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With Judd Apatow comedies raking in hundreds of millions of dollars and traditional leading-man vehicles floundering, a pretty face no longer automatically equals a big opening weekend. Suddenly the nerdy boys next door are wielding a whole lot of clout.
“You have some amazing cameras,” Michael Cera says, wide-eyed, to the photographer who’s meant to be snapping him. Soon, the sweetly awkward 19-year-old is handling the cameras himself, taking shots of the photographer, as his handlers check their watches. They don’t dare interrupt him, though—but not because he’s the kind of cocky star who doesn’t like being told what to do. It’s just that Cera’s demeanor is so breathtakingly gentle, his enthusiasm for the cameras so genuine, that it would be nothing less than churlish to issue even the mildest reprimand.
In fact, Cera, star of the 2007 films Superbad and Juno and the much mourned sitcom Arrested Development, hardly seems to realize he’s growing more famous by the day. When he does acknowledge his success—or the surprising attention from the legions of female fans it has brought on—it’s with marked apprehension. “I was in a kids show when I was 10 called I Was a Sixth Grade Alien,” Cera recalls, “and when I got to junior high, I remember feeling really self-conscious about people knowing me from TV. It definitely didn’t instill any confidence.”
Despite his shyness, Cera, who will appear this fall in the film adaptation of the young-adult novel Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, can dole out some of the best deadpan in the biz, and his scenes—even those brimming with crude jokes—possess a certain poignance. “If I could buy stock in a human being, it’d be Michael,” says Superbad costar Bill Hader. Cera, who still lives with his parents in a suburb outside of Toronto, isn’t quite as confident. “I’m thinking of getting a place in L.A. next year,” he says, “but it’s so expensive! You have to plan on having constant work, which is terrifying.”