movie. It was certainly exhausting amping it up, keeping the energy high like that but it was great. Getting to be that kind of guy was so much fun….and getting to destroy an apartment with a baseball bat is awesome."
CINEPLEX: This is a party movie but it makes room for the friendship story and reminded me of Wedding Crashers or American Pie. Was there talk of what the directors wanted the movie to be about?
JK: "Absolutely, I mean, it's about this friendship. And I'm glad you brought up Wedding Crashers because that was a movie that I was really paying attention to just because Bradley Cooper really sort of captured that 'lead chick's boyfriend' real well. That grounded, hate-able douche bag and that was a big influence for me coming into this project. I mean, it's all about this camaraderie, this friendship and the evolution of this and throughout the whole night, them being like, 'How did we get here?' And there's the sentimental stuff that happens as well and some of that was a bit of a surprise, it wasn't as expected. There's a couple of scenes and a couple moments where things get emotional and…I think that it's important that it did."
CINEPLEX: I read that you are a big Shakespeare fan, which seems fairly at odds with a movie like 21 & Over…
JK: "Shakespeare was the thing that made me fall in love with acting. Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet is what sort of kicked off everything for me and you know being in an environment and a school that was very encouraging of me at a young age, being involved in Shakespeare and feeding that hunger. Beyond that, film and TV is really where my passion lies and I do want to do theatre as well but this is the meat and bones of it for me. That being said, being an actor, being an artist, being someone that wants to stretch and involve myself in as many ways as possible, this is absolutely something that I wanted to do and be a part of. Getting to shoot a movie like is so much fun."
CINEPLEX: So what was the wrap party like? Crazy things happen onscreen and you mentioned that you had a great time...
JK: "The wrap party was sort of in pieces. You know, the thing that's such a problem with movies is that people are leaving and coming at different times so it happens in stages, [on location] and in L.A....But you can be sure that there was enough beer pong all along the Western Seaboard to make anyone happy."
21 & Over stumbles into Cineplex theaters March 1.
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