Collider Interviews Sunny Mabrey and Michael Angarano

     May 5, 2006

If you were a sixteen-year-old boy and dying of cancer, would you be content to burn your final wish on meeting your favorite football player, going to Disneyworld or visiting the Grand Canyon? Of course not! You’d want to ball a supermodel, which is exactly what Dylan, played with surprising depth by Michael Angarano, asks for in Alex Steyermark’s One Last Thing. Co-starring Cynthia Nixon, Johnny Messner Wyclef Jean, an uncredited Ethan Hawke and Sunny Mabrey as supermodel Nikki Sinclair, the movie dabbles in bawdy humor, but mostly goes the heartfelt route as Dylan tries to leverage his terminal sickness for a shot at one of the world’s most desired women.

Though Mabrey certainly looks the part, she also ably conveys the deep sadness that often engulfs these young women as they try to survive in their profession past their thirties. Angarano, on the other hand, turns in a winning performance that builds on his solid work from last year’s Sky High and Lords of Dogtown. Currently shooting Snow Angels for David Gordon Green (with Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale), I’m convinced Angarano is going to be one of the best actors of his generation so long as he keeps his head on straight and doesn’t lose too many roles to Emile Hirsch.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a roundtable interview with Angarano and Mabrey, where our group did a commendable job holding off on peppering Mabrey with Snakes on a Plane questions for a solid ten minutes. But once the subject was broached, there was no turning back.

Did you guys sit down by yourselves and work on character, or did you just work with the director?

Michael: The first time I met [Sunny] was in the audition. That was in L.A. Then we just sat down with Alex and talked a few times and that was really it. I think we only had about a week of rehearsal.

Sunny: Yeah, I got to New York a little bit early, and we sat down a few times and talked about the script. Not just with me and [Michael] alone, but with Alex. It came together when we were shooting.

Michael: Almost every aspect of the film, every relationship almost, you just had to jump into it. Especially with the three friends, the guys who played Slap and Ricky, we didn’t cast Ricky until two days before filming. But everything with the movie really seemed to be working. Just the vibe on set, it was a very relaxed vibe. It was a nice set to be on. Sometimes, you visit sets and you can sense everyone is sweating it out and stressing, but here it was very relaxed and fitting perfectly and going really well.

Even though it was fairly low budget and quick?

Michael: Yeah. I think we had a twenty-five day shooting schedule, and the schedule each day, we were probably shooting four or six scenes a day. It was pretty hectic, but Alex, as the ringleader, set the vibe and the tone as really relaxed and cheerful almost.

Sunny: Sometimes I think that’s the best environment for gelling with the cast and getting on the same page. We don’t have our trailers to run off to we have to be each other, and during our breaks we’re hanging out. It was good. It was effortless chemistry.

Michael, what kind of research did you do into this illness?

Michael: Well, prior to actual rehearsal, I talked to Alex a whole bunch of time. And I played a cancer patient at one point for another film, so I told Alex I wanted to do something similar to what I did with the other project. I just wanted to maybe talk with a doctor and meet someone, so the guy who’s the medical consultant on the film, Dr. Michael Brescia, and Alex, myself and Brian Stokes Mitchell, the guy who plays Dylan’s doctor in the film, we went to a hospice in the Bronx called Calgary Hospital that is specifically for cancer patients in the advance stages. We went there and walked around and talked for about five hours, and it was a great experience, because one of the things [Dr. Brescia] did while he’s reading through the script is say, “Yeah, I really love this script, it’s great, but you’ve got him on Coumadin here and that’s just bullshit. You can’t have that.” So, he really showed us what was medically accurate, and he also gave us stories about patients that he’s worked with that were having experiences similar to those of Dylan’s – seeing visions of an afterlife or loved ones. It really made me realize it wasn’t something fake we were really portraying real people and real situations. And that’s where a lot of the stuff came together for me.

Did you meet with real cancer patients?

Michael: We didn’t sit down with individual people and discuss what was going on with them, but we got to walk around through the hospital and just kind of take it all in. That was really it. After that, after learning everything I needed to learn about what the actual disease was that Dylan had… that was really it.

Sunny, how did you feel about being cast as the ultimate supermodel? Did it make you feel pretty?

Sunny: Well, yeah. It was definitely flattering. I was like, “I don’t know if I can pull that off.” You know, I’ve modeled in the past, but supermodel’s a stretch, I think.

Michael: I don’t think so. I would disagree with that.

Sunny: Aw. I would hug you if I weren’t congested.

Michael: She’s real congested.

Sunny: (Laughing) But what attracted me to this character is that she’s not only this supermodel, but she’s got all of her own problems, and the fact that she’s a wounded bird when they meet. It takes them a long time to come together, but when they do it’s kind of a realization for her that they’re both growing he’s actually dying, but growing at the same time.

Michael: They’re two people who needed each other at that time in different ways.

Sunny, your characterparties a little too hard? How do you party?

(Sunny laughs.)

Michael: I’ve been wanting to ask her that question for so long. “How do you party?”

Sunny: (Laughing) “How do you party?” What a line!

Michael: That is a good line.

Sunny: It’s aggressive. I like that. No, I think in my younger days – younger days, like I’m ancient now! I went a little nuts in my twenties, but I just turned thirty and I feel like older now. And I’ve settled down a little bit I got married in June, so I have a stepson now. But I have, like, a young mentality I feel like I’m a late bloomer and I don’t want to grow up yet. So, I’m in a band, and we play music. And that’s sort of my way of still being a rock star.

Do you sing?

Sunny: Yeah, I sing.

Michael: It’s called Sunny and the Mabreys.

Sunny: No. It’s rock. It’s got some hints of the 70s in there, with some hints of, I daresay, metal, which is my husband’s influence.

Michael: I just met him, and he kind of has this hard rock edge to him.

Sunny: Yeah, he’s all over the place. But I have a melodic singing voice, which, hopefully, people will like complimenting the hard rock sound of the music.

Michael: Would you care to give us a taste?

Sunny: Oh, yeah. I totally feel like singing right now. Actually, it probably would compliment the metal more.

Did you have a lot of friends visiting you on set, Michael?

Michael: Yeah. It was really weird for me filming in New York, because I was born and raised there. I started acting and modeling when I was five or six, so I worked there. I was in the city everyday until I was twelve, probably. I haven’t been there in a while to work, actually, so to go back when I was seventeen-years-old to work in New York… it was very weird for me because the past six years when I go to New York I’m on vacation. So, when I was going now I had to work and stay focused. But all my friends would come visit me on set, and all my cousins. It was really nice working in New York.

Profound question: if you had a last wish, what would it be?

Sunny: I think mine would just be that my family could be happy, and if I could make that happen some way after I passed away. I think when somebody thinks about dying, I think more about the people around me and how they would take it. I wouldn’t want them to be sad.

Michael: World peace. (Laughter)

What do you hope that teens will take away from this movie?

Michael: Because it’s a movie about a kid who is terminally ill, they go into it thinking it’s about death. But really it’s about life it’s a very life affirming movie. It’s looking at things through a different perspective. When you see Dylan and his friends, they’re very normal kids, and they have a very normal sense of humor. They’re very relatable. And I think people realize that it could happen to anyone, and it could happen to someone close to you. And to just realize that… I guess that’s really it. I don’t think the movie shoves the message in your face you can kind of take what you want from it. It’s either how to deal with death or life, either or.

Sunny: Good answer.

Michael: Yeah, I worked that one up in the bathroom today.


So, Sunny, who do you play in Snakes on a Plane?

Sunny: Um, I play one of the flight attendants, and I’m pretty much on that plane the entire movie, so it’s pretty intense.

Did you participate in the reshoots?

Sunny: They did some more stuff recently I wasn’t involved in that, and I’m kind of thankful, actually, because most of it was to make it Rated R and [gear it to teens]. I was like, “Why didn’t they ask me to do reshoots? Did they cut me out?” Everybody always worries about that, even if they’re the lead.

Michael: Didn’t Adrian Brody get cut out of The Thin Red Line, like, a lot?

He was a lead, and then he was barely in it.

Sunny: I’ve heard stories, so I was nervous. But I’ve seen tons of pictures with me in them I’m like, “Hi, I’m in this movie!” (Laughter) But it is a huge cast: Juliana Margulies, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Blanchard… so many people. We’ve got some comedians in there, too. It’s funny, but terrifying, I think, and I’m just looking forward to it.

Is it really intense? Is it CG snakes or rubber snakes or—

Sunny: It’s both. There was a twenty-foot Burmese Python, and that’s really the only real snake I did a scene with. They made a copy of that, which is crazy. You couldn’t tell the difference. But a lot of it was CGI, and a lot of rubber snakes, too. And you think rubber snakes like the kind you get at the dollar mart, but these were like very real looking snakes. And then the real snakes there was a snake room with a snake wrangler, and we went in there all the time. I have a miniature pinscher, and I kept her in my trailer the whole time. If she got near that Burmese Python, you wouldn’t even see a dent. It’s that big. But it was intense because of that and the constant action. The airplane was on a gimbal, and it was a life-size replica inside a studio. It was a luxury plane with an upstairs first class with a bar.

Michael: Executive Decision style.

Sunny: Yes. Like British Airways flying to London or something. And it was crazy, because that thing would shake and there would be smoke, and part of the plane got ripped out.

When you were shooting this, did you have any idea it would become some kind of internet phenomenon?

Sunny: We had no idea. (Laughing) We didn’t know. When I first read it, I was like, “Okay, Samuel Jackson is doing this, and it’s about snakes on an airplane.” And it’s pretty entertaining. I couldn’t stop reading it, and it was about snakes on an airplane. So, I was finally like, “Yeah, okay! What a nice way to spend the summer.” So, I went up to [Vancouver], and I saw all the other people, and we made it as best an experience could be. And the people working on it were very experienced, and, like, geniuses at action. David Ellis is the director, and he used to be a stunt coordinator. He was perfect for this. And he’s good for the actors, too. It just came together. I don’t know what people expect from this, but whatever it is, I think it’ll deliver that. (Laughter)

Did you have to pretend that there were snakes crawling on you, and they added it in later.

Sunny: I never had a snake actually on me, but pretty much everyone else did. I never had that exact experience. I had a snake crash down next to me on the floor. I screamed at fake snakes. Snakes got wrapped around my friend’s throat, but I never had an experience with a snake myself.

Michael: I can’t wait to see this. (Huge laughter)

Are you heroic in this film?

Sunny: I like to think I’m the heroine in this film, but it’s funny. I mean, as an actor, how do you put yourself in this position? When have I ever been that terrified?

Michael: I’ve never seen a snake in real life.

Sunny: But… what is your question?

(Laughing) Is your character heroic?

Sunny: Well, we play the flight attendants. There’s four of us. There’s not four at the end, but there’s four of us at the beginning.

And your name?

Sunny: My name is Tiffany. Yeah. We sort of have the task that, even though we’re females… the girls have the task of making sure that everyone is in there seat and sort of taking care of everyone.

Michael: Are the snakes trying to hijack the plane?

Sunny: No. You can’t ask questions like that.

You can, actually. And we did. While you’re waiting for August 18th to roll around, catch yourself some Sunny Mabrey in One Last Thing, which opens in limited release May 5th.

Latest News