Anna Faris is deep, man.
You are most likely already in love with her – the gorgeous girl that looks like she could come home from a bikini photoshoot to smoke a bowl and play Risk with you and your buddies. Anna Faris got her start with the Scary Movie series and has managed to be one of the few entities that rose above it. However, she’s an interesting cultural icon – a smart actress that gets pigeon-holed as a dumb blonde, an actress who could play depressing dramatic roles but chooses to make a nest in comedy.
Interviewing her, I get a sense that she’s a lot like a modern-day Lucille Ball – hamming it up liberally for the camera then delivering smart answers about a craft she takes very seriously. Either she’s the most self-aware dumb blonde out there or she realizes that it’s a strong selling point.
Either that or she just sometimes wants to take a nap in her head.
We’re sitting on the veranda of a hotel so expensive that I wouldn’t be able to afford crashing in their dumpster for the night. A few feet away is another interviewer sweating in the hot sun and attempting to ask director Jody Hill some poignant ones – so I ask Faris if she’ll talk loudly to mess them up. She does.
The dumb blonde issue is something we get to immediately and something that pervades the entire conversation, something that pervades her entire career so far.
“I like to play into the dumb blonde stereotype. Sometimes it’s really convenient if I feel like taking a little nap in my head,” she says, followed by the kind of smile that let’s you know it’s all an act. Unless it’s not.
In Observe and Report, Faris gets to play a very different kind of leading lady, and it was something that gave her a lot of freedom.
“Most of the time as women, you play characters where you have to make the audience and the leading guy fall in love with you. There’s a burden to that a little bit. It’s tough. With this, it’s not the goal – this character’s awful. She’s so awful, and it was so fun to have the goal be to have the audience hate her. I don’t think many actresses get that opportunity too often. So I found it liberating.”
Whether or not she believes she had the freedom to make the audience hate her character, it’s still impossible not to love her while she’s spewing out pink vomit onto the sidewalk and taking part in a date rape scene that surprisingly made it past the cutting room floor.
“If I remember right, the sex scene wasn’t in the script so they sort of added it last minute. So I thought, ‘Okay…,’ and Jody is saying ‘We’re gonna have some vomit come out of your mouth, and you’re going to be passed out,’ and I think, ‘This is fucked up, man. It’s fucked up shit.’ I figured we could shoot the scene, but there was no way that it’s gonna make it in the final cut. There was just no way Warner Brothers would let it…this was like date rape.”
I ask if she was excited to do the scene and then stumble to rephrase my question in order to ask how she felt about the scene being left in. She laughs and talks about how shocked she was, how she’s actually a little terrified about its inclusion (whether professionally or personally is unclear), but she goes on to note that, “there aren’t that many girls that get to be date raped on camera with Seth Rogen. I’m lucky.”
“You really haven’t lived until you’ve had Seth [Rogen] grinding on top of you.”
I’m not sure whether I agree that Seth Rogen grinding on top of someone is the dividing line between living a full life and just plain existing, but it’s definitely something that Faris can check off her to-do list. Unfortunately for many of her fans, she won’t be scratching off a dramatic role any time soon. Last year, she was in talks to star as Linda Lovelace in Inferno. Despite the script being a “beautiful tragic story” about “a lost woman who became a phenomenon for such a degrading reason,” Faris admitted to being terrified of the project.
“If I do this, I’m gonna really have to dredge my soul and go to some dark, dark places. And then we ended up moving away from the project. I decided – there was a number of things – but I came to the slow realization that I don’t want to dredge my soul. I want to live in this comedy bubble. It’s really fun in here,” she says. “I always felt the pressure that I think a lot of actors do – everybody feels the pressure – thinking I have to prove myself to my parents, to the industry, that I can be a dramatic actress.”
Then, she says something that completely abandons her dumb blonde persona to reveal a very serious actress underneath. It’s only a for a moment, though, and she can’t resist the urge to complete her thought with a joke:
“I love doing comedy and I’m not quite sure why I need to apologize for my love of it. There aren’t that many women doing it, and it’s hard work. It’s challenging. I decided I needed to chill out and focus on what I love to do, and then maybe down the road I’ll be that heroine addict I’ve always dreamt of being.”
She continues, talking about the difficulty of finding dramatic work after Scary Movie, feeling frustrated and confused as to why the industry segregates comedic work and dramatic work, and then drops the bomb on me that “death is just the joke we haven’t gotten yet.”
Now that I feel uncomfortable and Faris has forced me to think of humor and my own mortality, I end the interview by asking her if she’ll laugh as loud as she can so that the other interviewer and Jody Hill think things are going well. She does, and they turn around to comment on it, but she just smiles the kind of smile that a waitress gives you after refilling your iced tea. She seems happy to be in on a prank, and maybe the biggest one that she’s pulled on the world is her dumb blonde act – something she carries around in her pocket whenever she needs it. It’s an act that has type-cast her in a world she’s comfortable inhabiting, one that attempts to discredit her as an actress in a way that she’s apathetic about in the first place, an act that she seems equally fine with shedding when it gets down to the serious analysis of comedy and her career.
So, yes, as if you needed more reasons to love Anna Faris – her sense of humor, her beauty, her down-to-earth sensibility – you can add this one to the bank: Anna Faris is deep, man.
Remember to check out my Observe and Report interview with Michael Pena…here.