Visit any movie theater right now and you're likely to find at least one movie with Elizabeth Banks. The talented and super-busy actress says it's not that she's nabbing every female role in Hollywood. It's just a matter of crazy timing. "You have to remember that these were very spread out when I made them," offered Banks. "They're just oddly coming out all at the same time."
Banks plays First Lady Laura Bush in W, has a role as Paul Rudd's girlfriend in the comedy Role Models, and is the Miri part of the Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno. And Banks thinks it's funny they all happen to be coming out one right after the other. "And they're all coming out also in the exact opposite order in which I shot them. So it's like the smallest role last, which is pretty funny."
Banks' largest part by far is in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, a film she went into without any expectations. "I try to never have any expectations. Hollywood will beat expectations out of you after about three jobs," explained Banks. "So I knew – I will say this – that Seth [Rogen] and I would get along gangbusters because we always have. And I knew that we would improvise a lot, which we did. I knew that Kevin would be amazing to be around, which he is. He just runs a really friendly and relaxed set full of his friends and has everyone that makes him comfortable around. So I knew all of that was going to work. I knew that it was going to be really f--king cold in Pittsburgh and it was. What else did I know? Other than that, I didn't know much. I knew we were making a really funny movie. It's actually funnier than I realized."
Asked how difficult it was to merge their improv style with Kevin Smith's style of filmmaking, Banks replied, "Well, he wrote an amazing script. He really indulged us because frankly he's editing the movies and he could've taken out anything that he wanted to. You integrate it very organically. You shoot what's on the page and then you just go from there, and you have to stay in the moment and you have to stay in character. The improv has to make sense for what we're talking about and doing, and some of it just flowed from starting to go up on your line and you'd make something up. Some of it flows from the fact that by the fourth take of saying the same joke it starts to feel not as fresh. So to freshen it up and get back into the moment and feel more present you start running with it."
Yes, Zack and Miri is a romantic comedy at heart, but it's definitely not your typical 'boy meets girl, the two fall in love, something rips them apart, and then they get back together' love story. Banks credits Smith's writing with setting this one apart from the get-go. "I think it's built into the script, that the turning point is when they're doing it and they think it's just going to be f--king and that's all we talk about," said Banks. "It's just going to be f--king and it's not going to mean anything, and then you get there and you make love and it does mean something. So it was kind of one of those situations where it didn't meant anything until it did. I personally think that we present a very realistic couple onscreen for the entire movie. We just hadn't had sex until we did. So to me the idea of them just peeing in front of each other and making coffee for each other and paling around and driving each other to work, those are all things that regular couples do, couples who have already admitted that they're in love. So I don't know. It just flowed very naturally from that."
Having the word porno in the title was bound to lead to controversy, and some people (and organizations and theater owners) are up in arms over the choice of the word. "I think there are much bigger problems in our world today than the word porno," Banks responded when asked about the controversy. "I think if you have a problem explaining to your seven year old that porno is for adults just like the TV that you don't let them watch after nine o'clock, just like the food that you don't let them eat, just like the beer that you don't let them drink, just like the cigarettes that you don't let them smoke, you're a f--king idiot. I just don't understand how it's any different from any of those things. 'Hey, kid, it's not for you.' That's it."
Kevin Smith didn't require his stars to do a lot of extra research in order to get into their characters. "Nope, he didn't ask," said Banks before adding, "I don't remember if he asked. I mean, we had discussions about it. It was clear that I was knowledgeable enough. I was not a total novice. I really rely on him and Seth's encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. Making porn isn't for rocket scientists. It's not exactly hard to do. It's fairly easy. We didn't really talk about it at all and we didn't want to be good at it. We wanted to be really bad at it. So I kind of didn't want to know anything about it."
Not only do childhood friends Zack and Miri make a porn film together, they also face another daunting task as a team – they attend their high school reunion. In real life, Banks has experienced reconnecting with her high school peers. "I went to my five year high school reunion, which did in fact happen on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. So that was totally real to me. There was nothing particularly surprising. The guy that everyone thought was gay was gay. The guy everyone thought was going to go bald early was bald. Some girls got fat. It was pretty much par for the course."
Once was apparently enough as now Banks is absolutely certain she'll never go to another reunion. "I will never go to another reunion. It's not going to happen. Everyone I want to see from high school I already see."