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The Education of Charlie Banks

Fred "Limp Bizkit" Durst directs a bevy of rising young stars in this surprisingly sensitive coming-of-age flick.

Charlie Banks

The Education of Charlie Banks is a sensitive, tough, and touching coming-of-age story that's a great showcase for some up and coming actors—Jesse Eisenberg, Eva Amurri, Jason Ritter, Sebastian Stan—a smart screenplay by Peter Elkoff, and a debut director by the name of Fred Durst.

Cue the sound of a record scratch. Fred "I did it all for the nookie" Durst? Yup, when your movie is cast with mostly unknowns, much of the attention will go to the director, who's making a jump from fronting the million-selling, ubiquitous, and obnoxious rap/metal band of the late '90s/early '00s to following his true passion. As Durst said in his director's statement, "I am finally doing what I feel I was put on Earth to do... tell stories through the eye of a movie camera," and maybe that is the case. We'll see. (Interestingly enough, Charlie led to Durst's second movie, The Longshots, starring Ice Cube, another artist who has taken on quite a few roles, from menacing gangster rapper to cuddly family film guy.)

Charlie Banks
, which premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival (where it won the Made in NY Award), deserves attention beyond the fact that it's by a formerly notorious name. Taking place in the '70s and early '80s, it's a period piece about a young kid, the titular Charlie (Eisenberg), growing up in Greenwich Village, NYC. In high school, he's a witness to a terrible scene at a party—the local bully, Mick (a truly scary Ritter) nearly beats two guys to death. Charlie testifies against Mick, but then he decides to retract his statement. Cut to Charlie's college years, where his world is very different. He's upstate at Vassar, along with his best friend Danny (Chris Marquette), where they study, flirt with pretty girls (including Amurri as Charlie's crush, Mary), and hobnob with the upper echelon, embodied by Stan (currently in Gossip Girl and Kings) doing his best louche drunk.

When Mick suddenly reappears, a wrench is thrown into the mix. Does Mick know about Charlie's snitching? Is he still violent and angry? Can the poor kid swing with the swells at his exclusive school? Durst does a good job with Elkoff's complex, nuanced script, creating a believable period feel and queasy, what's-going-to-happen-next? tension as the audience's sympathy switches from Charlie to Mick and back again.
 



Tribeca recently talked with Amurri, a native New Yorker (and Susan Sarandon's daughter) best known for her role as the badass in Saved!, about filming Charlie Banks and the most disappointing historical site in America.

Tribeca: So let's get this out of the way. How was it working with Fred Durst? Were you dubious?

Eva Amurri: I had every preconceived notion about him that everyone else has, and by working with him, all those notions were definitely dispelled. What you know about him [as the frontman of Limp Bizkit] is a persona. I didn't know that about him until I worked with him in a professional way. Filmmaking is one of his greatest passions. That was definitely evident in how seriously he took this project. He really stood behind it—it was his baby for a long, long time.

Tribeca: What were your impressions of the script?

EA: It was a very well written script right from the beginning. What's special about Peter is that he really did grow up in Greenwich Village, where the film takes place. My stepdad [Tim Robbins] grew up in the same neighborhood. There were a lot of experiences in the script that I had heard about from my own family. So we were kind of merging our lives together in our own way.

Tribeca: The film won a "Made in NY" award, but a lot of it was filmed in Rhode Island thanks to tax breaks, right?

EA: We filmed the college years at Brown [from which Amurri graduated in 2007], so it was a special experience for me. It's really pretty there. Most of the stuff filmed in New York, it was the early years. We filmed a bunch in the East Village, in out-of-the-way locations. All the interiors were filmed in Providence, with a lot of brownstones in town playing New York.

Charlie BanksTribeca: What was it like balancing college and acting?

EA: It was extremely difficult. I can't even tell you how many times I took Amtrak into the city for one audition. And Brown doesn't have the lightest of courseloads. I'm so happy I completed school and I have that under my belt. It widened my perspective, which is always important as an actor.

Tribeca: What attracted you to the role of Mary?

EA: First of all, it was incredibly fun to play the love interest of two characters. It was a cool opportunity to be the only girl in an all-male cast. It's such a different energy when you get a group of guys together. I could relate to Mary's trying to figure out who she likes. Love and relationships, there's a huge difference between who you think you want and what's best for you.

Tribeca: What was it like working with Jesse and Jason?

EA: Jesse's so smart. He's such a thoughtful, intellectual, interested person, which I love. He has a very quick wit and we would play a lot of wordplay games on set. He has this website startup [Oneupme.com] which is all about wordplay. Jason's such a sweetheart. He had actually never done any roles [like Mick] at all—Fred took this leap of faith and cast him. I went on a road trip with the guys: we went to see Plymouth Rock and went down to the Cape and Provincetown.

Tribeca: Plymouth Rock. Possibly the most disappointing historical site in the country. It's a rock in a cage on the beach!

EA: I know! We actually took a series of photos in front of it. We all did a series of our most disappointed faces. That's why we kept on our road trip. We had to keep going. We had thought it was going to culminate in this amazing experience...

Tribeca: What are you up to next?

EA: I have a movie coming out in the fall called Middle of Nowhere, which I'm super excited about because I'm an associate producer on the project. It's with Anton Yelchin [who can also be seen in the upcoming Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation]. I call him my big-budget boy. He's an extremely talented actor. It's a young, romantic comedy-type situation. I also shot a pilot called Possible Side Effects for Showtime. That was super fun and also a New York production.

Tribeca: What's the work that you do with the UN?

EA: I'm a UN/USA Goodwill Ambassador, and I work specifically with the program Hero. I go about twice a year to Africa. It's an education program, an awareness-building program for kids in Africa who are suffering from AIDS or the aftermath of AIDS. It's basically a school-building and production program where we help them rebuild schools, make the schools safer, revamp the curriculum and give them the resources they need. Everybody deserves an excellent education.

Tribeca: Speaking of "Education," is it a little strange to talk about a movie that you filmed three years ago? What do you think of Charlie Banks?

EA: I think because so much time has passed, it makes it a lot more precious to me. I feel so strongly about the movie and I really love it still. It's one of my favorite projects I've worked on.
 



The Education of Charlie Banks opens Friday in New York at the Sunshine Cinema. Click here to buy tickets.


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