Sundance 2013 Interview: Katherine Hahn

The actress talks about her hit film Afternoon Delight and upcoming role in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Kathryn Hahn’s time for interviews at Sundance was a little bit shorter than others, because she is the star of a movie and needs to be available to more reporters to publicize it. We’ll take it. We’re happy Hahn is getting the spotlight in Afternoon Delight. She plays Rachel, a married woman who goes to a strip club to help spice up her marriage. She decides to take her dancer, McKenna (Juno Temple) into her spare guest room, and begins exploring McKenna’s sex work with her. We got our time with Kathryn Hahn the day after her Sundance premiere.

And make sure to check out all of CraveOnline's coverage of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival here!

CraveOnline: What was your take on writer/director Jill Soloway’s ideas about emotion, humor, feminism, happiness and all those things?

Kathryn Hahn: That’s a great question but I couldn’t think about any of those themes. I just thought of that woman and trusted her and the material that those things would emerge. I just really, really connected, as I think a lot of women will, to Rachel. And I think people will relate to that marriage. I think as a woman who’s approaching 40, I have two small children, she has a child who’s in school. She’s not needed anymore in the same way that she was. No one needs her at home and what do you do now? She has her days completely free. She has all that energy and she doesn’t have any center, doesn’t know who she is.

Meanwhile, her marriage, they’ve shifted. The desire portion of their relationship is over. It’s died. How do you rekindle that and move on? They’re at a critical moment of either divorce or work on it. I think she feels very lost and very just alone, empty and she goes to a strip club and meets this young, gorgeous woman and she’s captured by something in that moment. I think she feels a sense of she wants to mother her, she wants to be her, she wants to rescue her, she wants to save her. I think most importantly she also feels like she’s being seen for the first time. Juno looks at her, McKenna looks at Rachel and she feels seen and she feels like a person.

Do you think that was real or is that just what dancers are good at?

Oh surely, that is exactly right but Rachel doesn’t know that. I think Rachel thinks that she’s the only one, you know what I mean? I think that happens for a lot of gentlemen and a lot of people, right? Don’t they think that the strippers are only dancing for them and they’re the only person in the world.

I’ve been enjoying this sexy phase in your career from “Hung” to the short lived “Free Agents” and this. How did that come about that you’ve been getting these sorts of roles?

You have two children. That’s what happens. Obviously, if you have two children, people start asking you to take your clothes off. I don’t know. Nothing’s conscious and nothing’s pre-planned in any way. I don’t walk into them thinking this is a glamour part in any way. Certainly nothing is pre-planned. In fact, maybe being a mother definitely put a lot of stuff into perspective. I’m sure I’m growing up. I’m grown up so maybe people are noticing that and are trusting me with different things now.

This has been a really, really fun year. I love the work that I’ve been able to do. I have never had the luxury of being able to pick and choose. I just need to make a living, so I’m not one of those actors who are like, “I choose this” but this year I’ve been able to for the first time. I really am excited to work with people that I just respect, and also it means a lot, now that I’m almost 40, I feel like it’s kind of a great place. I don’t want to ever say to somebody, “You don’t have to see it. It’s not good.” I’m done with that. I’d love to just do things that I respect. That being said, I do have two children to put through school so we’ll see if I can put my money where my mouth is, but I would love to just work with people I respect.

Can you still have fun with those jobs where they just need somebody to be a certain type and you pay the bills?

Absolutely. We’re not working in a mine. It’s a really great gig. Even the shows or movies that we know are not going to change the world, I love this. I love ‘em. I’m a movie fan. I’m a nerd of any kind. I love a big studio comedy as much as I love the teeniest tiniest of indie. I’m not a snob in that way. I really do like a big, big studio comedy.

Were you comfortable with all the rape jokes in Afternoon Delight?

[Laughs] Um, yeah, it’s not me. I would never walk around making those but in this particular group of women, that’s their comfort zone. That’s their irony and their sarcasm.

Is it also that the first reference in the therapist’s office, she feels guilty about these Ugandan women who lead a much rougher life than she does?

Yeah. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

And it’s also women making the jokes.

Yeah, absolutely.

The movie gets pretty dark, do you like that kind of dark humor and did you relate to where the film was going?

I love that kind of dark humor. This film really revealed itself to be darker than I even thought it was. I think Jill in the editing room, with Cate Haight our amazing editor, actually said they were going to remove a lot of the broad comedy elements. There were just much bigger jokes and she kind of stripped it down to something a little more tighter and darker which I love. I love the tone of this movie and I was really, really excited by the laughs at the premiere.

That’s so interesting that it could’ve been an entirely different movie.

Oh yeah, much broader.

What are some of those other projects you’re so proud of that are still coming out this year?

I’ve got Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the Ben Stiller one and then a big awesome studio comedy called We’re the Millers with Sudeikis, Nick Offerman and I.

What do you get to play in Walter Mitty?

I play his sister and Shirley MacLaine’s our mom.

Was that character in the original?

No, mm-mm.

Does she fulfill duties that were fulfilled by other characters in the original?

I don’t think so. No.

Do you get to participate in any of the imagination scenes?

Yeah, a little bit. A little bit. I’m really thrilled about it. I got to see a teeny tiny bit while I was doing some looping and it’s extraordinarily beautiful.

And who are the Millers?

The Millers is Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts and then Nick Offerman play a couple that they meet, a tourist couple that they meet on their travels. 

Photo Credit: Jim Frohna

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.