Jon Cryer first found fame in 1984 with a starring role opposite Demi Moore in “No Small Affair,” and then as one of the leading actors in John Hughes’ teen comedy “Pretty in Pink.”
While most of his contemporaries have long since faded away, Cryer has quietly built himself one of the most respected and successful careers in Hollywood, earning four consecutive Emmy nominations for his performance as Alan Harper in CBS’s top-rated comedy series “Two and a Half Men.”
On Friday, he stars in the new family comedy “Shorts” directed by Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids”), which debuts as counter-programming effort to director Quentin Tarantino’s violent, adult-oriented “Inglourious Basterds.”
Cryer spoke to Reuters about the movie and his career:
Reuters: You must have been shocked by John Hughes’ death?
Cryer: Oh my God! I was on the set of “Two and a Half Men” when I heard. I had all these texts, and at first I thought it was a hoax. What struck me was I hadn’t seen him in years, and when I think about it, I really owe an enormous amount of my career to him. And it made me sad because it made me realize that you’ve really got to let people know it when you’re grateful to them. They won’t always be here and I regret that I didn’t do that. But I have very fond memories. He was a lovely guy and knew exactly what he wanted. He’ll be greatly missed.
Reuters: So, tell us about “Shorts.”
Cryer: It’s the “Pulp Fiction” of kiddie movies (laughs), which will make both adults and kids think, as it’s this big puzzle. When I first read it, it really reminded me of all the “Little Rascal” shorts that I grew up on, and these kids live in a town where they have some autonomy. They go off and do their own thing and get into trouble, and kids today just don’t get that chance anymore.
Reuters: How did you get involved? I suppose (Robert) Rodriguez just called you up?
Cryer: He actually did! Which is totally surprising. He takes care of everything personally which is strange. You’re so used to having layers of people in between you. I’d been told of the script by my agent, read it, loved it — and that same night got a call from Robert. I was like, ‘Hey, whoa, I haven’t even signed a contract yet,’ but we talked for hours about it and his other films. He spent an enormous amount of time with me on the phone, and at the end I was like, ‘Dude, I’m not even the lead, if you do this with all the actors, how do you have time to actually shoot the thing?’ And I found out the secret — he doesn’t sleep! He stays up all night, and he’d come in, a little groggy, but after some coffee and a little time he’d be totally back on his game. It was inspiring.
Reuters: And he wears so many hats. He writes, directs, produces, edits, does the music and so on.
Cryer: He’s the ultimate one-man show. I’m hoping next he’ll wear a sombrero or pith helmet, or maybe the German World War I thing with a spike (laughs). For people who’ve never worked with him — the uninitiated — it’s jarring to meet someone in this business who takes care of everything himself. We’re so used to blaming other people for everything that goes wrong, and this poor guy has no one else to blame. And I thought, that’s so liberating — or terrifying!
Reuters: You have a 9-year-old son. He must be thrilled you’re in this film?
Cryer: One would hope, but he’s at the age where he’s realizing his dad’s a bit of a dork. It’s not like I’m the coolest guy in the world but he loves all Robert’s movies, so we’ll see. But I’m not optimistic.
Reuters: Is it true you did your first TV commercial at four?
Cryer: Yes, both my parents are actors, and my mom got me my first gig. By six I was jaded and cynical and pretty much sick of the whole industry (laughs). No, but I did learn early on to enjoy the struggle, and I love what I do — even though it’s an incredibly stupid, silly business.