ANNA FARIS on 'SCARY MOVIE 4' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
April 1, 2006
In Scary Movie 4, the aptly titled fourth installment in the hit comedy franchise that makes a living of spoofing horrors and thrillers, Anna Faris reprises her leading role of sweet but hapless Cindy Campbell. This time, she's a nurse who must thwart an alien invasion in this parody amalgam that remixes War of the Worlds, Saw, and The Grudge, among others. At her side are her best friend Brenda (Regina Hall) and the Tom Cruise-ish Tom Ryan (Craig Bierko).
Scary Movie 4 also features appearances by Leslie Nielsen, Bill Pullman, Charlie Sheen, Anthony Anderson, Michael Madsen, and, in a particularly entertaining cameo sequence, Shaquille O'Neal and Dr. Phil.
In this interview, Anna Faris (who may actually be as sweet as Cindy, but is certainly not nearly as hapless) talks about the making of the movie and getting to play such a unique comedic role, and even looks ahead to the prospect of a Scary Movie 10.
MEDIA: Your character Cindy takes a lot of abuse in the name of comedy. Were there any scenes you refused to do?
ANNA: You know, I'm always pretty game, especially because I think Cindy's so sweet and innocent, and it gets a little bit annoying, so it's fun to sort of take me down every now and then. There was that one shot where I get hit in the face with an airplane food cart. It happened so fast that it looks like it could have been a stunt double, which is frustrating to me, because it was me. [laughs] They made it out of foam, but they had wood in the structure, and it really like breaks across my nose. Like I'm looking up, and it lands right on my face. There was a guy standing on a ladder like pummeling it right into my face. That one I didn't want to do more than twice because that hurt pretty bad. And they saved that for the last shot of the whole movie for me, so in case I was injured, I guess, they didn't have to worry about it. [laughs] So thoughtful!
Did you have to do any physical preparation for the role?
Yeah. I did have to do a lot of boxing. Originally, that boxing sequence was quite a bit longer. They always do this to me. We had this like ten-minute long, very carefully choreographed sequence that I would spend my weekends training for, which, at the time, it's like, "Guys, it's Scary Movie. We're not really making Million Dollar Baby here." But inevitably, the scene gets cut to like 30 seconds, and they mostly used my stunt double anyway. [laughs] But I think that there's always a little bit of that. I think for the first [Scary Movie], I had to learn how to river dance, and I had to learn fighting and wire work. There's always a lot of stuff that goes into it. [But] I don't really have to do any research acting-wise because my character's really uncomplicated. [laughs]
Do you see all the movies you parody?
We rent a lot of movies because I like to have a little glass of wine while I drink... [catches the verbal misstep, turns on self-deprecation] "While I drink a movie!" I like to be at home. But I do--we rent a lot of those kinds of movies. But I would see them anyway for Scary Movie, not necessarily because my character imitates anybody anymore, but [just to be familiar with what's being parodied]. And I think it's also important to understand the feel and the mood of a particular movie. But that mostly has to do, I think, with cinematography and the set design.
So in the Grudge scenes, you weren't looking to mimic Sarah Michelle Gellar's facial expressions?
Do you think I did? [laughs]
Well, you matched up with the original scenes really well...
Oh, good! Thank you! Well, I do think it's a little bit unconscious, maybe, and because a lot of my lines are very similar to what she's saying. But I wouldn't say I'm trying to do an imitation.
Have you met any of the actresses whose roles you've parodied throughout the Scary Movie series? Have any been angry about being spoofed?
Early on, after the first one, I met Jennifer Love Hewitt and Neve Campbell, and they were both unbelievably lovely. In fact, Jennifer Love Hewitt sent me flowers and told me how much she enjoyed the movie. I don't know how you could really be insulted by it. And I like to think that if we're spoofing your movie...I don't know if people really view it like this, but I'd like to think that it's a compliment, because it means it had a lasting effect in one way or the other, and was a box office hit, and people enjoyed it. I think that most of our audience really enjoys the movies that we're spoofing.
[jokes] Sooooo...was it difficult to learn the fake Japanese that's in the movie?
[laughs] You know, I'm embarrassed about that. I'll tell you why. That sweet little boy knew all of his lines. I really think that I'm a pretty low maintenance actress, but I came to work that day and I was like, "I don't have any of these lines down. What do I say?" And I had to be fed line by line, and that little boy knew all of his lines. And I was so embarrassed. But he was just a little doll. And I was so relieved when I saw that in the script, because it felt like one of the few times that I sort of got to do something ridiculous.
That wasn't stream-of-consciousness improvisation? It was all in the script?
Yeah. David [Zucker] isn't a big improv guy, and especially for my character. The Japanese was all in the script. It was very specific. [laughs]
Is it harder to deliver that kind of gibberish, as opposed to normal dialogue?
It was, because it made no sense. It was all random. When you're saying stuff that doesn't make sense, I think in any movie, it's really hard to memorize.
Were the on-set writers making a lot of day-to-day changes in the script?
Sometimes. I think that happened more on the second and the third [Scary Movies] than this one. But it's pretty easy for me to adapt and change--except for that Japanese! [laughs] But yeah, I'm pretty good if they throw new stuff at me. But I will say that with this one, it was a little bit different because we came to it with more of the script intact, more of the finished product. With the third one, they were writing as we went along, and then there was a lot of additional photography, and we had to change some of the plot all around. So there was a lot of changing every day. I think it's more of an issue for like hair and makeup and wardrobe people, having to run around and get a dreadlock wig in 30 minutes, or whatever. I think that it's tough for them.
Did you bear witness to a naked Leslie Nielsen in the scene where his clothes get zapped?
[laughs] No...I heard that Regina yesterday was telling everyone that I was sneaking onto set when Leslie Nielsen was naked. [laughs] But, no. He's such a sweet man, and I applaud him. I like to think that I am pretty good about going to places that make me uncomfortable, but I don't know if I could have done that. He was pretty great.
There's a scene in which we see Cindy making suggestive hand gestures and describing some rather gynecological procedures, but the dialogue is replaced by daydreamy music. When you shot that, were you actually speaking the words that we don't hear?
Yeah, I was making up stuff. I saw the movie just the other day for the first time, and I was trying to remember what I was saying. I actually didn't know if that whole gag would work very well, but I think people seemed to enjoy it. I thought it was going to get cut out, so I was happy to see it onscreen. But yeah, I was just babbling along about something or other.
Those particular lines weren't scripted?
No. I was just going to places that you probably wouldn't want to hear about. [laughs]
Maybe we'll hear it in some DVD bonus feature...
Maybe! And I'd have to warn my parents about that! [laughs]
Are you currently signed up for a Scary Movie 5?
Not yet! I'm a free lady for right now.
The typical trend is to stop after the third installment so that you end up with a trilogy. Since we're already up to #4, will they just keep hammering these out until we see a Scary Movie 10?
You know, I wouldn't put it past those guys! We're a series that can continue to reinvent ourselves, we have almost a new cast every time, there's no storylines that we need to follow, we can die, there aren't any rules in terms of plot structure. There's nothing that we need to stick to. In fact, I'm sure they can dump Regina and myself and feel okay about it. So I think that as long as they continue to make money, they're just going to keep going with this. [laughs]
Just for the record, I don't think they could make Scary Movie 10 without you...
Oh, thank you very much! I might need you to make a phone call! [laughs]
Are you surprised you've been back for all four installments to date?
[jokes] Well, I like to say that I do silly, fun movies like Brokeback Mountain so I can do projects like Scary Movie 4. Yeah, I'm surprised that they still hired me, they still kept me around. I'm flattered. I think if you had told me back when I was doing this for the first Scary Movie (where I really had no idea what I was doing) that I would be doing the fourth one, I don't know if I'd be happy or depressed. [laughs]
Do you feel like you have an ownership of your character that allows you to voice protests like, "Cindy would never say that"?
I don't tend to do that too often, and I do think that sometimes I'm not always true to maybe what Cindy would be, because I not only have to carry the plot as Cindy Campbell, but I also have to be a reactor to other people. I think there's a lot of times where it'll cut to me and I'll be making a goofy face, or whatever, which [isn't] very natural. I do remember one scene where David wanted me to do [what] he calls a Landry. He has names for every facial expression. [laughs] So he'll say, "Do a Landry," which is this look. [demonstrates the look] And I had to draw the line there, because Cindy wouldn't do that look, because that's showing a little bit of empathy. Anyway, I'm probably analyzing it way more than Cindy Campbell should ever be analyzed! But instead I went with something not quite as cynical.
Is that look named after NFL player and coach Tom Landry?
Yes, exactly. In fact, he sent me a picture of Tom Landry doing that. So he calls that the Landry. He has a few other expressions, like "who farted?" "Downward chomping" is one that he'll tell me to do. So it's really a great acting process, working on these movies! [laughs] It's broken down to a series of four facial expressions.
How did you get into the whole comedy thing? Did you have any "women in comedy" role models?
You know, it's hard to beat Lucille Ball. But I think as far as my own personal journey...I grew up doing really dramatic work. I had never done comedy before. I was certainly never the funny girl. In fact, I think I took myself really, really seriously for a really long time. [laughs] My brother said to me, a few months ago, "What happened to you? You used to be so anal and uptight. Now you're like fun loving and goofy." I don't know...I think it's really just about playing a character sincerely and taking risks, and I think I'm willing to go to places that maybe other young actresses won't go, or don't.
So how do you feel about having the chance to play an atypical character like Cindy?
I feel really grateful that it's one of the few times where a female can be comedic. I just don't think there are that many roles out there for young women to have a chance to be funny and silly. I mean, I feel really good that I've been able to be a part of some more critically acclaimed projects, and still do this. And honestly, if I'm in Scary Movie 10, I think I'll be pretty happy. I never really imagined that I'd be able to make a living off of doing this in any way, so I feel really grateful for that.
Has the success of the Scary Movie franchise gotten you a sort of "comedic actress" label?
Yes. I think I'm still working on breaking that idea of being typecast. And it's funny, because I was really surprised, when I moved here and started out in Scary Movie, that this industry thought of people as either comedic or dramatic actresses. I didn't think that there [were] two different categories, necessarily. So yeah, for a while, it was really hard for me to get auditions for dramatic work. Now the doors are opening up a lot more for me, I think, as I continue to sort of just chip away, trying to just do good work. And if I do comedy for the rest of my life, I'll be really happy, because while early on I had bigger career goals, [laughs] now I'm pretty happy doing comedy, and I really love it. And I love the challenge of it. I mean, it's really difficult in a lot of ways, and I really enjoy it.
Do you get recognition for the guest role you had on Friends?
No. I think I looked so different pregnant, and they put me in all these baggy clothes. My hair was shorter and they kept it tied back. I think when it first aired, a few people recognized me, but, you know, I don't get recognized that often in general. I think if I have a movie come out, then people tend to recognize me for a little while. But I feel like I've been a little bit of a chameleon.