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Cannes: Caleb Landry Jones is Conflicted About Celebrity

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Cannes: Caleb Landry Jones is Conflicted About Celebrity
Photo Source: Getty Images
Fidgeting while repeatedly tousling his long ginger hair, actor Caleb Landry Jones looks like someone who is uncomfortable with fame. Known for his roles in "X-Men: First Class" and "Contraband," this young Texan is shaking things up at Cannes in "Antiviral," the first feature film by Brandon Cronenberg, son of the legendary David Cronenberg.

He's on his fifth or sixth set of interviews with multiple reporters, but as he starts talking about acting and the film's message about celebrity, a deep passion comes through his voice.

In the film, he plays Syd, a young man who works at a clinic that sells strains of celebrity diseases to die-hard fans. Syd has been injecting himself with diseases to sneak out of the clinic and to sell on the black market. He is eventually given the job of collecting a virus from starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) and injects himself before realizing that the disease is killing her and seems incurable.

With the film resting on his shoulders, Landry Jones talked about acting, celebrity, and "selling out.”

Are you a method actor and did you have to get sick?
Caleb Landry Jones: Well I don't know if I'm a method actor. I was sick a few years back while I was shooting "X-Men." I had tonsillitis for about six months…I knew that I needed to remember what that was, because I knew I was going to have to use it some day. Sure enough, "Antiviral” comes my way, and I knew that I had to use what had had happened in that film.

Were you very nervous about the part?
Landry Jones: I was very nervous. When I read the script, I obviously was in love with the brilliance. It was written so well. I just moved to L.A. a few years before, and I felt this message was important, and I wanted to share this message with Los Angeles. I met Brandon a few weeks after reading the script, and I was very scared to do it because this was the first time I had ever been given the opportunity to lead a film.

Secondly, the physicality of the character and how much rests on that from beginning to end - the deterioration and how precise that needs to be. I was worried about that. And more so, I was worried about screwing up the film for Brandon because it was his first film, and I knew there would be many eyes on it just because he's his father's son. The last thing I wanted to do was [mess] it up, and at the same time, I felt like I was the one who was supposed to do it. Brandon assured me that he wanted me to play Syd for some reason or another. So of course, I sucked it up.

Was the physicality of the role a challenge?
Landry Jones: It was a great challenge, and I was blessed to have been challenged in that way. I wonder if i will ever get the opportunity to do something in that physical way again. You don't know.

How do you act sick? What's the key to it internally?
Landry Jones: As far as the sick thing, in the eyes and the overwhelming exhaustion that needs to be exuded, that's what was so handy with me being sick for so long before. I remembered what it felt like, and somehow was able to bring it back.

The character evolved without me kind of knowing it. You try to put yourself in the mindset of the character. Before scenes, if I was supposed to be tired - and this is where people will say method I suppose - I would make myself tired, [doing] push ups, sit ups. Or if I thought that I needed to be a little bit out of it, I'd get dizzy before a scene. I did that once. I punched a lot of things during this film. I punched a lot of things because somehow punching things created pain in the eyes, and that was the only way I knew how to realistically present this for the screen.

What did you punch?
Landry Jones: Oh anything, not people, not people. Walls, floors, anything.

If celebrity is a kind of disease, then there is really a growing rift between Hollywood blockbusters and the kind of films we are seeing at Cannes. As an actor, how do you fit into both of these worlds?

Yes, I think as an actor in today's market that you do unfortunately. And I was blessed that "X-Men" was a film with a superb cast, and I was working with great actors. I was very lucky in that sense because you are right you have to, as some people would see it, and I see it sometimes as "selling out." But you have to to get films like this. If it wasn't for films such as "X-Men" and "Contraband," I would have never been able to do this because there would not have been enough to my past. They wouldn't have been able to make the film with me. They wouldn't have been able to finance it with me. And those films I know helped a great deal in allowing this to happen. So without them, I would not be here.

Keep up with all the fun at the Cannes Film Festival by checking out daily reports on BackStage.com, and follow @BackStageCast on Twitter for live updates.

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