From our classrooms to the big screen
Ann Arbor native strikes gold in Hollywood debut
Two years ago, Zack Pearlman’s life came to a screeching stop and took a drastic turn, but he’s been cruising along in the fast lane ever since.
“I was like a 16-year-old girl who had gotten a Lamborghini for her birthday,” Pearlman, 22, said upon finding out how his life was to change. “I was in the car with Matt Bennett, who had already been casted. I remember him pulling over the car and we freaked out!”
Just months earlier, Pearlman had entered in a contest to get the chance to audition for a role in what would become the major motion picture, “The Virginity Hit.”
The contest was simple: post your most embarrassing moment on Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s website funnyordie.com and hopefully get the audition.
Pearlman decided to trick his family, particularly his sister, into being in the background of his entry video, while he described a moment in his life that caused his sister to have “repressed memories.”
Pearlman got the first audition and flew out to New York with the remainder of his bar mitzvah money.
“It was funny when he did the audition in New York,” said 51-year-old Susan Pearlman, Zack’s mom. “We figured it was time to let him go and audition for things and to be supportive of that.”
Ecstatic, Zack Pearlman received a call back and was flown out to Los Angeles for the final audition.
Pearlman received the part of co-star, playing the role of Zack, a teenager destined to help his friend lose his virginity.
“I knew he would land it,” said Pearlman’s sister, Allison, 25, who received a smaller role in the film. “He’s charming. He owned the room when he walked in. It didn’t surprise me at all.”
“I think we were sort of shocked, because it was really the first audition he had for a big role in a picture,” said Susan Pearlman, Zack’s mom. “We clearly thought he had the talent to do it.”
Zack Pearlman grew up in Ann Arbor, attending Pioneer High School, where he got his start in the schools theater program.
After high school, Pearlman enrolled at Washtenaw Community College with plans to transfer to the University of Michigan.
His successes didn’t come with ease, though. Pearlman had done theatre acting in his high school days, performing primarily in musical productions.
“He’s really a fan of movies,” said 53-year-old Mark Pearlman, Zack’s dad.
“He’d spend hours, hours and hours just watching movies.”
Suddenly, Zack Pearlman found himself in front of the cameras, working with Hollywood stars like Ferrell and McKay, who produced the film.
“They truly believe in the project. They’ve been so helpful and there for us,” said Pearlman, who moved to Los Angeles six months ago. “A lot of producers don’t have faith in a bunch of unknowns; they’ve given their all to us.”
“The Virginity Hit” tells the tale of a group of high school kids who are determined to help their last virgin friend, Matt, lose the title – and by any means necessary.
The movie was largely filmed from the perspective of Zack, who estimated that he shot about 35 percent of the movie with a camera in his hand.
While the movie originally had a script, a good portion of the movie was improvised by the film’s stars.
A goal of the movie was to not seem like a typical teenage sex movie. While drawing comparisons to the hit movie “Superbad” is never bad, it was important that the movie establish its own identity.
Pearlman had a similar goal.
“I was concerned as being seen as a rip-off Jonah Hill,” said Pearlman. “Jonah and I are completely different on screen. We don’t really have much in common…I mean; I guess we both have blue eyes.”
Another concern of the family was how the star would be received. While the movie has much more of a plot than just teenage sex, it was important to Pearlman that he not be portrayed as a “one-trick pony.”
“I think a lot of people will want him in different movies,” said Hannah Pearlman, 18, Zack’s sister. “He can do much more than comedies. He can do some really good stuff when it comes to drama.”
And Pearlman hopes to prove it. Meantime, he continues to do standup comedy. He’s currently working on a pilot he created with his best friend and co-star, Matt Bennett. He’s also written two screen plays that he hopes will flourish one day.
“I was impressed with myself when I learned I could write. I thought I was a nimrod!” Pearlman joked. “But it turns out I’m not!”
The movie was released on Sept. 10, but the path wasn’t exactly smooth.
“You don’t know how this industry works until you have to live it,” said Mark, Zack’s father. “There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of support that we’ve provided for Zack when it looked like it (the film) might not happen. We told him to keep hanging in there.”
Another potential concern was the fact that the movie may be received as explicit or “raunchy.” The movie is R-rated and includes scenes that could be considered for mature audiences.
“You don’t want to have the sort of movie come out where it’s really perceived as a raunchy movie,” said Mark. “The movie is clearly about adolescent friendships.”
“As far as the R-rating? Life is R-rated,” he added.
Pearlman was involved in standup comedy around Ann Arbor when he got his chance to audition for “The Virginity Hit”.