Angus Turns 20 & Star Charlie Talbert Tells Us All

Photo: Courtesy Charlie Talbert.
If you're a teen right now, you might recognize Charlie Talbert from his cameo role as the ice cream man in Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, and Jessie J's "Bang Bang" video. If you were a teen in the '90s, you'll definitely recognize Charlie Talbert as the underdog hero from Angus, the cult teen film released in 1995 that featured James Van Der Beek in his cinematic debut and an all-too-rare geek-gets-girl plot. As outcast Angus Bethune, Talbert melted our hearts, struggling to fit in and impress his cheerleader crush (played by Ariana Richards) after JVDB's evil alpha dude has him elected Winter Ball king as a cruel joke. This week marks the film's 20th anniversary, which seemed like as good an excuse as any to check in with Talbert, now an actor and comedian based in New Orleans. Since the film's release, Talbert has ditched the soup bowl haircut, gotten married and divorced, and had a stint hosting The Charlie Talbert Show for CBS Mobile. Talbert also has a role in Tom Hiddleston's Hank Williams biopic, I Saw the Light. Some things haven't changed, however. The guy who played Sherman in Angus (Chris Owen of American Pie fame) is still Talbert's real-life best friend. Here, Talbert, now 36, reveals how a late-night Wendy's run won him his first acting role and the opportunity to hang out with Green Day.

How did you land the role of Angus?

"I was with a good friend of the family, Tony Ruffalo. We were down in Northbrook, Illinois, which is a couple cities away. I’m from Wisconsin, but Northbrook has a velodrome, and we were watching cycling. We were coming home at about midnight and we stopped at a Wendy’s. I remember telling a joke to a friend of mine behind the counter, and there was a bunch of people and they just started laughing. This gentleman comes up to me and he says, 'Hey, how would you like to be in a movie?' And I looked at him and I said, 'Are you hitting on me?' And he goes, 'No, why would you say that?' And I said, 'Well, it’s near Chicago, it’s 12 o’clock at night, I’m a little boy, and you want me to be in a movie.' "He goes, 'No, no, no! I want you to come down and read for this movie. Can you come to Planet Hollywood tomorrow and meet Jane Alderman, she cast the movie Rudy.' And I said, 'Uh, okay.' So I went home and I went to tell my mom. I’m like, 'Hey, I might be in a movie!' And she said, 'Yeah, that’s great. Shut up and go to bed.' "The next day, I went down and there were a bunch of other kids that looked just like me. It was really weird, you know. It was, like, my type [of look]. And I went into the room and the director’s name is Patrick Read Johnson. He didn’t look up at me right away and he just said, 'Hey, go ahead and read your sides.' I said, 'What the hell are sides?' And he goes, 'Oh, oh you’re that kid I met at the Wendy’s. What can you do?' I was like, 'I can do impersonations and I can be a smart-ass.' I did a bunch of impersonations for him and he said, 'Okay, I’m going to give you some sides, I want you to read for Jane. I won’t be here.' I worked really hard. I sat on the porch every day for about three days and I came back, I did the reads and apparently I did really well, because about a week later I got a call from the director saying, 'Hey, how would you like to come out to California?'”

How much of the Angus character did you relate to?
"Pretty much all of it, except the football. I destroyed my ankle when I fell 14 feet straight down a tree, so I couldn’t play. I actually was going to play football so that I could get the girl I was in love with, and that girl’s name was Bridget. Bridget was my Melissa Lefevre [Angus' crush], so everything about me pretty much paralleled that movie."

How did your classmates react when you came back from shooting the film? Did they see you differently and vote you homecoming king?
"No, no, no. First of all, when I came back a lot of people were pissed. And I was happy. There was a lot of bitterness. Thank god that movie came along when it did, because I have no clue — I’d probably be working at Wendy’s, you know? There were a lot of things that changed for me. I didn’t want to be the Winter Ball king, but I did start doing a lot more plays and I knew I was going to get back into acting. "The young man that played my best friend in that movie, Chris Owen, he and I have done about 14 projects together, and I knew right after meeting him that we were going to keep trying to do acting together. When I went back out to Los Angeles, I ended up living with him for many years and just pursuing it. So by having that, my whole high school experience actually became more about the film. I started high school right after Angus, so it was kind of neat to go into a whole new school with a whole new outlook on life and a new positivity that made me kind of glide through school a little bit easier, as opposed to junior high and elementary school."
How often do you have somebody come up to you and say, "Angus"?
"Believe it or not, it happened quite frequently growing up. As I told you, Chris Owen and I were best friends, and we lived together and stuff like that. When Chris and I would hang out, they would immediately be like, 'Oh, Sherman! Holy god, it’s Angus and Sherman!' They would put it together right away. It happens quite a bit, and then the last couple years I’ve been doing stand-up, I've been letting people in on it, and they’re like, 'Oh my god!'"
Photo: Courtesy Charlie Talbert.
Can we talk about how amazing the film's soundtrack is? There's Green Day, Ash, Weezer...
"Oh yeah, that was a great soundtrack. It was killer. You know, we got to basically meet all these bands. Green Day was really awesome. We went to go see them in Carson City, and we first go to meet them and Billie Joe goes, 'Keep these pukes away from us!' And we’re like, 'No man, we’re the kids from the movie you did the soundtrack for.' And he’s like, 'Oh my god!' And it just became this super-awesome thing, and we got to go up on stage while they were playing. It was really freakin’ sweet. But yeah, the soundtrack was amazing. It killed. And that’s one of the things that kind of helped that movie survive and kind of become a cult thing. I just sent a picture to a fan that was 10 years old. How awesome is that?" Are there any moments from filming that stand out for you?
"I was very upset during the filming, because there were originally two gay fathers in the film, and it made the script so much more heavy. It was a time where that really would have meant something. It really would have pushed something forward, I believe. I remember we had picketers and people throwing little glass bombs onto the set when we were shooting the football scenes down in Minnesota. They were really upset about it. They shot everything, but they changed the script so that the fathers were cut out. You know, everything that’s going on with gay marriage now and stuff like that, it really was one of those films that could have pushed the bar."

Do you have any memorabilia from the film? Tell me that purple suit is lurking in your closet.
"I still own Wanda the doll. She’s packed away. She’s awesome. I keep the backs of my chairs that I have. I do not have the suit. Last I heard, I believe that was up at Planet Hollywood and then it went somewhere."

Are there any reunions planned for the 20th anniversary?
"I don’t think so. I’m still best friends with Chris [Owen]. Ariana [Richards], who played my love interest, is about to have a baby as far as I understand. Bethany [Richards], her younger sister who played the younger version of her, is up north right now, so we’re all kind of spread out. I haven’t seen James [Van Der Beek] in about eight or nine years. We spoke not too long ago about doing an episode of The Charlie Talbert Show together, which he’s totally down to do, but we haven’t connected recently."

is unique in that it’s one of those rare teen films in which it actually seems like the underdog and the pretty girl could get together. It's not like Pretty in Pink, where Ducky just gets sidelined. It's not, "Oh, you’re still my friend, but now I’m going to go and make out with this hot guy." And I can see how it would have been exciting to kiss the girl from Jurassic Park.
"One of the things I was always sad about was that Angus never actually kisses the girl [on the lips] during the film. There’s a new movie I’m in called The Big Short with Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, and Steve Carell. The director was Adam McKay, who did Anchorman. Thanks to my friend Meagan Lewis, we had a good meeting together where it was just me and Adam and we went out on the town. The next day he said, 'Oh my god! I didn’t realize you were a child actor!' That’s amazing [to me] because you get to find out all about these people’s lives. You may have touched Adam McKay’s life, and created something that created something else that created something beautiful. And that’s the best thing that came out of Angus and that’s why I’m back in film. "The reason I started doing film in the first place was being that fat kid. When I was younger, I watched a lot of film and television that helped me get through that and find humor. And now, this movie and other projects have helped people either cry it out or work it out or become funny or help them get through whatever trials and tribulations they had in their own life. That’s really what Angus encompassed for me." I have to ask: What happened with Bridget?
"Bridget, ah, funny story. I came back but I went to a school that was nine miles away as opposed to one that was two blocks away, and I had to keep leaving to go work on films and stuff, so that never panned out. She did find me on Facebook after The Charlie Talbert Show started airing. Bridget pretty much married a guy like a month before the show started airing named Charlie that looked pretty much just like me."
OPENER IMAGE: New Line Cinema/Photofest.

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