Woody Norman interview: ‘C’mon, C’mon’
“I think Mike is something to admire,” says Woody Norman of the “C’mon C’mon” director and writer Mike Mills. The young actor plays Jesse, a curious child on a road trip with his uncle Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix). Norman refers to Mills as a “storyteller” more than director, and is clearly enamored by the collaborative process of creating the movie. “His directing style is very calm,” describes Norman, “It’s very comforting to watch.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Though Mills famously uses people from his own life as inspirations for the stories he tells on the big screen, Norman didn’t want to follow suit and change the characterization of Jesse too much from the script. The role for the A24 film is partly based on Mills’ child Hopper, so the actor says he “only put a little bit in” of himself in order to honor the real-life inspiration.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a sense of exploration on set, however. Norman and Phoenix frequently improvised dialogue and scenes based on how they felt their characters would behave. A smile lights up Norman’s face as he remembers some scenes which Phoenix wrote for them to perform together, whether they wound up in the final cut or not. “It was just to do it,” suggests Norman, who calls up a fun wrestling scene in the movie as an example. “He’s very generous with his acting,” notes Norman, saying that the Oscar winner made everything “an equal process.”
As Johnny and Jesse adopt a father/son relationship on-screen, Norman and Phoenix also clearly developed a strong connection during filming. “We both kind of learned from each other,” recalls Norman of their bond. “There were no moments where there was superiority.” This “equal creative level,” as the performer puts it, closely mimics the characters from the film, who emerge from their road trip with a deeper understanding of one another. Norman was happy for the “comfy environment” of the creative process. “You felt like you were going to your auntie’s house everyday,” he says.
While Norman anticipates that acting will always be in his repertoire, he admits that he has ambitions to write and direct as well. “I really just want to become an all around… just a creative in general,” he reveals. He is already writing scripts to practice his skills. When asked what types of movies he wants to create, Norman simply replies: “emotionally driven stories.” Mills would be proud.
Norman received a Critics’ Choice film nomination this week in the younger performer category.