UltimateDisney.com/DVDizzy.com > Interviews > Michael Angarano, star of Sky High and The Forbidden Kingdom

Will Stronghold Speaks: UltimateDisney.com Presents An Interview with Michael Angarano

At seventeen years old, Michael Angarano has a list of film credits which would be impressive for someone three times his age. Angarano has been acting more than half of his young life. He has portrayed young versions of the protagonists in acclaimed award-winning films Almost Famous and Seabiscuit, held a recurring role on NBC's Emmy-winning sitcom "Will & Grace", and appeared in over two dozen theatrical, direct-to-video, and made-for-television movies.

This year has found Angarano busier than ever. He first showed up in the Lars Von Trier-penned drama Dear Wendy, which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Beginning in June, he could be seen in Lords of Dogtown, a fictionalized take on the 1970s California skateboarding scene. Then, most significantly (at least for Disney fans), Angarano took center stage in Disney's action/comedy film Sky High, playing the son of Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston. In the film, Angarano's character Will Stronghold has to deal with the usual tensions of starting high school, only his high school is an elite academy for gifted youngsters, his parents are known for being two of the world's greatest superheroes, and he has yet to develop any superpowers of his own despite great expectations.

Earlier this month, as the DVD release of this colorful and critically-acclaimed outing approached, Angarano took time to speak with UltimateDisney.com about his experience making Sky High, the challenges of being surrounded by funny people, and what it's like being a film veteran at age 17.

UltimateDisney.com: In Sky High, you play the main character of the movie. How different was that from the supporting roles you have had in past films?

Michael Angarano: I've had lead roles before, but really not to the extent of Sky High. The first thought -- you can't really think of it as being a leading man and being in almost every scene. You can't really think about that. You kind of have to put that aside and just go in every day and do what you have to do. Have your head in every scene and just kind of take it play by play.

Can you identify with your character Will Stronghold in any way?

I went to an all-boys private Catholic high school in the Valley. I actually went, I didn't get home schooled. I'm from New York, too, and I moved out to L.A. So, my freshman year of high school, I really didn't know anybody. My whole first month was definitely the awkward stage that I drew from for Sky High. That first day where
Will is just trying to fit in under the radar and not make a big deal - I definitely know what he's doing. That was my first month of high school.

How do you manage to balance being in movies and being an ordinary teenager at the same time?

I guess my family. I have a great family. My family moved out here with my from New York when I was 12. I have an older sister, I have a younger sister, I have a younger brother, I have my mom and my dad. I come home and we all eat dinner at the dinner table. Acting is just the thing I'm doing. You know, my older sister is a college student, she wants to go to law school. My younger sister is a dancer and she's just starting high school. So acting is just the thing I'm doing. We're all doing our own things right now. When I go back home to New York, I have all my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents. It's just having a normal family life.

Did you look to anything as an inspiration for your role?

You know, it was "How do you play a superhero?" - I have no idea, there are no real superheroes. It's just creating and playing. Going back in time to when you were a kid running around in your underwear with a blanket wrapped around your neck. We all do want to be superheroes when we're kids.

Who is your favorite superhero and do you have a favorite superhero movie?

I think Batman and I think Batman Returns is my favorite movie.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I've been saying flying a lot. I always say that if I came back in my next life, not that I believe in that, but if I were to have a next life, I would want to come back as an eagle. So I would like to fly. Definitely.

What was it like working with Kurt Russell?

He was great. He's a pro. We didn't have too much rehearsal time, but we didn't really need it. We'd just come onto the set - he would come up with different things, I would come up with different things. We kind of go by the scene and just build from there. He's not the kind of guy - the question is, "How much advice did he give?", "What advice?" - but none of the older actors on the set came in and wanted to give us advice. It was kind of like "They'll learn for themselves." That's exactly what Kurt was like. I'm sure if I asked for anything, he would be more than happy to give me some. But he was more like giving me a nice little pat on the back, like you know "Figure it out for yourself, little guy. You'll find out."

There are a lot of funny people in this film. How difficult was it for you to keep a straight face during filming?

Oh yeah. You can look at the blooper reel. That was a challenge, especially with Kurt, especially with Kelly, especially them together. With all of them, the challenge in a lot of scenes is just to keep a straight face. I actually learned that on "Will and Grace", working with people like Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally, and all of them. Keeping a straight face is an art form. It really is.

The DVD shows you doing some of your own stunts. How did you like that?

I loved that stuff. I wanted to do it all, with one exception. There was one little thing, like a little air spring where you step onto this little ramp and depending on how you step onto it - it shoots you either 30 feet into the air or 30 feet sideways. And so, after the stunt guy took care of that, I was like "Let me try that." And he showed me his back and his whole back was purple and he was bloated from the impact of the blow. "Yeah, that's one I won't do." But I loved it all. I wanted to do it all.

Director Mike Mitchell said he wanted to make sure that the cast didn't get into messy relationships or things like that. Did you find it difficult to get close to your young co-stars but not too close? Did the sidekicks all get along like you do in the movie?

You know what, I saw that on the DVD that he didn't want us to get into relationships and I was laughing, because we all became really good friends. I'm sure as a director or a producer, you get worried about that. But I don't know - we didn't have any problems with that. We were all good friends. You know, all the sidekicks got along. They also say in the DVD that all the sidekicks hung out with the sidekicks and all the bullies hung out with the bullies. When you spend more time with each other in the scene - sidekicks were in all their scenes with their sidekicks, the Bullies were in all their scenes with the bullies - I guess it can kind of work out like that. But everyone happily got along with each other. There were no on-set fights or scuffles or anything like that that had to be secretly covered up by the producers.

You've been acting for ten years. How different do you think your childhood has been from most kids who don't have such a cool job or any job at all?

Well, for instance, I didn't go to one day of my senior year in high school. I went to grad night and graduation. I don't know, I guess you can say I have traveled a lot more, I've been more places. I don't know - just that this is what I work hard at, this is my passion. A lot of kids put their work into school or reading and they want to go to a great college. And other kids want to put their work and time into sports or into music or something. Well, this is what I want to do. I'm sure we all have the same experiences deep down. The only difference with me is I've met people that they watch. I'm in things that they watch. That's the difference.

You have a very diverse and full list of credits, especially for someone who is only 17. Do you find it difficult to get in and out of character for such different projects?

There's actually - I did a movie after Sky High called
One Last Thing that I really loved the script so much. I was immersed in that character, in that film for three months. And then literally, two weeks after that, I started on Black Irish. That was definitely the most difficult transition for me. Just because you know you want to shed any characteristics or traits that you have for the other character. You want to create something completely different. So the process is to basically clean your slate, shake yourself off. It's kind of forgetting that ever happened. That's why it was really weird for me to see One Last Thing because I did it, I got so involved it, and then in two weeks, I had to leave it and I went on to Black Irish and then after Black Irish, I went on to Bondage. And I almost forgot about One Last Thing and I then I looked back and saw it. I realized I almost forgot about that whole experience

Are there any things as an actor you'd really like to do that you have yet to? Working with people or making a certain type of movie?

I'm always up for different things. I can sit here and tell you "Well, I never want to do a horror movie", but you could see me in a few years in a horror movie. I'm always up for something new and something challenging. I don't know. I feel really open to kind of anything. I guess that's a part of being an actor. You never know what's going to come up next. You never know what you're going to be playing.

What is next for you?

I'm pretty much working on a few things that I'm not sure if I should go into. They're in the stage of being unofficial. But for sure I'm doing some new episodes of "Will and Grace." I should be doing that and I should be doing some film stuff that I'm looking forward to. But they're in the stage of being not able to talk about them.

Was making a film for Disney a big deal for you? Were you a fan of Disney movies and do you have a favorite?

Yeah, when I first got the call, you know, "You got the lead in a Disney superhero movie!" You dream about it, as a kid, you know, you want to be Aladdin. You want to be them somehow. Now I was picked to be someone that younger kids would be looking up to. You know, they want to be Will Stronghold, or they want to be Layla or Warren Peace. Having that responsibility and having that knowledge that people are going to be looking up to you -- it's a little scary, but you have to just go along with it, go along for the ride. And my favorite Disney movie is...oh man...yeah, I'll say Aladdin.

Would you have any interest in playing this character in a Sky High sequel or a TV series?

I would be up for a sequel for sure, especially if everyone from this film was also involved. Mike Mitchell the director and the writers, Shelly Johnson the DP, and the cast. If everyone was involved in it, yeah, why not? A TV series? I don't know if right now I want to, you know, go into TV , if I want to be a lead on a TV show.

Do you know if there is any follow-up planned at this time?

No, I'm completely out of the loop.

Related Links:
Read UD's DVD Review of Sky High
Order the Sky High DVD from Amazon.com
Order the Sky High Blu-ray from Amazon.com

"Sky High" comes to DVD this week.

Past Interviews:
October 2005: Angela Robinson, director of Herbie: Fully Loaded
September 2005: Taylor Lautner, Sharkboy of The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D
November 2005: Don Grady, Former Mouseketeer and Current Disney Musician
October 2005: Jim Brickman, The Disney Songbook
September 2005: Ilene Woods, voice of Cinderella, and Disney producer Don Hahn
May 2005: Irene Bedard, voice of Pocahontas
February 2005: Don Dunagan, voice of Bambi

Interview conducted November 1, 2005. Thanks to Buena Vista Home Entertainment for setting up this interview and to Michael Angarano for taking the time to talk with us.

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