I recently got the chance to talk to Michael Panes about his role in Matt Damon’s new film, ‘We Brought A Zoo’. Here, Michael talks about how he got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Michael. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘We Brought A Zoo’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s based on the autobiography of a British journalist, Benjamin Mee…
Yes, the plot surrounds Benjamin Mee and it surrounds the animals, which it must – or they will escape.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play the Principal of Dylan Mee’s High School, a character so charismatic and compelling that the entire film was in danger of never progressing towards a zoo of any kind. It’s another tribute to Cameron Crowe’s expert storytelling that my character was limited to only one or two scenes. In my opinion, this saved the film.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
An audition. Or, more specifically, a random act of kindness by Gail Levin the casting director. Shooting the movie was incredibly good fun – but so was auditioning for it. In fact, Cameron, Gail and I had such a good time chatting, improvising and horsing around for an hour that I would be thrilled to audition for this movie again, even though it’s already been shot.
How would you say this film is different and unique? Had you read the autobiography before you signed on?
I read the autobiography sometime before we began shooting and after I purchased it on Amazon.com. As for the film, it is uniquely Cameron Crowe’s vision – filled with truth, pain, laughter and hope. You have to really believe in the essential goodness and power of humanity to uplift itself make a movie like this. Fortunately, Cameron Crowe has that belief in spades…it’s like he’s built of the stuff! So yeah, you won’t find anything else like it…
The film stars Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones and Angus Macfadyen – with Cameron Crowe onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Well, I didn’t get to work with any of the animals, so I can’t share any stories of them evacuating themselves at inopportune moments. But I can report, gladly, that none of the actors or crew had any such accidents while I was filming. That might not make a great anecdote, but I found it of great personal relief.
Let’s talk a bit about you Michael. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
There is very often free food at work, although a lot of time it’s sugary stuff like donuts and candy. Aside from that, a chance to express oneself creatively and also meet wonderful people who very often have great big hearts and something special to share with the world.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Anyone who wants to get into this industry is looking for encouragement – which generally has a greater impact than advice.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV series – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with so far and why?
I don’t have any favorites, but it’s always great to work with friends or those with whom one has a natural bond, either in front of or behind the camera!
What is currently on your I-Pod?
Lots and lots of classical music…and the complete oeuvre of Ryan Adams. Also, my sister’s band Lez Zeppelin.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
I don’t want to embarrass my living or dead friends, so I’ll just pass on that for now.
What is your favourite word?
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I will be appearing in a film called ‘The Love Guide’ with Parker Posey, who will also be joining me for dinner shortly.
Thanks for the interview!