Such is the mess where Elizabeth Banks finds herself in "People Like Us," which hits theaters this Friday. Here, she plays Frankie, a single mom trying to make ends meet. Starring alongside Banks is Chris Pine as Sam, the half-brother Frankie's music-producing dad chose over her and her mother. After their father dies, Sam entangles himself in the lives of Frankie and her son, all the while wondering when to reveal his true identity -- and the bag of cash he's been dragging around with him.
Of course, Banks is only playing a part -- one of many this year. On top of "People Like Us," the actress also starred in "The Hunger Games," "What to Expect When You're Expecting," "Man on a Ledge," and had a recurring role on NBC's "30 Rock."
Banks recently sat down with Moviefone in New York to answer our burning (sorry) questions about "Catching Fire," "People Like Us," and reveal the particular set of skills she has that would help her as a Hunger Games tribute.
"People Like Us" is a rare beast: a straight-up drama for adults. It seems like everything lately is a romance or a comedy or a mix of the two. There aren't a lot of dramas being made these days. That's right, almost none, I know.
So was it refreshing to see the script for "People Like Us"? Yeah, it was an amazing movie. It's always a gift, I think, when you read a script that takes you on a really great emotional journey like this one does. It was very cathartic at the end. It's translated very beautifully to the screen, which was great. They're little gifts because they're really fun acting challenges, to play a real person and feel like you're relating to the audience and that people are along for the ride with you.
And your character and Chris Pine's character are half-siblings! But she doesn't know that when she meets him. Were you worried at all about having chemistry veering on the romantic side? No, [because] Frankie doesn't know that they're brother and sister. I was very frank about it with the director. I was like, "Look, I'm falling in love with him," and I think it was necessary for Frankie. She's not physically -- there's no physical situation happening, and I really feel that you, the audience, really trust Sam not to cross the line. You know he's not going to, and he doesn't. I don't think you ever really feel like he's gonna let it go that way. But Frankie is opening her heart to somebody, and that's why I think the betrayal in the movie is so powerful, because this woman really has been humiliated by a guy.
This is a massive pivot from a huge role you played earlier this year. You were also in "The Hunger Games." Yes, I was.
In case you'd forgotten. Yeah! The little girls around town remind me every day.
So if the "People Like Us" cast were all tributes in "The Hunger Games," and had to fight to the death, who would win? Man, we would all be fried probably. You know who would win? Josh, the guy who plays my son, would probably win. He's very wily, that kid.
Do you have any skills that you think would help you survive? I think that Elizabeth Banks has skills, but Frankie has no skills. I mean Frankie, you know, she's a survivor, and she's a mama bear when it comes to her kid and she's a great negotiator, so I feel like she could negotiate some good alliances. But ultimately I feel she's very vulnerable. I think of Frankie as like an egg: she has a little shell on the outside, but she's really mushy soft on the inside.
And you said that you have skills? Well, I'm a bag of tigers. So I just fight dirty. Like nonstop dirty fighting. I will do what it takes.
Chris Pine's going down? Like, Mike Tyson bit an ear off? I will bite your face off, if that's what it takes.
There was a tizzy over who would direct the second movie of the Hunger Games trilogy, "Catching Fire." Are you upset that Gary Ross isn't returning as the director? No! I mean, Gary is on to do things that he's really interested in. I think it was a mutually agreed-upon decision by all involved, and, so, great. There are no tears for Gary.
So are you looking forward to working with Francis Lawrence? Yes, I am. I don't want to be flippant about what I just said about Gary. He made a great movie, he made a lot of money, he's moving on -- I think it's fine for everybody. He's good, and now we'll get fresh eyes on the next one, and that'll be really exciting. And it's always exciting for actors to create new relationships with new directors. Gary and I made two movies together and I would do anything with him, but now I'm excited to get to know Francis.
Some major new characters are introduced in "Catching Fire": former tributes Johanna and Finnick. Casting rumors are flying. Is there anyone in particular that you're lobbying for? I'm gonna trust the process, because so far the process has been amazing and I think it's yielded an incredible cast. The movie is so well-cast, and I'll even throw myself into that mix. There'll be a similar process and we're gonna get a great Finnick and a great Johanna. And a Plutarch! Don't forget! There's so many great characters coming up.
Your Effie was great. Which character was more of a challenge for you, Laura Bush in "W." or Effie? You know, Effie is a much darker character. Laura Bush actually was fairly easy in that she was just a great wife. There was no political context for her. The transformation was pretty easy. I actually feel like if I had that hair, I would look like her in a way. She's a nice looking lady.
So Effie, for sure, was more difficult. Effie walks a very fine line and I wanted her to not just be comic relief, I wanted her to have a lot of weight and to sort of carry the weight of the Capitol around with her, like the oppression of the Capitol and for everyone to understand that she is a woman living in fear.
Effie was amazing. It was amazing to be embraced by so many fans, and to have Suzanne Collins tell me that she thought I did a good job. That was a big highlight for me.
Since we're talking politics, would you play another political spouse? Do you have your eye on playing Ann Romney? I am hoping Ann Romney is never a first lady. But no, I don't have my eye on anybody right now. We'll see.
And looking at past projects, you were in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Does anyone do the bookstore thing to you? You know, the main quote that people do from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is the "I hope you have a big trunk, because I'm gonna stick my bike in it." That's the one people really like, which is actually not anything I say, Steve Carell says it, but people ask me to say it to them all the time. They're like "Say the thing about the bike in your trunk!" and I'm like "That's not my line, but OK."
You were on "30 Rock" this season too, but your character's arc has been pretty tidily wrapped up. Would you want to appear on the show again? I hope to. I love Avery Jessup. I love everything about that job. I love the character, the writing, my co-stars. It's an amazing job and I hope I get to go back.
Yeah, 2012 really is the year of Elizabeth Banks. You have about a thousand projects coming out. They've come out. I'm almost done. Please let's be almost done. I actually only have two more coming out this year. I've had four come out already. I've had enough. I'm really sorry, America. I apologize.