Parenting Charlie Bartlett
One of the biggest pleasures of CHARLIE BARTLETT for Anton Yelchin was getting to work with such a stellar cast of co-stars, including Oscar®-nominated and Golden Globe winning actor Robert Downey Jr. and Golden Globe nominee Hope Davis as the outrageously dysfunctional and not-very-authoritative authority figures in his midst - each as lost and uncertain as any angst-filled adolescent.
Yelchin was especially thrilled to collaborate with Downey Jr. as Principal Gardner, who becomes Charlie Bartlett's nemesis in both his social and his love lives since he is also the father of the girl for whom Charlie has fallen head over heels. "Robert's incredible to watch, just the fluidity of how he expresses himself. I've learned so much from him," says Yelchin.
Jon Poll always saw Principal Gardner as a man who was once a lot like Charlie Bartlett, but was battered into a world-weary cynicism. "I think Gardner can see himself in Charlie and responds to that at the same time that he reacts in another way as a Principal and a father," says the director.
From the start, Poll considered Robert Downey, Jr. the ultimate actor for the role and was not disappointed. "Robert could not have been a more generous person for me or the other actors to work with," he says. "He's amazingly down-to-earth and filled with funny, bright, real ideas. And of course he brings a lot of real life stuff to the part. His character has a lot of issues but it's refreshing to see Robert come in and do that."
Downey Jr. loved the script but admits to seeing a certain irony in being cast as the father and authority figure instead of the young rebel. "We all talked about how I would have been Charlie Bartlett 20 years ago," the actor laughs. "But that's part of what makes the relationship between Charlie and Gardner so interesting is that they see themselves in each other. You know, every wild guy's secretly a square and every square is secretly a wild guy."
Regardless of that recognition, Charlie and Gardner find themselves in an epic student-Principal battle. "I think Gardner really feels he is competing with Charlie for the affection of his daughter. But Charlie's not the typical, difficult teenager that Gardner's used to dealing with - he's a lot smarter and has many more weapons in his arsenal. In the end though, Gardner puts Charlie through his paces by confronting him with a very real, adult crisis. It comes to a very funny and poignant climax."
Says producer David Permut of their scenes together: "I loved watching Robert go into a rage and Anton not quite sure how to handle that - it made for amazing emotional moments." That emotional alchemy also impressed screenwriter Gustin Nash. "I remember watching one rehearsal between Anton, Robert and Kat and seeing such incredible chemistry, it felt really good," he says.
Charlie Bartlett has an equally complex relationship with the other main adult in his life - his extremely wealthy but completely overwhelmed mother, Marilyn, who is given to reading how-to-be-a-better-parent books in the hopes of connecting with her precocious son. Jon Poll always believed Hope Davis would be great for the part and was absolutely thrilled when she accepted the role.
"This is a really tricky, important character and she plays it perfectly," Poll says. "Hope is someone who, in the matter of just a few lines, can bring a character alive with both humor and pathos. It was also one of those little grace notes of luck that the intimacy between Anton and Hope [who previously starred as mother and son in 'Hearts in Atlantis'] was almost immediate and there was a real shorthand of mother and son."
With children of her own, Davis was instantly drawn in<
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