The star of ''Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist'' talks about fame and quitting the biz

Filmmakers love Michael Cera. Peers respect him. And girls want to marry him. So what’s next? Frankly, he’s thinking of quitting.

After breaking out at 15 as George Michael on Fox’s Emmy-winning cult sitcom Arrested Development, Cera hit the jackpot last year playing sensitive young funnymen in Superbad and Juno. His first foray into leading-man territory — the low-budget teen comedy Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist — just banked a respectable $11.3 million in its opening weekend. And he’s already shot lead roles in two more promising titles for next year — Harold Ramis’ Year One with Jack Black, and the literary adaptation Youth in Revolt. Now the Ontario native insists that he’s taking the rest of the year off, and that he’ll be thinking long and hard about whether he should put the brakes on his career.

Yes, Cera’s serious. This isn’t just another example of his famously bone-dry wit. ”I’ll definitely slow down,” he says over breakfast at a Manhattan hotel restaurant that serves him the apple juice he orders in a wineglass. ”I have a movie lined up for early next year [Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, directed by Shaun of the Dead‘s Edgar Wright], and then nothing after that. I’ll just take it step by step, I guess.”

But why rethink his career now? Cera says he’s wanted to be an actor since he was 3, when he got chicken pox and watched Ghostbusters over and over during his recuperation. He made his start as a professional actor at 9, working on Canadian television. But he’s only recently discovered a truism about Hollywood: Being a bona fide celebrity is weird. ”That aspect of the job is kind of new to me,” he says, as polite, hesitant, endearing, and nervous in real life as he comes off on film.

”It’s scary. And I know I didn’t think about it when I was 9 years old.” Cera punctuates the thought — as seems to be his habit — with an awkward laugh. ”I loved acting, and I just liked being on set.”

It’s the other stuff that comes with the job that’s starting to get to him. Cera started to feel ”vulnerable,” he says, after Superbad grossed $121 million last summer. As his costar Jonah Hill puts it, ”One day things were normal for us, and then the next day the movie opened, and things kinda changed completely.”

One year later, Cera still isn’t comfortable with the paparazzi at red-carpet events (”They’re so aggressive and really mean”), with people eye-balling him on the street (”I was always self-conscious, and feeling like you’re being looked at just amplifies that feeling — you get paranoid”), and with haters who rag on him on Web message boards (”People are crazy”).

But is it really possible that all the annoying celebrity parts of the job could be enough to make him stop acting? ”Yeah, I think so,” Cera says. ”Acting’s not something I need to live, by any means. So I’ll just see how it goes. I definitely don’t think I wanna star in movies, if…” His voice trails off. ”I like acting, but I’d like to start doing smaller parts, I guess, where I could just kind of relax and not have to worry about it too much. That’d be fun.”

Cera knows people don’t like to hear actors complaining about fame. ”You get very little sympathy for it,” he says. ”People can’t relate, really.” And he acknowledges that ”my day-to-day life is pretty nice.” But ask the actor if he just needs to toughen up a bit, and he blanches slightly. ”I don’t wanna change because of other people,” he says. ”I wanna be myself still, and I don’t think I need to toughen up. It’d be weird to be comfortable with [celebrity]. But I won’t drive myself crazy or have a nervous breakdown. I’ll just deal with it.”

The Buzz on Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

The Biggest Rave ”The movie is filled with wonderful music, memorable characters and rich, quotable dialogue (‘I refuse to be the goody bag at your pity party’). But what makes the picture really soar is the way it reminds you what it feels like to fall in love — and the endless, countless possibilities a new romance brings.”
— Rene Rodriguez The Miami Herald

The Biggest Pan
”’Slight’ is too strong a word to apply to this teen spin on Martin Scorsese’s After Hours.”
— Peter Travers Rolling Stone