Steve Zahn is a mellow young man and as an award-winning actor, he skillfully used this characteristic and beautifully encased it in gentle intensity as Mike, the character in his latest film, Management, co-starring Jennifer Aniston (Sue.) It’s love at first sight for Mike when Sue checks into his parents’ motel in Arizona and what ensues is a charming, bumpy journey to win the very resistant girl of his dreams. The Santa Monica Mirror recently did an exclusive interview with Zahn. Mirror: Congratulations on creating one of the most charming characters to hit the screen in a long time.Zahn: Thank you. You know its part of my job to promote this movie, but it sure is a lot easier and more fun when you like something. Mirror: What attracted you to the script?Zahn: I read it at home and thought the story refreshing and different. I made a career playing characters who were cynical and Mike is the opposite of that, never cynical and unable to lie.Mirror: You captured his determination and drive, and wrapped in disarming sweetness as your behavior could easily been perceived as stalking Sue. Zahn: That was a concern. Mike could never be creepy or the film would not work. Mirror: Was it different working with Jennifer than other actors with whom you’ve worked?Zahn: It was different because I never worked on a project where I connected with someone that quickly, not just on a personal level, but as actors using a similar approach to working. We had a week of rehearsals and knew we were going to succeed. I’ve never done a job where I couldn’t wait to get on the set. Mirror: Which scene was the most fun for you and the most difficult?Zahn: The most fun scenes were with Woody (Harrelson who plays Jennifer’s over-the-top boyfriend Jango.) I think Jennifer had the most difficult character because she’s the one who had to convey whether or not I’m creepy and at the same time had to show interest while keeping up her protective wall. Mirror: Mike has this innocence. What’s the inherent trap?Zahn: You don’t want him to come off as a loser so you must create an ark that shows he’s really a good man, in love with this woman whom he follows around the country to win. Mirror: What is the film’s message? Zahn: I think you have to figure out who you are before you can love another person and that’s what Sue had to do.Mirror: You grew up in Minnesota the son of a Lutheran minister. How has that influenced your life and the choices you make? Zahn: My dad was a university Chaplein when I was a youngster, so I grew up around college kids in a very liberal environment. My folks hosted families from around the world so I developed a fascination of people. Mirror: When you were a kid did you want to be an actor?Zahn: No. Those were magical things that other people did. My view was 1950 Hollywood and its glamorous movie stars. I thought I’d be a farmer or a Marine. It wasn’t until I got to college that I decided to pursue an acting career. Mirror: You’re married, have two kids and live in rural Kentucky. Why did you choose that lifestyle? Zahn: I like to barbeque in my boxers and go fishing without having to plan a trip. My wife and I have always lived on a farm and that’s where we’re comfortable. It keeps you naïve and I realize as I grow older that naiveté is not a bad thing. I don’t think living in the city, reading the right magazines or hanging out with the right people makes you a better actor. It might be better business and I’m sure I miss out on a lot of stuff, but I don’t know what the stuff is so it doesn’t bother me. Mirror: I must ask you this. Do you ever get to Santa Monica?Zahn: Oh yes. If I stay in town, I always stay on the Westside. The last time I was here I stayed at the Viceroy which has that really funky bar. I like to run on the beach and chill out. I also like Shutters a lot. Mirror: What about a favorite restaurant?Zahn: JiRaffe on Santa Monica Blvd. The chef is incredible. He make a fabulous rack of lamb and beet salad with goat cheese.Mirror: Last question: What’s your advice to aspiring actors?Zahn: I encourage them to train and not waste their time handing out resumes. The only way to get work is by working. Do plays, or whatever you can, but keep at it.
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