Nolan Gerard Funk is starring opposite Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen in the much-buzzed-about indie drama The Canyons. Written by Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) and directed by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo), The Canyons focuses on a love triangle between struggling L.A. actor Ryan (Funk), wealthy Christian (Deen) and Christian's kept girlfriend Tara (Lohan). Funk, who made his Broadway debut as the title character in Roundabout’s Bye Bye Birdie, gives the convicing star performance that holds the film together. Broadway.com recently caught up with Funk to chat about the film and his future on Broadway, Glee and more.
What excited you the most about The Canyons, and what scared you the most?
We’re not used to having this subject matter put out in the open: Hollywood is amazing in a lot ways and incredibly sleazy in others. This took all the gritty and morally askew aspects of Los Angeles and put then into a film. It was fun to explore that guy who can’t get a break in Hollywood; he’s definitely a familiar guy here. In some ways, though, it’s scary because I had to be the character who was having a rough go. Shit keeps hitting the fan for Ryan. And obviously, I was intimated working with Schrader because his films are iconic.
This film got so much advance press because of Lindsay Lohan and James Deen. What was it like working with them?
I was excited to work with Lindsay. When I first came to L.A. and I was more of a struggling, Ryan-type guy, Lindsay was the girl to work with. I’ve always steered clear of the tabloid aspect of it all; I think that’s the least interesting part of this whole thing. I get that you want audiences to see the film, and it was publicly recorded that she had my name crossed out on the script. But the truth is, her tune changed very quickly and she actually wanted us to have more scenes together. Nothing is what you expect it to be like.
With James Deen in the film, were you nervous you were going to have to do an insane sex scene?
I don’t have an issue with sex scenes at all. There’ll be much more graphic scenes in my career, I’m sure. If anything, both Lindsay and I felt very strongly the love scene between us needed to be a lot longer.
I assume you’ve read the infamous New York Times Magazine piece about making the movie. Was that accurate to your experience?
I avoided reading it for many months, because it was getting so much attention. I lived through it, and there was a lot that wasn’t in that article that I thought was just as outrageous. It really focused on Lindsay and James and Paul. It felt a little bit unbalanced to me. There’s an actress who’s been to jail and a porn star, and it’s easy to get lost in all that.
There are now animated gifs of you nearly naked in a Speedo on the internet. How does that make you feel?
I just have to laugh at it. I fought my ass off as to why my character would just be wearing boxers or jeans. I did not want to go there. But Paul is so smart and makes you so comfortable. Then cut to that night and you’re like, “I feel dirty.” And obviously you feel kind of goofy wearing it. I look like a merman in it. I didn’t expect it to go so widespread.
Your next project is Riddick, a sci-fi action film with Vin Diesel. Are you excited to be a badass action star?
[Laughs] If that happens, it would be great. It was an opportunity to see another side of me.
You switch it up a lot: Glee, Broadway, action star, gritty indie film. In which world do you feel most comfortable?
I don’t think I feel most comfortable in anything. My goal has been to be a great character actor. If people can see you in a film and not realize it’s you until the very end, that’s exciting to me.
How do you remember your time on Broadway? Like The Canyons, Bye Bye Birdie received a mixed response. Did that taint your Broadway debut?
It definitely did, only because I saw the way it affected other people. But I was just there to play Conrad, and I didn’t want to get wrapped up in the politics of it all. There were some really amazing things that happened. Priscilla Presley came backstage and gave me some of the most moving words that I’ve ever had said to me in my life. She gave me her blessing if they ever make a movie about Elvis.
What would get you back to Broadway?
I’m dying to come back. I would love to do a great show, whether it be a play or a musical—its just got to be the right role.
Any chance we’ll see more of you on Glee next season?
If it works for everybody, I would definitely go back. I love playing Hunter. “Whistle” was a really fun number to film.
Check out Nolan Gerard Funk in The Canyons, now available on demand and on iTunes, as well as in theaters.