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How Evan Peters Went Against His Director’s Wishes In The Making Of American Animals


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Dealing with the real subject of a based-on-a-true-story film can be a tricky proposition for an actor. Sure, they can be a wonderful resource, having intimate knowledge of what happened them, but those same thoughts can run in contrast with what is set to be featured in the movie. Because of this, writer/director Bart Layton really didn't want the stars of his new movie American Animals contacting their true life counterparts -- but as I recently learned, that ultimately didn't stop Evan Peters from reaching out. Peters recently told me,


Well, I'm just going to go ahead and blame the director. I think we all really wanted to talk with our guys. It was important, and Bart said that because they're 10 years older he didn't want it to color our performance and have them be like, 'I didn't do that there.' [But] I did talk with him, I broke the rules and found him through Twitter. But that was immediately stopped.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with American Animals stars Evan Peters and Blake Jenner at the Los Angeles press day for their new movie, and my first question right out the gate was about meeting their real life counterparts during preparation. I had read during my research that Peters had spoken to his real guy, while Jenner had not, and I was curious to know why the actors took those different tactics. It turns out it wasn't really a matter of choice, as the former technically broke the rules reaching out to the person his character was based on while Jenner did not.

In American Animals, a cross between documentary and fictional account, Evan Peters and Blake Jenner respectively play Warren Lipka and Chas Allen, two students who team up with two other friends to try and pull off a daring heist: specifically stealing John James Audubon's Birds of America and Charles Darwin's_On the Origin of Species _from the Special Collections Library at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. The movie is a fictionalized take on a crazy true story, explaining why Bart Layton didn't want his actors meeting the real men involved with the crime, but ultimately Peters just couldn't help himself.

Clearly Evan Peters' exposure to the real Warren Lipka was short lived, but it is worth noting that Bart Layton did give his cast the opportunity to study the individuals their characters are based on. According to the actors, the writer/director let them watch interviews with Warren & Co. prior to starting production -- showing them footage that is both in the final cut of American Animals and stuff that didn't make it into the movie. Said Peters,


But Bart also sent us the footage of them; what's in the film we got to watch beforehand, and then also more than that. So it was sort of there - we basically got questions that we would have had for them in person, but just through documentary footage. It was cool to do that - and then you get to see him and the way he talks and thinks a little bit. But Warren is hilarious - such a nice guy and a funny guy, and you see why they would follow him and do this.

In addition to Evan Peters and Blake Jenner, America Animals also stars Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson, Udo Kier, and Ann Dowd. The movie is in limited release this weekend, so look for it in a theater near you!

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