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July 2004
A Cinderella Story: An Interview with Chad Michael Murray

By Wilson Morales

A Cinderella Story: An Interview with Chad Michael Murray

Chad Michael Murray is on a big roll. When he was first seen on "Dawson's Creek", who knew he would blow up to have many teenagers follow his career. They have followed him from that show to the Gilmore Girls and to his current TV show, One Tree Hill. Not only that, but Chad has the distinct pleasure of starring with the two hottest young actresses in Hollywood, Lindsay Lohan and now Hilary Duff. He recently spoke to blackfilm.com about working with Hilary in his new film, A CINDERELLA STORY, and being in Australia with Paris Hilton filming "HOUSE OF WAX" when a fire burnt down the set.

The cool guy is often one-dimensional. How did you infuse him with such character?

CMM: Because I hate one dimensional cool characters. I guess I just wanted to bring my own idiosyncrasies to the character. I wanted to just live the life through what I perceived to be the character. When we got the script, I felt that there wasn't enough storyline for Austin. I felt like we really should dive into the depths of him not being happy in his so-called perfect world with the father forcing him to go to USC. That wasn't originally there. I sat down and I talked to the producer and director and said, "Guys, we should really grow on this storyline. I think having two storylines meet in the middle with two people who aren't happy that find each other and become happy, I think that that's interesting." And they all agree. When we sat down, we talked about it and we kind of tried to develop the storyline as much as we could without getting away from A Cinderella Story.

Where do you get the confidence to say that to a director?

CMM: I'm an idiot. So I don't know.

Did it develop from TV?

CMM: I think that I just see things the way I do. And occasionally sometimes I'm too blunt to be honest. But it never comes from a disheartened place. I'm never giving anyone criticism that's not constructive. I just really want what's best for the film. I want to make good movies. I want people to enjoy what I do. If I do something that people really won't enjoy, then what's the point? We're there to tell a story and entertain and have a piece of life so I don't know. I don't want to be involved in something that's not going to do it. Those are the facts for me.

Now that girls are the stars, do you ever feel like you're asked to play just "the boyfriend"?

CMM: I think if you do that, you screw yourself. I think that you're there to play a character and tell a story. I mean, those are the facts, you know. You can't really think about who you're doing it with or what the purpose of the film is and what length to explain the story. If I went in there and I was insecure, it would show. I was excited. I thought Hilary Duff's on such a great ride right now, people are going to obviously really want to attach themselves to this film. She's doing a great job and she's such a sweet girl. So I just took her out to coffee prior to the movie just to get to know her and work with her so we could create some sort of relationship between each other so it would be easier on set. And I don't know, I never actually thought about that but thanks for making me feel bad. [LAUGHTER]

Are you poetic in real life?

CMM: No, I'm not a poet. But I think that I'm definitely connected to my sensitive side. I pretty much wear my emotions on my sleeves for the people in my life. But very much like Austin, he doesn't show everybody what he's feeling. He keeps to himself except when he's in a comfortable situation. He's got his boys and stuff like that, but other than that, I don't think he's happy. I don't think he's perfect. High school quarterback, he's got good grades, he can go to USC, he's got the best girl. Everybody thinks he's perfect, but he goes on the internet and obviously explains to this secret admirer or secret internet explorer chick that he's not happy. He gets his feelings out there and I feel like that's more real because not everyone here, you know, you guys could be having a bad day but you're still here. We gotta do our jobs, right?

Why can parents be so oblivious to their kids' needs?

CMM: Ha ha. Ho ho. Oh God, if I answer that question, I'm going to get shot. My dad rocks. My dad raised five kids on his own, so. You know, I don't know. I think when it comes to the facts, I came from a broken home and you never can explain it. People have issues. People have good days, bad days. Sometimes people can't deal with what's given to them, what's in front of them and they abandon what's important. Maybe they had kids too young. Maybe they never did what they wanted to do with their life. I don't know. All I know is I'm going to try not to go down that path someday when I have kids.

Embarrassing scenes?

CMM: Not really for the most part. I kind of shut everything out, and just do my job but the one time I kept busting up was when we did the- - when the girls are all lined up and I was with my boys and they're like, "Number one," doing that whole going through the girls scene. At the end of the scene when Lin Shaye comes in, she comes in and says to Brad Bufanda, "Oh, you're wearing a terrible shirt. What is that? What are you wearing? Guys, knock this off. This is terrible." Then she looks over to my friend, JD Pardo, and she goes, "Hi, Ryan." That was my boy JD's idea and it was just hilarious, because they kind of had a shortened scene. So she goes, "Well, I want to have something, I want to do something." He goes, "Well, why don't you just look to me and be like, "Hi, Ryan." So it kind of creates this backstory that you never see, never explain but it just looks like him and the teacher have this like behind the scenes relationship. And I kept laughing at that. She was just so funny. She's so good.

Were you there for the fire on House of Wax?

CMM: I was a foot and a half away from it. We were in the middle of a scene when it went down. I can't really say much more than that. I was laying on the ground and they called Action and it's a climactic part of the movie. We're doing some tricky stuff, some very, very difficult stuff that's something you've never seen before. And what can I say? Accidents happen. I started to get water blisters on my hand and I jumped up and said, "What?" I got out of there in the middle of a take and I turned around and whoosh, everything was gone.

How bad is the damage?

CMM: That, I don't know. That's not really my business. All I know is the producers did a great job of calming everybody down. Everyone got out all right, they made sure they did a headcount immediately. That was the most important thing. Yeah, you lose equipment, you lose the stage, you lose everything else but the fact of the matter is everyone got out okay, that's all we cared about. Everything else can be replaced.

What do you think of remakes?

CMM: What can I say? I'm like the remake king around here. I think if you're going to do something differently, call it a remake as much as you want, but it's the same concept and they try to do a different spin on it. Cinderella Story was a contemporary idea for Cinderella Story. Great, you know, Freaky Friday was a remake, great. House of Wax is a remake but House of Wax is very different. It's like a background concept but it's a completely different story.

Did you watch the old ones?

CMM: Cinderella Story, what are you going to do, go back and watch Cinderella? I mean, really. There's no mice. What can I say? House of Wax, I went back and watched the 1953 version with Vincent Price. I just thought it was eerie. But that was in choosing if I wanted to do it or not. I wanted to see what kind of feeling I got and it was eerie. There's just something really creepy about wax.

How do you make wax statues scary for modern audiences?

CMM: You'll see.

How were you in high school?

CMM: Golly, I hated high school. I absolutely detested high school. But what can I say? I was more the Sam than the Austin. So I guess- - I don't know how to explain it. I think they did a good job of forming the cliques in the movie because it's true. There's cliques. That's just the way it is and unfortunately there's a lot of peer pressure. It's really sad. I can't stand it personally. I wish that kids weren't so damn cruel, but what can you do?

Were you ever in detention?

CMM: Ha ha ha. No, you know, I may have been a little outspoken but my teachers accepted me for who I am. That's why I sit here right now. I can say thank you to a few of them that allowed me to be creative.

What do you want audiences to take away from this movie?

CMM: Well, A, if you're a parent, look a little deeper. Maybe your kid isn't so happy. Maybe you should look a little bit deeper and find out who they really are. And I think if you're a kid, man, enjoy the movie. Don't stress yourself out with anything. It's there to be fun and it's there to tell a story. Go find your prince charming, but live your life, have fun. Don't worry about everybody. High school is going to end. That's all I gotta say. High school, you do 12 years, you're done. You never have to see those damn people again if you don't want to, so if you're the Sam character, dude, everyone else can screw off. Don't fall under peer pressure. Do what you want to do. Do what makes you happy. People are giving you pressure for being in theater, for being in band? Well, dude, they can kiss your ass because half those people that said shit to me in high school, they're filling gas station pumps. What can you say.

Should movies for this audience have a message?

CMM: Yeah, I mean, heck, yeah. I think that it's like children's books. I think every children's book you ever read has some sort of moral. Don't be afraid of spiders, or be afraid of the ones with fangs. The basement is not scary. Whatever the heck your story may be in a children's bookčI mean, sometimes you go to a movie to just be entertained for two hours, leave the movie and not have to worry about anything. Get a good laugh. See a story, be intrigued, see romance and hope that you can have that someday. And sometimes you go to a movie to learn something. I think if you can include both but don't push too harsh on the fact that you're trying to set an image and send an idea, then you're fine. I think it should be just in there, softly, you know.

Compare and contrast Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan?

CMM: They're just so different, it's not even funny. Commonalities, one is 16, one's 17. I honestly don't know what to say. They're completely two different humans. They have a different work ethic. Not work ethic, but different ways of working. They're two totally different actresses. I think they have different goals and concepts in their life and they're both sweethearts. That's the one thing that you can say about them is that they were both really cool and I got along with both of them and they were just- -

How do they approach work differently?

CMM: Well, when I did Freaky Friday, Lindsay was playing two characters, so she had a lot of work to do. She had to study Jamie really hard and Jamie had to study her. On Cinderella Story, Hilary got to come in and she just had to study what it's like to be a little insecure and she hasn't had that opportunity I don't think. So she got to see what it was like to be not the cool chick. So I don't know. They just have different work- - you have to see it to know what I mean. That's the one perk that we get as actors is you get to see and really see how these people work, but you can't really explain it.

What do you make of the feud?

CMM: I don't know.

Do you have a wish list of ladies you'd like to work with?

CMM: I'm engaged. No comment.

What roles are you looking for?

CMM: I feel like I took a lot of the things- - I did what I had to do to get to where I want to be, and I'm going to continue to do what I do to get to where I want to be. I take an ideal like Sean Penn's career. I think Sean Penn's the epitome of what every actor could and should want to be. He just is. He's incredible. And I feel like at this point, and this stage of the game, I've only been working in this business for five years. I've been very fortunate and I've worked very hard. And I guess I just want to keep doing that and try different roles and try different characters and create different things. House of Wax is completely different than anything you've seen. And I wanted to make the character interesting to the audience regardless of whether it was horror or not. I want people to be interested in what's going to happen to this guy. And next, I really want to do something that's just artistic, something that just has real life qualities, real life situations that I can really just turn my cell phone off, turn my life off and just invest in this character solely, 100 %, that's all I do.

Are you a Brando fan?

CMM: I've seen a lot of Brando's work. God rest his soul unfortunately. I just heard, I was in Australia when I found out that he passed away. Brando's one of the greats, what can you say? I just watched On the Waterfront a couple weeks ago. He was the guy that broke the system. He did things the way he wanted to do it, changed acting forever. And Sean Penn in my opinion is- - I mean, look, his body of work is incredible. I've never seen him do a bad performance. I think every actor you can say has at one point decided to slack, phone it in. But Sean Penn shows up every day and does his job and the character's always different. Always. Carlito's Way, I am Sam, Sweet and Lowdown. Watch those three movies and [snaps] you'll go, "Holy crap, is that the same guy?"

Can you talk about your character in "House of Wax?

CMM: His name's Nick. He's got a twin sister, Carlie and basically he's one of those guys that gets in a lot of fights and he's that rebellious type. I wanted to find out, you know what, instead of playing that one note rebellious type, why is he rebellious? What is it about him that makes him who he is? And so in backstory I just realized that it all stems from insecurity. He came home, he'd have a B+, he was gifted, he could do what he wanted to do. He got a B+, his sister got an A. She was the overachiever, so his parents were like why couldn't you get an A? And so eventually, it just got so much for him that he decided to rebel. One day the kid gets into a fight, his friends respect him for it and that's his new calling card. So it's more of an insecurity. I don't think it's what he wants to do, what he wants to be. He's a really insecure guy with some emotional issues. I want to create a guy who's strong but yet has a vulnerable side to him. Those action heroes like Harrison Ford, you watch him and he's great, he's the man but at the same time, they've got those moments where he's running from the Indians and he's petrified. That's what you love about him.

How do you get grounded?

CMM: You know what? Look. I'm going to work as hard as I gotta do. I only work as much as I can right now, on projects that I want to work on. If there's not something next summer that I'm going to do, then yeah, I'll take a break. But right now I'm young and I'm having a lot of fun doing what I'm doing and I'm growing. I have a lot to learn and I just want to be able to learn as much as I can, day in, day out. Those are the flags.

How is Paris doing on her first feature?

CMM: Dude, she's cool. I think the stereotypes suck because she's really a sweet person. She really is. I mean, she was one of the nicest people on the set. She never had a negative thing to say and she tried really hard. She tried really hard on the film. She impressed me.

What goes through your head when you go out and girls scream?

CMM: I assume they have beer goggles on. I don't know. I think it's weird. It's really, really weird and I guess I don't know, I'm just going to try to make them happy. I'll find out if I was charming in this movie. I tried. We'll see what they think on the 16th and I just want to keep them happy, do different things, let people know that I'm just not some guy that wants to get famous. That's not what it's about for me. I just really want to do good work.

Anything lined up?

CMM: I go back to Montreal in a week and there's a few things right now for next summer and a few projects I'm working on myself, so that's the plans.

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