You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mann, Cooper & Brown: ‘Project X’ party guys

Youth Impact Report 2012: Bigscreen Kids

Every teenager dreams of throwing a legendary house party. The three young stars of “Project X” — Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown — actually got to do it on film, thanks to producer Todd Phillips.

The $12 million found-footage comedy grossed more than $100 million worldwide earlier this year and received an Instant Cult Classic award from MTV.

It was also an amazing opportunity for the young actors, since the filmmakers were intent on casting unknowns in keeping with the naturalistic quality of found-footage films. “It felt like auditioning for ‘American Idol.’ There were all these different stages you had to get through,” Mann recalls. “I think I ended up going in nine times by the end of it all. The last time, when they told us we got the parts, it was just the three of us in the room.”

As soon as they were cast, the actors got to work on building an off-screen friendship that would translate on film as a trio of close-knit high school buddies. “We just hung out,” Brown says. “We went to Disneyland, spent a couple of nights at a cabin in Big Bear, spent time at each others’ places. We shared an experience that’s unique and extremely hard to explain to other people. All three of us were having a huge break at the same time.”

The stars credit the film’s found-footage style with helping the audience feel like they’re experiencing the wild, all-night party firsthand, noting that the approach created a different vibe on-set. “You get a little bit more freedom, there aren’t really marks and there’s not as much coverage,” Cooper says. “When you shoot a scene, you don’t shoot it from 45 different angles. That’s the main difference, but you still have to play the character you’re playing.”

The filmmakers were also eager to get input from their young cast on making the characters and situations as authentic as possible (at least, until the party spins out of control in the pic’s memorably chaotic climax). Improv was encouraged and, in some cases, entire scenes were revamped by the actors. “They wanted (the dialogue) to fit our specific voices, they wanted it to feel natural,” Mann says. “If you’re making a movie about teenagers for teenagers, it should feel as real as possible, because they’re the biggest critics.”

Impact: Todd Phillips cast the three unknowns in found-footage stunt “Project X.”
Next: Mann has three films opening soon: “Fun Size,” “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” and “Beautiful Creatures.”
Cooper recently completed “Runner, Runner” with Ben Affleck and plans to star in “A Film by Alan Stuart Eisner” with Robin Williams.
Brown has a role in the Duplass Brothers-produced comedy “Milo” and the lead in John Stockwell’s “Kid Cannabis.”
Causes: Brown supports veterans issues and filmed a PSA for the Keep a Breast Foundation.

Return to the Youth Impact Report 2012 >>

More Voices

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    WGA, Agents Face Tough Issues on New Franchise Pact (Column)

    The Writers Guild of America and the major talent agencies are seven weeks away from a deadline that could force film and TV writers to choose between their agents and their union. This is a battle that has been brewing for a year but few in the industry saw coming until a few weeks ago. [...]

  • FX Confronts Streaming Thanks to Disney

    Kicking and Screaming, FX Is Forced to Confront Future in the Stream (Column)

    During his network’s presentation at the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour, FX chief John Landgraf made waves — and headlines — by mounting perhaps his most direct criticism yet of Netflix. Landgraf, whose briefings to the press tend to rely heavily on data about the volume of shows with which FX’s competitors flood the [...]

  • Longtime TV Editor Recalls Working for

    How a Bad Director Can Spoil the Show (Guest Column)

    I have been blessed with editing some of TV’s greatest shows, working with some of the industry’s greatest minds. “The Wonder Years,” “Arrested Development,” “The Office,” “Scrubs,” “Pushing Daisies” and, most recently, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I have earned an Emmy, ACE Eddie Awards, and many nominations. But whatever kudos I’ve received, over my [...]

  • Stock market Stock buyback

    Stock Buybacks Leave Firms Without Funds to Invest in Future (Column)

    Corporate giants on the S&P 500 have spent more than $720 billion during the past year on stock buybacks. Media and entertainment firms account for only a fraction of that spending, but even $1 million spent on share repurchases seems a foolhardy expenditure at this transformational moment for the industry. The record level of spending [...]

  • Hollywood Has Come Far With Diversity

    An Insider's Look at Hollywood's Diversity Efforts and How Far It Still Needs to Go

    I am a white man working in Hollywood. I grew up in Beverlywood, an all-white, predominantly Jewish, Los Angeles neighborhood sandwiched between 20th Century Fox Studios and MGM, where my elementary school had only one black student. I am compelled to write about diversity in Hollywood because “diversity” — in front of and behind the camera [...]

  • Venice Film Festival A Star is

    How Venice, Toronto and Telluride Festivals Stole Cannes' Luster (Column)

    In all the years I’ve been attending film festivals, I have never seen a lineup that looked as good on paper as Venice’s did this fall, boasting new films by Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Damien Chazelle (“First Man”), Paul Greengrass (“22 July”), Mike Leigh (“Peterloo”) and the Coen brothers (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”) in competition, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content