Spending a Saturday afternoon with Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Emily Mortimer, and Elizabeth Banks is hardly coal mining. There are indeed days where I find it hard to believe that what I do is defined as a “job.” A few weeks ago, they had junkets for both “Conan The Barbarian” and “Our Idiot Brother” on the same day, which made for a very interesting series of conversations on two radically different movies.
Elizabeth Banks, for example, is someone who has been carving out a very strange and unorthodox career for herself, avoiding the sorts of easy crappy romantic comedies that so many actresses end up trapped in. She’s been working for the past decade without interruption, and it was in “Wet Hot American Summer” that she made her first strong impression. It’s fitting that her co-star in that film was Paul Rudd, because both of them got a huge bounce from that movie, proving that they had strong comic chops. For Banks, there were a number of small roles in big movies like Raimi’s “Spider-Man” series and “Catch Me If You Can” while also playing big roles in small movies like “The Baxter.”
She had her big mainstream breakthrough moment in Judd Apatow’s “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” and since then, she’s been one of those actresses who seems to book a wide range of roles, avoiding any easy typecasting. I like that she’s willing to work on TV series like “Scrubs” and “30 Rock” if the role is worthwhile, and for her to star as Laura Bush in Oliver Stone’s “W” in the same year that she starred in the sweet and raunchy “Zack and Miri Make A Porno,” it was obvious that she has real range. She’s got films like “Welcome To People” and “The Hunger Games” in the can for 2012, and I suspect she’s going to continue to make strong and diverse choices in the years ahead.
It’s funny that I would go fifteen years without interviewing Emily Mortimer, then interview her twice in a matter of months, but that’s the way this business works. I think she’s a really lovely, soulful actor who makes strong comedy choices but who also can tap into anger and pain with impressive zeal, and it was nice to have time to chat with her without Larry The Cable Guy in the mix at the same time. I’m amazed at how all-over-the-place her filmography is, and it’s a testament to the fact that different directors see totally different things in her. She can play blatantly silly in films like “The Pink Panther,” or she can dig deep in movies like “Young Adam,” or she can play sophisticated in a film like “Match Point.” She’s been cast as the bombshell in some films, the frump in others, and she manages to disappear into her characters in a way that makes it hard to imagine who the real Emily Mortimer is. I love when I have seen a ton of work from an actor and I still have no real sense of them as a person. It indicates to me that you’re watching someone with no real ego, someone who throws themselves into the work heart and soul.
It might be a good thing that Zooey Deschanel did not attend the press day, as I’m not sure my heart could take all three of them in one afternoon. The two of them were sharp and funny, and a real highlight of a long press day, and I would encourage you to check them out when “Our Idiot Brother” opens this Friday.