It’s been awhile since there’s been a movie I have really looked forward to seeing in the theatres but when I saw the previews for 21 I was literally counting down the days. I would consider blackjack to be poker’s younger, much simpler cousin. And being a poker fan, a movie about card counters in Vegas with an A-list cast was right up my alley. Needless to say, it was the best movie I’ve seen all year.
I recently caught up with actor Aaron Yoo, who plays Choi, one of the five M.I.T. card-counting geniuses who heads to Vegas and makes millions playing blackjack. Yoo’s character is like some giddy, genius, stoner (though not actually stoned), who has a thing for hotel freebies. The movie also stars Kate Bosworth, Jim Sturgess (who is hotttt) and Kevin Spacey.
Yoo’s also worked with Shia Lebeouf (Disturbia), Ben Kingsley (Wackness) and he’s got two other movies in the works - one with Superbad’s Michael Cera (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) and Gerard Butler (Game). Right now he’s got a #1 box office hit with 21, so I’d say life is pretty good for Yoo.
The 28-year-old chatted with me about his famous co-stars, pissing off movie-goers and bribing some NYU fans.
So I just saw the movie. The best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. Has it been crazy since the movie came out?
Thank you! Thank you so much. Yeah, it’s been a little nuts. On opening night a bunch of the cast decided we were going to the Grove.
That’s where I saw the movie!
We’re you at the 8:15 screening on Friday night?
No, it was a Sunday night 10pm screening actually. But anyways –
So we walk out of the Grove at about 10pm and one of Josh Gad’s (Jim Sturgess’ M.I.T. best friend, Miles Connoly in 21) friend says, “Hey you guys just need to pay attention for a second. Do you see this line?” And the line is literally like around the Grove all the way to the parking structure. And he’s like, “That line, that’s your 11 o’clock screening.” We were like – (makes a shocked face with a huge smile). Out of fucking control! I’m sorry, out of um -
It’s okay, I know what you mean. That’s crazy. Was everyone in the cast there?
It was me, Josh Gad, Liza Lapira, Sam Golzari, and then we met up with Jim Sturgess and then Kate Bosworth met up with us later. We wound up having this like crazy cast night. Vegas was so crazy that we didn’t get enough QT together as a cast so that was like our main focus knowing that we were going to be in L.A. for opening weekend. Jim was like (in his best British accent), “Whatever happened to Boston and these mafia-owned clubs that wanted to kick us out because we wanted a beer?”
Was it weird being in the theatre watching the movie?
We were being pretty obnoxious before the movie started and people don’t necessarily immediately recognize us. Like the group of girls that were sitting next to me were actually getting annoyed by me because we were heckling everything. There’s a ‘learn to read’ advertisement that comes on before the movie and it has the scariest little six-year-old girl. So my friends and I were just heckling this and laughing our asses off and the girls next to me were finally just like, “Yo, shut up!” And I was like, “Oh, my bad. Sorry.”
They didn’t know it was you? That’s awesome. That is awesome.
Then the movie starts playing and my character shows up on screen and then I slowly – because you can see it out of the corner of your eye – I slowly see this whole group of girls start looking over at me and slowly just being like (he points and makes a face) and I’m just like, oh god.
It was one of those things. I mean I was working with Michael Cera in the fall. We were right next to an NYU dorm and there’s a target audience for like Super Bad/ Disturbia/ whatever it was and it got to the point where like an hour into shooting they came over and they were just like, “Listen, we hate to ask this of you guys but will you guys sign some of these things?” We were like, “Yeah, sure whatever.” “Here’s the thing, we need to bribe all these kids into not taking flash photography while we’re trying to shoot and we were like, “What kids?” And they were like, “Look up.” And there was a 10-story NYU dorm and there were kids in every window. They were writing messages in like wax pencil on the windows. Where were they getting these crayons from?
Well now you’re big time! What do you have coming up next?
The next thing I have coming out is called the Wackness. It’s our Sundance Audience Award Winner we just had. This move is so amazing. It’s so brilliant. I have a small little part in it, which I am very proud of but it’s like Sir Ben Kingsley and Josh Peck. Sir Ben plays Josh Becks’ psychiatrist. Josh is a high school pot dealer who is dealing pot to Sir Ben, the psychiatrist, in exchange for psychiatric advice. He’s in love with Sir Ben’s step-daughter, who’s like my friend. MaryKate Olsen’s in it, Method Man is Josh’s drug dealer, Famke Janssen’s it.
What was it like working with MaryKate?
I mean, here’s the thing, I never worked with MaryKate. Olivia Thirlby (Juno) is one of my best, best friends. And it was just like, “Oh my god, we get to do a movie together!” So me, Josh and Olivia did all of the stuff together. I didn’t meet Method at all until Sundance. I met MK at a fucking, at the Bowery Hotel in New York over the fall when I was doing my next movie. Someone introduced us and I was like, “I don’t really know how else to put this. We’re in a movie together and congratulations on Sundance.” And she was like, “Oh, right! Congratulations on Sundance. I guess I’ll see you in Park City.” So we got to become friends in Park City and I got to meet up with Sir Ben and Meth and everything.
What was it like hanging out with them?
Oh, the sweetest, chillest, coolest fucking cats. Very like laid-back, chill, actually like quiet individuals. But like, we would stand back with them sometimes walking down Main Street and watch people leap over snow banks to get closer to take a photo.
That’s freaky, right?
Craziest thing you’ve ever seen.
The whole Heath Ledger thing happened at Sundance too.
I heard about Heath Ledger while I was snowboarding at the top of a mountain. And I thought to myself later on, it’s a tragedy and everything but I thought, what does that mean that you’ve accomplished in your life that skiers and snowboarders are telling each other on the top of a mountain in Utah? Literally, I’m like fixing my bindings and there were random skiers coming by and they’re like, “Yo, Heath Ledger just died.” And we were like, “What! That’s bullshit.” Meanwhile, Josh Peck and company are leaving me voicemails being like, “Yo, son, Heath Ledger just died.”
That’s a good way to think about it. I mean you’ve really accomplished something when so many people are affected.
You’ve accomplished something with what you’ve done in your life.
What did your parents think when they saw you in the movie?
My parents came out to Vegas. They got to meet Kevin (Spacey). I mean it’s a really weird crazy thing, you know?
They must be so proud of you.
My parents are traditional old-school from like South Korea. To them, when I started acting they were like, “What are you doing?” My parents basically grew up with two black sheep. My older sister and myself and there was one point a few years ago where my sister was answering phones at the front desk of a small fashion company and I was a starving actor in New York and I know my parents were just like, “What did we do wrong?” And now my sister is a buyer for Armani.
Yeah, my sister is a big-time fashion exec and my acting career is doing okay.
Yeah, just okay. You were just in a movie with Kevin Spacey and what, it was number one in the box office?
Yeah, number one in the box office. So now it’s like, things have turned out okay.