Interview By: Rocco Passafuime
It’s been said often that comedy in Hollywood is often a boys club. Just ask the mostly comedic and highly female actress Anna Faris.
Faris made her breakout role as Cindy Campbell in The Wayans Bros., and later David Zucker-helmed Scary Movie series. Along the way, she garnered more diverse roles on the TV series Friends, Lost In Translation, Waitingâ€¦, Just Friends, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and the indie stoner comedy Smiley Face.
Now the 31 year-old hopes to widen her path in the world of comedy as both star and producer of the new film The House Bunny. In it, Anna plays Shelley Darlington, a Playboy Bunny that gets kicked out of the hallowed mansion, only to end up as a house mother of a struggling sorority house.
Faris discovered how she herself first came up with the basic concept for The House Bunny
“It definitely started with the situation,” Anna recalls, “Marilyn Monroe is somebody I have admired since I was a little girl, but that was really a separate idea. The Marilyn Monroe joke that we have came much, much later in the process, but I had initially had an idea. I was thinking what happens to the Playboy bunnies when you live this protected, contained life. I don’t know how protected it is, but whatever, but this contained lifestyle where you’re at parties all the time and that’s your job.”
However, Anna claims she initially had a much different and rather dark direction for the would-be comedy.
“But I wanted to have her go on a really dark journey where she’s like a drug addict and move back to her small Christian town (laughing),” she reveals, “It turns out it’s not as commercial as the ‘becoming the house mother’ story. But I’m really happy with what we came up with. It was actually the writers. I pitched the characters to the writers of Legally Blonde and they wrote the script and figured
In hearing this, one wondered if Faris seriously thought such a dark premise would be funny.
“Well, in my twisted mind, yeah,” Anna replies.
Anna also says that in presenting the concept to screenwriters Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah Lutz involved actually acting out for them as Playboy bunny.
“At our pitch meetings, which is something I’d never done before, we would go and the two writers would sit on either side of me on a couch and they would tell the story,” Faris recalls, “I would dress and I would be in character and throw out lines and jokes and sometimes it really wouldn’t go so well, but sometimes it did. It was a great learning experience for me. It was putting on a little performance and selling something and that was great.”
Faris remarks that being more hands-on in the development of this particular concept has spurned in her desire to hopefully write her own comedies down the road.
“I hope that I’m lucky enough to,” she hopes, “I felt like it’s such a boys club with comedy in Hollywood and that’s what they do. That’s what Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell do. They develop and create their own comedies and I really would love to be a part of that as well. I did really get tired of feeling like I was waiting around for somebody to cast me in their comedy.”
“And that would happen at times, but it would usually be the straight girl roles that are not nearly as much fun to play,” Anna continues, “I felt it was kind of necessary to take some initiative with my own career and I feel very fortunate with this one. I mean I certainly wasn’t very powerful necessarily in the whole process, but I did feel like if I did once, I can do it again, and that’d
Being so tied to playing essentially a dumb blonde, particularly in the Zucker-helmed Scary Movies, we asked Anna if she felt any bit at all concerned about having now play a Playboy bunny possibly further that.
“You know, one of the things that comedy has given me over the years is that I have now, it’s given me a really good ability to laugh at myself and not take things that don’t seem to really matter that much too seriously,” Faris believes, “I think that doing the Scary Movies and the other comedies that I have been a part of, I feel like very little offends me any more. I’m really grateful for that because I think I was a pretty uptight little kid, so I’m happy to feel like I can really laugh myself and sort of poke fun at things. I don’t think we should take things too seriously in that event.”
However, her donning a role as a Playboy bunny has already won the approval of a few people in particular, namely Playboy founder and mastermind Hugh Hefner and his bevy of Playboy bunnies.
“We screened the movie for Hef and the bunnies, including those in The Girls Next Door, and they all seem to really love it,” Anna says, “I don’t think any of them is going to tell me like, uh, I hate that. But they were all supportive, they’re all really excited, and it was really fun working with them.”
Anna says the experience of filming scenes at the Playboy mansion gave her a surprising insight into how the women there conduct themselves.
“I was anticipating that experience being up at the mansion to being a highly competitive between the women and from my distant observance, I didn’t see that at all,” Faris reveals, “I thought everybody was really friendly and nice and supportive, much more so than actresses can be with each other, which is interesting and really refreshing. I have a
Another thing Anna enjoyed about her Playboy experience was Hugh Hefner’s enthusiasm, particularly with his cameo role in the film.
“(Laughing) Hef is a great sport,” she notes, “That scene where he’s eating all the ice cream, we were up. I wasn’t in the scene, but I was on set at the time. We were in his bedroom. It was like 110 degrees and he had to eat a lot of ice cream. And he was great about it. He was always in a good mood. He was like let’s do it again. I think he’ s so hysterical in the movie because I think it’s so clear, I think, that he can’t be anybody in the movie but himself, which is great. I love the captain’s hat and it was awesome.”
We asked Faris how she felt she herself about playing a persona, which has had a long history of being criticized by feminists as nothing more than a sex object.
“I think that Shelley’s sexiness to me, to me at least, is innocent and silly,” Anna believes, “Between all the outfits, I don’t think it’s any sophisticated kind of sexiness to me. I think other people perceive it differently, but I wanted to create a character that while she wore really skimpy clothes, I didn’t want people to think she was sleeping with half the town or even seem that she knew how to be savvy in a true sort of sexual way.”
“That’s why she never really got the centerfold and she was only in small pictorials and I really wanted to embrace that idea that her sexinessâ€¦” she continues, “I recognized that, because it was something that I struggled with as well. I really wanted to play a funny character without all that getting in the way because I think that’s when things really get complicated with comedy. It’s very hard. I think that if you add too much sexuality
Another particularly bold aspect of playing Shelley, Anna reveals, is having to do on-screen nudity for her character.
“It wasn’t supposed to be me,” a rather embarrassed Faris reveals, “I had a body double, but then we had some complicating factors. It was sort of a last minute thing where I’ll go ahead and do this, but I was really uncomfortable (laughing). I mean, this crew I had been working with that sort of knows me when I put on my producer hat, suddenly sees me naked. It was a little humiliating (laughing).”
We also asked Faris if playing such a more risquÃ© and sexual role had any personal impact on her.
“Lately, I’ve been thinking about how every character I’ve played really does change me in certain ways,” she reveals, “I think this movie, by the end of it, I felt when you’re playing somebody that’s so happy and a cheerleader and so optimistic all the time, I felt like a goofier person.”
“Once again, I could laugh at myself a little more easily,” Faris adds, “I felt a little sexier, a little more comfortable with my body, which was kind of cool, because I always played girls that were sort of the sweet girl next door type with most movies I had done. So that felt really nice. I think that also, not that Shelley is clearly not the most intelligent girl, but I think there’s the idea that intelligence comes in many, many different forms.”
A particularly risquÃ© element that the story of The House Bunny touches on is the subject of young women and pregnancy, which one of the sorority sisters in the film endures.
“I think one of the writers, when she was in a sorority, had a pregnant sorority sister,” Anna explains, “I think that we liked the idea. There’s a bit of a stigma, I guess, with getting pregnant in high school or
While Anna is mostly known for her roles in Hollywood comedies, she has also received plenty of notice for her work in her more lower-profile fare, particularly her starring role in the unusual stoner comedy Smiley Face. We asked the actress what type of roles she herself prefers doing.
“I had a great time making Smiley Face,” Faris says, “I wanted to be a part of movies that felt a little more commercial as well. I feel fortunate to do both kinds of movies and it’s a learning experience with each movie, but yeah, I think that between Adam Sandler and Happy Madison and Sony, that was definitely the goal, to make something with a really broad, mass appeal, which is exciting for me.”
We also asked Faris if she ever would consider doing a sequel to The House Bunny, should one come up.
“Oh,” Anna gasps, “I don’t know. I would love to play Shelley again. I would love to. Maybe that’s when she becomes a drug addict.”
One scenario we posed for Anna was a sequel in which Shelley would be elderly woman.
“I imagine that she is just as loving and as motherly and as good-hearted,” she believes, “Maybe she’s still single. Maybe she’s still the house mother.”
However, until then, Faris shared with us the next comedy she would be doing.
“I have a movie with Seth Rogen called Observe and Report,” Anna says.
We wondered if her potential male viewers are to expect a nude scene for this movie as well.
“Almost,” Faris replies, “We have a love scene in the movie. There’s not that much love involved.”