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Jorge Lendeborg Jr. first turned heads in Steven Caple Jr.’s The Land (2016). Since then, he’s become one of the industry’s most well-regarded young actors. Now 25, Lendeborg recently returned to the screen as the lead character in Netflix’s Night Teeth, which adds a genre twist to Michael Mann’s Collateral premise. In the film, directed by Adam Randall, Lendeborg plays Benny, a fill-in chauffeur who picks up two enigmatic partygoers (Lucy Fry, Debby Ryan) that take him on a life-altering journey across Los Angeles. While most critics and audiences have commented on the Collateral similarities, Lendeborg confirms that was very much by design.
“It was one of the first references that we got, and that obviously intrigued me quite a lot,” Lendeborg tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I know Night Teeth is that title sans Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, but still, to have a vehicle that rides in the same fashion as theirs, that isn’t a bad project to attach yourself to. I was like, ‘What can I do with sort of the same playing field and the added bonus of genre going for me?'”
Lendeborg is also widely known for his role as Midtown High newscaster Jason Ionello in Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man films. With the third film in the Tom Holland-led trilogy releasing this December, Lendeborg is shedding just a little bit of light on his involvement with Spider-Man: No Way Home.
“Man, he does [have plans this December], bro,” Lendeborg says in regard to his character. “And very much like in the last one [Spider-Man: Far From Home], he has very little to do with the core Spider-Man group. He’s probably going to be home playing some video games.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Lendeborg also explains why he prefers to shoot at night, something he did a lot of on Night Teeth. Then he looks back at his fondest memories from Bumblebee and Brigsby Bear.
I must say it was nice to see you on a skateboard again at the beginning of Night Teeth. Have you kept up with skating at all since The Land?
Dude, great question. Honestly, yesterday morning, I bought a skateboard again. So I hope to put a couple of things on clips at the skateparks here and try to keep my street rep up in the skateboarding aspect. But if I’m on set and somebody brings out a skateboard, it’s like, “Yo, it’s kickflip time.”
I know you led The Land‘s ensemble, but Night Teeth is really your first film that’s centered all around you. What does it mean to you to step into that number one position on the call sheet?
Thank you for bringing it up, but it very much feels like an ensemble led by me, very much like that classic The Land. But it feels great and I’m so happy to be on this level of usability in a film. In reality, it’s my dream. So to fulfill it, first and foremost, you’ve got to be present and think about how great it is to lead a movie like this. So I feel very blessed, and I’m so happy this opportunity came my way.
Night Teeth is a genre twist on Michael Mann’s Collateral, which you’ve probably heard by now. Did you guys actually reference that film?
Absolutely. It was one of the first references that we got, and that obviously intrigued me quite a lot. I know Night Teeth is that title sans Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, but still, to have a vehicle that rides in the same fashion as theirs, that isn’t a bad project to attach yourself to. I was like, “What can I do with sort of the same playing field and the added bonus of genre going for me?
We’re in the midst of a vampire resurgence after their last peak in the early 2010s. When you think of vampires, what comes to mind first?
I mean, it’s got to be the one on the pedestal, which is Twilight.
You first shot this movie in New Orleans, and then you spent a couple weeks shooting in Los Angeles. Have you shot in L.A. all that much, or is it still pretty rare?
I’ve had my fair share of production there. I was able to do a couple of weeks on Night Teeth, but California was where most, if not all, of Bumblebee was shot. So I had two or three months of shooting in California with that. And honestly, you’ve got to be really lucky. You’ve got to be lucky to have so many of those L.A. landmarks. Also, quick sidebar, please excuse my accent. I’ve been working on this little thing on the side for myself, so I’ve been sharpening my Canadian accent for hilarious reasons. So I’m hearing it right now and I’m like, “Oh man, funny.” But yeah, man, I’ve had a good share of production going my way in L.A., but you’ve got to be lucky. You’ve got to be lucky to get such awesome locations. L.A. is iconic, especially the Sunset Strip or the L.A. River bridge. I remember watching that commercial for Paul Rodriguez and Ice Cube where he runs the same bridge, and as a kid who liked skateboarding, I was like, “Dang, I’m out here tagging the same spot up.” So it felt very full circle in that sense.
It also looks like you shot a lot of nights on Night Teeth, which is quite fitting. Do you ever get used to that lifestyle, or does it always take its toll on your mind and body?
It is brutal on the mind and body, but it’s also my preferred way of shooting because all of the mistakes and inhibitions kind of wither away in that time frame. It’s a little bit more excusable. And since this is art imitating life, not a life re-creation of sorts, it’s nice to have that comfort and that safe space. So night lends itself to that, and it also gives you that nuance that you feel in old Scorsese films like Taxi Driver or After Hours. It’s kind of hazy. It’s kind of like a neon, mystic darkness. That’s at least what it feels like to me, at times, when shooting at night. It’s where the make-believe kind of shines for me. So I’m a really big proponent of night films. It just looks beautiful. A lot of mystique and nuance comes with a primarily nighttime film.
Since Benny is posing as a driver in this movie, how much actual driving did you get to do?
Not much, man. They let me take the car around for two hours around Hollywood and around downtown. But besides that, I maybe drove just to get into a scene or right out of a scene. Luckily, I have my license, but I probably did three or four hours of driving, at most.
If I was an actor, I would love Netflix because 213 million people around the world are able to watch my movie at the click of a button, and I don’t have the opening weekend gross hanging over me. When making career decisions, do you concern yourself with those factors, or do you just focus on the material?
I focus on the material, but when there’s no material in hand and all you’re left with is the release date that’s looming, then you have to base your decision on other things. A great saying that we had long ago in that eon of what once was is that you could feel your movie “picking up traction” and “picking up speed” within the first and second week. You know that if the budget was this versus this at the first and second week, then you feel happy and it gives you something to look forward to. Obviously, with Netflix, we have more eyes on it, so we didn’t even have to worry about that. You don’t have to worry about those marks being hit because you just know they’re being hit. But at the same time, the third-party involvement that gives some sort of metric is something that, as an actor, might give you more fighting power moving forward. Or it might not; I’m not an authority on this. As a child, I looked at Will Smith, Robert Downey Jr. and Matt Damon and how they performed. So on one hand, that’s gone because more people are watching on streaming, but on the other hand, that allusion to success and mounting success is not monopolized by one source. It’s not only financially responsible, but it makes you feel a different level of appreciation, one that is not held by just one power. It’s like a congress saying you did a good job versus the monarch or the king. Obviously, one is 100 percent this and that, and you can go on forever about it. So in that sense, it’s a little different.
I love that shot at the club where you hit the guy in the head with a bottle and Lucy Fry and Debby Ryan’s characters fight around you in the background of the frame.
Thank you. Yeah, that was a really cool shot. It took two or three days of rehearsal and then figuring it out and comping it. But that was basically the most choreo I had to do, which is hit the guy in the head with a bottle and do the slow-mo thing. (Laughs.)
You mentioned Bumblebee already, but it’s the best Transformers movie by a wide margin.
(Laughs.) Thank you! Top two, top two.
Have you told your old friend [The Land director] Steven Caple Jr. that he’s got a tough act to follow via Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2022)?
(Laughs.) I haven’t told him that, but I should, man. That’s hilarious. (Laughs.) Let’s see who has the better Transformers movie.
In 60 years, when you tell your family about your time making Bumblebee, what day are you going to tell them about first?
I’m going to start with, “Long ago, there was this woman named Hailee Steinfeld. You know who she is. So I was in this movie with her.” (Laughs.) But location-wise, there’s this scene where our characters overlooked the mountains. We shot near the Redwoods, and the clouds were underneath me. So that was a mesmerizing feeling and memory. It was dope. That was just a great part and location.
So Jorge, does Jason Ionello [from Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home] have any plans this December [Spider-Man: No Way Home]?
Man, he does, bro. And very much like in the last one, he has very little to do with the core Spider-Man group. (Laughs.) He’s probably going to be home playing some video games.
Well, when I first got to L.A., where I no longer reside, I took a couple of UCB classes, which kind of set me up with the basics of improv. But before that, I feel like I got the majority of my improvisational style when I would just write a bunch of jokes at home. Kids would be out playing football, basketball or writing raps, but I would be home, just writing jokes. I tried stand-up comedy just so that I kept my funny sensibilities up. So yeah, I had a stand-up thing.
Brigsby Bear was one of my favorite films in 2017, and I loved how your character gave Kyle’s [Mooney] character a chance, something most people wouldn’t have done in real life. Is there a day on that set that sums up the experience for you?
It was just the constant hanging out that that group did. There was a camaraderie. We even did a little bit of karaoke together. Dave [McCary], Kyle [Mooney], Beck [Bennett], myself, Ryan [Simpkins] and Chance [Crimin]. Chance played the other friend who helps with the film within the film. So it was just the hanging out and just how nice that Good Neighbor [sketch] group was to us.
Did you really respond to your character’s benevolent soul? Did you appreciate that he was so open-minded to someone as eccentric as Kyle’s character?
Absolutely. At the time, I didn’t give that much thought to that sort of reaction to Kyle’s character’s backstory, but as I grow and I take a second look at the way that he created [my character], I’m like, “That’s a really good kid.” I say this lightly and figuratively, but that’s a kid who grew up with an international, kind of ageless outlook. I’ve seen people in different languages act that way and it’s a very benevolent thing. It’s far from being standoffish. These are things that are accepted in a lot of places, but not everybody is like that. So on the second look, I was proud of it from the outside looking in, and I was doubling down on that decision. So thank you for your very kind demeanor in regard to Brigsby Bear. I like when people like the stuff that I helped make. So I love hearing that and it’s an honor to answer anything about it. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you, man.
You’re very welcome.
That’s the stuff that keeps me going.
Do you have any rituals or routines that you perform before you head off to set?
I do a couple of breathing exercises where I’ll breathe in and breathe out. I’ll look in the mirror and try to relax myself. Beyond that, I just try to have a proper look over my lines; I’m just constantly going over my lines. So I just try to come to set as ready as possible by doing my routine.
Is there anything coming up that you’re excited about? I heard that you’re writing a Spanish-language romance that follows a couple from youth into old age.
Yeah, man. I can’t wait for some of these future projects to come to fruition. I’m just so excited for the future. Whatever I’ve got going on, check it out because it’s going to be lit. (Laughs.)
Night Teeth is now streaming on Netflix.
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