Radnor returns to college roots in Arts
Most actors would be satisfied starring in an Emmy-nominated sitcom. Perhaps they‚Äôd film a small movie role during a hiatus then sit back, relax and rake in the syndication benefits.
But most actors aren‚Äôt Josh Radnor.
When he‚Äôs not working on How I Met Your Mother, Radnor spends his time writing, directing and starring in some of his own films.
‚ÄúI get kind of restless,‚ÄĚ Radnor said. ‚ÄúI like work that seems meaningful, and the show has been such a blessing in my life, but it can only satisfy so much creatively. There were a lot of parts of myself that I feel like I can‚Äôt use on the show. Crafting my own stories and collaborating [was] just really thrilling to me.‚ÄĚ
His first feature, Happythankyoumoreplease, won the U.S. Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Radnor‚Äôs latest effort is Liberal Arts, a quiet but beautiful ode to college life and the trials and tribulations of growing up. And though the film was squeezed rather exhaustively into his schedule, Radnor was able to complete and screen the film in less than two years.
‚ÄúMy first film took a lot longer to write and [fund], and I wrote the draft of this very quickly this one summer, and it sort of tumbled out of me,‚ÄĚ Radnor said. ‚ÄúThe producers who financed [Liberal Arts] were thrilled with Happythankyoumoreplease and so we were financed 11 months after finishing the script, which is unheard of.‚ÄĚ
Shooting began a few months after financing was secure, and Radnor was able to re-experience college life ‚ÄĒ even at his alma mater.
In Liberal Arts, Radnor stars as Jesse, a college admissions counselor living a mundane existence in New York City. When Jesse is invited back to Kenyon College by an old professor, he meets the beautiful and impossibly intelligent Zibby, played by Elizabeth Olsen.
Radnor wasn‚Äôt the only alum to revisit his roots: Veteran actress Allison Janney ‚ÄĒ who makes a thrilling appearance as a hyper-sexed professor ‚ÄĒ also attended the small liberal arts school.
‚ÄúThat was terrific, when [Janney‚Äôs] name came up in discussions,‚ÄĚ Radnor said. ‚ÄúI love the Kenyon connection; it just gives it a little more richness.‚ÄĚ
Radnor‚Äôs connection to the college helped the film get an authentic feel.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve heard from a lot of people who went to other liberal arts colleges and other universities, and it seems to have some sort of appeal and connection,‚ÄĚ Radnor said.
By shooting on Kenyon‚Äôs actual campus, the film showcases ‚ÄĒ in a dramatically real way ‚ÄĒ the beautiful averageness of college life. From Zibby‚Äôs cluttered dorm room to arguments about vampire novels, the film reeks of reality.
‚ÄúIt was really thrilling to shoot on campus,‚ÄĚ Radnor said. ‚ÄúWe had all these Kenyon students who were graduating or still in school, and it was really great to see kids witness and be able to help them have a great first [filming] experience.‚ÄĚ
The subject matter of the film seems ridiculous at first: The young and beautiful Zibby and the disheveled Jesse start a relationship through beautifully written letters. But Radnor knows how to dig deeper into his stories, and keep them rooted in realism.
‚ÄúI suppose there‚Äôs not a lot of robots and superheros,‚ÄĚ Radnor said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm always attracted to films that feel relevant with real people who go through real stuff. I think people are wrestling with self-acceptance and the kind of daily struggle of being a human being and being awake and alert in the world. I think that‚Äôs a heroic battle and worthy of putting up on the screen.‚ÄĚ
In Liberal Arts, Jesse battles with aging while Zibby tries to grow up at an accelerated rate. And while age versus maturity is certainly a running theme throughout the film, Radnor notes that the idea of rebellion is also an important theme to factor in.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a time to say yes, and a time to say no,‚ÄĚ Radnor said. ‚ÄúOne of the things I‚Äôve been realizing is that in the ‚Äô50s, it was all about repression, limitations and restrictions. The ‚Äô60s were all about busting free, and now we‚Äôre in a time where you can be anything. The real rebellion is all about restraint, and that‚Äôs something that Jesse‚Äôs wrestling with.‚ÄĚ
Liberal Arts will be released Friday, Sept. 14th.