Tribeca Film Festival Exclusive: Jason Ritter On Drinking, Creative Failures, And Being Naked More

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There are several films premiering at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York -- but only one features both Jason Ritter and Jesse Eisenberg (the two reigning kings of indie adorableness): Free Samples.

The movie follows Jillian (Jess Weixler), who is forced to cover for a friend and distribute free samples from a ransacked ice-cream truck. Ritter co-stars as Wally, her heavy-drinking, rock-star wannabe friend, who briefly keeps Jillian company during her shift. Known for his indisputable politeness, Ritter has proven to be one of the most intriguing young actors out there. Two of his other recent films -- The Perfect Family and A Bag of Hammers feature two of his most dynamic roles. 

The International Business Times had the chance to sit down with Ritter and chat about bad movies, getting drunk for a role, and nudity.

How often does a script like Free Samples come along?

Not too often. It's really nice. Everyone is trying to get a movie made, and there are a lot of movies that I've read where it's clear that one of the reasons it's getting made is because it's easy to shoot. This one was mainly in a truck along with a couple of other locations and things like that. What's rare is getting a script that has a lot of great dialogue and is sort of interesting and has bizarre characters. By the time I got involved, Jess Weixler and Jesse Eisenberg were already attached, and that made me really excited. I had worked with each of them on other independent movies and had a great time, so I was excited to work with both of them again and both at the same time. It was fun.

I think a lot of people are bummed that you only have one scene with Jesse Eisenberg.

I was bummed, too!

The last time you worked together, you played opposite each other ...

... The whole movie. I had such a good time with Jesse working on The Education of Charlie Banks, and I would have loved to have more scenes with Jesse and Jess [Weixler]. At least the scene with Jess had some real stuff, but the scene with Jesse was over very fast. We're at a bar, and I go over and play some music.

While a little drunk!

A little drunk, exactly.

In Free Samples and inThe Perfect Family [to be released May 4 in New York and May 11 in Los Angeles], you portray young men who struggle with alcohol abuse.

Yeah, it's a theme. [He laughs.] I'm typecast!

A lot of times when an actor has to play drunk for a scene, it can be very contrived. How did you manage to do it with authenticity?

It depends on what I have to do. For Perfect Family, I took a swig of Jack Daniels and rinsed it around in my mouth, and there's something about just having the taste of alcohol in your mouth and maybe whatever went into my bloodstream -- obviously, I wasn't going to get as drunk as I needed to be for that scene -- but there's something about just having the taste of it that recalls memories of being drunk. Then what I do is just throw all inhibitions out the window. Just like in real life when you get really drunk.[He laughs.]

Often when an actor drinks a bit before a scene, random lines that aren't even in the script come out. Was that the case for you?

No. I don't think I had anything to drink. When you're on set, the beer is like 0.1 percent alcohol. I don't use my sense of taste that much when acting, but when it comes to alcohol, there's just something about a little taste of it that can bring me to a certain place. I've also worked on movies where an actor thinks, I'll just get a little bit drunk for this scene, but then they get too drunk, and it doesn't work. Then the producers are angry, everyone's upset, and the other actor feels disrespected. It's a fine line. I would never want to do it to a point where I drink any more than just one thing.

Then you have to be woken up for the next scene, and you're like, Where am I?

Exactly. That sounds miserable.

It's often said that there are so few good films being made. You seem to find some of the better ones, more so than other actors in your age range. Do you think that there are few good movies or that few are getting to see the decent ones because they're under the radar?

A lot of them are under the radar, but I think the independent film world really got slapped in the face a couple of years ago when the economy crashed. You would think that the economy crashing would make people want to not spend $300 million on a huge action budget, but instead take that money and make 100 independent movies and low-budget projects, but it went the opposite way. I think people felt safer putting their money in big movies, and so we really got slammed. Then the independent film world started reacting to that, and instead of writing beautiful, weird, brave things that indie films are known for, people started to write things that could be a version of one of the big studio films. I feel like people started to second-guess themselves and started to write things that would sell.

It seems like everything is a sequel or a reboot or remake.

Exactly, so it's really nice to get a script and see that there's something new and that you really want to get behind what the project is saying. Like Perfect Family or Free Samples, which are, for different reasons, both unique and fun.

In Free Samples, your character Wally has a 10-minute song about snack food, which I really wish we could have heard.

Me, too!

Has there ever been a creative project that you thought was absolutely amazing and others thought was the worst?

I have. [He laughs.] I have done that. I think that happened more often when I was starting out and I would do friends' student films and things like that. I would just be like, This is groundbreaking stuff! But the thing is, at that point, everyone is still figuring it out. I was still learning how to act on camera, which was humiliating, and they were still trying to figure out how to tell a story. Then when it cuts together, you realize it's harder than it looks. Then I think I started to relax a bit more about it and be more wary and try to temper my enthusiasm until I see something and then allow it to grow. A lot of times, I would rather have medium expectations and be happily surprised than to really be enthusiastic and be so disappointed.

One of Wally's fantasies is to serve customers without any pants on. Is there anything strange on your own bucket list that you can share?

I feel like my bucket list is a boring one, like seeing the Northern Lights and things like that, which I feel is on everyone's list. I wouldn't mind adding things to my bucket list that have to do with being naked in front of people without them knowing.

Them not knowing is key -- otherwise, it's just creepy and you get arrested.

Yeah, then it gets creepy and no good. But just the small thrill of getting away with it.

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