Your typical teen comedies don’t involve a murderous Caribbean dictator with a British accent, elaborate foot fetish sequences, and a scene where a character gets waterboarded. But Dear Dictator (out now on home video) isn’t your typical teen comedy. Odeya Rush stars as Tatiana, an isolated teenager who starts a correspondence with General Anton Vincent, played by Michael Caine.
At first, Anton gives Tatiana advice, but after a coup against him, he’s forced to hide out in her garage until things blow over. We got the chance to talk to Rush about finding her inner teenage rebel, her work in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, and what it was like to be on-screen friends with Michael Caine.
Were you able to relate to the character of Tatiana, being in the throws of teenage rebellion?
I think I have that in me. I definitely think Tatiana really needs her rebellious nature. It’s very upfront and she needs to show it to everybody right away. I think for me it’s something I tried to hide more, and I definitely want to present myself as a goody-to-shoes. So I definitely have a little bit of that in me, but I’m more of a good institution.
So you never tried to overthrow a clique of mean girls in high school?
I tried to skip class. That was my rebellion, you know. I never did anything too extreme.
Working with someone with the caliber of Michael Caine has to be a treat, especially when your two characters share such a bond.
It’s incredible. It was really cool to see him come to such a small set. It’s an indie movie and we had been working I think for three weeks already and already really got to know each other, and then I think when he came along he just changed into completely different movie and elevated everything. It seemed so effortless, but I think he was so prepared and he, I think he came, he was very down to play and have fun with it and make a fool of himself.
I think you have to go for it with this type of character and you have to play it so honestly and so straight, to be socializing and to say, OK, I’m going to go forward and be silly, but these theories and Michael Caine about as I can as, it’s really cool that he was willing to do that because it changed the whole movie.
This is a pretty original concept, too. I don’t think there’s a lot of movies out there that you could compare it to.
I think right off the bat I knew that it was something so different, and as every layer was put on, trying to find the costumes. seeing the set got me really excited and then seeing what Michael Caine was going to look like, then Katie [Holmes], transforms into such a crazy mom.
It was also really fun to do. That’s what I’d been thinking reading the script. This is what a great opportunity, but it’s a joy to create a character. And it’s a joy to have creative freedom in that way and so much room to play and, and nothing was too much, you know, and if they didn’t use it, but the director definitely allowed us to do things that was too much.
I know we mentioned how you see a little Tatiana in yourself, but how was identifying with her versus Jenna in Lady Bird?
Let me think… I’m really far from Jenna and Lady Bird. I was never that way. If it came down to it I’d definitely identify with Tatiana more.
What are you hoping people take away from watching Dear Dictator?
You know, if you’re a loner, either in school or in your workplace, you see the magic and being different and the magic of expressing yourself freely and what a beautiful experience that is. Its the only right way to live life to have no matter how you feel field or the more honest you are to yourself, the more likely you are to find true friends.
And Tatiana and Anton are real friends. And it doesn’t work out in the end, but I think if you [stay true] to yourself, you’ll find people that are like you and you’ll have more meaningful friendships than if you try to fit in.
Do you think Anton and Tatiana continue their correspondence after the credits role?
I think they do from time to time, yeah. I don’t think it’s as strong, but I, I do think maybe she comes to visit in jail.
But she’s probably not going to bake a cake with a nail file in it or anything.
Finally, were you as disheartened as the rest of us that Lady Bird didn’t get any love on The Oscars this year?
I think it’s amazing just to be nominated, or to be movie that’s nominated. But I’m not heartbroken. I didn’t put any expectations on it. I think Saoirse and Greta and Lori, they’re going to be nominated so many times in their lives. For Saoirse, this is her first nomination, I think he’s going to be the next Meryl Streep. But it’s so cool that so many people have seen that that’s the most important part.
Dear Dictator is now available on DVD, Blu Ray, and VOD