Leslie Mann is a terrific comedic performer who knows how to play realistic conflict in an entertaining and whimsical way that lets you into her world. In the new R-rated comedy, “The Change-Up,” her character, Jamie, is the emotional core of the film. Leslie was the perfect actress to anchor that because of her unique ability to handle both comedy and drama effortlessly. She delivers edgy zingers just as easily as dissolving into very real tears and has an impeccable sense of timing and presence that provokes laughter when you least expect it.
MoviesOnline sat down with Leslie to talk about her second body switching comedy since “17 Again” and what it was like playing opposite Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman who take turns playing her husband in “The Change-Up.” At a recent press conference in Los Angeles, she told us what it was like kissing People Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year, how hard it was doing a scene with Jason in his birthday suit, and why she wouldn’t mind switching bodies with Ryan Gosling’s girlfriend. She also discussed her full frontal scene and working on husband Judd Apatow’s upcoming spin-off to “Knocked Up.”
Q: Leslie, you’re such a shameless scene stealer. Was that scene with the babysitter all in the script or was some of that improvised?
LM: Was it originally in the script? I don’t know if it was. I do remember they were trying to cut some stuff because we were running out of time and I thought that it was really important that we kept that. We worked really hard on it and tried to make it as good as we could and then it wound up in the movie. I was really happy about that.
Q: Did you play it a couple of different ways or was it written as it ended up?
LM: It was something that I worked on actually myself. Was there a babysitter scene? I can’t remember. Let’s just say there was. Yes. It was really fun to play. The girl that I was with, I think it was her first job and she was really terrified.
Q: What’s it like playing a character that goes to bed with one husband and wakes up with someone completely different?
LM: I guess in real life that could be fun, huh? It would add some variety. But I don’t think my character liked it. [As far as] playing it as an actress, the boys did such a good job of switching and playing the other one and that made it a lot easier. It did get confusing at times because you don’t shoot in sequence, and so, it was hard to follow at times even making the movie. Is it hard to follow watching it? No? So yeah, it was fun.
Q: The boys got to have a little fun switching bodies with someone. In real life, who would you like to switch with?
LM: Ryan Gosling’s girlfriend. Anyone who’s really close with Ryan Gosling.
Q: How did you handle the scenes with the babies?
LM: It was kind of scary the scene where the boys come home to tell me that they’ve switched bodies. I’m holding both babies which is really hard. It’s hard to hold twins and they’re big. They’re like chubby, good healthy babies and they’re heavy. So the boys walk in and I walk down the stairs and hand them off to Jason who is now Ryan. Jason Bateman was saying that he had a good hold on them and that they were fine but they were almost dangling off. It was dangerous. Didn’t that look dangerous? He seemed like he had control over the situation, but it didn’t look like it and it made me really nervous. If I were the parents, I think I wouldn’t let him do that. It’s amazing what parents will let other people do to their kids. (laughs) Those poor babies. And, the breast feeding thing, why would you let your kid do that? It’s so weird.
Q: How did you respond when you saw that in the script and thought oh, I’ve got to do this? Also, what do you think about how Jason’s character rejects it when he’s Ryan’s character?
LM: I think it’s very funny. First of all, a weird thing, they brought in eight different babies trying to get them to go for it and they kept rejecting me. They would because I’m not their mother and they know and it felt bad. I felt rejected. You know how they say when you breastfeed, some mothers get rejected by their babies and they feel weird about it. It felt weird! I was like “C’mon. What’s wrong?” and in front of everyone watching. It was weird. And one [husband] is disgusted by it and the other one accepts it. One is a man child and the other one is a man. I think if you’re not used to seeing it…I used to walk around the house feeding my baby and answering the door. I didn’t think anything of it, but certain people would have weird reactions to me. I think you just get used to some things like that. If you’re not used to seeing it, it’s weird. It is weird when you think about it.
Q: It’s a good topic for discussion.
LM: Yeah, I have no problem with it at all. It seemed perfectly natural.
Q: When you work with your husband (Judd Apatow), you often get the chance to work with your own children. How does that dynamic change when you’re working with child actors like you did in this film?
LM: I was thinking about that the other day because I’m working with my kids right now. We’re making the spin-off to “Knocked Up” and I was working with my daughter, Iris, who’s 8 and we were doing a scene where I hug her. When I hug my kids, I smell them. I just breathe them in, and I thought I wouldn’t do that with another kid. I wouldn’t want to smell them and I don’t think I did that with [these kids]. I love kids and I have an 8-year-old also and Sydney (Rouviere) was 8. I’m nice to them but I wouldn’t want to smell them. It’s a different thing. I like working with my own kids.
Q: After starring in “17 Again,” do you feel at home in the body switching comedies?
LM: Yeah, I’m an old pro.
Q: What are the differences between these two movies and what attracted you to do this project after working on that one?
LM: Oh gosh, they’re so different. They’re very, very different. There’s no comparison. One is very sweet and PG and has Zac Efron, and the other one is raunchy and rated R. But both were fun. I like body switching movies.
Q: Were you concerned about doing a second one?
LM: No. Should I have been? (laughs)
Q: You end up kissing both of the hot young actors from each of your body switching movies. What was it like working with Ryan Reynolds?
LM: He was great. That week that I kissed Ryan was the week that he was on the cover of People Magazine as The Sexiest Man Alive. It was great! I loved it and my mom friends loved it. They loved that someone like them got to kiss The Sexiest Man Alive. It was fun. That’s good, like who gets to say they did that? He’s a great kisser but he has a sharp beard.
LM: Yeah, but it was fun. It was really hard. (laughs) A hard day.
Q: What was it like doing the scene with Jason in his birthday suit? Was it awkward?
LM: The first time we shot that, he had a robe on, and then a couple weeks later, he’d watched what we shot and decided it would be funnier if he didn’t have a robe on and he was just completely naked, and so I got to see more of him. I got to see everything. He didn’t seem to care. He seemed really comfortable. But yeah, it was all right there and he looks good.
Q: Was it hard to keep a straight face?
LM: Kinda, yeah. But he looks really good, Jason. Nice body.
Q: You had to do a lot of the dramatic heavy lifting to give dimension to both of these relationships. How difficult was it to strike a balance between playing something authentic and real and not weighing the movie down when it was trying to go broader and sillier?
LM: I think that’s David Dobkin who keeps making sure that works. For me, that is the thing that I do. I’m not good at being broad. I can’t do that kind of comedy. I like more reality based comedy and that’s just what I feel most comfortable doing. So, I just believe in the circumstances and it worked in this.
Q: Olivia spoke a lot about fleshing out the female characters in the film. How did your character change from page to screen and what did you bring to the role?
LM: I think a lot. I mean, we had rehearsal time where we all got together and talked about how we could make things better. I think it was written well to begin with, but it’s always helpful to have more input. We all, as a team, worked on it and made things better. Everybody was open to other people’s opinions and how to make things better.
Q: A big problem for Dave and Jamie seems to be a lack of communication which happens to most couples after they’ve been married a long time. How do you keep those doors of communication open with Judd and what kind of advice can you give on a lasting marriage? How do you keep it going after so many years?
LM: It’s been 16 years. There are good days and bad days and I don’t have any secrets I don’t think. Do I? I guess I have been married for awhile so maybe I do. We really like each other and we’re friends and we find each other funny and we agree on how to raise our children. What else do we do? I don’t know. We fight a lot. We do have good communication most of the time. Am I mad at him right now? I’m a little mad at him right now. I don’t have any answers on that. I hope I stay married and I hope that it all works out. (laughs)
Q: I hate to ask this, but the full frontal scene, was that real?
LM: It’s definitely not a body double. (laughs)
“The Change-Up” opens in theaters on August 5th.