Thomas Mann has done his share of high school movies — including the found-footage party flick "Project X" and this year's action comedy "Barely Lethal" — but he doesn't think he'll do better playing a teenager than with his Sundance hit "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," and he'd like to grow up now, if that's OK with Hollywood.
You brought both this film and "The Stanford Prison Experiment" to Sundance this year. That had to be a cool experience.
Even if I have another film there, it won't come close to matching the whirlwind experience that this year was. I was just excited to go to Sundance. I felt like those two movies were really a turning point for me. It's like a second phase of my career now and I'm sort of growing up. And while Greg is an immature character, it's the most mature role of my career by far. And it's the most of myself I've ever had to leave on screen. So to be recognized in that way for those movies that are both very close to me was awesome.
As an actor, do you get to decide how long you play high school age? Or is that not up to you?
Obviously now I'm trying to get away from it, and I sort of have. In "The Stanford Prison Experiment" I'm playing early 20s, and the next film I'm doing this summer is early 20s. I feel like "Me and Earl" is my quintessential high school movie. I can't go back. I really grew up a lot, both as an actor and just going through the emotional journey that the character goes through and the self-discovery of that. It would be so hard for me to go back and play these old beats.
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The industry may have its own ideas about what age you can play that don't align with your own.
Yeah, and that's fine. I look young and I can still play 18. I'm just grateful that people want to cast me in anything at all. There's a lot of people that can't fine work, so I'm so grateful that I'm able to make a living doing this. And if I have to wait a little bit longer to play early 20s, then that's not a big deal.