Isaiah Lehtinen spoke with Solzy at the Movies about starring in Chandler Levack’s I Like Movies and being named a TIFF Rising Star.
I Like Movies premieres September 9 at the Scotiabank in Toronto.
Congrats on being named as one of the TIFF Rising Stars! How honored are you?
Isaiah Lehtinen: I’m really excited. Being an actor is like really uncertain and you’ll always have a million people telling you, oh, well, you need your backup plan. Are you gonna go to college and this and that. It’s just like, I’m not there yet but it’s a really, really nice pat on the shoulder pointing the right direction that says I’m really doing the right thing and following my dreams.
What was it about the script that drew you to the role?
Isaiah Lehtinen: I didn’t get the script right away. Upon the first round of auditioning, I just had the character breakdown and access to maybe a few pages of the script. Everything I had read that Chandler wrote at that point, I just felt such an extreme kinship to Lawrence. Movies, 100% weren’t my hyper fixation. I’m more of an anime and records kind of guy but it was the same deal. Kind of a sour grapes like, oh, well, I don’t want to be friends with those people anyway. They don’t know Evangelion. You know what I mean? Being an embittered young man in high school, that was totally how I was. Growing up and growing out of that and growing past that was a big, big point in my life. It really stuck with me. It really resonated with me really heavily when I found the script.
When Lawrence says that Shrek isn’t cinema, I was laughing up a storm.
Isaiah Lehtinen: How could he say that? He doesn’t know. Practice Keno dude.
What do you typically look for in a character when you read a screenplay?
Isaiah Lehtinen: Particularly with this one, I really liked the emotional depth and the complexity of the character. You know what I mean? I think when I was talking to some people about it upon my initial read through, people were like, sick, Dude, he’s like a fucking incel dude. But I think the character is so much more complex than that and being able to bring that multi-dimensionality and empathy and sympathy to the character was really important to me. I want people to understand and so he’s not a one dimensional caricature of the guy who’s mad on Twitter. It’s a complex, full-blown human being.
Video stores have become a dying breed with the rise of streaming. What sort of prep did you do for the role?
Isaiah Lehtinen: Oh, man. In regards to videos, it was all really there on the page for me in that regard but I had just tons of movies to dig into. I was given such a comprehensive list of films from Chandler. It was more extensive on that end. In terms of video store experience, before I had confirmed the movie, I had done three auditions for it or something like that. I was standing in a Black Dog Video in Vancouver on Commercial Drive before they closed down. I was just looking through the discount bins to see what they had. I pulled out a copy of Punch-Drunk Love and I had a weird moment with it in the video store. And then at that moment, I knew. Also, in my childhood, there was a Blockbuster in the big strip mall with McDonald’s and Burger King in Nanaimo. It was always quite the outing to go to McDonald’s and then go to the video store and then you go to the dollar store that’s right next to the video store. Thinking about that, you know what I mean?
Yeah. Now it’s spend an hour, two hours deciding what you want to watch on Netflix or whichever app.
Isaiah Lehtinen: And sadly, I was such a baby. In 2003. I was five years old. All of those memories to me are very reminiscent of renting games and SpongeBob. I had SpongeBob DVDs.
At any point, did you ever feel like Chandler was a first-time feature filmmaker?
Isaiah Lehtinen: I think there were some road bumps that we ran into that were indicative of that it was a first feature, but more so in terms of, oh, we just don’t have enough money to keep filming this scene forever. Not so much—Chandler was very surprisingly confident for a first-time feature director. I’ve been working in traditional film and TV since I was a child. She brought it down, she did her thing.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
Isaiah Lehtinen: Oh, really fun. It was really cool to be on a set where everyone was relatively young and fresh out of film school and kind of had similar interests. Being on something like The Good Doctor or The Flash or something like that, a higher budget TV product, there’s people who’ve been in the industry for 30 years. It was cool to just work with young people who are really passionate about film and other things and understanding of the character, too.
Are you looking forward to doing anything in particular during TIFF outside of obligations for this film and being a Rising Star?
Isaiah Lehtinen: Ooh, yes, yes, yes. Me and my partner are gonna go. And yeah, I want to see a bunch of movies while I’m there. I really want to see The People’s Joker. I’m really excited about—that looks really dope. I really want to see The Whale. I just want to see tons and tons of movies. I know Rolling Loud, the rap festival, is happening in Toronto during TIFF and I really want to go see Little Uzi Vert. He’s headlining on the Friday night but that’s the premiere day. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make that work. I might be a little tuckered out boy.
So many things to do, not enough time!
Isaiah Lehtinen: Yeah, no, I’m worried I’m just gonna have my ass super busy with all this Rising Star stuff now and I won’t get to do anything fun but work is work. I’m there to work.
I’ve just gotten so used to the whole virtual film festival where you have so many hours or days to watch a film. And now it’s like, well, it’s either see it this time, hope you get a press ticket for the public screening or let’s just wait until released.
Isaiah Lehtinen: What are you most excited to see, Danielle?
Glass Onion and The Fabelmans.
Isaiah Lehtinen: The Fabelmans. Everyone wants to see The Fabelmans. I definitely want to see The Fabelmans. I’m really hoping that with the Rising Star thing, I’ll be able to pull going into the Spielberg premiere.
I’m not doing what I do without Jurassic Park so being in the same room as Steven Spielberg would be pretty huge.
Isaiah Lehtinen: Yeah, yeah. That’s pretty gnarly
It was so nice to meet you. Thank you again for your time and congrats on everything.
Isaiah Lehtinen: Hey, thank you so kindly, Danielle. Thank you for the kind words and in questions. I appreciate it.
I Like Movies holds its world premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Discovery program.
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