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The Brass Teapot tells the tale of a magical two thousand year-old teapot that dramatically affects all who possess it. No, it’s not Marvel’s new comic superflick, but this adult fairy tale still packs quite the emotional punch. That’s because of talented first time feature director, Ramaa Mosley, and her preternaturally gifted young stars, Michael Angarano and Juno Temple. Each sat down individually for a roundtable discussion of their fascinating new film.

 

 Ramaa Mosley 

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Mosley, a self described comic book geek, has seen her career flourish in commercials and music videos, but dove head first into the altogether different experience of making The Brass Teapot. “I knew it would be near impossible, but I wanted the film to be a mini Marvel (referring to the eponymous comics and film giant). I wanted to make a movie that with very little money had a very big feel, but I’ll admit, the majority of my commercials have a bigger budget than this film did. We shot for so little money; 22 days with all these stunts and visual effects, so to try to make a movie feel big under those constraints is really challenging and you kind of have to be maniacal.”

Luckily, prior to the start of production, Mosley and her screenwriter, Tim Macy (who adapted the script from his own short story), had done their homework. “As we started working together (after Mosley literally Googled, “best short story” and discovered Tim’s) and doing research about the brass teapot, we decided to make a comic book, since we both grew up loving comic books. I thought let’s make a graphic novel first to get the vision down and then adapt it, so we began that journey and it turns out that writing a comic book is so much harder than writing a screenplay.” However, the graphic novel did end up providing life-saving storyboards during the fast paced and hectic shooting.

With so many i‘s to dot and t‘s to cross in such a short time, Mosley was fortunate enough to have a cast fronted by two of the finest young actors working today, including of course, the singular Juno Temple. “I knew I wanted to work with Juno. This was over two years ago and she had done Dirty Girls and Little Birds and it was clear she was incredibly talented. The thing I had heard about her was that from her dialect work to her character development, she really goes for it. Then, when she walked into the meeting, I couldn’t believe it, but she literally looked just like Alice (the comic book character). That just did something for me as a director, the two things colliding. And then she said to me, promise me I get to play this part! and she’s just so winning and endearing, I was sold.”

Mosley continued, “From there, we were introduced to Michael Angarano by one of our executive producers. He wasn’t really on my radar, but when I started researching him, I found that he had done so much of this incredible physical comedy. He’s an incredible actor as well, so we did a reading with him and Juno. You just never know what’s gonna happen, but the two of them together, it was like sparks flying. “

Clearly fascinated by the millennia old origin story of the teapot however, Ms. Mosley never forgot who the film’s real star was. “Doing the research (on the teapot) was as much fun as making the movie because I love mythology and every great comic book starts with mythology. During that process we met up with the Theosophist’s Society, which is a group that is actually searching for the teapot. Originally founded in India, they are now based out of Hunan Province, China and work as treasure hunters searching for the pot, which they believe is the true Holy Grail. “

Whether or not that is true, the quest to make this film would prove its own personal Crusade for the director who even mortgaged her house in the process. Yet like any noble journey, it fortified her. (The making of this film) was physically, and psychologically and emotionally painful, but I think that that is great. It was my first movie and I survived it and came through.”

 

Michael Angarano

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Charismatic former child star, Michael Angarano’s journey through the making of the film might not have been as arduous, nor did he experience the same mythmaking fascination as Mosley, but the actor had his reasons for wanting to be a part of it. “What matters most to me (in choosing a role) is a director’s personal relationship with the material and how well they can translate that into actual direction, and Ramaa was just so passionate and excited about this teapot that I just had to be a part of it. But Juno is also one of the main reasons I wanted to do the movie. She’s a diverse and malleable character actress, who’s almost unaware of it. She makes these extremely brave choices, and I was excited to team up with somebody my age, who works like that.”

When it came to the teapot’s backstory however, Angarano was happy to leave that to his director. “I read the comic book and was aware of the mythology and of what Ramaa had built upon it, but I really got all (the backstory) from the script. And in terms of my character, it wasn’t completely necessary for me to know about (the teapot). The world that John lives in, as opposed to Alice’s (Temple’s) world with the teapot, is a completely different world; his is an an ignorance is bliss kinda place.”

Though when it comes to his real life, that fact is anything but the case for this veteran of the biz of almost two decades. “Apparently you need 20 years of experience nowadays,” he bemuses referring to the proliferation of talented actors that came from the ranks of child stardom (Gosling, Gordon-Levitt, LeBeouf). Or simply some rehearsal time… “We had a considerable amount more that you usually get on a film. Juno and I were fortunate enough to go and location scout (which gave them more intimate time together before filming).

“I kind of know Juno anyway so when we were off I would make her watch movies like (Igmar Bergman’s) Scenes From A Marriage so we could develop a cinematic shorthand, which helps more than anything.” Though the actor goes on to say, “being away somewhere on location for 25 to 30 days, makes rehearsal almost unnecessary because its so intense you just go for it. That’s why I think big movies with a lot of rehearsal time, but where you just go home and don’t spend any time with the cast are completely different”.

 

Juno Temple

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Finally, what can I say about Juno Temple that her director and costar haven’t already stated? Oh yeah, that she’s the best young actress making films today; a charismatic, thoughtful, and engaged delight, working in this business for all the right reasons. “I got sent the script in England over Christmas and I met with Ramaa and it was just this immediate connection of us talking about this grown up fairy tale. It was interesting because the script was so light to me, it had this lighthearted fairy tale aspect, but it was definitely a Grimm’s Fairytale. I’ve always been obsessed with (fairy tales) and stories with a moral lesson. I think you can learn a lot from a story with a moral behind it, whether you believe in it or not.”

Yet Temple herself agrees that a spoonful of sugar always helps the medicine go down. “Playing her, my immediate reaction was she’s an addict, this is where she takes it, to this really dark place. So it was important that I had this great collaboration with Ramaa and Michael, where there was comedy brought into it, because I think’s that’s what makes you stop and listen. It’s a fairy tale, but it’s also a love story so you need moments of laughter and levity. (For instance), it’s awesome watching Michael throw himself around like silly putty. He’s hysterical.”

Though it wasn’t all fun and games on the set for the brilliant actress. “The physical scenes were hard because I hadn’t done a lot of stunt-y stuff. There was also this scene where (Michael and I) have just been robbed by the Hasidic Jews and I just start crying hysterically on the floor. That was a really hard scene for me because I was like wow, I really wouldn’t cry about this as Juno. I really had to figure that one out. It was challenging to keep a character arc going when you have so many different aspects of a story going on and when the character is so far removed from who you are, but it’s important as an actress to challenge yourself.”

Naturally, the dedicated and hardworking Temple didn’t exactly relate to Alice. “I wasn’t judging her, I’ve just never felt the pang of God, I wish my house was as big as hers! With Alice, there was this idea of starting at 0 and wanting to be at 100 and I kind of can’t fathom that. Being in this industry, I think it’s so important to audition for things. If you just get offered a job, which is rare and few and far between, you get on set and worry, can I do this?”

“Every time I’ve earned a paycheck I feel liberated and proud. Alice misses the boat (when it comes to this line of thinking) and she doesn’t understand that. Growing up is weird but vital and I think she’s a bit lazy and her ego’s hurt. Its almost like she creates this internal peer pressure where she feels that the outside world expects certain things of her. Yet her husband thinks she’s the be-all-end-all of the universe and its like wake up and see what is in front of you! It was very interesting to play her and see, wow, this is what she cares about.

Interesting and at times, arduous, but that’s what we’ve come to expect of our girl, famous for her diverse roles (from Killer Joe to next year’s Maleficent, opposite Angelina Jolie). I love playing characters that are so different from my upbringing. I have people that help me prepare for each role (specifically dialect coaches) and that keeps me learning. It’s like a constant adventure, and I hope to keep growing and evolving.”