(PCM) When it comes to learning from a master in her craft, newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann has hit the motherlode for his recent film experience in “20th Century Women.”
The richly multilayered, funny, and heart-stirring movie from A24 opens on Friday, January, 19, and focuses on the complexities of women, family, time and connections. This is a compelling and thought-provoking story played by legendary actress Annette Bening as the mother and newcomer Zumann as her 15-year-old son.
Set in Santa Barbara in 1976, the film from writer/director, Mike Mills (“Beginners”), follows a quirky, but loving single mom in her mid-50s, Dorthea Fields, who is rearing her adolescent son, Jamie, at a moment brimming with cultural change and rebellion.
Dorthea loves Bogart and Amelia Earhart and often acts and sounds like she is from a different time, and often has difficulty connecting with her son. She enlists the help of two younger women in Jamie’s upbringing – Abbie, a free-spirited punk artist living as a boarder in their home, (Greta Gerwig), and Julie, a provocative 17-year-old neighbor, who Jamie has a crush on, (Elle Fanning).
Mills expertly recreates the warmth and passion of a great memory – but also the urgency and energy of three generations in the throes of momentous transition. For Mills, “20th Century Women,” started with his own elusive and unpredictable mother, and is a poignant “love letter” to the people who rear us – and the times that form us – as this makeshift family forges fragile connections that will mystify, haunt and inspire each of the embers through their lives.
Chicago native Zumann, now 16, made his film debut in “Sinister 2,” after having completed a role in the groundbreaking Netflix production of “Sense8,” in episodes directed by the Wachowski siblings. He also appeared in the indie film “Thrill Ride,” as well as having a featured role in the NBC TV drama, “Chicago Fire.”
His first introduction to the performing arts was in the ensemble of a 2012 production of the classic stage musical, “Oliver” put on by the Light Opera Works. When he is not working as an actor, he enjoys photography, playing the guitar, and martial arts.
PCM had the pleasure of an exclusive interview with Lucas Jade Zumann about his burgeoning career, working with Bening, family support, his love for music and more.
Bening, 58, the mother of four grown children, said she thoroughly enjoyed mentoring her young co-star.
“It was a pleasure working with Lucas,” said Bening, who is best known for “American Beauty,” “The American President,” and “The Kids Are All Right.” “Lucas is a talented young man with a great future ahead of him. I thoroughly enjoyed our collaboration.”
PCM: This is definitely not a cookie cutter movie, so why did you want to make this film?
LUCAS ZUMANN: From the moment I read the script I knew it was different from other films, so to be part of something like that at an early part of my career is super special. I knew when we all got together it was going to be a super special experience.
PCM: What were the biggest challenges in making this movie?
LZ: While I never felt intimidated, I can say that some of the hardest parts had to do with getting out of my comfort zone and being able to eventually be comfortable around each other and in our own skin.
PCM: Was there a rehearsal process, like in the theater?
LZ: Yes. There was a rehearsal process and a research process. [Director] Mike [Mills] had us do some studying. He sent me a big cardboard box of documentaries for me to get a feel for the time and the era. To keep us from worrying about focusing he gave us each individual songs, which let us have more freedom. He wanted me to listen to Talking Heads songs, and we danced to some of the songs.
PCM: What kind of music was involved?
LZ: Probably, Talking Heads more so than the hard core punk that my character Jamie listens to.
PCM: What kind of music do you listen to during your free time?
LZ: I like classic reggae a lot, as well as indie rock and indie bands and stuff like that. I’m pretty open when it comes to music.
PCM: What was it like working with Annette Bening and did she give you any acting tips or life advice?
LZ: Our rapport? It was very true to a mother and son relationship.
PCM: How so?
LZ: She taught me a lot about the whole process and she did so very politely. She walked me through the whole process, which was very helpful since I am not as familiar with making movies as everyone else is. We spent as much time off the set as we did on set. She taught me that you can’t be a good actor if you don’t understand your life and don’t understand enough to portray it.
PCM: Did you get any advice from the other ladies?
LZ: I learned a lot by watching all of them, but when it came to first-hand help, Annette was the main person who physically talked me and led me through everything.
PCM: With Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning and Annette Bening on the set, were you at all star-struck?
LZ: No, because I understood the significance these people have in the business and while I truly felt it was an honor to work with each of them, they were all real people. So while working on this project I was able to be real around them.
PCM: When did you see the finished film for the first time and what was the experience like for you?
LZ: I was getting ready to watch it at the New York Film Festival, when they sent me a link to watch it on my laptop, and I enjoyed it. But watching it later at the theater with an audience gave me closure from the whole process. I love with large audiences you find different parts of the audience reacting with emotion to various aspects. Some are tearing up or crying, some are laughing, while still others are awestruck. Everyone acts to it in a different way and get a different message from it. So I find it interesting to watch such a diverse audience watch this film because everyone relates to it different, which is what makes Mike’s words and direction so laudable.
PCM: How important has family support been for your career?
LZ: Family support is a huge factor, and one of the sole reasons I was able to make this movie and other projects. They were there to take me to the set and make sure there was vegetarian and vegan food for me there. I owe a lot to them.
PCM: How many times has your mom seeing the movie?
LZ: Three or four, so far. I’m sure she loves it.
PCM: How long have you wanted to be an actor?
LZ: I’m always been interested in acting. I started with neighborhood plays. I just really like the feeling I get when I’m in the middle of a scene, or when I’m acting. I knew right away that was something I wanted to pursue it if I was able to do so.
PCM: What’s next for you?
LZ: I am working on the TV show “Anne” based on the book “Anne of Green Gables.” Its looking really good and I am happy to be working on it. I play the part of Gilbert Blithe.
PCM: It’s a favorite book of mine. Were you familiar with it before you were cast in the new TV show?
LZ: My upstairs neighbor loved that book and shared the stories with me. Since then, I have also watched many different versions of the TV shows and the film.
PCM: Were there surprises being on the set?
LZ: This was my third film so I am familiar with being on sets, but there was nothing quite like this one.
LZ: Everyone was doing it for the passion and art of filmmaking and I hope that it really comes through on the screen when people watch this movie.
PCM: What do you hope that people will get out of this movie?
LZ: A lot of this movie is really about a series of gestures that are about being able to overcome barriers of time and age, so that people can leave with an understanding of how to truly connect with other