Elizabeth Banks Interview, Zack and Miri Make a PornoPosted by: Sheila Roberts
MoviesOnline sat down with Elizabeth Banks at the Los Angeles press day for his new film “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” directed by Kevin Smith.
Lifelong friends and roommates Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Banks) are facing hard times and a mountain of debt. When the electricity and plumbing get cut off, the two seize upon the idea of making a homegrown porno movie for some quick cash, enlisting the help of their friends. The two vow that having sex will not ruin their friendship. But as filming begins, what started out as a business proposition between friends turns into something much more. Here’s what Elizabeth had to tell us:
MoviesOnline: When you got the script and saw the title, did you have second thoughts?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Nope. I didn’t have a single second thought.
MoviesOnline: What attracted you to the project? Was it the great love story?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Yeah, I really responded to the romance in it. I think Kevin’s a giant romantic. He likes to wrap the romance in profanity, but he loves ladies. So it was that. It was the opportunity, frankly, to play a really well-written, authentic funny woman, opposite an authentically funny leading man, which is very rare. And in an honest and equal two-hander. Any actress in Hollywood is looking for that.
MoviesOnline: Were you in top physical form for this? Did you know how much was going to be shown?!
ELIZABETH BANKS: I was prepared to shoot it naked with the understanding that my busy parts would be covered mostly by Seth, so I wasn’t really worried about it, and then Kevin had always told us that 90% of the scene would be here, that he was going to try and focus this moment on our emotions and not on anything physical. And also, we really wanted a juxtaposition between the porn scenes and then love making, so it was really about that moment when we leave the door, when Seth comes in to getting on the beans and what we were going to do, and Kevin said, two days before he had this epiphany -- Yeah, I don’t want you guys to take your clothes off. I think he was going to be more uncomfortable with us being naked around him, then we were going to be uncomfortable.
MoviesOnline: This movie seems to accurately portray the differences between men and women?
ELIZABETH BANKS: You mean that men are really visual and want to see boobs?
MoviesOnline: Well, in terms of sex versus love?
ELIZABETH BANKS: There’s enough raunch in the movie. I think we set out to make a really fun movie. That was the number one goal. And the secondary goal was to have a great love story. And we wanted to make a romantic comedy, in the best sense of those two words. I think you have to undercut the romance. Any time the story got really emotional, we would undercut it with something outrageous. That’s why it’s funny. The humor is based in that push pull. If it had just been all emotional, it would be The Notebook. And if it were just porn, then it would be like a bad Adam Sandler movie. It’s the combination that makes this movie as special as it is.
MoviesOnline: Do you think that women will want to see it?
ELIZABETH BANKS: It’s a great movie for ladies. I think Miri is a really great character, and I think it’s a super romantic movie. When you leave the theater, I think you’ll have a giant grin on your face.
MoviesOnline: How was it going from this to playing Laura Bush in “W”?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Totally different. Every character requires different things. And, you know, Miri is very close to me. I grew up very similar to Miri. I grew up in a duplex in a working class town in Massachusetts where it’s freezing in the winter. Her physical and actual circumstances--- and I grew up poor, all those circumstances made total sense to me. With Miri, I got to have say over does she have long hair, does she have short hair, is she fat, is she skinny, what is she like. With Laura Bush, those things are already predetermined. You need to nail the reality of it, first and foremost. It was much more of an external, working from the outside in, with Laura Bush, making sure the hair and makeup and the clothes and the earrings and the voice, all of that had to be right, because there was a reality that needed to be matched, and then you do all of your research to try and find that 3rd dimension where you make her a real person as well.
MoviesOnline: Did you want Laura Bush to be the supportive person?
ELIZABETH BANKS: That’s her reputation. I did the research. I didn’t find the “crazy” Laura Bush who’s back stage smacking him. Not happeningâ€¦So, it would not have made sense to try and portray other than the supportive union that they have together. It was really important to me. There’s a scene in the movie when they first meet. It’s really important to see why they were attracted to each other and to see that spark that happened between them. You know they got married three months after they met at that backyard BBQ. So it was a whirlwind romance. They were ready, they were hungry for each other from the get go. Those are important things to me to have on screen. I dug through all that biographical material and I tried to hold on to little things that I thought I could play as Laura Bush, and one of the things I held on to is, she says, over and over again that her job as first lady, if she had to write out the job description, her job is to mind the emotional and psychological health of the President of the United States. I felt like that was something I could really play. That’s something that, as a supportive wife, I understood.
MoviesOnline: Did you meet her?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I did meet her, coincidentally. Not for this movie. I met her in 2003, long before I knew I would play her. And it was very informative. She was wearing pearls and a twin set. She was very first lady-ish. She had a very thick accent. Which is the first time I think I realized that she’s Texas through and through. So it was very informative - the meeting. And it was very indicative of who she is as a person. They screened Seabiscuit at the White House, because Laura Bush loved the book Seabiscuit and had chosen it as sort of a National Book Club selection. She’s very into reading. And Laura Hillenbrand who wrote Seabiscuit is confined to DC because of an illness. So, Laura Bush hosted a dinner on the author’s behalf and had us all out to see the movie, because Laura couldn’t come to LA for the premiere. So, you know, big heart.
MoviesOnline: If you had financial woes in real life, would you ever consider making a porno with a friend?
ELIZABETH BANKS: No. I’m very good at making money. I’ve been making money since I was 11 ½ years old, when I first started working at the Catholic Youth Center in Pittsfield, Mass, so I’ve been in dire straights, but notâ€¦ I think these guys, there are other ways for them to get out of this circumstance, clearly. But sometimes it is that outrageous solution that you really feel is going to invest your life with zest and they were looking for something more than just getting out of their financial problems. They were looking for a purpose for their life.
MoviesOnline: As a good actress, do you find it hard to pretend to be a bad actor?
ELIZABETH BANKS: It’s really fun to do bad acting. You just kind of imitate a bunch ofâ€¦ I won’t name namesâ€¦ I’m kidding. We didn’t think about anyone else. We just knew we didn’t want to be good at it. That was the main thing. We really wanted to be amateurs who were uncomfortable and awkward with each other and with the idea of it. Everyone has been in that situation. Any woman who’s had a kid, goes, yeah I think it’s a great idea to have a baby, and then you fucking get to that day when you’re pushing that thing out, and you’re like, What the fuck was I thinking!?! This is crazy. Or you’re gonna go on this rollercoaster, and you’re in the line, Yup, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna get on this rollercoaster. Then you get in that seat, and, Goddamit. I should of thought a little bit harder about this. That was that moment. It was just that moment where we were talking the talk and suddenly we had to walk the walk, and it’s uncomfortable.
MoviesOnline: Have you ever been to one of those wacky High School reunions where nobody is what they were when you knew them in High School?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I went to my five year High School reunion, and it was on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, so that totally is true. That really happens. And it was par for the course. The guy everybody thought was gay, was gay. The guy everybody thought was balding, was bald. Some girls were fat.
MoviesOnline: Did you have a crush on anyone?
ELIZABETH BANKS: My high school boyfriend was there, and it was awkward, because we had both moved on, but we’re friendly even today.
MoviesOnline: Was there anything that Kevin had in the script that was too crazy?
ELIZABETH BANKS: There’s nothing that I did that I was worried about. I was never worried about anything that Miri did. I must say, when I read the script, and I read the shit scene, I thought, they’re not really gonna get to do this. And I will say, I probably thought that’s really crossing the line. But then when I saw it in the cut together footage, I thought this is so amazing it has to been in the movie, because you know, when we were going through the ratings process it was very possible that that was going to get cut from the movie, and I became an ardent fan of that moment in the movie. I really felt it had to exist.
MoviesOnline: What’s the back story behind your character’s nickname?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Kevin Smith knew a “Linkie” back in New Jersey, and Kevin Smith is like a nine year old wrapped up in an adult’s body, so “Stinky Linkie” makes perfect sense to Kevin Smith as a nickname. But he knew a real “Linkie,” so that was based on a real last name.
MoviesOnline: If you were to choose a celeb to do a porno with, who would it be?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Brad Pittâ€¦ And Angelina.
MoviesOnline: What is your Porn name? It’s supposed to be your childhood pet & your first address?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Yes, Sophie Brown. She was a little white bunny, and I have now soiled her.
MoviesOnline: Can you talk a little about A Tale of Two Sisters (aka The Uninvited)?
ELIZABETH BANKS: It comes out in January. I’m really excited. In the most simplistic terms, I play the evil stepmother, and I base the character on Rebecca DeMornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. That’s the vibe I was going for. You’re not really sure what the motivations are and you’re not really sure what her past is.
MoviesOnline: Are you working a lot more now, or is it just that all your movies are coming out right now?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I worked 8 months back to back last year, so I didn’t work consistently last year, or over the last year. But the fact that they’re all coming out right now is not my fault, and I mean for it to happen. They’re actually coming out in the exact opposite order in which I shot them. So I would have thought Uninvited would have been out months ago and I would have thought “W” was coming out in Spring. I can’t believe the turnaround times are totally messing with my entire publicity situation.
MoviesOnline: What about Role Models?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Role Models comes out November 7th, and hopefully it will be number two after Zack and Mary that weekend.
MoviesOnline: Where was it in the order?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I made it before “Zack and Miri.” Last December. November and December of last year. I made “The Uninvited” in Vancouver; in the fall, I made “Role Models,” then I made “Zack and Miri,” and then I made “W.”
MoviesOnline: What film director, dead or alive, do you think could make the best porno?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Fellini.
MoviesOnline: Well he tried with Satyricon but it didn’t work.
ELIZABETH BANKS: Well that’s because he didn’t really go there, did he? (laughs) He didn’t have Katie Morgan.
MoviesOnline: You and Seth had great chemistry. Can you talk about that?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Yes. We make each other laugh. We have all the elements that go into a good relationship. We totally trust each other, and we believe that we make each other look good and I adore him on a lot of levels and I respect him immensely and he’s really talented. And he’s nice enough to say the same thing about me. We wanted that to be on screen at all times. Really present a realistic couple from the get go, who just hadn’t figured out how to be romantically involved.
MoviesOnline: When you got the script, did you know who Katie Morgan was?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I knew Katie Morgan from her HBO show, yeah. But that’s it.
MoviesOnline: 5 or 10 years ago, Seth Rogan’s appearance was that of a loser type.
ELIZABETH BANKS: Yeah, he’s terrible looking. (laughter)
MoviesOnline: How do you think Hollywood has changed in terms of the preferred type of romantic leading man?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I like looking at beefcake just like anybody, but I don’t like my actual mate to be better looking than me. So I think that Seth represents that sort of every guy. He’s very soft, he is romantic and he’s sweet and he’s funny, and for me the biggest turn on is somebody who makes me laugh. I think that’s why he is the sex symbol that he is.
MoviesOnline: Did you ever crack up in a scene?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Not on this one. I’ve done it on other movies where I literally felt like I’m unprofessional. I have to leave the set. I feel terrible. Really, I should turn in my SAG card, it’s that bad.
MoviesOnline: What film was that?
ELIZABETH BANKS: “The Baxter.” Justin Theroux, who wrote “Tropic Thunder” and he’s writing the “Iron Man,” and he’s a phenomenal actor. And he’s one of the funniest motherfuckers around. And that asshole made me laugh so much when we were making that movie, we literally couldn’t stay on set together.
MoviesOnline: How do you like the fact that you can only be a cartoon figure for the promotional material and that they can’t show your face?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Well, they could have shown my face, but only my face. I think it’s pretty ridiculous. I think there are a lot of bigger problems in this world right now than the world “porno.” I don’t get it. I grew up in a family where my parents sat us down in front of the Nova Miracle of Life video when I was nine, so I was well versed on where babies came from. And the dad who had a problem because his son asked, ‘What’s porno, daddy?” I mean, I have a bigger problem if my kids asked, “What’s Rwanda genocide, Mommy?” I’m wondering if that Dad lets his kid watch MTV or video games or anything else in our culture that’s so sexualized nowadays.
MoviesOnline: Will you be back for Spiderman 4?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I have no idea. I’m the last person that they call.
“Zack and Miri Make a Porno” opens in theaters on October 31st.