Speaking at the inaugural London Sundance film festival How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor and indie flick actor-director discusses his new film Liberal Arts; the joys of scriptwriting; and why we all need to chill the hell out about getting older.
With his leading man looks and mainstream appeal, it’s with some surprise that Josh Radnor – aka Ted Mosby in CBS hit How I Met Your Mother – has ventured into independent film territory.
Liberal Arts is Radnor’s second foray into acting, writing and directing, following the release of Happythankyoumoreplease in 2010. But while his debut was met with mixed reviews, Liberal Arts has so far been well received by the critics – getting a standing ovation at its screening in Sundance in Utah. At a busy press briefing we catch up with him.
What is it like to be doing Sundance in London?
‘This is great, we are guinea pigs. It’s a real thrill to be invited here and to be among a small selection of films forming the festival this year. This is the most fun for me, bringing it to new crowds and seeing that you don’t have to be a liberal arts grad that was brought up in Ohio to enjoy the film. Doing the screenings is probably the best part of doing movies, I love making it but then being able to bring it to people is a very exciting exchange and to do it overseas – that’s a real kick.’
Can you explain what the Liberal Arts are?
‘They are the kind of secular humanist courses that you study at university, so you’ve got your literature history, philosophy. Basically every course of study that doesn’t prepare you for a job in the real world. The only thing I left school with was the ability to make a film about the liberal arts, so that’s what I did.’
The film is about coming to terms with aging, is 20 the new 30?
‘I don’t think you ever have to grow up, there aren’t any rules but at a certain point you have to stop being a jackass. What is 20? It’s being lost. I guess we are delaying the ‘getting your act together’ thing. In our society there is this fetishisation of youth, and fear of getting older. And I’ve found there are some parts of getting older that are much nicer than they tell you. There is this conspiracy of silence around it.
‘The joys of life ultimately come from being committed to something and caring about something. Being passionate, not cynical and tying yourself down in the best possible way, which doesn’t mean you have to be married and have children. That is the arc of the movie, where (lead character) Jesse realises where he is and where he is going is vastly more exciting than looking back.’
Do you prefer acting or writer?
‘Being an actor is a bit like playing the violin in an orchestra, whereas writing is a bit like being the conductor, where you have more instruments at your disposal and you can create a bigger sound, but there’s also something thrilling about playing the instrument.
‘In some ways acting scares me the most because you feel the most vulnerable. There’s something so satisfying about sitting in a coffee shop dreaming this world, seeing it come to life, shape it and take the audience where it needs to go.’
Liberal Arts will be screening in UK cinemas in the autumn.
Photo by Kristin Dos Santos courtesy of Flickr