Friday, September 26, 2008

Sam Rockwell Investigates Sex Addiction and other Complusions In "Choke"

Feature Interview by Brad Balfour

Actor Sam Rockwell, director Clark Gregg and author Chuck Palahniuk have to hand it to David Duchovny. He brings sex addiction to the public's attention, though it certainly wasn't his intention. While there are far bigger issues to lay on the common consciousness, his antics and subsequent separation from spouse Tea Leoni have put a whole new focus on their cinematic vehicle, "Choke"—one of the most talked about films at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

No wonder, since the film's lead character Victor Mancini—the "sort of" hero of gonzo cult author Palahniuk's convoluted novel—is both a sex addict and quasi-grifter who is using a choking scheme to pay for his mentally addled mother.

Whether at his mom's nursing home, his 12-step SA recovery program or his part time job as a performer at a reconstructed colonial village (nee Williamsburg), Mancini finds partners everywhere to share his sexual obsession. From bathroom to barn, Mancini gets off by flashing back to his twisted past. The only woman Mancini can't perform with is Dr. Paige (Kelly Macdonald), but she only wants to do it in the chapel which totally fucks him up.

In playing "Choke's" lead character, Rockwell considers an obsession with his pee-pee essential to the job. But you have to give Rockwell credit; he isn't worried about his penis size; he admits it's just the average tool--nothing to turn him into an AVN Award winning porn star.

But in making this absurd character plausible, Rockwell faced the kind of challenge that he's grappled with throughout his unique and pretty quirky career. Whether he's playing a 19th century American like Charley Ford ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford") or the loopy Guy Fleegman in the Star Trek parody "Galaxy Quest," Rockwell defies laying down an obvious rendition of a character in a film where its logic defies easy expectations.

Q: In terms of the smart, weird and quirky spectrum you have explored throughout your film career ("Galaxy Quest," "Snow Angels," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"), where do you place this character Victor?

SR: He's all that [smart, weird and quirky], isn't he? You've got to be, sort of... He's manipulative. You remember a movie called "Tom Jones" starring Albert Finney? I thought it was like that, a kind of comedic psychoanalysis of a Casanova. And if you meet a real ladies' man, they're usually not really good-looking guys, and they're really empty inside. That kind of stuff is fun for a while, and then it just turns into an empty pit.

That's what this movie does well, it gets inside the head of a ladies' man, so to speak, and we find what it is to really be a Casanova instead of glamorizing it. That's what I think is cool about this movie... and it's funny.

Q: since it's based on cult writer Chuck Palahniuk's wacky novel (h also had the hit "Fight Club"), that's what appealed to you with this role?

SR: It's just challenging material. It's a great part because it's like a comedic Hamlet. It's got a lot going on, a lot of internal conflict.

Q: With all that internal conflict, how did you get into his head and wrap your head around Victor Mancini, and his life?

SR: Therapy, a lot of therapy [laughs]. Clark and I did some research. Brad Hanke [who plays Victor's best buddy Denny] and I went to some sex addict meetings, anonymously most of the time...

Q: In New York?

SR: In New York and Los Angeles. I also watched this documentary, and there was a sex therapist named Sean, and talking to him about it helped me a lot actually. It's a very serious condition, nothing to be laughed about. It's pretty severe. It goes from anything like chronic masturbation to prostitution to people who've been molested as a kid, so it's very serious. It's like an eating disorder more than something like alcoholism.

Q: Because it's emotionally rather than physically addictive?

SR: Exactly. Because it's about filling that hole and sort of numbing yourself. I think a lot of repressed anger is involved, trying to numb that anger. What they say about it is, if sex addicts are hungry, they have sex; if they're angry, they have sex; if they're sad, they have sex, so they attribute it to every emotion. If they're celebrating, they have sex. So it's like that.

Q: Sex and affection are separate for them?

SR: Yeah, they can compartmentalize like that, but also, it's just a weird. I think everybody at some point, well, maybe not everybody, but a lot of people, especially people who live in cities, I feel like urban people especially, because they're ambitious or something, and they have careers...

I know that I have in the past compartmentalized intimacy and sexuality. Finding real intimacy is integrating eroticism and love...That's the problem with the sex addict is that they separate the two, to an extreme extent.

Q: So, of the movies you've done, this one has the most sex scenes with you?

A: Oh fucking hell yeah.

Q: It was a challenge to vary the different sex scenes?

SR: It was tricky, pretty silly stuff, and not erotic at all. At one point, I was having an orgasm on a close-up, and I'm basically fucking a camera. We had done an 18-hour day, and we were losing it. We were exhausted, and it's one of those great out-takes, and I just started laughing. I was trying to fake cum, and it's ridiculous. I just lost it.

Q: How do you feel about frontal nudity?

SR: Men or women?

Q: For you.

SR: I'm not a fan of it. If it shrivels up, then I'm not a fan. I've had to do frontal nudity after diving into cold water, so I'm not a big fan of it. I've done it because I felt it said something about the character. With "Box of Moonlight" or a movie like "Lawn Dogs," it says something about the character, it shows something about their freedom, and who they are as people, so it is relevant to the film, whereas if it's just gratuitous, it's just not, you know...

I mean, I was in "The Green Mile" and I showed my ass, and I very carefully asked the Academy Award-winning makeup artist Lois Burwell if she would help paint zits on my ass, because it was described [that way] in the book. Sometimes it's the opposite, where your vanity comes into play, where you want your ass to be tan, or "The Green Mile," that character, he's like a puss ball.

Q: Well, you looked good.

SR: Thanks.

Q: When you mentioned frontal nudity and was it important to "your character"... What do you think about using a prosthetic so that you look bigger than you are.

SR: I suppose [I would] if it were restoration theater? I don't really give a shit. I'm a medium-sized man; I have an average sized penis. I wouldn't say I'm small or well-endowed. I'm sort of in between. I don't really care unless... I'm not planning to show my penis again on film, but it would depend on the movie I guess.

Q: What do you look for in a role? Would you hold out for a lead rather than take a supporting role?

SR: I've done that, yeah. I don't like doing supporting parts because you do a lot of waiting around. That's the long and short of it. I like to act. I show up and I want to act.

Q: Talk about an acting challenge; the choking scene was very intense and had amazing action--how did you worked out?

SR: That was funny stuff. We had a medic nearby just in case it got a little funky. I used tofu or marshmallows. We'd use different food products. I was pretending, I was faking it, but you know, you have to stop breathing a little bit to get the real effect of making it look like you're really choking, otherwise it feels fake, and then I feel like I'm full of shit, so I kind of stop breathing a little bit, and sometimes you'd hyper-ventilate or get a little spacey afterwards.

Q: Did you ever perform the Heimlich maneuver?

SR: No. Did you?

Q: Yes.

SR: No kidding!

Q: It was interesting.

Q: What was it like working with Anjelica Huston, who plays your supposed mother? Two or three times you're doing those scenes with her and a real tear falls down her cheek.
SR: Oh, yeah, she's the real deal.

Q: How did you two talk about interacting because it's supposed to be a mother/son situation where the mother doesn't recognize him as her son. It's really weird.

SR: Yeah, it's a very weird relationship. We rehearsed a little bit. It was pretty much on the page, what needed to happen. It was in the book, there was a lot of subtext in the book, and we referred to the book a little bit and her character is really mapped out in the book. Anjelica did all that homework, and it really pops off the screen what she does, and we just have the same work ethic, the same aesthetic about acting.

She's just amazing. She's all that and a bag of chips. She's present, she's visceral, she's available, she's wise, she's lovely, she's like a little girl, and she's a wise, sage-like actress. She's glamorous, and she's fantastic, man. She's incredible. She was having a gin and tonic at the wrap party and I think she had the flu. She's a trooper. She's badass, you know what I mean. I just love her. I think she's just fuckin' amazing.

Q: It took eight years for Clark to get this made from when he got this started. How long were you associated with this project and did you have a lot of input into what happened to it once it was going?

SR: It happened really quickly. We almost didn't make the movie, and Dave Matthews' company came to the rescue.

Q: Of the Dave Matthews' band?

SR: Yes. He has a production company. He did "Joshua" too [Rockwell played the lead in this suspense film]. He and Johnathan Dorfman [the producer]. Their company pulled it together and they saved us.

Q: Who got to them?

SR: Somebody called them, because I had already done "Joshua" with them, and they said, "You know, we need help, this is going south." So we got them in, and made this movie.

I got the call. Clark had sent the script my way. I'd done a play with Clark almost 20 years ago. It was a Canadian play at the Orpheum called "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love."

Q: You were naked?

SR: Almost everybody was naked except for Clark. So it was funny that we did the play and then ended up doing this movie. I knew Clark from years ago, in the late '80s or early '90s, and heard he wrote this script--that he became a writer, that it was based on a book by the guy who wrote "Fight Club," and I was like, "Wow, I'm gonna check this out."

The description of it [was something like] "Colonial theme park sex addict." I was in from that description. I was like, "What the hell." I read it, and thought it was great, and thought it was clever...

Q: You read the book?

SR: I read the screenplay that he adapted first, and then I read the book later. So I called him after I read the screenplay. We talked for a while, and then he said, "What do you think?" I said, "I see it like this. It reminds me of 'The Fisher King'... blah blah blah," and he's like, "Yeah, that's what I'm seeing; nobody sees it like that."

We started talking about it, and then we went after some women; we got Anjelica, and got Kelly, and then Brad came in. Clark was like, "That's our Denny."
Q: You were walking around the set listening to an audio tape of the book.

SR: Yeah, Chuck reading the book. That got it into my head, the repetition of listening to it over and over.

Q: When you're working on a project that's based on a book like this one, or "Snow Angels" [starring Rockwell and directed by David Gordon Green], do you look to the book to help you on a character?

SR: Oh, absolutely. You get all that subtext. You get all that stuff that the character's thinking when he's not talking. I think Meryl Streep said, "It's great, if you're a lazy actor..." which is funny, coming from her. The book usually gives you what they're thinking...

Q: Chuck was asked, "Do you ever think of actors when you're writing your movies? What about Sam Rockwell?" and he said, "I always think of Sam as the parts he plays. I don't think of Sam Rockwell as Sam Rockwell." Is that a compliment--to be an actors' actor--or is it frustrating that people think of Sam Rockwell as the parts you play?

SR: Well, that's cool. I'm fine with that. I get recognized plenty, and I'm happy with the level it's at right now; I don't need it to be any more. I just want the good parts and I just want to make a living. I've done all that. I've been on the cover of magazines, and it gets old. I've seen more famous people, how hard it is for them, and it's no picnic. Even my friend Justin Long—he's "The Mac guy"—gets recognized as much as Tom Cruise, so I don't envy that position. That's hard; I've seen it.

Q: You like to be able to go out to dinner without having paparazzi and you've worked with Brad Pitt (in "...Jesse James")!

SR: Yeah, he's got his hands full. He can't go anywhere. Those guys happen to have their feet planted in the ground better than a lot of movie stars, you know? George [Clooney] and Tom Hanks should teach a class on how to behave if you're a movie star.

I don't know how the fuck they do it, but they seem to be generous, normal people. They've always got a smile for the crew. I can't be like that. I'm grouchy. It's an amazing quality.

Q: When you went to the Sex Anonymous meetings did some people recognized you?

SR: I don't know if they did or not. I know one meeting they did...we made it public, we sort of said, He's an actor, researching, but the rest of the meetings, I think I got away with being anonymous.

Q: Did you tell fake stories?

SR: No.

Q: Did you disguise yourself?

SR: I might have put on some glasses...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Charlize Theron Defends The Street Protests of The Battle In Seattle

Feature Interview by Brad Balfour

Fashion Week-styled frivolities be damned. Glamorous and sexy though Charlize Theron may be, there's a funky lefty boho lurking inside this near-six foot tall, South African-born former model. So while some might assume love drove her to take a relatively small supporting role in longtime companion Stuart Townsend's directorial debut, "Battle In Seattle," her passionate promotion of the film belies her politics as well as her emotional ties.

A pastiche of true stories, amalgamated characters, and classic agit-prop, "Battle In Seattle" details the experience of several activists thrown together to mount massive protests against the World Trade Organization's 1999 Ministerial Conference held in Seattle, WA. After the mayor and Washington's governor had enthusiastically fought for conference to be there, they were blindsided by the intensity of the reaction and protests. During those five days, demonstrators peacefully protested in Seattle's streets to stop the WTO talks but as it escalated into clashes with police, a State of Emergency was established that pitted protesters against the Seattle Police and National Guard.

Within this framework, actor/director Townsend takes an in-depth look at characters on both sides of battlelines but his position—and that of Theron's—is clearly aligned with the anti-globalist activists, those who believe that unfettered capitalism is out of control.

Having already established herself as someone inclined to go against type—she started out playing the innocent wife and high class girlfriend—the 30-something Theron won an Oscar depicting a wretched looking serial killer in "Monster" and was nominated for another when she portrayed a sexually harassed mine worker in "North County." She played an unglamorous young cop in "In The Valley of Ellah" as well.

As intense as these roles have been, Theron can seem both surprising innocent yet fervently committed, if only because she doesn't to succumb to gossip-mag expectations. Since she refuses to be pigeon-holed, Theron has made a case for this film and the ideals it supports.

Q: Unlike a lot of films, where something is expressed in general terms like, "War is bad"—which everybody agrees with—this one specifies its targets, like the World Trade Organization conference that was held in Seattle.

CT: I’m so glad you think that. Thank you. Yeah!

Q: So do you see this as a political movie or a character-driven one?

CT: Have you seen the film? I’m always fascinated when people ask questions like that because I think that pretty much every movie I’ve ever done is a political film because I think the social condition is somehow going to intervene with what we live in, and what we live in is a state of politics with emotional highs and lows—so it’s both. You can’t have one without the other. Even great character pieces have a foundation of an economic structure or a social relevance.

Q: How involved or knowledgeable are you about the crisis with the world as a whole?

CT: I hope every single person who lives on this earth tries to be involved in that. It’s up to us to get the information, and I think it’s clear in this day and age, that what we get may not necessarily be the ultimate truth—well, it’s been proven historically to have been going on for eons—but it’s up to us to go and educate ourselves. We have to stop sitting back and bitching about "the media;" we have to take control and have to be responsible for getting the information that we need.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a picket or protest before?

CT: I haven’t, but I only recently became an American citizen, and we all know what happens to people who... I realize how tricky it was because right before I became an American citizen, I had produced and financed a documentary on Cuba ["East of Havana"], and when we started doing press on it, I realized that it was hard to just state an opinion without having any kind of aggression or negativity; to just state a fact, without people going, "you’re very unpatriotic and you should leave this country." I [figured] that I probably should get my American citizenship before I [say any more]...which is an unfortunate thing to say, but it’s the truth.

Q: Do you find American politics more fascinating, than say South African politics? You are international personality, but you seem to find American politics to be most fascinating.

CT: No. Politics, especially the things this movie deals with, know no border. This is trade, this is the world. What we do over here in our decision-making process, is going to affect everybody in the world, so I think about it in those terms, not as a politician, but just as a human being.

People were fascinated that [New Zealander] Niki Caro could direct "North Country," which is like a quintessential American story. Stuart Townsend is Irish, and this is a quintessential American story. The fact that they’re both international, they’re not American, makes you understand that we have to be interested in world politics and stop looking at just what’s good for America and what’s good for the country that we live in. We have to start thinking about the world.

Q: Is it a struggle for actors to speak out politically?

CT: It’s wrong to believe that because you’re an actor there’s no way you could have a valid opinion. I think that’s unfair, that somehow when you’re an actor and you live in Hollywood you don’t understand real life, which is really interesting to me, because most actors, where they come from, it’s probably the most real-life stories you could hear, and it’s very much the American dream, which is, to rise above it, and reach for the stars.

I think actors speak out because you can’t help but look at your fortunate life and realize that, maybe out of your fortune, there’s a place for you to voice an opinion and care, because, you know, we’re not all born this way.

Q: Coming from South Africa, do you think street protests are effective?

CT: It’s amazing. When we say the government works for us, we forget that, and then you watch over a million people protest this war in Iraq, and [it's amazing] that those governments don’t go, "Wait a minute, we work for these people," and that was worldwide.

It was something magical to watch, and in many ways, it was to me, Chicago or Seattle, battle to battle, there is something about it that you can’t ignore when you see these images of people standing together [against this war in Iraq].

Whether you like it or not a lot of what happened in Seattle—the success of Seattle—was those tactics being used today that make the [protestors] effective. Protesting is not what people like to consider it; [they think of] this sort of hippie movement, peace, love, and let’s get high and walk through the streets naked.

It’s not like that anymore. It’s people who understand their rights, understand government, and they understand what their effect can be on government, so I’m always impressed when I see that, no matter what country it is.

And, just so you know, I wasn’t trying to deny that this is a political film. I think that life is politics, and we forget that, and a lot of times, when we do movies that are considered political, people run away so fast, but what they don’t realize is that is life, that’s real, and that’s what people need to start...

The brain needs to get re-wired so we can’t stop making these movies because people don’t want to go see them; we have to just start marketing them differently and talk about them differently, so that people understand, you’re not going to go and get preached at. You’re going to have an amazing ride, you’re going to watch amazing characters, and you’re going to maybe learn something about the world you live in, without being hit over the head with a hammer.

Q: Was your character entirely fictional, or was there some basis in reality?

CT: Stuart read so many different books, and looked at internet sites on the event, that you sort of double up on things. There was one story that didn’t double up so much in a lot of the coverage he did, about a woman who had a miscarriage from tear gas, and he remembered reading that, and thought, "This woman wasn’t a protester, and she had a miscarriage from the tear gas..." He thought that was so heartbreaking, and I think that’s where Ella [Theron's character] comes from.

Q: At the beginning, your character wasn’t thinking at all about the WTO, and then became a victim caught in the crossfire. She obviously goes through personal trauma... Did you think about what she was thinking about that?

CT: What I loved about her, was that she was the outsider, she was the audience. She was anybody. If you said, WTO, they might not know what that is. I like that she was that character that just lived in Seattle, didn’t feel one way or the other, and just went about her life, innocently, shopping at a store, not knowing that these little clothes came from little kids’ sweatshops. I think that, not in a judgmental way, is how a lot of us live, we just live, we don’t think, and I think we’re now at a time when we have to stop and have to start asking, "What does it mean when I buy this thing, and where does this come from, and what does it mean if I keep drinking bottled water? Where is this plastic going to go?" Yeah... [gestures towards the bottled water on table].

I love how she wasn’t there by choice, she got caught in it, and I think then, has to take a step back and realize, maybe she has to ask a few more questions. To me, she was the heart [of the film], and people were like, "You could have probably had any part, he is your boyfriend," and I was like, "That was the part I fought for..."

Q: Did you find that working with Stuart, the fact that he’s an actor, he had a kind of knowledge helped him get nuanced performances out of you and the rest of the cast (Woody Harrelson, Michelle Rodriguez, Martin Henderson, Ray Liotta, etc.)?

CT: I always feel that no matter what I say, people think I’m biased because I sleep with him. So it’s very hard because you know, not just working with him, but I had to read the script. I was the first person who got to read the script, and unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person who can just bullshit their way towards something, and I knew that our relationship is very honest, and anything that we do, whether it’s just a movie, there’s always a truth in our opinions towards each other, and I value that so much.

So in reading the script, that was the scariest moment for me. I’ve worked with so many first-time directors... and I love the idea of not knowing. I love the idea of not having anything to look at and go, “This is what it’s going to be.”

I loved the idea of asking, "What will it be?" I found him incredibly effortless. I mean, the guy put five years of his life into this, and by the time that he got to Vancouver and was ready to shoot... Mind you, five days before production was supposed to start, they were going to pull the plug on him because he didn’t have a cast. Yet he was so prepared, so unbelievably prepared [that it worked].

I mean, we would go on vacation to Fiji and be like, “Romance!” and he’d have a pile of [things to look at], and I’d be like, “Oh my God, this is so not sexy!” But that passion paid off for him as a first-time director. He saw this story visually, so that for me as an actor, working with him was great, because he created a set that was effortless.

There was nothing forced, there was nothing pushed. It was quiet, just great. He loved it. I’ve never seen him so happy, which hurt my feelings [laughs].

Q: When two actors get together, they say it’s no good because one of them is always waiting to answer the phone but your relationship obviously works so well. How do you explain it?

CT: We have different phones, so we don’t have to answer for both phones to ring [laughs].

It’s about the person you’re with. It doesn’t matter what you do. I don’t believe that an artist can’t go out with a banker. It’s about the personal connection, and when you’re with somebody good who is looking out for your best interest and loves you in every possible way, then how can there be a jealousy?

My God, nothing makes me happier in my day to know that he got a good review, or that this movie is getting some really great buzz, or that this is his first film, or that he wrote a script. Those things actually turn me on [laughs].

Q: You are traveling with Stuart to promote this film...

CT: We have traveled nonstop to conventions and tons of film festivals. This has been a six-month effort... Another interesting thing about him... Stuart and Redwood Palms [are distributing the film]. This was a decision that Stuart made, which I thought was incredibly brave for a first-time director, talking about independent filmmaking, because so many people look at this, talking about the business of these films, and they don’t want to touch these films.

So Stuart decided, after he got an offer from ThinkFilms to buy and distribute this film, to basically self-distribute this film though Redwood Palms. Stuart has been working on an amazing grassroots [level]—which is the only way to do it when you only have a dollar fifty.

And the amazing thing is, everywhere we’ve gone, the audience has had this overwhelming emotional reaction, and you know that these people are going to leave that theater and spread the word. It’s the best marketing you can hope for.

Q: And you’re a part of it.

CT: Me and my lover [laughs].

Q: Are you encouraged by the great success of these movies [targeting] women—"Sex and The City" and "Mamma Mia?"

CT: I’m very happy when girls can go and sell movie tickets, always very happy.

Q: You were involved in one of the better Iraq War-based movies, yet like other films based on the war, "In the Valley of Ellah" was “ice” at the box office. Does is worry you about the fate of this film; some say it's a hard sell. Is this a passion project for you?

CT: It’s a badass movie. When I read [the screenplay], I didn’t think, “Independent,” or "What’s the message?" I didn’t think, "Political." I just thought this was a badass movie. I read it and thought, "Jerry Bruckheimer could make this film. This could be a giant blockbuster, and just because we had to do it on, like, a dollar fifty, and none of us got paid, and because it’s in that [indie] category, as we like to label things... But it’s not that kind of film. It’s a badass movie.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Comic Actress Anna Faris Finds Herself In The House Bunny

Feature Interview by Brad Balfour

Thanks to the efforts of comediennes Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and now, Anna Faris, adult-oriented comedy is no longer a boys club—at least for this year. Though the recent feature "The House Bunny" may lower an IQ or two with its abundant flaunting of T&A, the dopey designs of some radical make-overs, and its fairy-tale story of the good bimbette who embraces the cause of an outre sorority as its house mother and helps them crush their rivals—the uber-popular Sosh sisters of the beautiful and snooty Pi Alphu Mu—prompts both laughs and groans.

As the House Bunny, the Baltimore-born actress Faris channels a ditzy Marilyn M. and iconic humor queens from other eras, such as Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, to update the archetype/cliche of the seemingly clueless but formidable sex kitten. The film has a treacly sweetness that offers more of a fable than a raunchy telling of a former bunny set loose on the world. Inadvertently pushed out of the safe confines of the Playboy Mansion by a scheming rival, the innocent Shelley Darlingson (Faris) sets out, not to wreak erotic havoc but rather to find another place to belong.

Though more self-help advice-monger than sex counselor, the preening Shelley stumbles along until she find herself on a college campus and discovers that this one woeful sorority lacks both a house mother and the 30 pledges it needs to survive before being ousted.

While growing up in a Seattle suburb, the 31-year-old Faris felt more in common with her fellow misfits who populated the Zeta Alpha Zeta house, rather than her sex bomb doppelganger. Ironically, she never set out to be a comedy queen. Yet once she was a hit in the "Scary Movie" parodies, she did a string of them, from a guest stint on "Friends" to "Waiting," "Just Friends," and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend."

Except for a small part in "Brokeback Mountain," Faris has provoked more laughs than anything else in her career so far. But in order to better manage her job opportunities, she has ventured into producing as well, one of the many things she discussed during a recent roundtable.

Q: You conceived the idea for "House Bunny" and are one of its producers. Where did you start—with the character or the situation? Was Marilyn Monroe an inspiration for this?

AF: Marilyn Monroe is definitely someone I admire and I have since I was a little girl but the Marilyn Monroe joke came later in the process.

I started with the situation. I initially had an idea: what happens to the Playboy Bunnies when have to move on from this sort of protected, contained life style where you're at parties all the time and that's your job.

I wanted to have her go on a really dark journey, where she was a drug addict and moved back to her small Christian town. Turns out that's not as commercial as becoming the house mom of a sorority [laughs], but I'm really happy with what we came up with. I pitched the character to the writers of "Legally Blond" and then they wrote the script and figured out the rest of the plot points. They weren't buying the drug addict who moves back home.

Q: Was that meant to be a comedy as well?

AF: In my twisted mind, yeah [laughs].

Q: What was the feedback like from the Playboy Bunnies?

AF: We screened the movie for Heff [Hugh Heffner] and the Bunnies; they all seemed to really love it. I don't think any of them are going to tell me, "Oh, I hated that."

They're really supportive, and really excited; it was really fun working with them. I was anticipating that the experience of being at the mansion would be a highly competitive environment between the women, but from my distant observations, I didn't see that at all.

Everybody was so friendly and nice and supportive, much more so than actresses can be with each other, which was interesting and really refreshing. I have a whole new respect for those girls.

Q: Now you're wearing the Playboy necklace on the cover of the magazine, but not as a centerfold...

AF: They were kind enough to give me a few; but I don't think they were that expensive [laughs].

Q: Do you think too much is still being placed on that myth about the dumb blonde?

AF: One of the things that comedy has given me over the years is a really good ability to laugh at myself and to not take things that don't really matter too seriously. Having done the "Scary" movies and the other comedies that I've been a part of, I feel like very little offends me anymore. I'm really grateful for that because I think I was an uptight little kid. I'm happy to feel that I can really laugh at myself.

Q: How important do you think is for someone to try and develop their own material?

AF: I felt like there's such a boys club with comedy in Hollywood. That's what they do—what Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell do. They develop and create their own comedies, and I would really love to be a part of that as well. I did get a little tired of feeling like I'm waiting around for somebody to cast me in their comedy. That would happen at times, but usually they were the straight girl roles that aren't as much fun to play. I felt like it was necessary to take some incentive with my own career.

Q: Are you going to do more of it in the future?

AF: I feel very fortunate with this one. I certainly wasn't very powerful in the whole process, but it makes me feel that, if I did it once, maybe I can do it again.

Q: You pitched the film in character, costume and all?

AF: Yeah, at our pitch meetings. That was something that I've never done before. The two writers would sit on either side of me on a couch; they would tell the story, and I would be in character and throw out lines and jokes. Sometimes it really didn't go so well [laughs], but sometimes it did. It was a great learning experience for me. It was like putting on a little performance and selling something.

Q: What was it like actually casting Heff in the movie?

AF: Heff was a great sport. With that scene where he is eating all the ice cream, we were in his bedroom, it was like a 100 and ten degrees, and he had to eat a lot of ice cream. But he was great about it. He was always in a good mood, and said "Let's do it again." I think he's hysterical in the movie because it's so clear that he can't be anyone but himself. I love the captain's hat. It was awesome.

Q: What was it like to work with all the other girls in your cast?

AF: That was one of my concerns before shooting the movie. I thought.. "Are the girls going to be able to lose their sense of vanity and wear the unattractive wigs and all the piercing?" But they were amazing about it. They looked forward to those days. Some of them only had to spend five or ten minutes in hair and makeup and that's why they liked it so much. I was really proud of them.

That was something that Keenan Wayans taught me back in the early days of "Scary Movie"—the idea that there is no vanity in comedy. I was really proud that they seemed to embrace that idea so much.

Q: Oh yeah, there's definitely no vanity in the movie. You are running around half naked, perfectly toned. What do you have to say about the Anna Faris blonde bombshell?

AF: I think that Shelley's sexiness was innocent and silly. It's not any kind of sophisticated sexiness. I wanted to create a character where, although she wore really skimpy clothes, it didn't seem like she was sleeping with half the town or that she even knew how to be savvy in a true sexual way. That's why she never got the centerfolds and she was only in small pictorials. If you add too much sexuality and vanity it can really take away from the comedy.

Q: Was this the first time you did a nude scene in a movie?

AF: Yes, and it wasn't supposed to be me. I originally had a body double. But then the body double had some complicating factors. It was sort of a last minute thing where I was like "Oh, I'll go ahead and do this." And…. I was really uncomfortable [laughs]. There was this crew that I've been working with and kind of knows me when I put on my producer hat, and suddenly sees me naked.  it was a little humiliating.

Q: What did you learn about yourself making this movie?

AF: I thought a lot about how every character I've played really does change me in certain ways. You know, when you're playing somebody that's so happy and such a cheerleader and so optimistic all the time, I felt like a goofier person. I felt like I could laugh at myself a little more easily. I felt a little sexier, a little more comfortable with my body, which was kind of cool because I always played girls that were the sweet, girl-next-door type. Shelley is clearly not the most intelligent girl, but I think there is an idea that intelligence comes in many, many different forms.

Q: What's with you having Shelley lower her voice and sound like Harvey Fierstein [or the possessed girl in "The Exorcist"] every time she meets a new person?

AF: I wish I could take credit for that. It was something the director came up with on the day. We both thought this is just something too weird to make it into the movie. But it was fun to do and did really did kind of scare the girls, which was fun for me [laughs].

Q; And what was the significance of having one of the outre sorority sister being pregnant in the film?

AF: One of the writers, when she was in a sorority, had a pregnant sorority sister. There is still a bit of a stigma of getting pregnant in high school or college. I think we sort of wanted to touch on that a little bit. Katharine McPhee was so excited to be pregnant. She was all for it. So we were like, "Great."

Q: You were fantastic in the Gregg Araki's "Smiley Face" but no one saw it.

AF Well, thank you, so glad you saw "Smiley Face." I had the best time making that movie.

Q: By comparison, this is such a commercial movie. It's no wonder you want to take more control of your career and develop you own properties.

AF: I wanted to be a part of movies that felt a little more commercial as well. I feel really fortunate to be able to do both. Each movie is a learning experience; between Adam Sandler [whose production company, Happy Madison, made this film] and Sony. That is the goal: to make something with a broad, mass appeal, which is exciting for me.

Q: Will there be a sequel?

AF: I don't know. I would love to play Shelley again. Maybe that's when we can do that drug addict [laughs].

Q: How do you imagine Shelley when she's older, into her 80s?

AF: I imagine she is just loving and is motherly and good hearted. Maybe she's still single. Maybe she's still the house mom.

Q: And what's next?

AF: I have a movie with Seth Rogen called "Observe and Report."

Q: Are you naked in it?

AF: Almost. We have a love scene in it, but there's not a lot of love involved—I can tell you that [laughs].