KRISTEN BELL on 'YOU AGAIN'
Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
August 27, 2010
In the comedy You Again, a former social outcast named Marni (Kristen Bell) is shocked to discover that her brother is engaged to her old high school nemesis Joanna (Odette Yustman). Though the situation is awkward and precarious enough when the first family gathering is arranged, the tension and bitterness climb to another level when it turns out that Marni's mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Joanna's aunt (Sigourney Weaver) had a high school rivalry of their own that ended disastrously. Sparks fly and subsequent wackiness ensues when two pairs of enemies from two generations square off in the midst of an impending wedding day.
There's one theory that inches closer and closer to becoming a law each time we get the opportunity to speak to Kristen Bell: if every girl on earth were like her, the world might literally explode from awesomeness. She seems to be an inexhaustable encyclopedia of amusing, whimsical stories, and she invariably tells them with a vivid expressiveness. It's not always evident in print form, but her voice is notably animated and lively. She's innately funny, and can belt out sarcasm without cynicism. On the occasion of this particular interview, a reporter jokingly greets her with a gasp of, "You again..." She immediately responds with a perfectly pitched, good-natured barb in kind, turning on the drama and whispering like the hero encountering the villain in a final climatic showdown: "You again..."
In this interview, Kristen recounts some old high school stories, talks about working with director Andy Fickman and an onscreen canine co-star, and brags about her sweet moves Napoleon Dynamite style.
Catch Kristen in You Again, now playing in theaters everywhere...
MEDIA: I can't imagine that you've ever had an awkward phase. So how did you relate to Marni?
KRISTEN: [sighs] We do not know each other that well...
Every day is my awkward phase! [reconsiders, scoffs at her own words] What a ridiculous statement. Don't print that. I definitely had an awkward phase. You know, it's funny because I just went back and read all my high school notes. My best friend from high school, when I turned 30, printed out a bunch of horrific notes I had written her in high school about who we should be dating and what we should be doing and all these grand plans. [laughs] And she put them in a binder and set them out on the coffee table at my 30th birthday party. It was hilarious! All of that stuff is like long dead...I was laughing so hard I almost peed in my pants when I was reading them, the things that you think in high school. I don't know that I was as awkward as Marni, but I think every high schooler, no matter [who you are]...You feel super duper duper awkward in social situations, when you look in the mirror. So I feel like I had just as much of an experience as Marni, even though I can't really connect to being bullied and locked out of the school or anything. I think everyone has it in high school.
[Editor's note: We printed the "don't print that" part because, you know...It's sort of adorable, and we're convinced it will make fans like Kristen that much more.]
Are you holding out for an apology from anyone, like Marni was?
Absolutely: that girl I just referenced. Who's still my best friend today, so yes, I can talk about her and it's not a big deal. I was very much a pleaser in high school and I was always very nervous that people wouldn't like me, so I led with compliments and I tried to keep everyone on my good side, and that was how my wanting to be accepted manifested itself. You know, it's different for everyone--some people are mean and beat other people up, some people are introverted, some people make fun of other people. I was just very much like, "I'm just going to be the sweetest, and no one is going to be able to dislike me." And I had a group of girlfriends that, our senior year, had found another girl that sort of replaced me, and it...I mean, you guys, even to talk about it now, like it was so painful. And I was reading all of these notes from other groups of friends that weren't my two best friends, like, "I don't know why they're excluding you. Don't worry, you've got a great personality." Like there were other girls in my high school that were encouraging, and I, over the last couple years, talked about it with those two girls. Like, "What the hell happened our senior year? Why did we not go on spring break together?" And they were like, "You know, we don't even know." And it turned out that they were not intending to exclude me, they were just doing the best they...Everybody in high school, they're just doing the best they can, you know what I'm saying? But I definitely waited for a while for them to address that situation. But again, I'm a pleaser, so I was too nervous to bring it up. But after she did, and she was like, "I'm so sorry that we didn't have our spring break together. That was so stupid, I don't know what we were thinking..." I felt this huge weight be lifted off my shoulders!
Do you realize that guys don't really think along these lines?
Yeah, you guys are dumber. I know. [laughs] But you guys have a different way...Do you realize we don't go to the bar and punch each others' lights out? Like we don't go combing for bar fights on a Saturday night. [laughs] We don't beat each others' chests, we just, you know...sharpen our claws.
So it sounds like you're still close with these people from high school, and it all worked out...
It did. It did work out. I think you can really get over anything if you try to think about where the other person was coming from. And if both parties are willing to reconcile, I do believe that anything can be sort of forgiven. It wasn't crazy. I didn't like, you know, lock myself in my room for six months. But I definitely felt ostracized by my group of friends. And then having talked about it later, I just realized they had their own set of issues at that point, you know? We were all feeling really insecure. That's what high school is--it's a big, fat bucket of insecurity.
People say Hollywood is like high school...
Hmmm...Touche! It is. Very much. Actually, Hollywood is probably the most like high school, where gossip is the main source of information and telephone is the game to play. And it's funny how similar it is. But I think that it's even more glorified in Hollywood, because there's this monster of the media, with all due respect. I know none of you guys are horrible journalists, you're all lovely. But there's this wanting to report on someone else and not considering that that other person is actually a human being. That's a lot [like] what happens in high school. Like when you say stuff about another girl like, "Oh, I can't believe she wore that sweater." I remember my mom telling me something when I was in middle school that really stuck with me. She was at a dance her freshman year of high school, and they didn't have a lot of money, so she borrowed a dress from her cousin which was like worn two years ago. And, like, the dresses in the '50s when my mom grew up, or the '60s...You had to have the right dress. The shapes were changing, and you had to be in. And she was going to the bathroom and she heard a couple girls come into the bathroom (she was in the stall) saying like, "What does that girl think this is, a foursquare dance?" Because her dress was kind of plaid. And it like broke my mom's heart. And she stayed in the stall the rest of the dance, and then she went home. And I think that I was born empathetic to a fault, so that idea of "always be careful of hurting someone else's feelings" has always resonated with me. So I was never a bully, and if I ever did see bullying, I, with the meek personality I held in high school, did my best to intervene. But I think Hollywood has a tendency to be like that--really not considering that there are other human beings on the end of that gossip chain.
Does anyone in Hollywood owe you an apology?
No, thankfully. Well, wait...let me think about this. [ponders, muses] No. Thank God. I mean, I think once you learn a certain set of skills to communicate, even if someone does hurt your feelings...The way I do it is I realize my first step isn't to react, like it would have been in high school, which is, I think, how a lot of fights start, and then say, "That really hurt my feelings when you did this..." And start that conversation and that dialogue. No human being can ever hurt you more in that situation. It is absolutely alarming how people's defenses just drop when you say, "Wow, that really hurt my feelings, I wonder if we could talk about it?" No one's still going to be a bitch to you, you know what I mean? So it's really easy to get through to people when you just learn not to react.
Andy Fickman said you stood him up like three times in auditions for Reefer Madness, and he still seems a little hurt by that...
Here's what you should know: everything that comes out of his mouth is nonsense. Yeah, I did. I skipped the auditions, okay? I did, I did! I did. And I don't deny it. And he tells this story in front of me all the time. And it is very funny because he probably didn't tell the real story, so I will. I had just done a Broadway musical for the Nederlanders, and so when you know the producing company, you have a little bit closer of a relationship with them, and they said, "We're doing Reefer Madness next, we'd love you to come audition." So I kind of took that as like, "Sweet, you'll be on the short list!" Which is kind of hard to work yourself up to the short list. So the first auditions came around when they auditioned a bunch of girls, and I don't know what it was, [I had] something else to do, and I thought, "You know what, I'll be able to make the callbacks, because I know they'll keep me on the short list." And then for some reason, I couldn't make the callback. [laughs] And I said, "Okay, I'll make at least the final round." And I went in probably very cocky and sure of myself because I knew the producing company. And Andy was like, "Who the hell is this?" But he still hired me!
Do you like his nickname for you?
K-Bell? Yeah. He started that. And actually, the majority of the people in my life call me K-Bell. Which is really funny because once I moved to LA, even groups of friends that weren't centered around him have started saying K-Bell, and it's very strange. It's a very easy thing to say, I think. But Andy was the first one. And I love it, yeah. It makes me feel special!
Maybe it's a common thing for Kristens, like how people call Kristen Stewart "KStew"...
Oh really? Maybe K's an easy one, just like if you have the first initial J, you say like "JD" or "JP"...
You really get down in You Again's dance scenes...
You like my moves? [coyly] Like those moves?
Could we see you on something like Dancing With the Stars any time soon?
Oh my God, no. No. I mean, yes, I have an arsenal of moves from weddings, and I grew up in an entirely Jewish community, so I really cut a rug at some bar and bat mitzvahs in my day, and I created a sort of repertoire of awesome dance moves that I got to showcase a little bit in You Again. And I didn't realize they would be so useful, because I always felt really cool doing them. And then when I did a couple, Andy was like, "That's great! That looks so stupid, keep doing that!" And I was like, "Wait...Wait, what?" They were really fun. I mean, I like dance moves that have a theme, like if you're doing "The Baker" or "The Stewardess"...You know what I mean?
Are those your go-to moves?
The Stewardess is always my go-to. And whatever beat you have, the key is to not let anyone know you're going there, and then you go [stands up and demonstrates the move, which looks like she's pointing out things to airline passengers] mask-mask, seatbelt-seatbelt, front-front, back-back, mask-mask, seatbelt-seatbelt, front-front, back-back...And also, The Baker's a really good one if you want to hit on someone from across the room... [demonstrates the move, which looks like she's mixing a bowl of ingredients, then adds a saucy little finger lick/taste at the end] There's ways you can sex it up, there's ways you can be silly. But I had a lot of very goofy friends all throughout my life who enjoyed sharing these dance moves. And so once I finally realized they weren't as cool as I thought they were, I was able to give them to Marni. And let her shine.
Given that you're such a dog lover, how was your experience of actually performing with one in this film? Especially since he doesn't really get along with your character...
Listen, that was hard because I loved that dog so much! I'm the person that's, during lunch, at the animal trainer like, "Show me what you have in the truck!" [laughs] You know, playing with all the dogs. So it was a little bit difficult for me to not be able to play with the dog as much on set, because he did have to just walk past me. But I loved that dog.
He had some great scenes with you...
[says as if she's giving the standard statement about co-stars] He's very talented. I would work with him again!
So what's in the dog truck?
Well, there's like two other dogs that look like him, one of which looks identical, but just has like a maimed ear, and they just, like, always shoot him from the right side. Because they find these dogs like at the pound, they always rescue them, and they find dogs that look identical, and sometimes they dye their fur. It's actually a really artistic process to find dogs that match and to teach them, and to teach them well. Because if you work with trainers that are yelling at the dogs all the time, those dogs aren't going to perform. Like why would you want to perform for someone who yells at you all the time? A funny thing about that dog is that he's not mean at all, and to make him growl at me, they would put this retainer in his mouth, and he just sits there, because he knows he's getting treats. And they would put this retainer that makes him like this [demonstrates putting in a retainer in her mouth], and they hook it to the back of his ears, and they just have him sit there until they roll the camera. And then they roll it, and it looks like he's growling, and then they put the growling in later. Isn't that cute?
I was actually wondering about that, since I figured they couldn't get a dog to actually growl at you. Dogs love you!
[sighs] I know, I know! It's my burden to bear...
Victor Garber's character subscribes to a ridiculous diet in this film that requires him to eat with a blindfold. Have you tried or heard of an equally strange diet?
I haven't tried anything crazy, maybe because I became vegetarian at a really young age. And because of that, my parents were like, "Okay, cool, you can be who you are, but you're going to know what you're doing. You're not just going to eat bread now that you're a vegetarian. That's not going to fly." So I had to read books on nutrition and learn what vitamins I would be lacking and stuff. So I'm on the more educated side of nutrition, so I haven't tried anything crazy, because I don't believe in starving yourself. I don't believe in lack of carbs. I think you can reaaally shut your body down from metabolizing if you get rid of all carbs completely. I think fasting in small intervals can be healthy. It's also the pits, and it makes you into the devil! The first day of your fast, you're like, "Ugh, I hate everything!" Because you're not getting the nutrients you should be getting, or sugar. But I haven't really tried any crazy fads. I don't buy it.
Thanks for your time.
Thank you, guys.