Courtesy of Focus Features
Paul Rudd stars in an upcoming movie about applying to college, but the actor claims he never had to go through the admissions process himself.
“I never took the SAT,” Rudd said in a press conference with college media. “I mean, everybody else I knew I guess took the SAT but I never went through this before. I didn’t apply to colleges, I didn’t … go through all of this.”
“You just showed up at (the University of) Kansas?” asked Rudd’s co-star Tina Fey.
“I just showed up, I just thought that’s the next step,” he said. “I bought the shirt, yeah, it’s like, ‘OK this is the high school I go to, this is the college I go to, it’s in my neighborhood.'”
Rudd and Fey star in “Admission,” a film based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel of the same name, which focuses on the process of applying and getting accepted into college. Fey’s character, Portia Nathan, is an admissions officer at Princeton University, and Rudd plays John Pressman, the founder of an alternative high school preparing its first graduating class.
Focus Features, the film’s production company, hosted a press junket for “Admission” in New York City with access for college media Feb. 8-9. Travel and hotel accommodations were paid for by Focus Features.
While the film, particularly through Fey’s character, stresses the importance of applying and getting into a “good school” like Ivy League Princeton, director Paul Weitz noted the college doesn’t always mean everything.
“I personally don’t think it matters where you go to college, it’s about who you come across while you’re there,” Weitz said. “I think my one bit of advice would be to be your own judge. Like the big pitfalls in life are giving over judgment to critics, or a box office, or somebody who doesn’t know you and doesn’t give a damn about you. But you know whether you’ve worked hard or not and I think that holds true.”
Portia comes from an easygoing background, largely due to the fact that her mom (played by Lily Tomlin) is a single, uninhibited feminist. Yet Portia is uptight, putting her job before her happiness and living a cookie-cutter life before she meets John.
John has had the stark opposite upbringing, coming from a luxurious, Ivy League background, complete with wealthy parents and a degree from Dartmouth College. He rejects his past though, filling his life by traveling globally with his adopted son, who wishes for a more structured life like Portia’s.
Weitz said the set structure the characters begin in, and their evolution from that point, was something he liked about the film.
“I really liked that these characters are in this structure and they all fall out of it because they’re impacting each other,” Weitz said. “It’s interesting because Tina’s character is part of the structure and she’s developed this whole life for herself where she doesn’t have to deal with certain, the character doesn’t have to deal with certain emotional things, and Paul’s character comes from Dartmouth and has rejected it.”
The film walks a line between drama and comedy, and the actors and director touched on the process of melding the two together.
“You just try to play it as realistically as possible, and there are moments of humor in it and you certainly wouldn’t wanna go back and add people like falling down the stairs or stuff like that,” Fey said. “And so I think you just, you try to play the tone that seems (to) be presenting itself on the page.”
Weitz added his idea of what makes comedy and drama believable.
“I think the big thing, whether it be in drama or a comedy, is that … the characters don’t know they’re being funny in any good comedy,” he said. “And the people going through the deep, wrenching pathos don’t know they’re being dramatic.”
He said the success of a character’s ability to seem dramatic or funny depends on the actor cast in the role.
“So the most fun thing is seeing a character emerge and the one thing you have to do is to have actors who are capable of walking that line and not stumbling around like a drunk,” Weitz said.
At least one of the film’s comedic scenes had a deep impact on actor Nat Wolff, who plays Jeremiah Balakian, a student at John’s high school.
In the scene, John and Jeremiah are helping a cow give birth, and Portia is roped into helping them.
“I was really into the calf, I actually gave up eating red meat after that scene,” Wolff said. “I’d been hanging, you know, talking, petting this baby calf all day and the production assistant came up and said, ‘So I, what can I get you for lunch, a burger?’ I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me man. Seriously?’ And so I decided to give (it) up, but it’s been really hard.”
Fey said a favorite scene of hers, shot on Princeton’s campus, featured an actual Princetonian a cappella group.
“It was the scene where I’m just like in tears and I’m running through and they are singing their … wonderfully sunny collegiate a cappella song, and also they sounded so good that we kept letting them finish the song every take even though the take was over,” she said.
While Rudd claims he didn’t have to apply to college, Wolff was going through the admissions process while making the film.
“I was going through the exact same thing but I was way more excited about the movie than I was about college,” Wolff said.
He said he attended college fairs, but when talking to representatives from schools he had no interest in attending, he used the conversations as character research.
“I went up to all these schools pretending to be this math and science genius, and I really hit it off with the MIT guy,” he said. “And they still call me like twice, twice, you know a week and I have to tell them, you know, I’m not really, I’m not really good at math and science and you don’t want me at your school.”
“Admission” is set to release in theaters Friday.