Odds are, you know Kyle Gallner for one of the many high profile horror films he’s appeared in over the past few years. There was The Hunting in Connecticut, Jennifer’s Body and the highly anticipated reboot, Nightmare on Elm Street, but his success in the genre and the prominence of these films doesn’t mean these are the only types of films Gallner has to offer. In fact, he’s got quite a number of non-horror films on the way, one of which hits theaters this weekend, Cherry.
Cherry stars Gallner as Aaron, a somewhat sheltered guy starting his first year at a prestigious college. He may not be as socially and romantically developed as his roommate, but when it comes to academics, Aaron’s above and beyond his peers. He’s enrolled in an advanced engineering program and while the work should be his top priority, Aaron’s distracted by a woman, a much older woman. Aaron meets Linda in class and the attraction is instant. Problem is, Linda (Laura Allen) has a 14-year-old daughter, Beth (Brittany Robertson), and when Linda brings Aaron over for dinner one night, the attraction between him and Beth is instant as well.
Not only was I thankful to have the opportunity to chat about such a purely enjoyable film, but to an actor on the rise that’s certainly worth keeping an eye on. Check out everything Gallner told me about working on Cherry, working with Kevin Smith on his upcoming film Red State and his hopes for the future in the interview below, and be sure to catch Cherry at the Village East Cinema in New York City.
How’d you get involved with this project? Did you go through the audition process?
Yeah, it was your typical audition process. I got sent the script to read, I really liked the script a lot and a couple days later I had the audition and I ended up booking the role.
What scene did they make you perform? Was it anything with your co-stars?
I can’t remember, but I ended up getting to audition Brittany and they ended up having me and her get together and actually run scenes together. When I auditioned it was just me reading with the casting director, but when they auditioned Brittany, they had us go to this place and me and her ran a couple of scenes for like an hour or two.
So you were the first to be cast?
What was it like seeing everyone cast around you? You’re really the centerpiece of the film, so did you get to have any input?
Kind of. It was one of those things that they took the best person for the job for each role. It was pretty cool to see everybody get cast slowly, one-by-one. The audition process was cool too because I got to read with Brittany. She was the only girl I got to read with, but then I got to read with a couple other actresses for Laura Allen’s role. I read with like two people before Laura ended up being cast. It’s the first time I ever did that where I’ve gotten to read with the other cast members and help with the audition process.
Did that help you get into your role more, too?
Anytime you can run scenes from the movie it definitely helps you get into it. It was like rehearsal.
Did this end up being your only rehearsal or did the filming schedule allow for some actual rehearsal time?
When we got to Michigan we had like two, three days where we rehearsed and all read the script together, talked about the scenes and talked about the movie and everything, so I had a little bit of rehearsal time; we didn’t have a ton, but we had some.
Your character, Aaron, he’s got his issues, but he’s basically a normal college kid. Were you able to relate to him at all?
Yeah, he’s kind of the kid I was in high school. I wasn’t so nerdy and naïve, but I had a group of friends who were like these skate rec kids that nobody really paid much attention to, so I can understand where he’s coming from with that where he doesn’t have a ton of friends and he doesn’t have interaction with girls, but Aaron’s kind of where I was in high school, but he’s in college. [Laughs]
So what was it like when you first got on set with Lauren and Brittany?
It was good. I’d known Brittany for a couple of years before that. I met her when she was really young when I was out in California and I was really young as well, so I’ve known Brittany for along time so that was cool to work with her. It’s always nice to know somebody on set before you get there. And Laura was great. She just had her baby; she was there with her baby, her husband. Her husband was awesome. It was just a nice cast to be around. Everybody was just really nice people and really came to play. They wanted to make this movie the best they could.
Was it kind of like it’s portrayed in the film? Like a surrogate family on set?
Yeah, it was. It was a very nice set to be on. It was a very close set. Everybody got to know each other really well, especially the crew. They all lived in a college dorm room and had roommates. They got to know each other very well. When you’re on location, you tend to get to know people better just because you don’t go home at night. If you live in LA and shoot a movie, you go home and don’t really talk to anybody. When you shoot on location, you all kind of stay in the same place, you don’t know anybody in town so everybody gets together. A crew on a location is pretty much your family.
So, with Laura and Brittany particularly, what was it like when you had some more romantic moments with them? Did this on set dynamic make it awkward?
[Laughs] It’s weird. It’s part of the job. When you do those scenes it’s not like they’re really all that romantic. It’s kind of invasive in a way. You have people watching you and telling you how to do things, you have to lift your head up or cheat this here, there. It’s a job. You don’t earn those moments of being romantic. It’s a job at the end of the day.
On a less awkward note, how was it working with [director] Jeffrey [Fine]? With such a small-scale shoot I’d imagine everything has to be planned precisely to make use of the time. Did you ever have the chance to take a breather and just explore the store?
Jeff always made time to make sure we were comfortable with the scenes and everybody was comfortable with what we were doing. I got to talk to Jeff a bunch before the movie started. Everybody was pretty prepared and pretty ready to go before we even got to Michigan. Jeff is a really great director. It’s a story he knows very well; it’s a very personal story, so any questions you have, he could answer most of them.
It is clear he has a great handle on the material. The film itself has such a great laidback and simple feel to it.
Yeah, I think that was what Jeff was going for. For indie shoots, you’re doing six-day weeks and it’s pretty run-and-gun chaotic, but he got a very cool, laidback feel to it. It’s just a good movie. It just flows nicely and it’s fun to watch.
Having done a number of bigger budgeted productions recently, how is it to go from those massive shoots to something like this?
The interesting thing, a big budget movie can become more of a machine. An indie film, it’s got a life too; it’s kind of a living breathing thing where it’s usually very quick and very chaotic and it’s not made for a lot of money so you get a crew and you get a cast of people who are there because they really really want to make this movie and they want to make it the best they can. With a studio film, it’s a crew that’s just getting paid, sometimes actors just jump on because they get paid. I’ve been fortunate with the studios. I’ve had a really good time on a lot of them for the most part, but there’s just something different about making an indie film. I love doing studio films as well, but the right indie film with the right crew where everybody’s just like, ‘Shit, we have to get the day done,’ and it just goes crazy. There’s something about that where you’re under pressure for a month, but it’s fun pressure. It’s a good challenge.
Are you at the point where you can pick and choose your projects a bit more? Do you have scripts coming your way?
I don’t have offers or anything like that. I get scripts to read and have meetings, but no, I’m not really at a point where I can just pick and choose jobs. I have to audition for everything.
Still, you’ve got a ton of films coming up that I believe are all in post.
Are you going out to shoot anything soon?
No. [Laughs] I just finished Red State last week and I’m unemployed right now. [Laughs] I’ve got a couple of auditions and a couple of meetings coming up, so hopefully I can pick something up for next year before December when everything shuts down.
I’m sure you will, but you certainly have enough things you’ve finished to keep you busy. I hear Little Birds has a good shot at getting into Sundance.
Yeah, they’re submitting it. Hopefully it goes. I’d love for it to go. I’m actually going to see it for the first time tomorrow.
You’ve got a great co-cast in that one!
Yeah, that was another great indie shoot. I had a really really good time on that one.
So how was it working on that with Kevin Smith? I just saw the new poster. It looks pretty freaky.
Kevin’s an interesting director. He’s very much an editor. He shoots to edit, so he never really wastes any time on doing a bunch of shots that he’s never going to use. He literally comes in that day and has all of the pieces of the puzzle put together. He’s like, ‘I want to shoot this shot, that shot and that shot and that’s it.’ It was a really interesting experience working with him because he would shoot and then he would just go home and he would edit. Our last day of shooting was on Thursday, we started shooting Wednesday night and wrapped 2am Thursday morning and the wrap party was Friday and he showed the entire movie, completely edited.
That’s incredible. So, what’d you think of it? Is it terrifying?
It’s intense. The performances are really really good. It’s an extremely well acted movie and it’s very intense. It’s just a crazy movie. [Laughs]
What kind of horror is it compared to Nightmare on Elm Street?
I wouldn’t say it’s like a typical horror – it’s more kind of a disturbing thriller, I guess. The horror comes from seeing how people can truly treat other people and be evil to other people and Kevin used this specific outlet to prove that point. The horror just comes from seeing how people can just treat each other. It’s freaky.
Are you allowed to tell me about your character at all?
I basically play this kid. Me and my two friends, wrong place, wrong time situation.
Is the horror genre something you’d want to stick with or would you rather do more films like Cherry?
I wasn’t going to do any more horror after Nightmare. I really kind of want to shy away from it, but the Kevin Smith thing came around and it was a chance to work with a really great director. It’s kind of labeled a horror movie, but I don’t see it being a horror movie in the true sense of the genre so that was kind of why I did it. But yeah, I definitely want to shy away from horror. The thing is, my last few films have definitely not been horror movies, it’s just the things that people have seen have been my horror movies whereas my indie films tend to be quirky or interesting or comedic or drama. They’re all very different movies, so hopefully those will pop and people can see those and be like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t just do horror movies.’ [Laughs]
Well, Cherry is certainly a film that’s deserving of that attention. Do you have any specific hopes for the film? Perhaps a particular impression you’re hoping to make with it?
I think it’s a really good movie and I think it’s a movie that deserves to be seen. It’s a really nice, fun movie that’s actually really relatable to pretty much everybody. At SXSW it was an audience of older men and women and younger guys and girls and everybody seems to get it on some level. Everybody’s kind of been in Aaron’s shoes at one point or another, maybe not in his specific situation, but they can relate to the first time kissing a girl or going to college, an older woman liking a younger kid. I just hope it gets seen and people enjoy it.
By Perri Nemiroff