Monday, May 7, 2012

An Interview with Anna Faris

The first thing that many people think of when they hear Anna Faris’ name is her work in often ridiculous and entertaining comedies such as “The Hot Chick”, “The House Bunny”, and of course, the “Scary Movie” series, which put her on the map. In between the rated R humor and the bizarre characters, she has done television (“Friends”), supporting roles in award-winning indies (“Lost in Translation” and “Brokeback Mountain”) and conventional romantic comedies (including last year’s “What’s Your Number?”) 

My all-time favorite role of hers is the overwhelmed stoner Jane in the underappreciated “Smiley Face”, which has to be one of the most impressive comic performances of the 2000s. A tale of a aimless woman who tries to replace the pot that her roommate had used for baking treats that goes from humorous to beyond bizarre, Faris was not afraid to go all out for this role. (Highlights include attending an audition while still really high and being stuck on a Ferris wheel.) This movie also includes John Krasinski, Adam Brody, John Cho, with pre-“Glee” Jamya Mays and Jane Lynch. Go rent this movie when you get the chance. 

 Faris, who appears in Sacha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator”, talked with The DePaulia on the controversy surrounding her new movie, how she chooses her roles, and what it was like to grow armpit hair for this movie.

DP: Did you have any reservations about working on his movie, given Cohen’s controversial reputation in comedy?

Faris: I feel like I’ve been a part of so many offensive comedies that I’m a little numb to it.  I don’t think I ever really get offended, but every time I take a role, I start worrying about my mom and what she’s going to think because she’s pretty conservative.  She always wants me to play someone like Amelia Earhart. And I’m like, ‘oh, is this the kind of thing that I have to tell her to avoid or not?’
     And then, I guess it didn’t occur to me at the time, but Sasha, when we were like one day during shooting, he mentioned that he had like some fatwas against him, or something along those lines.  And I would say, ‘Wait, what?’  And he was like, ‘Yes, there’s all these like jihadists that are really upset with him for Borat and Bruno.’ And then it occurred to me, like, ‘Wait a minute, this could potentially be like a kind of a dangerous project to be a part of.’ But so far, we’re all still here.

The DePaulia: If you could show this movie to one person in the world and only that one person, who would it be and why?

Anna Faris: Oh, if I could show it to one person and why, I think I have to go with Keenan Ivory Wayans.  He is very dear to my heart.  He gave me my first break in “Scary Movie.”  And I know that he would really appreciate it– he loves humor that offends everybody equally.  So I would love to – I’d love for him to see this.  I’d love to be in the screening room as he watched it.

DP: This is Sasha Baron Cohen’s first movie with the use of a script. Were you guys still able to improvise on set or did you guys stick to the script all the way through?

Faris in a scene from "The Dictator",
in theatres May 16
Faris: No, it was very, very loose.  It was a little bit of a learning curve for me.  It was unlike pretty much any filming like process I had ever gone through before.  I really didn’t know where a scene was going to go.  We had a script and we would do the scripted version a couple of times.  And then, the writers and Sasha would collaborate.  And then, next thing you know, you would be headed in a completely different direction. So it forced you to really stay on your toes, which was hard, but also, an exciting challenge for an actor. 

DP: What is your favorite part of performing comedy?

Faris: It’s made me be able to laugh at myself a lot easier. I think I used to take myself very seriously. There’s also the reward of when you sneak into a theater, which I rarely do, because it just scares me so much.  But when I do, I hear other people laughing at the movie. It feels amazing. It’s amazing to give people joy and to be a part of a hugely challenging process as well.

DP: What do you look for when you are looking at roles?

Faris: I look for interesting characters. For “The Dictator”, I was really excited to work with Sasha. I had been such a fan of this for a long time, so it was a thrill to be involved in one of his movies. I feel really fortunate that I’ve been able to do a variety of different characters, and I hope that continues.

DP: I have an odd question. If you and your husband (Chris Pratt, or Andy on “Parks and Recreation”) start a family, would you ever consider being more selective in your roles for the sake of your (theoretical) children? Or would you continue to choose roles like Cindy Campbell (“Scary Movie”) or Jane (“Smiley Face”)?

Faris: I don’t think I would ever want to. I know it sounds awful, but I don’t think I’d ever want to choose my roles for the sake of my children.  I mean, I guess if there’s an inappropriate movie, maybe I don’t let them see it.
     I think that I had to have that conversation with my mom a little while back.  I told her, “I’m not going to make my movie choices because I’m worried about what you’ll think”, which I still am worried about what she thinks, but I just had to vocalize that.

DP: What was the strangest thing you had to do for a movie?

Faris: For “The Dictator,” I had to grow up my arm pit hair, which was a new experience for me. And I was very naïve about it. They asked me if I would do it, because they said they could put some hair – glue some hair on me.  And I was like, no, no, no, I’ll totally do it.

And I was sort of thinking that maybe (the hair) would grow kind of thin and wispy, and maybe even kind of cute. But that was not the case. It was dark and thick. It defined my whole summer. No tank tops, no swimsuits, I couldn’t hail a cab. At a party, if I’d had a drink or two, I would lift my shirt and show off my arm pit hair.  And it made people gag.  It was amazing.  #

The Dictator, starring Sasha Baron Cohen and Anna Faris, hits theatres May 16.

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