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The emperors of nervous laughter Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles are doing their thing again with this summer’s controversy-bound “The Dictator.” Unlike their previous successes, “Borat” and “Brüno,” “The Dictator” will focus a lot less on the uncertain ‘Sacha Baron Cohen vs. the World’ formula for a more structured plot with more controlled camerawork and, notably, a cast of recognizable actors.
Among these familiar faces is the always entertaining Anna Faris, the talent behind roles like the lovable stoner in “Smiley Face” and of course Cindy Campbell from the “Scary Movie” franchise. Faris took some time to sit down with the CU Independent to discuss her new film and the uncontrollable madness of Baron Cohen.
What’s working with Sacha Baron Cohen like?
Anna Faris: He’s like a crazy genius. He’s sort of – he’s very intellectual. He’s very thoughtful. You know, he stays in character throughout like the whole movie. And he has reveled in making people uncomfortable. But the other side of him is he’s also really, really sweet. And he’s kind of a gentleman and a total family man. So he’s – even a juxtaposition, I suppose.
So you worked with the Curb [Your Enthusiasm] writers and Sacha Baron Cohen. Would you say that the set was kind of a loose and sort of a lot of improv? Or was it really tight and to the script?
AF: No, it was very, very loose. It took a little bit of a learning curve for me. It was unlike pretty much any filming process I had ever gone through before. And you really didn’t know where the scene was going to go. We had a script and we would do the scripted version a couple of times. And then, the writers and Sacha would collaborate. And then, next thing you know, you would be headed in a completely different direction. So it forced you to really stay on your toes, which was hard, but also, sort of an exciting challenge for an actor. I mean, in a scene like where he was sort of supposed to be charmed by me, he would suddenly be threatening to kill me, or like calling me like a lesbian hobbit, or you know, grabbing me on the back of my head.
Was that just for fun or is that part of the movie?
AF: Well, a lot of it became part of the movie, but … it was just sort of as an actor you’re like, all right, got to be game. You know, it was improv. It was like improv class in a sense that you just sort of roll with the punches, literally.
What’s your favorite part of doing comedy?
AF: I think that it has made me be able to laugh at myself and a lot easier. I think I used to take myself very seriously. And there’s the reward, too, of when you sneak into a theater, which I rarely do… But on those rare occasions that you hear other people laughing at your movie, it feels amazing. It’s amazing to give people joy and to be a part of a hugely challenging process as well.
What do you usually look for when you’re looking for a film role? Do you foresee doing any darker films like “May” or “Observe and Report” in the future?
AF: Yes, I would love to. I look for just interesting characters. And with this movie in particular, I was really excited to work with Sacha. I knew that that would be sort of, for me, really thrilling, because I’d been such a huge fan of his for so long. And then, as far as sort of the darker movies, I love making those. And I feel just so fortunate that I’ve been able to view some of those sort of odd independent movies playing really interesting darker characters, and then getting to play the very dark character of Cindy Campbell [from "Scary Movie"]. (Laughs) Just kidding.
What is the strangest thing a role required you to do?
AF: Oh. Wow, man, so many. For “The Dictator,” I had to grow out my armpit hair, which was a new experience for me. And I was very naïve about it. They asked me if I would do it, because they said they could glue some hair on me. And I was like, “No, no, no, I’ll totally do it. I don’t care.” And sort of thinking that maybe it would grow in kind of thin and wispy and maybe even kind of cute. And that was not the case… It was dark and thick. And it defined my whole summer. I was like no tank tops, no swimsuits, couldn’t hail a cab. At a party, I would always, if I’d had a drink or two, lift my shirt and show off my arm pit hair. And it made people gag. It was amazing. So that’s the first thing I can think of, I guess.
How does your character in “The Dictator” differ from past characters that you’ve played?
AF: She’s got a great heart, and I’ve played a lot of characters that have great intentions and are kind people. And she’s definitely like that. She’s smarter. And she’s naïve. She’s sort of passionately naïve, I guess. She very much sort of stuck in her [niche], you know, she majored in Fem Lit at Amherst. She’s very idealistic, I think, to a fault. So it’s easy for people to take advantage of her. But I think that she definitely had some qualities that some of my other characters have had in the past, you know, that naiveté that I tend to play a lot of. And I’m starting to think that I’m just really naïve in real life.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you want to talk about?
AF: Yes, well, I’m leaving on Saturday for London to do a romantic comedy with Rose Byrne and Simon Baker. And I just adore them both… So that should be a fun spring. And then, I’m hoping for a margarita and pool-filled life.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at Samuel.firstname.lastname@example.org.