Walk of Shame is Elizabeth Banks in career mode.
Not just in character, but as a comedian. It’s, surprisingly, her first straight-up comedy lead. All those supporting turns and girlfriend roles have finally put her front and center. As a character, her Meghan Miles is also in career mode: trying to land a national news job. When she gets passed over, her BFFs (Gillian Jacobs and Sarah Wright Olsen) convince her to wear something “slutty” and bed a nobody and move on. The nobody turns out to be a nice “post-modern romance novelist” (James Marsden) and it turns out that Ms. Miles actually is still in the running for that national cable gig. She’s wrecked, without a vehicle and, walking through downtown Los Angeles, repeatedly confused for a hooker.
Of all the people who are on the lookout for her – indeed it becomes a large woman-hunt (think Attack of the 50 Foot (I-Have-No-Shame!) Woman) – we chatted with Banks’ dreamy novelist (Marsden) and her “slutty” costumer (Wright Olsen).
Walk of Shame is in theaters and on VOD on Friday, May 2.
CraveOnline: We always hear about the biographies that actors do for their characters. Your character, Gordon, says he’s a writer of “post-modern romance novels.” Did you come up with some titles and scenarios? Or is that occupation a pickup line?
James Marsden: [Director] Steve Brill and I explored it and I came up with some titles that we didn’t end up using. I’m shooting in New Orleans right now [after Paul Walkers untimely death, Marsden replaced Walker in the Michael Hoffman romance, The Best of Me], ugh, I can’t remember what they were, but they must not have been any good! But Gordon isn’t a character that would lie to anyone. But he does have to believe in it and say that line with conviction so that it isn’t cheesy.
And what is your favorite post-modern romantic literature?
[Laughs.] Beats me. I don’t know if it’s a real thing. Romance beyond romance. Computer love. Is that what it is?
I guess it might be 50 Shades of Grey. Changing the subject, did you really wear the same yellow dress that Elizabeth Banks did? Or did you get your own? It fit really well…
Sadly, I wore the same dress.
Sadly? You looked great!
Well, you don’t want to be able to fit into your wife’s jeans. It was a tactical strike by Elizabeth [Banks]. It was never written in the script. We were shooting late into the night coming up with fun things to do throughout the “first date” escalation and she said, “James is gonna wear my dress! It’ll be fun!” I was like, “C’mon you planned this all along and dropped it on me at the last minute in front of everyone.”
I pointed at her, “I’m on to you” but I wanted to maker her happy. So I put it on and came out and her face dropped. She was upset! “Why are you frowning?” I asked and she said, “Well, you look better in that dress, than I do!” [laughs].
Recently you’ve played a few good looking nemeses - Bachelorette and Anchorman 2 - but although you’re the knight in shining armor, you kinda get let off the hook because essentially it’s also your fault that everything happened because Gordon parked her car in a red zone …
You’re right! He’s trying to right a wrong. He wants to rescue a damsel in distress, but he has to do it twice because he put that damsel into distress. Well, none of them are really damsels, but it’s a guilt driven romance.
Maybe that’s the post-modern romance: guilt driven romance.
[Laughs.] Yeah, maybe that’s it. We just came full circle.
That won’t sell many Valentine’s.
Actually it would!
Ha, you’re right.
He’s a good guy and she’s a good girl, they’re both consenting adults. But there’s a poor woman roaming LA by herself. She’s lost on top of that. You don’t see them sharing much screen time. You spend a short period of time with them and just kinda slide off and have that foggy feeling of, “who was that person? We should hang out more.” Which in a city can happen often. You wonder about people you don’t know that well.
I’m not sure if this is a sore subject, but have you seen Nailed? [Nailed is a David O. Russell film that was shot before The Silver Linings Playbook starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jessica Biel and Marsden; but when the production ran over budget and shooting stalled, Russell moved onto other projects, despite most of the film being completed.] Will anyone ever see it?
I did, not too long ago actually. It’s finally completed. I don’t know if it’ll ever be released. It’s tough because unfortunately financial problems and headlines were not great for the movie. As an actor you have to do your work and let it go. I don’t know the fate of the movie because we don’t have a say. But I got to forge a great relationship with David [O. Russell].
I read that it was missing a vital scene …
It was missing a key scene that we weren’t able to shoot because it was pretty technical and there were money issues. New producers managed to cut it together without it in a way that still works. We thought it was vital to the existence of the film, it’s part of the title after all, but they figured a way around it. I’m proud of work we did and it was great to work with David. But that’s six years, ago, now.
Back when you did the original X-Men films the idea of a comic book film was still seen as very risky, what’s it like, from your perspective, now that we’re seeing a Marvel film every two-three months and they’re all doing gangbusters?
I loved being a part of those movies. It was a great group of people. It was rare to get fans excited for a comic book movie, and do well at the box office with films that critics loved, too. I mean nobody doesn’t like them.
Would you play Cyclops again? We never saw him die…
I’ve always been very proud of my role and it’s out of my hands. It’s nice to see Bryan [Singer] go back in and turn the boat a little bit. I’m happy for those that made it back. I’d like to. I get excited watching the trailers because I’m excited for the continuance of the X-Men world. I’m a fan of X-Men and I know it’ll be a kick ass movie.
Sarah Wright Olsen:
CraveOnline: Your character has two of my favorite lines from Walk of Shame, because I’m an LA resident who’s tired of LA films only focusing on two regions of the city: violence in South LA and the vapid qualities of West LA. So it was nice to see a character confront a few varied LA neighborhoods, from downtown to Koreatown.
The first line is “people live here?” when you visit Gordon’s downtown apartment.
Sarah Wright Olsen: I know! That was really fun. I used to live downtown for about six years so I was stoked. I loved it, but I also wasn’t as natural as Gordon. I never took the subway when I lived downtown and – as embarrassing as this is – I didn’t even know where the closest subway was in relation to apartment
Well, that was my second one, when Denise asks, “there’s a subway?” Are you looking forward to the subway to the sea?
Yes! I go to this taco place near Pico and Ocean Park and I always see the construction and I get so excited. It’s gonna be some awesome to jump on the train and get to the ocean. Just like Her!
Walk of Shame is also a disaster film. You guys call it “Carpocalypse Now” (when a section of the 10 freeway is closed) which I guess is a sequel to the very real Carmageddon (when the 405 was closed). What’d you do during Carmageddon?
I steered clear. [Laughs.] I didn’t mean to make a pun.
That was a joke in the movie.
[Laughs.] Caught me. I was downtown, though, so I didn’t have to prepare for that disaster, just stayed inside. The 10 was insane, though. I love this thing about LA that we always make fun of but always do, which is talk about traffic and which direction we’re going.
There’s an anti slut-shaming stance the film takes, but also your friends in the film tell Elizabeth Banks’ to wear one of your character’s “slutty dresses.” But you’re also the character who gets the least drunk and goes home alone. Was that an important distinction for your character, as far as reserving judgment on women?
Yes, I was not the one who took home Iggy Pop. But there’s a point yes of not judging outfits, but my girlfriends are honest and have attitude. It’s not a putdown when we say “slut” around each other. Its not like [the characters] are mean to me, they just know that I wear slutty outfits.
I have girlfriends who are honest and say they’re going to wear something “slutty” and own it and they feel really freakin’ good. My girlfriend might wear a shirt that buttons down past her bra and we’ll giver her some grief. But she’ll feel and look sexy.
I think there is a point to all the jokes at Elizabeth Banks’ expense, though, which is: don’t judge women by how they look or dress. But we all can do that sometimes.
It’s kind of surprising that Elizabeth Banks, who’s such a comedy veteran, hasn’t had a solo leading comedy film until now…
I’ve always looked up to her. When I was doing TV, she was cropping up in big comedy movies or on “30 Rock,” she was always making whatever size of a part pop. I was so excited to work with her, and in something where she was the driving force of the entire movie.
Walk of Shame feels pretty loose, was there a lot of ad-libbing?
Steven Brill really wanted to go off page. All the comedies I’ve done recently, 21 & Over, The House Bunny and now Walk of Shame, there’s been that freedom. It’s so good in comedy to do that, not because the lines aren’t already funny and awesome – but in the mess of improv sometimes you find something genius and sometimes you embarrass yourself and have to stick with the script.
Shooting the “douche test” improv with James [Marsden] was so much fun, because I got to be the aggressor. You don’t very often get to put a good-looking man in a corner and try to make him blush.
What’s your “four-point douche test” [four questions to determine if a potential date is a douche]?
I’m not a fan of aggressive meathead dudes who spend three hours at the gym, drink protein shakes, talk about lifting and what juice they’re trying.
OK. That’s one.
[Laughs.] I don’t have more. I’ve been married for eight years [to actor Eric Christian Olsen], so I haven’t had to test anyone. But that’s my biggest douche detector.