HEAD TO HEAD
Since 2011, American Horror Story has re-invented itself every October. Murder House to Hotel via Asylum, Coven and Freakshow, each season has demanded its leading protagonists create brand new characters; new hair, new accent, new unsettling backstory. Peters has been at the centre from the start, whether projecting angsty 90s teen or 60s quiffy-gyrating misunderstood mental patient, his performances have a unifying thread of personability and a kind of nostalgic pathos; you really feel for them. And as he makes meaningful inroads into the (bigger) silver screen this year with X-Men: Apocalypse and Elvis & Nixon, it seemed like a nice time for a heart-to-heart with old friend James Franco, the man who’s already expertly seen and done it all.
James Franco: Hey Evan, are you in Australia?
Evan Peters: No, I’m in South Africa.
James: Oh, close. What’re you doing there?
Evan: I’m doing a movie called Where the White Man Runs Away about a writer called Jay Bahadur who went to Somalia to write a book about pirates, one of the first guys to go out there and interview them.
James: Is he a part of the movie at all?
Evan: Yeah, he wrote this book and the scriptwriter – Bryan Buckley – took it and turned it into a story about him writing the book. I talked to Jay a little bit on Skype and got to know him, he’s there as a nice reference guide to keep things fairly factual, so that’s good.
James: What does he think about a movie made about him?
Evan: He was kind of weirded out by it and I told him, “We need to make the movie, it’s about you and your story, but we need to make it about the Somali people – so it’s not about you being like, ‘Oh, I wrote this book’, it’s got to be about how you were changed by the Somali people.”
James: Is this the first time that you’ve played a character that is a real person, or not?
Evan: No it’s not, another movie I did recently is Elvis & Nixon and I played Dwight Chapin in that.
James: Oh yeah, that’s right. Is Dwight still alive or not?
Evan: Yeah I think he is, I read online that he’s doing real estate now or something like that. He had a hard time with the whole Watergate thing. He went to prison for it and then got out of politics after that.
James: So, I’ve played a lot of characters who are based on real people and some of them are very public personalities like James Dean, or Allen Ginsberg and then some are not, like the dude in 127 Hours or a soldier captain’s friend from World War II. Those are people that went through amazing experiences but what they’re known for is not their personality as much as what they did. So I’m curious that there are two characters here, maybe one is a little more public than the other, Dwight is maybe a bit more public than Jay. How did you go about getting these characters down? What was important to you?
Evan: Well, I didn’t know how either of them acted, or their personalities or really that much about them. There’s a great Nixon documentary, I can’t remember what it’s called, but there’s a lot of great behind-the-scenes footage, because they taped a lot of things behind the administration. So you got to see Dwight, he was a really young, happy and free-spirited kind of guy and that was really all that I took from that. I mean, Nixon to me was kind of terrifying, working with Kevin Spacey as Nixon is… I’m a big fan of his so that was sort of scary. I can only imagine being super young, in your twenties, and working for the President of the United States – and Nixon, of all presidents. So there’s a little bit of that in there. But I mean, playing James Dean must be incredibly difficult, and Ray Charles, Jamie Foxx in that movie, you have to get down the person’s characteristics and mannerisms so well. But these guys, nobody really knows them so there’s a lot of freedom there. You just have to try and capture their essence and look at the story and the script and put that in there as well. This Jay Bahadur is Canadian and he is half Indian, but you would never know that he’s half Indian. You would hardly know he’s Canadian because his accent is so slight. There’re videos of him talking, but there’s also the problem making someone carry a whole movie, sometimes that can be difficult. Jay is a very analytical person, so it’s nice to spice it up a little bit, I guess.
James: Yeah, I totally agree. Like in Milk I played this guy, Scott Smith. I thought, “Well, what’s important is the relationship, that I create this loving relationship with Sean Penn’s character, Harvey Milk, and that we make that as real as possible.” It seems like that is sort of what you’re doing in your situation, a guy who is discovering the Somalian people and culture and a guy who is wrapped up in this crazy presidency.
Evan: Exactly, you’re absolutely right. It’s about the relationships and driving the story. That’s definitely what’s important.
James: So Dwight set up the meeting with Elvis and Nixon?
Evan: Yes, there was a letter dropped off to Bud Krogh and Dwight Chapin from Elvis Presley and it was written on an American Airlines notepad. It was put in an envelope and dropped off at the West Gate then it was taken to Dwight Chapin’s desk and he called in Bud Krogh and was like, “You’re never going to believe what just happened, Elvis Presley’s here and he wants to have a meeting with the President.” So then this whole excursion begins where they’re trying to find a way to convince Nixon to agree, they’re trying to get Nixon more of a youth vote and a meeting with Elvis Presley would be incredibly beneficial for the administration. So it all starts from there and it’s kind of hilarious. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that photo of Elvis and Nixon together? It’s one of the most amazing photos I’ve seen. And Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey are fantastic and hilarious in it, their chemistry together is amazing. I had a blast just being in the room and watching it.
James: So tell me a little bit about your history. You were born in Missouri?Evan: Yes, St Louis, Missouri.
James: And then you moved to Michigan?
Evan: Yes, in 2001 I moved to Michigan for a year and that’s where I got involved in acting.
James: How old were you?
Evan: I was fourteen or fifteen. I was going to a local modelling and talent agency there and was doing an acting class, and a photographer saw me and asked if I wanted him to put me on tape for a manager he knew of in LA so I could go out and start auditioning. So I said “sure” and I did a little monologue, put it on a tape and sent that. He said he liked it and invited me out to LA. Then I spoke to my parents and Mom decided she’d come out with me and we’d just take it a year at a time and see how it goes.
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James: So if you were in Michigan you were already… it sounds like whatever this class was, it was actually on a professional level?
Evan: It was professional for Michigan, I looked them up in the Yellow Pages and was trying to find a route into acting and into movies and TV, so I thought that would be the best way, start locally and branch out from there. It was a great guy called Bill Schwerin who was one of my first acting coaches and he’d do two classes, the one I took at the talent agency and then one at the Flint Youth Theatre, I kind of did both actually, I did a little bit of Shakespeare at the youth theatre.
James: So at that age what got you into acting? What made you actually go into the phonebook and seek out an acting class? I was in Palo Alto, I loved movies but it wasn’t until I was like out of high school that I thought, “Oh, I can actually do this professionally.” I’d never really put that together.
Evan: Yeah, I didn’t even think about it as a profession, I’d sit on my beanbag chair and watch TV, especially right after school. I’d watch So Little Time with the Olsen twins, or Even Stevens with Shia LaBeouf and then, of course, my favourite movies like Tommy Boy with Chris Farley, Jim Carrey, Forrest Gump, and I’d just watch these movies and want to be a part of it – get out there and meet these people or work with them and be in a show. At school I would always sort of fuck around and make people laugh and whatnot.
James: Did your friends like movies?
Evan: Yeah, big time.
James: But they weren’t saying that they liked the movies and wanted to be in them, or were they?
Evan: The big thing that did it was that in 2000 my dad got a job in Michigan and we moved. We had to move from St Louis, Missouri, which is where I grew up and had all my friends and family and everything, and we uprooted our family and went to Michigan and started over. I started high school, my brother went to college in Ann Arbor, so he was away, my sister was still in St Louis. So I thought, “If it’s possible to move and start a new job and whatever, what’s stopping me from moving to California and starting a new career in acting? I suppose the main thing is that I have no connections or friends in that industry.” So that drove me to go look people up and it motivated me to try.
James: And was that hard leaving St Louis?
Evan: Yeah, at the time I was like, “Oh it won’t be bad, it’ll be fine and I’ll have a good time.” I always enjoyed new things, like experiencing places, new people, making new friends. So I thought it’d be a fun challenge. I would’ve had to go to high school anyway and would’ve lost touch with so many of my grade school friends because everyone goes to so many different high schools in St Louis. But yeah, it was hard. It was the mid-Summer when we went out there too. It was a little lonely, I missed friends and stuff.
James: Right, so then what was the big move to California like? On your Wikipedia page it says you went to Burbank High School for a little bit. What was that like at such a young age?
Evan: I was a bit like, “Oh shit.” Because I’d started making friends in Michigan and then I had to do a whole new high school. I found high school pretty intimidating, I went to a small Catholic grade school so going to these big public high schools was definitely a culture shock. It was so diverse and so big. At Burbank they also had these massive gates in the front that they locked during the day which I found a bit like prison and weird. But yeah, I went there for my sophomore year and I was also working and auditioning, that was quite difficult to balance everything.
James: You were now trying to be an actor and doing all that but still had this normal high school thing going on at the same time, it must have been odd?
Evan: Yeah, it was weird. I actually really loved school, I loved the social aspect of school, being trapped in this place together and kind of forced to be social. There’s also a strange hierarchy that you can choose to be a part of. The weirdest part was when I booked one of my first commercials, or something, and then I went to school and people had seen it and were like, “Oh, man, you’re that guy in that commercial.” I was always kind of embarrassed to be an actor, I don’t know why, especially in high school, I kind of didn’t want people to know that I was doing that. It was like a dual life I was leading.
James: And nobody else at Burbank High was acting?
Evan: There were others actually, yeah. I think Blake Lively was in high school when I was there.
James: That’s crazy. You don’t know if she was there? Was it a huge school
Evan: No she definitely was there, I’m just trying to figure out if she was in my grade or not. And also if she was acting or not. I don’t remember if she was acting during high school. Then years later Blake Lively is blowing up and it was a shock.
James: She was just this gorgeous popular girl, I imagine?
Evan: [laughs] Yeah, exactly. She was one of the hot, popular girls.
James: So who did you hang out with at Burbank? What was your crowd for that one year?
Evan: I was kind of on the outside, you know? Second floor video games, guitar playing guys. Those were my guys, the not so popular ones. But we had a blast.
James: Were you doing any acting at the high school or was that all outside? Did you do anymore acting classes after Michigan?
Evan: Not at school, I was always going to classes outside of school. I was going to a guy called Andrew Magarian in LA, I went to him for years. And I’m always working with a coach or a class or something, I feel bad if I’m not trying to learn something new or push myself. I wanted to ask you, you have so much going on right now. I’m curious because I want to take a college course or learn French or take a guitar lesson or something but it’s hard for me to find time. How do you find time to do all your activities? Do you just make time for it? How does it all work?
James: Yeah, the short version of how I did it is this: I moved to LA right after I graduated high school in Palo Alto, then I went to UCLA. I wanted to go to art school but my parents didn’t want me to, so I went to UCLA and the compromise was that I’d do an English major. As soon as I got to LA there were people in my dorm who were acting professionally. But instead of coming to the realisation that you can stay in school and have a successful career, I just thought like, “Oh, he’s actually acting professionally, you can actually do that!” So I wanted to take acting classes but I wasn’t in the theatre programme and there were no acting classes offered to non-majors, so I left UCLA and I went to acting school. Anyway, when I was about 26 or 27, I was like, “You know what, acting is great and I have a career,” but I just felt like I had all these other things I wanted to do. I was kind of depressed actually, but I couldn’t talk about it with anyone because they’d be like, “Dude, what are you fucking depressed about? You’re in fucking Spiderman, sort it out.” So I had to do this sort of search on my own and figure out what I wanted and what I needed. It turns out that once you’ve been accepted, UCLA let you come back anytime. They have some amazing classes through UCLA extensions that anyone can take, there’s writing classes and photography classes. So I took some literature and writing classes through these extensions and gradually re-enrolled whilst I was making Spiderman 3, Pineapple Express and Milk. It was a good time in my career but I was in school too so I had to hustle, a lot of flying back and forth between LA and San Francisco, whilst I was doing Milk. I had to miss a lot of classes and I’d just make deals with the professors and record classes. It was a lot of hustling. But then I loved it so much that I went on to graduate school in New York. That was a little harder, I basically stopped doing as many movies for about a year and a half. I did some but nothing like Spiderman or anything like that. I figured that was my school time, I just took like a year and a half and focused on that. Then I got offered 127 Hours and was still in school and that was a nightmare. I was filming in Utah and then flying back to New York for like six hours to go to a few classes and then flying back overnight to Utah and get into a canyon and cut my arm off and all that.
James: Even then, some of the schools, like Columbia, were like, “Sorry, dude, three hours a week is not going to cut it, you have to retake those classes.” It was a nightmare. But you can do it. For me, I realised that I love acting but when I first got into it I didn’t understand what the deal was. I loved movies and wanted to do that but I didn’t get how all the pieces fit together. How the writer and the director and the cinematographer and the editor all come together to make a movie. Once I realised what my part was as an actor I figured out that I wanted to try different roles, I wanted to direct my own things. And that made me a better actor, you know? When I’m acting in a film now I can just focus on that and go with the flow and immerse myself in the part. I’m talking too much.
Evan: No you aren’t I wanted to ask you some questions too, it’s inspiring and it helps me make some decisions that I’m definitely thinking about making.
James: Let’s just quickly talk about… you were doing commercials and things like that and then you did Clipping Adam.
Evan: Yeah, I was fifteen or sixteen and I had no idea what I was doing. I was just trying to be truthful in the role, basically. But I had no real tools, the only acting book I’d read at that point was The First Six Lessons by Richard Boleslavsky. I don’t know if you’ve ever read that?
James: Yeah I know it.
Evan: I found it very confusing actually, I wanted him to be more to the point. Getting that movie actually helped sell my parents on the idea and gave me a little bit more confidence to stay in LA longer and see what the next project that I could get was. That was a big pat on the back, getting out there and getting a lead on a movie.
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James: Do you ever watch your older work?
Evan: It’s funny you say that, I probably should watch that movie and look at that, but no, I try to avoid it. That would be an interesting acting exercise to look at that performance.
James: What about Sleepover, what was your role in that?
Evan: That was when I started going into Options for Youth, which was this homeschooling programme. I was just hanging around with friends at that time, just goofing around, and I had this crazy persona that I sort of took on called Pete, he was this slightly insane guy. I had so much energy back then I went into the audition as this crazy Pete character and they liked it.
James: In high school, Jeffrey Dahmer had a mentally challenged character that he would play.
Evan: [laughs] That’s kind of scary, I hope that doesn’t mean anything.
James: So you did that character, what does he do in Sleepover?
Evan: They go on this scavenger hunt… it’s the silliest movie ever, he’s basically trying to chase down these girls. He’s got his two skater dudes and they go in the girls’ room and look at bras. It’s totally stupid.
James: [laughs] Wait, so you just used the Pete character for that?
Evan: He’s actually the Pete character. I watch it and I’m like, “I can’t believe they hired me to be in this movie with this character, it’s totally insane and doesn’t make any sense.” I don’t understand why it’s in the movie but they put it in there. I actually did the same character in Phil of the Future, exact same guy.
James: It’s your go-to wacky dude.
Evan: Yeah, the go-to wacky dude.
James: Wasn’t Steve Carell in Sleepover?
Evan: He was. This was before Steve Carell was Steve Carell, he was really funny in that movie, man. Super nice, super quiet guy.
James: Yeah, he’s such a nice guy. So then you did a bunch of television spots and we were actually in a movie together, although we didn’t work together, you were in An American Crime?
Evan: Oh yeah, I remember that movie. I remember writing on Ellen Page’s stomach with a hot needle. Who did you play? You were in love with Catherine?
James: Yeah, I came in for like two or three days, I played Catherine Keener’s boyfriend. So I wasn’t a party to all the torture of Ellen Page. I was just the boyfriend and didn’t know what was going on.
Evan: Yeah, that was a crazy story, man.
James: A horrible true story. So, you did Invasion and Shaun Cassidy produced that.
Evan: I went on this audition and the role was for a kid in the family who had that teen angst. His mum gets taken into the water because there’s this invasion of these, it’s a bit like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. So my mum goes missing and then she comes back and she’s a little bit different, she’s a little off and I’m noticing that and nobody wants to listen to me. William Fichtner was in it and he played the Sheriff. It only lasted one season unfortunately but it was cool. I still had no idea what I was doing [laughs].
James: When did you start knowing what you were doing?
Evan: I still don’t know what I’m doing, I’m still trying to figure it out. I was only eighteen or nineteen then, I was a real snot-nosed, punk-ass teenager, so I was taking things for granted and just wanted things to happen and be what I wanted them to be, in terms of performances, without really knowing what to do or the amount of work that was needed to put into it. It was all a shell or a front, I think.
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James: So when you stopped going to high school, at age sixteen or so, you were being home-schooled and you were auditioning. Was that lonely? Who were your friends then?
Evan: It wasn’t actually, I had some great friends from acting class who were also doing home-schooling. It’s not quite home-schooling, you go to this centre twice a week and meet a teacher and ask questions and see other students and whatnot. You’d do your homework for like two or three hours and day and then go hang out with your buddies for the rest of the time, cause trouble, throw eggs at cars, whatever. It was kind of amazing.
James: Where were you living then?
Evan: Burbank area. Just an apartment complex around downtown Burbank.
James: And you were living with your mum?
Evan: Yeah, up to that point. Then I ended up getting into a condo pretty much right across the street from where our apartment was. Looking back I should’ve probably moved down into the city area because I had another group of friends who graduated from high school and they lived in the city. We used to call it the Wilton Hilton, the Wilton Hilton North and the Wilton Hilton South, there were two houses of about five roommates and they were actors and musicians and they all hang out between these houses and partied. We’d have music shows and call it ‘acoustic night’. It was never lonely, I actually had more friends than when I was in high school.
James: So then you got American Horror Story, tell me a little bit about that and what’s the difference between how it felt in the first season and now that it is this massive show?
Evan: Yeah, well I was auditioning and was desperate for a job. I hadn’t had work in a while, I was just getting these guest spots and I realised that I had to really start applying myself because before, like I said, I was just a teenager and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. My manager at the time told me that there was a Ryan Murphy show and that everything he touches turns to gold so it would be amazing if I got it. So I worked really hard and ended up getting it, I was just hoping it’d get picked up. I remember one of the first days, we were shooting a scene and Ryan goes, “Ok, I want to have blood poured all over Evan right now, we’re going to put him in the corner and turn the camera on and it’s going to be great.” You know how Ryan works, he’s very creative, it’s his show so he’s writing it and creating it as he’s directing. It’s very cool working with him and it’s very impulsive, I like that. So we did the pilot and then it got picked up – thank god – and then it became this first season. You can see in the pilot I’m like a little heavier and then you see me get skinnier and skinnier, episode by episode, I was like “Oh this is a really good show I have to start working out I have to start eating eating right, I have to start trying to be good and not fuck up. I was really trying really hard on that first season.
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James: You started working out?
Evan: Yeah, I started running and working out. I asked Brad Falchuk, “How do I get ripped? I’ve always worked out but I don’t have a six pack or anything.” And he goes, “Chicken and broccoli. That’s it, you’ll get a six pack” So I started eating chicken and broccoli every day all day I would eat that, and egg whites in the morning and then work out, and I started loosing all this weight and you can see me getting skinnier. At one point Ryan was like, “Dude, you can’t lose any more weight, you’re a ghost [in the show], you aren’t supposed to lose any weight, you’re dead.” But yeah, it was cool. Then he called me and said, “Do you want to come back for season two?” and I was like, “Are you joking, of course!” Then he said, “It’s going to be a totally different character and a totally different story and I want you to be from Massachusetts – from Boston.” I’m like, “Oh my god can I have a Boston accent?” And he goes, “Yeah, for sure.” This was like my dream, when I was about eighteen, nineteen and this snot-nosed kid, I was obsessed with Marlon Brando, everything he did just came super naturally to him, or so I thought. That’s what I was trying to do. Brando always said that you have to change in life and every character he played was completely different, the hair was different, the accent, the way he talked, the way he moved. So when Ryan told me that, I just got super excited because I got to play a completely different role and switch it up. Sometimes on TV shows actors get stuck for seven seasons or something being the same character and then they get pigeon-holed and then they can’t get out because people only see them for that role. So that was fantastic, I could change and challenge myself each season. We have amazing fans too, you’re right, it’s a really cool show that I’m fortunate to be a part of.
James: Would you say that it’s since this show that you’ve been really applying yourself and have been given the opportunity to grow as an actor because you get to play these challenging, out there characters each season?
Evan: Yeah, absolutely. That’s exactly it. I’ve started to try and really push myself, I also have this perfectionist thing that I’m trying to get rid of because it’s sort of crippling me. So I’m trying to get rid of that and work with imperfections, but at the same time not throw everything away. You know what I’m trying to say?
James: Yeah I think so, tell me a little about that perfectionism and how it cripples you.
Evan: Well, it’s a weird OCD thing that happens, sometimes after I’ve done a scene I’ll come home and start trying to act out the way I did the scene – because I can’t watch it back – so I try act it out and see what I did. Not even in front of a mirror, just in space, I’ll try and be where I was thirty minutes ago, doing the scene, because all I want to do is go back and try it a different way. So I get stuck and find myself repeating the lines again and again and then I look at myself and think, “Oh my god, this is some insane, Howard Hughes stuff right now, I have to stop.” And then it puts pressure on the next scene we’re doing, sometimes it works to my benefit where it’s like, “Now I have the energy to really want to nail it and get it exactly where I want it.” But other times it backfires and makes me too tight or I’ll be too self conscious. So now I’m in the process of trying to let that go and allow myself to go with the flow and, like you said, being an actor and not trying to direct it so much but sort of ride the wave that is making a film.
James: It sounds like you have a sort of headspace that you go into and you keep repeating the line over and over again?
Evan: A state of mind? Yes, which I’m pretty sure is OCD, isn’t that what that is?
James: It’s all relative, I don’t know.
Evan: I’ve gotten so much better, now I just tell myself to stop… well, that’s not entirely true [laughs]. I’ve definitely been doing it on this project that I’m working on now. But you know it’s usually after a scene where I feel like I didn’t get it exactly how I wanted to do it. Sometimes you don’t, but that’s the beauty of filmmaking, they can fix that in the editing room, you know? What I’m trying to do now is learn that you have to be willing to fail in order to reach what you’re going for.
James: Yeah, you’ve got to be willing to try things. So tell me real quick, what’s filming American Horror Story like on set?
Evan: I love it so much I love working with Ryan and all the writers and obviously all the cast and the crew. It’s an amazing opportunity and it’s a difficult show to shoot as well, it’s sixteen hour days and last minute pages and things like that, and very difficult material. So for me it’s almost like an acting boot camp, I’m learning so much every time I’m on set and every time I get a new script and character. I love pushing myself to try and be better than the previous year.
James: Do they tell you anything in advance or do you just get the script and you’re like, “Oh wow?”
Evan: Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. If you get Ryan on a good day and he’s feeling a little talkative you can ask him what happens and he goes, “Ok, so this is what happens,” and he explains the skeleton of the story to you. Of course, the whole thing could change any minute because they’re always coming up with new ideas. For the most part we don’t really know where we’re going or what we’re doing, which is sort of another challenge that I’ve grown to love with this show. At the beginning they give you four or five episodes so you can create your back story and then you just sort of go on this weird, wild ride and take your character up and down, left and right, wherever the writers take it. It’s definitely fun and makes you live in the moment.
shirt by BURBERRY SS16; cardigan by ROBERTO CAVALLI SS16; jeans and t-shirt EVAN’s own
James: And now that you’ve done your second X-Men movie, it sort of goes back to the first thing we were talking about, you aren’t playing a real person but you are playing a character that is based on a character from comics, so there are diehard fans who maybe have certain expectations of what Quicksilver will be like. So, how do you create that character? I imagine it’s sort of a collaboration with all the filmmakers, but how is Quicksilver interpreted for the screen? Did you go back to the comics?
Evan: Just for the comic book fans I wanted to start with the comics and see what he was like, because I didn’t know anything about him. I immediately went to the comic book store and bought as many of the Quicksilver ones as I could and I talked to the lady who worked there. I said to her, “I need to get inside his head and find out his personality and what he’s like.” And she showed me this great one where he’s talking to his therapist and he’s saying something like, “Everything for me is like waiting in the line at the ATM with that idiot in front who doesn’t know how to use it.” So it’s like he’s always waiting. I sort of built upon that impatience, where everything is just lulling around you. Obviously Bryan Singer [director] knows the world so well and has this whole idea of him, and he really helped me find the character because I went in there doing it a little like crazy, I kind of reverted back to the old Pete ways [both laugh], it was a little crazy. So Bryan helped me tone it down but keep some of that punk attitude and impatience. Also in the comics he’s arrogant, he’s faster than everyone else, and the kid on the playground who is faster than everyone is a little cocky, you know? He’s got that. Then I really wanted him to talk fast because I love the way Brad Pitt talks in Snatch, I think that it’s hilarious and I was trying to get away with talking so fast you could barely understand me, but they didn’t want that obviously, so I had to slow it down a little bit. But I walked into that character totally not knowing [what they wanted] because I’d never got an offer before, I was always auditioning for everything, so they would see what I was bringing to the table beforehand and then I was confident walking on set. Plus this was my first action film, which I’m a big fan of, so I sort of wished they’d auditioned me for it, then I could’ve known what to do! But it was playful and a lot of the things just happened on set. It became a sort of cheeky, smirky kind of guy. I was terrified because they released images of the wardrobe and we had two different wardrobe ideas originally and one was like 70s bell bottoms, a colourful dorky outfit and then the other one was this punk rocker dude and I was like, “Man, I think I like this one better.” I was terrified the fans wouldn’t like the outfit. The special effects in X-Men are very technical, which is something I didn’t realise that I really like. American Horror Story is a very emotional, dramatic, theatrical piece and then this is a very technical, by the numbers, motion capture and you it’s like, “You have two seconds to get this action done.” And it’s something that I find very relaxing, I think it works very well with that OCD part of my brain where I keep doing it over and over again, because that’s what you do, you just do it thirty times until you get it right.
James: Ok, so my last little area of questions, you said you got offered the X-Men role and you must be getting more offers now, for me that was a kind of scary point of my career because up until then I just kind of took the best of what I could get. Then there came a point when I had options and people were making offers and it was scary for me because I didn’t have a clear decision making criteria in place. When I was younger I started to think, “Do the ones you believe in, make sure you don’t do too many that are so artistic nobody will see them.” I didn’t understand… basically do the stuff that you like, the kind of movies you want to see. I didn’t understand that early on, so I ended up doing some movies that I hate, and I worked really hard on but they aren’t movies that I’d ever see. But at the time I thought they’d be good for my career or whatever. So how do you make your decisions and what sort of decisions are you interested in making?
Evan: Well that’s it, I like what you just said about whether the movie is something you’d see, that’s a great criteria. I’m still trying to figure it out too, there’s a lot of movies that I’d want to see but then… I like movies with a slight message, or you walk away going, “Huh, I agree with that,” or, “That changed my mind,” or something. Not being pretentious or anything, but I like being a part of that because it drives me. I like to go see movies and learn things and be entertained. Like, I’ve just watched The Big Short and I’m mad at myself that I didn’t go to the theatre to see it because I would’ve loved it. It was informative, it was entertaining, it was funny, it was stressful and tense. That’s a great criteria, something that I’d want to go see. I think that’s definitely an important thing that I haven’t really been thinking about.
James: You said earlier, when I was blabbing on, about some decisions you were going to make, or something like that. What’s on your mind?
Evan: I’m sort of feeling like I want to be more in control, I want to direct, I want to write. But it’s a lot of work. Even with acting I find that I’m… I don’t know if I’m slow or I’m just very one track mind, I can’t multitask, I can focus on one thing really strongly, I’m good at that. So I feel like I could do it but it would take me so long, so I’m trying to figure out the best way. That’s the thing, there are a million things I’d like to do, I want to try and direct, write, travel, play piano, but then I can’t travel with a piano, and I want to play ukulele but ukulele isn’t a guitar, and I want to sing and I want to start a band… There are so many different things that I want to do. I want to make music, that’s a big one for me, I love making music and want to be in a band and do that. But right now I’m trying to focus on acting because that takes up all my attention. I find it difficult to focus on a role and then… well, that’s not true, I could practice an instrument. I think you’ve inspired me to stop being like, “I don’t think I could do that because that would distract me,” but instead just be like, “Fuck that, I’m going to go do it.” Then figure out what happens after, because I think right now I’m too afraid to lose the acting or lose my focus on a role. But you’re obviously doing it and a lot of others obviously do it, so maybe I should give it a shot and venture out into other areas and try to find things that make me a complete person and not just an actor, I don’t want to be just an actor, I’d love to be a bunch of things.
James: What about Ryan Murphy, would he ever help you with writing stuff?
Evan: I don’t know, I’ve never asked him and it’s something I didn’t even think to do. That’s a great idea and I should definitely talk to him about that. He’s a fantastic director and writer. Well there you go!
James: I just did a mini series based on this Stephen King book, 11.22.63, and part of my deal was that I got to direct one of the episodes. For me that was satisfying, I’m acting in it and I know that’s what they wanted and what they hired me for, and I enjoy that. But what I really want to do is direct, so I kind of got to do both and that’s a great situation.
Evan: Yeah, that would be ideal. But I think what I need to do first is go take some directing classes. I love it when directors talk about cameras and lenses and they know the lighting. An acting side of it would be something I could get involved with quickly, but I think the other bits like storyboarding and things like that would be something I’d need to focus on a little bit more before I could even ask them, which is great. This has been very therapeutic, James.
James: Like anything, you’ve just got to do it and try it out.
Evan: Well now I know that I will!