The cast of ‘Admission’ on getting into college, humor and cow birth

| Senior Cadenza Editor
Photo Courtesy of David Lee | Focus Features

Focus Features recently hosted a press junket for college journalists for the upcoming movie “Admission.” I was lucky enough to attend the press conference, whose panel included actors Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Nat Wolff and director Paul Weitz.

The press conference opened with a question for the entire panel on the experience of getting into college. Wolff, who played a senior at an alternative high school applying to college, was actually going through the application process while making the movie. So while visiting college fairs, Wolff chose to talk to schools he wasn’t interested in as his math genius character, Jeremiah.

“I really hit it off with the MIT guy, and they still call me, like, twice, twice, you know, a week, and I have to tell them, you know, I’m not really, I’m not really good at math and science, and you don’t want me at your school.” Wolff said.

Fey was shocked that the SAT now had three parts, saying it made her feel old. Rudd, meanwhile, claimed he had never taken the SAT and had only taken the ACT. He also couldn’t remember ever applying to colleges, prompting Fey to crack “You just showed up at Kansas? You had a sweatshirt.”

Director Weitz added a story of his application experience, which included a hilarious anecdote about conning his parents into thinking he was a much better student then he was.

“My high school used to send home report cards in the mail, and I had a deal going with the doorman in my building [where] he would save the report cards before my parents could get it…I would either rip off a card if I hadn’t done well, like I got a C- in a Shakespeare seminar—I’d just rip that card off—my parents never knew I took the class, and anything with a minus I would, with an Exacto pen, change to a plus.” Weitz said.

When it came to actually applying, though, it led to an awkward conversation with his college guidance counselor.

“My parents were like, ‘Well, he’s going to Harvard [University], Princeton [University] or Yale [University],’ and the counselor was like, ‘I don’t think he has the grades for that.’ Anyway I ended up being very happy with where I went, but the application process was pretty funny,” Weitz said.

Parts of “Admission” were filmed on Princeton’s actual campus, which Fey and Rudd both said they enjoyed.

“My favorite scene that we shot on campus was with the a cappella group. It was the scene where I’m just like in tears, and I’m running through. And they are singing their…you know, it’s a wonderfully sunny collegiate a cappella song, and also they sounded so good that we kept letting them finish the song every take even though the take was over,” Fey said.

While “Admission” dealt with the stresses of getting into a top-level college, Fey had advice for those about to graduate college as well.

“The only advice I feel qualified to give is for people who are interested in comedy, and I usually tell them to go, to not go to Los Angeles right away. Because I feel like if you go to Chicago, or now actually there’s plenty of stuff in New York, too, or maybe in Boston, where you can be on your feet more and do more stuff, even if you’re a writer, you know can write a non-equity play and get it up in Chicago before you throw yourself wholeheartedly into the really business end of the business,” Fey said.

The best question for the panel was about one of the funniest scenes. In the movie, Fey, Rudd and Wolff all have to assist a cow give birth, and it’s as messy as a cow birth could be. Wolff said he bonded with the baby calf, which Weitz ended up cutting from the final movie.

“I was really into the calf; I actually gave up eating red meat after that scene,” Wolff said.

The comedic chemistry of the two leads was apparent in the press conference as they were constantly cracking jokes. When asked about doing television, Rudd turned to Fey and asked if she had ever done “Saturday Night Live” before.

Fey also discussed the finale of her television show “30 Rock,” which had ended its seventh season just the week prior to the press conference.

“It was very bittersweet ending, but we had such a…the fact that we knew it was ending was such a great thing. We weren’t just cancelled—that we were able to say to the network, ‘Can we just do it—these last 13—and be done,’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, ’cause your show’s fricking expensive.’ So it was nice; everyone got to say goodbye in the most thorough way, so it’s OK,” Fey said.

“Admission” is a movie that toes the line between drama and comedy, and the closing question of the panel covered that balance. Fey felt that it was important to play her character as realistically as possible while Weitz added that characters in a good comedy or drama don’t know they’re being funny or going through moments of pathos.

“Life is funny and life is dramatic, and those tend to be my favorite kinds of stories,” Rudd said.