PARK CITY, UTAH — Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus and 2012, which premiered at Sundance on Thursday, is the story of a two young Americans (Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann) determined to find a psychedelic San Pedro cactus, boil it down to its essence — mescaline — and drink it on a beautiful Chilean beach. Filming Crystal Fairy was a trip too, literally: the cast drank the psychedelic tea while shooting.
The scenes in which the characters are tripping out on mescaline were shot over two days so, director Sebastián Silva said, the production team had to make two batches of the San Pedro. Hoffmann, who plays the title character Crystal Fairy, opted to go first.
"I loved it," Hoffmann said of the tea. "I volunteered to go first, sort of be the guinea pig because the boys shot their trip on one day and we shot mine on another and we drank two separate batches of it. I think theirs was not very strong."
Silva agreed. "Gaby was really under the influence. I was there with her, and she took a double dose because it takes a while to kick in," he explained. "When we were shooting the scene where she is trying to bring the rabbit back to life she was really under the influence — you could see it in her eyes."
Hoffmann said the San Pedro facilitated her performance. "I could use it almost as a tool," she explained. "I just felt like I could step in and out of the experience of being on the drugs — it was just a beautiful, mellow experience and I was in the most gorgeous spectacular place that you could imagine."
"It was a real joy, and it was really fun to work like that," she added.
The second batch, made for the following day of shooting, apparently didn't deliver the same effects as the first.
"As Gaby said, you could step in or step out of the effects," Juan Andrés Silva, Sebastián Silva's brother, who plays Champa in the film, explained. "We were in a mellow mood — like a real comfortable state."
"It was not very psychedelic."
Sebastián Silva thinks the pressure of filming might have also lessened the effects of the San Pedro.
"When the boys took it, it was less I think, and my belief is that if you're working it's really hard to be high," he said. "I think it was really hard for them to let themselves go, you know, and give up to the effects."
Silva added, "I like the San Pedro because it's not like they are going to some shady neighborhood to get some MDMA or some crystal meth or some crazy shit. It's a plant that old ladies have in their yards."
Even so, Silva himself opted out of imbibing. He said, "I did not drink it on set — that would have been crazy."