June 24, 2012 - If I had to vote now for Best Actress of 2012, Elizabeth Banks would be one of my top three choices. Banks' performance as a single mom struggling to make ends meet on a bartender's salary in People Like Us is one of her best of her career, and one of the best overall of 2012.
Screenwriter Alex Kurtzman, best known for big-budget action movies like Star Trek, Cowboys and Aliens, and Transformers, makes his feature film directorial debut with this comedy/drama inspired by true events. People Like Us stars Chris Pine, Captain Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, as a son who learns his estranged father has just died and left him with $150,000 to deliver to a sister (played by Banks) he didn't even know existed. He plots to meet his sister without letting her know they're related and without disclosing the fact she has inherited money, with Kurtzman (who co-wrote the script) having to create a relationship between the two siblings that never turned the film into a twisted romantic comedy.
At the LA press day for the DreamWorks Pictures release, Banks talked about maintaining the right tone, why she was attracted to this character, and why she wanted to be an actress in the first place.
On the onscreen relationship between her character and Chris Pine's:
Elizabeth Banks: "First of all, it’s important to remember we are mourning the loss of our father. We don’t know it’s the same father – I don’t. At the very least, the connection starts there. It’s not a physical attraction that connects us. It’s very important to have that scene in the bar where I think he’s coming on to me and I reject him, so you know that’s not what she’s interested in. I think they're both dealing with a lot of things. It’s that moment when Frankie starts opening her heart. He’s sort of knocked down the wall a little bit. To me, he was opening up the possibility of hope for a better life – of love in my life again, being able to rely on someone again. Because Frankie is alone. She’s doing this by herself."
"We all need people and that’s the message of this movie. You should have to go through all this sh*t by yourself. You should ask for help! It’s why the culmination of that moment, the betrayal is so powerful for the movie because it’s right at the moment she starts to turn."
On the trait she most admired about her character, Frankie:
Elizabeth Banks: "To me, Frankie is a survivor. I know a lot of ladies like Frankie. Struggling single mom, trying to create a safe haven for their kid, I relate to that. You have to survive. You have someone who relies on you. You’ve got to get through every single day."
On playing a bartender:
Elizabeth Banks: "I was a bartender and a cocktail waitress. I was a waitress for 10 years and at the end, I worked in New York. In New York City, it was literally that exact job. You dress for tips. You get very physical when you need to. I got a lot of marriage proposals. I had a ticket bought for me to go to Brazil, from one of my regulars. That’s what you do. I hated the bar, actually. I preferred cocktail waitressing because you could walk away. And the bar you’re f**king stuck there with these douchebags. There’s nowhere to go."
On Alex Kurtzman as a director:
Elizabeth Banks: "The best thing about him is he really invites people into the process and by doing so, he invites the audience into the movie."
On when she decided she wanted to be an actor:
Elizabeth Banks: "I went to college and thought I was going to be Diane Sawyer. I got great advice. I didn’t want to study for the LSATS, so law school started to be distant. I was always acting as a hobby. I never wanted to do it as a career. I thought actors lived on the Lower East Side, ate bread, and worked in their friends basements. That was all the actors I knew anyways, and I didn’t want that for my life."
"Honestly, I went to grad school because my mentor said, 'You know, follow your heart and the money will come and see what happens. You can always get a job after.' I went to acting school and booked a commercial 10 days after I graduated and that was it. In other words, they paid me to do it, so I kept doing it."
On how she spent her first acting paycheck:
Elizabeth Banks: "My student loans. It’s completely unglamorous. I was so happy I could make student loan payments, just get rid of that debt as fast as possible."
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People Like Us hits theaters on June 29, 2012.