The lovely Elizabeth Banks cuddles up with Capone to discuss ZACK AND MIRI, ROLE MODELS, and more!!
Published at: Nov. 10, 2008, 3:30 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey all. Capone in Chicago here, with an important announcement.
Elizabeth Banks is the most beautiful woman in the world. On top of that, she's a gifted comic actor, she swears like sailor both on and off screen, she's got a great laugh, and she's given a steady string of solid performances in recent years that has made her one of the most sought after actresses of her generation. I distinctly remember noticing her for the first time in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, and she's gone on to star in nearly all of the films from the men and women who made MTV's "The State," including THE BAXTER and the upcoming ROLE MODELS. She's played Betty Brant in all three SPIDER-MAN movies, Jeff Bridges wife in SEABISCUIT, and the insatiable Beth in THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN. The woman stole my heart in the romantic-comedy SLITHER (that's a joke, by the way, but Banks is awesome in this film), she looked great in an elf costume in FRED CLAUS, and she made Ryan Reynolds one lucky S.O.B. as one of his love interests in DEFINITELY, MAYBE.
And considering what I've been hearing about the screenplay for Oliver Stone's W., I think Banks' comic skills may come in very handy playing Laura Bush. By my count, Banks will be seen in three more movies before the year is out, including Kevin Smith's ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. She plays Miri, a woman who self-admittedly likes to fuck. Considering the X-rated nature of Smith's plot about a best friends who decide the make an amateur porn to make some money, Banks feels like the ideal, open-minded, fearless lady to embody Miri. You only need re-watch the "I'm Fucking Seth Rogen" video on YouTube to know that the woman is utterly without boundaries.
This interview was conducted literally mere minutes after Banks and the rest of the ZACK AND MIRI panel members stepped off stage at Comic-Con. We were literally sitting behind the stage. So here is the woman I will forever refer to as simply "Banks" because she told me I could.
Elizabeth Banks: So who are you with?
Capone: Ain't It Cool News.
EB: Love it. Love Ain't It Cool.
Capone: Have you been to Comic-Con before?
EB: Yeah, I came for SLITHER.
Capone: Of course, and you're my hero for being in SLITHER, because it's one of the greatest times I had in the movie theater that year.
EB: It is a great movie, I know. It's one of those marketing debacles I think doomed it to fail. It was really funny, but they didn't know whether it was a comedy or a horror movie. "What do we do?"
Capone: In talking to Seth Rogen just before the panel, we got to talking about how ZACK AND MIRI almost inadvertently tackles the serious economic crunch that a lot of people are going through right now.
EB: I know, the economy is a mess, and that's what the movie is about. Someone asked me earlier if I could relate to Miri, and I grew up lower-middle class. We had days where we went to grandma's house to take baths, and it was like "Yay, we're going to grandma's house to take a bath!" But it was because we didn't have hot water, which my parents didn't want to tell us. So instead we had fun nights at grandma's house. I totally get it. It makes sense to me that these guys feel as desperate as they do. Kevin does a good job of writing out the circumstances for them but not taking things so seriously. It's just porn; it's just people fucking, you know? Let's do it; let's make money.
[At this point, not realizing that there's an interview going on, Traci Lords interrupts our conversation to say good-bye to Elizabeth. As Traci is about to leave, Elizabeth says…]
You look gorgeous. That was really fun; they really love you in there. [Turns to me] Cultural icon Traci Lords. Woohoo!
Capone: Can't argue with that.
EB: So yes, the economic stakes are the stakes of the movie. And the stakes are, these are two aimless people. The just don't know what they're supposed to be doing in their lives. Through this process, they find a sense of purpose, as well as they love of their life.
Capone: You've beautifully aligned yourself with a couple really great groups of comic actors, including the group that works with Kevin Smith. But you've also worked with the guys and gals from "The State," and you're in with the Apatow crowd. How did you get in with David Wain and the other "State" crowd?
EB: I auditioned for the lead role in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, which was my first movie and that was their first movie that they made. So we were all kind of these New Yorkers with the same sensibility. I'm totally tooting my own horn here, but they thought I was too pretty to play the lead, that I was too hot, which I was like, "Awesome!" So I ended up playing Lindsay…was that her name? I play characters named Beth in a lot of movies [laughs]. At any rate, that's how I started with them. I literally just got called in by their casting director, and I was pretty and funny, and I think that's a combo that are not a dime a dozen.
Capone: Pretty and smart, but not in a Marilyn Monroe way. You don't often play dumb characters.
EB: Every once and a while I play a true idiot, and they're really fun to play. [laughs]
Capone: There has been so much talk about you playing Laura Bush and the movie W. in general, as there often is with any Oliver Stone movie. Because it's you playing her, I have to wonder if you're playing it for laughs.
EB: I play all my comedies straight, do you know what I mean? Beth, my character in 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, I think those scenes play funny because they're really real, you know? And I treat this material the same as I treat that material, in that I'm just trying to find the most real moments I can to put on screen, because that's what's funny to people. "America's Funniest Home Videos" is fucking funny because it's real people. YouTube is a phenomenon because we like to see people fall off their bike or run over their husband's foot or see a cat attack you. It's all real shit. So when you make it character based, I think that to me makes the best comedy.
Capone: Then forgive me, I asked the question wrong. Is W. something we're meant to laugh at?
EB: I think that…you know what? It's a movie that covers a life, and in all lives there is tragedy, there is humor, there is everything. So yeah, there are definitely funny moments in the movie. I would not call it a comedy. But look, the guy choked on a peanut or something when he was alone…
Capone: I believe it was a pretzel.
EB: A pretzel, right. And he almost died. If you saw that in a movie or saw that happening to someone, you would laugh your ass off. It's not like there isn't fodder for us to use.
Capone: I noticed that everyone I've talked to this week who knows you calls you "Banks." Is that what you tell people to call you?
EB: That's a high school thing. My real last name is Mitchell, and I was Mitch or Mitchell my whole life. It's a sports thing, and I played sports. I call myself Banks because Elizabeth is long and very formal, and Banks is short and sweet and simple, so everybody ends up calling you Banks. You can call me Banks if you want.
Capone: I will.
EB: Banks or Banksie, either one.
Capone: The clip from ZACK AND MIRI that Kevin just showed are the first scenes I've seen from it. Tell me a little bit about Miri. What kind of person is she?
EB: Well, that clip was from our 10-year high school reunion. She's an orphan, an aimless loser orphan. She works at a kiosk in the mall. She doesn't have a lot of ambition. She and Zack are kind of stoners, and they just hang out. They don't aspire to have anything and they don't have anything, because they don't now what they're missing, or they do but it's too depressing to think about it. She's a really regular, small-town person, and that's all she ever needed to be. She basically just wants to get through life. And she's in love with Zack, and he doesn't know it.
Capone: This film smells a bit like a romance under all this flesh peddling.
EB: It's very romantic. I mean, it's uber-romantic, this movie. It's what sold me on the movie. It's why I can't believe the MPAA is giving us so much shit, because really the movie has so much heart. Meanwhile SAW 2 is about people cutting off each other's limbs and blood gushing everywhere is an R. We make this big, heartfelt movie where people happen to fuck each other, and we get an NC-17. I mean, we don't even show dick. We're not really showing any penis.
Capone: You hinted during the panel that you had a concern about possibly doing nudity for this movie.
EB: Yeah. But no, I was going to do it, I was willing to do it. It was my first…I mean, there is a sex scene; we make a porno. It was more about how far we were going to go with it that was really my concern. But it's beautiful.
Capone: I can't wait to see it. Thank you so much.
EB: It was very nice to meet you.