Before Kristen Wiig and her friendly bridesmaids stormed the box office this summer and made Hollywood realize that women are actually really funny and bankable, Anna Faris was held up as the beacon of female comedians. As Tad Friend wrote in his profile of Faris for The New Yorker (which printed pre-'Bridesmaids'), "What's at stake [for female comedians] is not merely a tenable marketplace for 'hard' female comedies but a fresh vantage on romance and, perhaps, a fresh way of seeing men and women." That fresh way may be something like 'What's Your Number?'
In the R-rated romcom, Faris stars as Ally, an unemployed Boston woman drifting through life and sexual partners. When she reads in a magazine that women who have had more than 20 sexual encounters are doomed to a life of singlehood, she looks back on her past relationships with the hopes of finding that one of her rejected lovers was actually "The One." If only her handsome and charming neighbor (Chris Evans) doesn't throw a monkeywrench in Ally's plans first.
It's a premise that's ripe for slut-shaming and judgment, but 'What's Your Number?' manages to eschew that -- while also providing Faris with ample opportunities to curse, drink and fall on her face like Zach Galifianakis in 'The Hangover.' Moviefone spoke to Faris this week about the new film, whether she feels an obligation to her gender, and what to expect from 'The Dictator' with Sacha Baron Cohen next summer.
With the success of 'Bridesmaids' and 'Bad Teacher' this summer, it feels like 'What's Your Number?' is coming out at a perfect moment in time. Do you think audiences have finally accepted that comedy can be gender neutral?
I would like to think that. For so long it was completely unheard of to make an R-rated female comedy. When I would pitch projects around town that was always the first question: "Is it R-rated? We gotta make it PG-13." So, it's been a really exciting summer. I think all of my girlfriends and myself when 'Bridesmaids' did so well, and 'Bad Teacher,' were very excited. I love to play women that are messy. Flawed. I think that's much more interesting than playing a Type-A woman.
If the studios always shoot down R-rated female comedies, how did 'What's Your Number?' even come about?
It felt really rare! It felt really special. We shot it last summer, before any of the success, so the risk factor felt high. We were really lucky that New Regency was so supportive, but the script had been kicking around for a few years, and it was always like, "We think it's funny, but this is dangerous!"
It's obviously a big coincidence -- and I hate to even bring it up -- but the opening scene of 'What's Your Number?' is very similar to the opening scene of 'Bridesmaids.' When you saw that over the summer were you like, "Oh, crap."
Yeah! I was! I was like, "Oh, no! I can't believe it!"
Of all the jokes...
I know! I know!
Were there any discussions about maybe changing that in post-production?
No, I don't think that was a conversation. It was like, "Well, all right. Too bad."
You were a producer on House Bunny and now this -- do you look for different things when you're choosing scripts that you'll also produce?
Not really. I feel like I'm such a flawed person, so I like to play characters that are messy. I really like to play characters that asexual; I think that's very fun, but that rarely happens! That's a tough one to pull off. I don't want to be the balance card to the funny man, I just want to play characters that have dimensions. I don't care if they're unintelligent, as long as they have dimensions.
Both 'House Bunny' and 'What's Your Number?' have strong female characters and a message underneath all the pratfalls and swears. As a female comedian, do you feel any responsibility o uphold a set of feminist ideals with your work -- especially since you have so many female fans?
I have an obligation to my gender! (Laughs)
It does sound silly. It's not like people ask Ben Stiller if he feels obligated to paint males in a positive light onscreen. But with female performers, it's definitely a discussion point.
Yeah, and I think that's why there's this feeling of unity, a little bit, with female comedians. There's a huge amount of support out there for each other. I think it's because we are looking for the Apatow response; we want our crew of funny people that we can cast. You realize when you're acting with another woman, like Ari Graynor or my girlfriends in the movie, how rare it is that you actually get to perform with other women. It's such a relief sometimes, but it's unfortunate that it is so rare. Because I think women -- people just want to see interesting dynamics with people.
Even the conversation itself is so loaded: it's great that female-led comedies are doing well, but it's unfortunate that the success is still such an anomaly that it gets pointed out.
It's true! It does always feel like gender is always part of a the thing. "Oh, you're funny... for a woman." That's kind of discouraging. But for me -- I've talked about it in other interviews -- I wasn't funny as a child. So the whole journey has been a little bizarre, but I'm really grateful that I get to do comedy, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I've become a happier person because of it. It's brought me a lot of joy. I used to be very angry.
Not to belabor the gender aspects of 'What's Your Number?' but it was nice that Ally wasn't really slut-shamed by her friends for having a lot of sexual partners. She was harder on herself than almost anyone else. Was that something that you really pushed for?
It's so funny because the writers and I were like, "20 is kind of low. It should be like 70." The studio didn't agree. Believe it or not! (Laughs) But the message of the movie is that it shouldn't matter; I don't think any of us should be passing moral judgement on one another. These are modern women in a modern time and I don't think that for someone in her early 30s, I don't think that 20 is too bad if you've been single.
Your husband Chris Pratt has a nice little runner in 'What's Your Number?' Did you enjoy working with him?
It was totally terrifying. We had a great time, but I admire him so much that I was really nervous. "What if he thinks I'm a terrible actor? What am I going to do? Is he going to break up with me?" But I love working with him and I hope we get to do it again at some point.
He's got a major role in 'Moneyball,' of course. Do you guys have any kind of bet about which film will do better at the box office this weekend?
I'm going to kill him if 'Moneyball' beats me. (Laughs) No, I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen. When your movie opens it's always terrifying. I was like, "Should we just go away for the weekend. Just sort of escape. No internet, no newspapers." But I have to leave for Australia -- we're doing press in Australia over the weekend. I guess that'll be enough of an escape. 15 hours on the plane.
Not to spoil anything, but there's a strip basketball sequence in 'What's Your Number?' that features you schooling Chris Evans' character. Are you just that good or was there a lot of movie magic done in that scene?
I am so bad at basketball. I did make like two shots but it took hours. Hours of failure. It's so embarrassing. Then you get nervous and the guys are all laughing at you because you throw like a girl or whatever. So I had all of them fired. (Laughs) But that was scary... and then you're in your underwear, too! Why did I read this and think, "OK, this is what I want to be doing"?
What was scarier: the basketball or being half-naked?
I think actually playing the basketball. Definitely. But it is definitely uncomfortable to be in your underwear in front of 300 crew members that you've been working with for two-and-a-half months.
I know you've got a couple of projects at Paramount [an untitled stalker comedy pitch and 'Gold Diggers'], but what can you say about 'The Dictator' with Sacha Baron Cohen?
I am the gal in that one. It was amazing. The whole thing. Sacha Baron Cohen is a comedic genius. The whole thing is improv. It's challenging! You really have to be on your game, but it's also amazing to be a part of and to witness. That was unlike any other filming experience I've ever had.
I remember reading that a lot of actresses were up for the role. What do you think put you over?
I think they did go through a lot of actresses. I think they just wanted to get somebody who -- I don't know, actually. I don't know why they picked me. But, that was my first audition in a long time and it was all improv and really very exciting and 100 percent terrifying. It was filled with awkward stories. I was so lame. I did the whole cliche actress thing. Oh, terrible (laughs).
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