Charlyne Yi’s hybrid documentary, Paper Heart, has turned the young comic into an award winning filmmaker. Now she wants to come clean. After all, it’s one thing to stretch a few truths in her movie about looking for love. It’s another when it’s her actual life.
Joanna Langfield: Your film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance and has earned very positive reviews. How do you feel now that it is finally opening in theaters?
Charlyne Yi: I am like SO nervous about it. I hope people will come. I’m SO nervous: I just keep thinking about it. The whole thing’s been such a roller coaster. I don’t want to set myself up to be disappointed. The movie was going to go straight to DVD and then it got picked up. I feel like there were so many highs and lows throughout this whole course. There are so many small movies that come out and they just kind of go away. I don’t want that to happen.
Langfield: Well, you certainly are getting a lot of press. There are endless posts on the internet concerning your love affair with co-star Michael Cera and, of course, your age. I understand you purposely misled some people with that.
Yi: It’s so weird how these things can affect how a person reacts to you and how important it is to them when they don’t even know you. If I was 33, so what? I’m not, but what difference would it have made? I lied about it because all these people were like ‘wow: you’re so young and you made a film.’ So I said, ‘well, actually, I’m 33’ and they were so disappointed. It was like my movie became less of an achievement.
Look. I’m freaked out with all this. It’s so scary. I’ve never experienced this ever, but when I got off the plane, there were these two guys waiting for me. They were very nice and they asked for my autograph. They had stills from Paper Heart and I couldn’t figure out who did they know I was going to be at this airport? Strangers knowing where I am, when they shouldn’t have that information, really creeps me out. I hope it doesn’t get worse, affecting my privacy and my anonymity. I want success, but I want to keep my sanity as well.
Langfield: The song you performed on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien was about a breakup. There certainly has been a lot of speculation about your rumored romantic breakup with your co-star, Michael Cera. I know you don’t want to talk about your personal life, but wasn’t performing that song kind of making a statement?
Yi: I actually didn’t think about how people are saying Michael and I broke up. It isn’t true. We were never together so we couldn’t break up. I wrote that song when I was maybe 18. The producer wanted me to perform a song and that one just fit. I was completely unaware. It’s just a love song. And it’s the shortest one I have.
Langfield: My favorite line in the movie was when the Charlyne character said, “I want to be HIS girlfriend; I don’t want to be A girlfriend.”
Yi: Yeah, now that was from a personal experience. I can’t take it when my guy friends meet somebody’s new girlfriend and they treat her like she’s just a girlfriend! She’s a human being, too! She’s really nice, she’s funny, she has a personality, learn her name! She’s not John’s girlfriend: she’s Melissa. I think it’s so important to be an individual and to be treated like one. Even though you’re in a relationship, you’re still two people. And that’s my rant.
Langfield: You’re writing a script now for Judd Apatow. As a young woman of mixed heritage, do you feel you’re bringing a new perspective to contemporary moviemaking?
Yi: It’s been harder to get where I am not because I’m a woman or because of my background, but because I’m a weird person, who doesn’t fit into a conventional norm. You know: I’m not, say, Nicole Kidman. I just don’t meet the criteria of the stereotypical woman. So it’s really exciting I get to play the lead in Paper Heart. Most of the stuff I get to audition for is like the wacky neighbor. But wow, it would be awesome if I got to open things up for people like me. Changing the world. Like William Wallace. He was the guy in Braveheart. Cool.
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