'Adventureland's Martin Starr knows it's good to be geek
At the time, Martin Starr's relationship with the pop-culture parade of the Eighties was glancing at best (he was born in 1982), but Hollywood seems hellbent on rectifying that. He's perhaps best-known for his breakout role as the sweetly geeked Bill Haverchuck on TV's cult obsession Freaks and Geeks, set in 1980, and with his latest picture, writer/director Greg Mottola's coming-of-age dramedy Adventureland, Starr tackles the latter half of the decade as a pipe-smoking, Tolstoy-reading loner tooling away at a rinky-dink amusement park. The Chronicle recently spoke with Starr in advance of his appearance at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz this Saturday.
Austin Chronicle: You've worked with Greg Mottola before, first on Undeclared and then on Superbad. Did he write the part of Joel for you?
Martin Starr: I think he had me in mind during the casting session, and even after I destroyed the audition, he still cast me.
AC: Destroyed in the "you totally tore it up and rocked it" way?
MS: No, the opposite. I apologized profusely as I left.
AC: What happened?
MS: I don't know. Sometimes I get really nervous, and I feel like I lose my footing.
AC: Huh. Even with people you've worked with before?
MS: Yeah. I mean, it all depends where I am mentally and what is going on in the scene. ... For some reason, I just didn't feel like I had a really good grasp of the character.
AC: How did you prep for the role? Were you knocking back the Russian masters and going to sleep every night to A Flock of Seagulls?
MS: [Laughs] Yeah. And smoking my pipe on my balcony. ... I just kind of got back into the music that I listened to. It didn't really change a lot of what I did, to be honest, in preparation of the character.
AC: You didn't live through much of the Eighties, did you?
MS: No, I didn't, but it felt so familiar because Freaks and Geeks was all about the Eighties. And we also got this massive book – I don't know if Greg put it together; somebody did, but I feel like he had a hand in it – and it was like all the shit that had happened that year. ... There were literally, like, 400 pages. It was an encyclopedia. It was ridiculous – in a good way.
AC: You've been working on your own script, too, right?
MS: My writing partner, Charlyne Yi, and I have been writing something for a little while. We actually just got together again last night to work on it.
AC: Are you hoping to act in it?
MS: I think so, yeah. ... I kept it in the back of my mind for the longest time that this could be something that they say, "Well, we love the script, but we probably won't make it if you're attached to it." I don't really carry much weight, and that seems to be the process I keep finding myself in. But the more we write it, I think that's the only way.
AC: You mean for you to be in it?
MS: Yeah. ... I mean, I feel like, so far, I have gotten a lot of amazing opportunities. But I don't know how much longer that will continue [laughs]. ... I don't know what the next thing I'll do is. It's just kind of random, those phone calls. For Walk Hard, I got a call the week of. It was Jake Kasdan, Judd [Apatow], and John C. Reilly; they just called.
AC: All three at once?
MS: Yeah [laughs]. They called me and asked if I wanted to come into work two days later. Those are the kind of random calls I get. I think Jake had given John the box set of Freaks and Geeks, and apparently he said – I think this is what Jake told me – "I want that guy to be in the movie." I'm a huge fan of his. I think he's amazingly talented. It's nice to work with people you look up to.
Adventureland opens in theatres on Friday. Martin Starr will be in attendance at the 7pm show at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz on Saturday, April 4. For more info, visit www.originalalamo.com.