Over at Vanity Fair‘s website, John Lopez has a wrap-up piece on the recently-concluded Toronto International Film Festival, “When Comedians Stop Being Funny and Start Getting Real,” which looks at two films, It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Everything Must Go (starring Will Ferrell), in which well-known comic actors take on nuanced, serious roles.

Here’s an extract in which Lopez chronicles the history behind Galifianakis’ casting in Funny Story, and how writer-directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden got past his wild and wacky comic persona to offer him the role of Bobby in their movie:

Galifianakis was a surprising choice to play the boy’s unlikely mentor, a fellow patient named Bobby. “We looked at The Hangover and thought, well, that’s great, it’s a funny movie, but we didn’t necessarily see Bobby in Zach,” according to Ryan Fleck. Still, at their producer Kevin Misher’s suggestion, Fleck and Bodensat down with Galifianakis and were more than pleasantly surprised. “He was such a warm charming dude whose smile lit up the room, through that beard, We were like, ‘Man, that’s something we hadn’t really seen him do before on camera.’ If he can take more elements of himself, the charming guy we met, and then combine them with the rough-around-the-edges dark character we’ve seen in his other roles, then this could be something really special.”

And that’s exactly what they got: Galifianakis is as zany as ever, but with a new pathos, vulnerability, and sweetness that calls to mind Harpo Marx in a moment of quiet retreat. Did the directors use some special trick to get this performance out of him? “I don’t think so,” says Fleck. “He wasn’t trying to be silly during the dramatic scenes. He knew what each scene was and what it required, and we just urged him to bring as much of his real personality into the role as he could.” Well then did Boden pull a fast one in the editing room? “I think that as an editor, I’m always looking for little quiet, silent moments, silent expressions that people have. I don’t think it’s different for Zach than anybody else.” At last, sensing our despair at learning the ultimate secret to turning a funny man sad, she mercifully elaborated: “I really love finding those quiet reactions or moments when an actor disengages from the dialogue for a second and goes inward, and I thought that was particularly helpful for Bobby because he’s kind of this character who’s pretty extroverted but then he has all this internal conflict…. You know, Zach gave those kinds of expressions even in the middle of something that might seem like a comedic scene or have a comedic tone.”

You can read more on the JALATOGEL website.