PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Michael Cera can tell you how to cook a cactus to extract its psychedelic mescaline. But he can't tell you what a mescaline head trip is like, even though he drank the concoction.
Cera and his cast mates of the Sundance Film Festival premiere "Crystal Fairy" boiled a cactus and drank the noxious brew to get a sense of what their characters were supposed to experience on a mescaline trip.
The film follows them on a road trip through the Chilean desert in search of the San Pedro cactus for its hallucinogenic effects.
For some reason, Cera and his co-stars were unaffected by the mescaline, so he doesn't have any mind-altering experiences to share.
"We cooked the cactus for the movie and drank it, but it didn't work," Cera said in an interview Friday alongside "Crystal Fairy" writer-director Sebastian Silva. "We had this plan to do it and not film because that was going to be overwhelming for everyone. We ended up drinking it and shooting that day, and everyone was fine and nobody felt anything.
"Maybe it was because we were working or something. We were all in work mode. ... Maybe we got the wrong cactus. Is that possible?" Cera asked Silva.
"No, I think that was really San Pedro," Silva said.
"Crystal Fairy" casts Cera as overbearing American Jamie, who's traveling with three Chilean brothers (Silva's own siblings, Juan Andres, Jose Miguel and Augustin Silva) on their mescaline quest. Along the way, they're joined by another American (Gaby Hoffmann) who calls herself Crystal Fairy, a free spirit whose hippie-dippy ways make her an object of derision for Jamie.
Their drug experiment teaches Jamie some compassion and gives Crystal Fairy a little more grounding in the real world.
The value of such drugs is the perspective they can bring, said writer-director Silva, who has tried mescaline several times.
"My personal experience with it has always been in nature. It just makes you feel personally that I'm a human, like, breathing being standing on a rounded planet floating in space," said Silva, who has a second film starring Cera at Sundance, the horror tale "Magic Magic." ''It really grounds you in a great way that you really sort of like get out of your own little problems that are not even problems, and you really see the big picture. It's easy to forget that you're standing on a planet."
Cera may not have taken the full mescaline head trip, but he can describe how boiled cactus tastes.
"It's a very kind of acrid, earthy, terrible taste," Cera said. "It's almost like a wheatgrass shot, that terrible taste that keeps revisiting you. It shouldn't be eaten. Nature didn't want you to eat it."