Project Almanac – Exclusive Interviews with Actor Jonny Weston and Director Dean Israelite
In Project Almanac (review) (which sounds more like a tedious covert military operation than a teeny-bopper thrill flick), a group of high school hotties discover the long-long blueprints to a time machine and construct it. Of course things go terribly, terribly wrong.
Project Almanac is director Dean Israelite’s first feature – and it’s a big one with Platinum Dunes! We wondered how this heretofore Joe Schmoe got such a great opportunity to do a movie under Michael Bay, after having done only a handful of shorts and TV work. So we asked him. He said, “To win the job and convince both the producers and the studio that I had a vision for what Project Almanac could be, I put together a very robust presentation that included a 90-second teaser trailer for the film. I shot it with a bunch of friends over a day in and around my apartment, cut it with my roommate, who is an editor, and did some visual effects with another friend who is a great artist to create the piece. This piece was really successful in capturing the energy and the tone of what I thought the movie should be and got the producers and the studio really excited about my vision for the film.”
Jonny Weston really carries Project Almanac (though he is well supported by a crew of likable fellow time travelers), so we asked Israelite if he had a lot to do with the actual development and hires. He did, he said. “I was very involved in the development of the script once we sold the movie to the studio. The screenplay changed immensely in development, but what was important was that the themes of the coming-of-age story always remained intact. The constant central idea of this character’s journey helped keep our focus throughout the process. We always knew what the story was trying to say. I can’t even remember all the versions of the plot that we broke, but what the movie was about thematically never changed. What was important to me was that we grounded every aspect of the script – the high school characters needed to feel relevant and contemporary; the time travel had to be dangerous and full of obstacles,” Israelite stressed.
“I wanted to see the characters make mistakes all along the way, to make the time travel feel as unpredictable as possible, all in an attempt to render such a fantastical concept in as credible a way as possible. In terms of the casting, I was involved from the start with our brilliant casting director, Denise Chamian. It was a long and arduous process to find the right cast because the chemistry and love between these kids is what carries the entire film,” said Israelite. “They need to feel real and relatable, but somehow be movie stars too, because the whole film is on their shoulders. They also needed to be funny and be able to improvise, which is something I encouraged in rehearsal and, to a degree, on set.”
Weston had already done sort of a time travelish movie, John Dies at the End. So we asked him, “Did that make you more inclined to do Project Almanac… or less so?” The actor laughed and replied, “I think they’re so different, it never crossed my mind. I mean, I was a gangster zombie in John Dies at the End!” [Not exactly the same character…]
Weston plays David in the movie, a character who makes some pretty outrageous decisions in the pursuit of love. Since we have no personal lives of our own, we were curious about the actor’s own affaires d’amour and popped the question. He revealed that the most romantic thing he’s ever done was to “take my new girlfriend of a week to a cabin in the mountains of Hawaii. We stared up at the glass ceiling while it poured rain.”
Prior to filming Project Almanac, Israelite shared several touchstones with his cast and crew. “The movies were all films that captured the mood and energy of teenage fun, recklessness, and growth – Risky Business, Ferris Bueller, The Goonies – but also films that have great soul while being unflinchingly entertaining like The Apartment. The cinematographer shared Elephant with me; that is obviously a wildly different film but plays with time and reality in an amazing way.” In the movie the characters talk about Looper, Timecop, etc., which was no stretch for Westin. He’d already seen “all of them. I geek out!”
An obvious question to ask was whether the director and actor actually believe time travel is possible. So, we asked it! “Oh man. Someone asked Spielberg after he made ET and Close Encounters if he believed in aliens,” sighed Israelite. “He said no. I couldn’t believe it. How could one put so much care, time, and effort into something that they believed was pure fantasy? Well, now I get it. To me, it’s not important whether time travel is real or not; it’s just important that we explore the magic of what it could be like if it [is], to let our imaginations take us to weird, wonderful, and playful places with it. I don’t believe in aliens and I don’t believe in time travel, but I love to imagine both.”
Westin concurred. “I’d say it is possible, but I hope it’s never perfected for the sake of the world.”
Lastly, we wanted to know if each could send the other back in time, when it would be. “Dean? I think he’d be a great mind of the Renaissance,” said Weston. For Westin, Israelite chose the swinging 60s. “Jonny loves The Doors, so I would send him back to their first concert and somehow align it so that he could meet Jim Morrison and join the band. Who knows what would happen to the music, or the world for that matter, but Jonny would have the time of his life.”
The Dean Israelite-directed film was written by Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman. It stars Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, and Ginny Gardner.
Look for Project Almanac in theatres on January 30, 2015.
If you could redo something in your past, what would it be? Share your story at ProjectAlmanac.com/Redo, and your redo could be seen on theater screens and billboards across the US. To change the past, would you risk your future? Choose wisely!
For more info visit the official Project Almanac website.
A brilliant high school student and his friends uncover blueprints for a mysterious device with limitless potential, inadvertently putting lives in danger.