MGM Interview - A guy thing

 Julia Stiles 

I would imagine you pretty much get to pick and choose what the next project is gonna be. So what kind of criteria goes into that?

Well, the reason I wanted to do this was because I really wanted to do a comedy, and most comedies aren't really well written. They get Mike Myers or Jim Carrey to come in and make them funny, but this actually as I was reading it, I couldn't put it down. I was laughing hysterically out loud just from what was written. Really, it's more like what I think will challenge me and make me excited to go to work everyday. Cause, especially playing Becky, the comedy is really different and hard -- something I'm still trying to figure out. I figured going to work everyday would be a challenge. And it has been.

When you sign up for a project, you're signing up for three months of your life.


I would imagine the character's got to be somebody that you really enjoy playing and the people enjoyable to work with. At what point did you realize A Guy Thing was what you wanted to do next?

I knew I wanted to be part of the movie when I read the script. I was laughing out loud and I could relate to Jason's character because I think everybody in the film has gotten caught in a lie they had to keep exaggerating to keep going. I thought that's a great premise for a movie. Originally they were thinking of me for the part of Karen. Chris and I both agreed that Becky wasn't really well written at first, I mean it wasn't flushed out enough. But when Chris and I talked about Becky's potential -- what she could become as a character, I knew that I wanted to play her more. I could relate to her more than Karen and I was excited about the idea of working with the writers to rewrite Becky.

Just about all the characters have gone through a metamorphosis. They appear one way in the screenplay. Then, working with Chris, the actors changed the characters a little bit, flushed them out a little bit, made them not so cliché. I mean Becky could be very cliché. She goes to a different job every day, she's got this crazy ex-boyfriend... When you watch her now, she's the most focused, the most grounded, while everybody around her is bouncing off the walls.

I hope not actually. Originally, when we had the read-through for the movie, everything was hysterical, but when we got to Becky it was like a different movie. It was like she was in this romantic comedy with Jason's character. Afterward, I met with the writers and we talked about adding elements to make her more flaky and flighty, not really good at being a Tiki girl because she trips all over the place. Just kind of being spacey. I hope that's been added, but yeah I guess I naturally bring more groundedness to the character. But, you know, Becky's definitely not a cookie-cutter character.

And she's together enough to see that Paul's about to make the biggest mistake of his life.

Mm-hm. She's good at judging other people, but she's not really good at making decisions about her own life.

Let's talk about the first scene -- the Tiki dance. No matter how many films you've done, or how comfortable you are with your profession...

(LAUGHS) Yeah.

Tell me, even for someone like you, was it embarrassing? Was it intimidating, first thing on the set, having to Tiki dance badly?

No. I was glad the dance was first because, if I had known the crew, I would probably have been much more embarrassed. Instead, because it was all these anonymous faces, I could just let go. I knew, going into this movie, the key is to let yourself make a fool of yourself. I mean, it's better to start off acting silly and get over your self-consciousness.

Tell us a little bit about Becky. When we first meet her, what's going on in her life?

She's just having a ball. That's one of the things I love about Becky -- she tries all these different jobs and lives everyday to the fullest. She's having a good time and she doesn't take everything as seriously as the other characters do -- so she sees Jason's character getting all worked up about everything and it's like, "Relax. Life is good."

Now we don't know what happens, but Jason and Becky wake up.

In bed together.

Jason's character, Paul and Becky wake up in bed together. From then on, this poor guy's life kind splits in two and it seems that he lives when he's with Becky.


It seems that when he's with other people he's just going through the motions.

He's like a deer in headlights.

What about Becky brings out this other side of Paul?

Becky is what we like to call a homewrecker. No, I'm just kidding. She has nothing to lose so she's enjoying her life as much as possible. When Paul's around her, her energy is infectious. Of course, when he's around his family and they're all planning the wedding, he's lying the whole time. So, he can only really relax around Becky.

Is it his brother that tells him, "Yeah you're secret's safe with Becky until she gets blitzed at the next family gathering."


So Becky comes to the dinner party where Paul will meet Karen's extended family and there is another person, who has flown in from Ireland, who I think is kind of a kindred spirit for Becky.

Right. Aunt Budge.

Tell us about Aunt Budge.

Aunt Budge is the alcoholic of the family. She's Irish and nobody really knows how she's related to anybody else. She's a little bit vulgar. She likes to talk about her sexual exploits, despite the fact that she's an old woman. Becky gets a kick out of her. She and Becky are the misfits of the family. They're the unconventional family members I guess. They like to go off and have fun together and be bad.

And Karen and her mother are conventional to the point of snapping in half. Well, not so much Karen, but definitely Sandra. I know that Becky and Karen don't hang out much, but I feel there's a tenderness there. There's a sweetness between them. Did you and Selma talk about this?

I think that it just naturally happened, because Selma and I have worked together before and we get along really well. I love her to death. If it was ever written that Becky and Karen should be catty with each other, that went away because Selma and I naturally get along. I think it's good because it would be too much of a cliché to have a catfight between, you know, the fiancée and the homewrecker.

Does it help when you've recently worked with somebody? Is there a little bit of shorthand that's already...?

Yeah, you don't have to spend as much time getting to know the person learning to trust them. I fought to have Selma in this movie. I thought she would be perfect for the role of Karen, not because she's like Karen in real life, but because she's one of the only actresses our who's really funny and can do comedy.

Chris, for someone who's only got one feature behind him, has an amazing command of directing. He seems to have such a clear picture in his head of what he's looking for, that he allows the actors to go a little bit further with the role, but keeps the creativity within his grasp so it doesn't get out of control.


How secure does it make an actress, to know that the director is able to do that? Because you seem to be able to free-fall, but with a safety net.

Mm-hm. Well, I would say Chris is actually a control freak. He doesn't really like to encourage us to experiment. He has been known to use weapons. I don't really appreciate that as an actress, but as a professional, I can deal with it. I prefer to work with directors who give actors a little freedom. During rehearsal, Chris said to me, "Julia, I probably could play this part better than you. So why don't I just give you line readings and you just repeat after me." Sometimes, he'll stand by the cameras and whisper my lines off camera. And I'll have to not look at him, but just repeat it back and if I don't get the intonation exactly right, he sometimes pulls out a shotgun and will take me into the back and pistol-whip me, but that's okay. You know? I'm fine with that. I'm really okay. Could I just have a moment? Chris is really fun to work with. Excuse me. No I'm kidding, Chris is actually really great. He is very much in control and has a really great sense of comedy. If you come into work and you're tired at all, he's so funny that he gets the energy going on the set. I have a lot of fun with him.

Talk a little about the rehearsal dinner scene at Buck and Dorothy's condo.


And somehow the kid behind the counter in a pharmacy ended up catering the dinner and added a few ingredients to the gravy. That's has to be one of the funniest scenes I've seen in ages.

Yeah, he adds marijuana to the gravy. I'm basically a glorified extra in that scene, but the funniest thing about it is seeing Buck, Dorothy, Diana's character, and Jim Brolin get really really high -- I guess because they're adults and this is the first time they're letting loose. To see Diana drinking these martini glasses full of gravy was so nauseating, but it was so hysterical at the same time. Aunt Budge is, of course, drunk and saying things that she doesn't really need to be saying. Let's face it.

Was that scene a surprise when charming, handsome James Brolin was just going goofy?

He's really, really goofy. I mean he does this thing where his voice gets really high and he starts laughing and his shoulders shake. And it's very cute, actually.

I did not know David before I saw him...

David Koechner? Oh yeah.

He's hysterical.

Oh my God. David Koechner is unbelievable. He's so funny. He's really, really smart and an improv comedian. So I don't know where he comes up with some of the stuff that he says, but there's something about the delivery that's very, very funny. And it's great because it inspires my own goofiness.

There's not too many people who could hold their own with him and Julie Hagarty with the voice (INAUDIBLE).

She has this thing -- she laughs a silent laugh and then all of a sudden it squeaks cause she has to inhale and she'll go (MAKES NOISE). It's so cute. They're very sweet, that couple. They're a match made in heaven.

And Paul is watching them at one point and realizes this is not what he has with Karen.


What I like about the movie is at the end when Becky and Paul kind of just talk about the future, knowing nothing can be cut and dried just...

Yeah, I think Becky would be homewrecker if she moved in for the kill just after Paul walks away from the altar. That's not really what Becky's about. It's nice not have it too wrapped up at the end. I think that would be forcing it.

Now I'm thinking this story takes place three or four days before the wedding, how many different jobs did Becky have?

At the beginning of the movie, Becky is a Tiki girl -- a watered down version of a stripper. She doesn't strip, but she dances in a hula skirt. She has fun with it. She's doesn't have any cares. Then, she works at a record store, but quits. Then, she works at a toll booth, which is cool because who would really think of working in a toll booth, but it turns out you do make good money. Then, she's a toll booth operator. Then, she works as a bartender, which is a fun thing to try. Then, by the end of the movie you think that she might go work at the Space Needle or somewhere not quite figured out yet. But she's just trying a bunch of jobs to get different experiences in life, which is really cool -- she's got a lot of freedom in that sense. She's not too hung up on careers yet.

And I think she might have been in the Army because that's where she picked up Wushu.

She might have worked in the Army because she learned Wushu, which is sort of like jujitsu. And she might have worked at a science lab because she says in the records store that she has seen a lot in the lab. We don't really know what lab she's talking about. She's just collecting life experience.

And one other thing she's collected is ex-boyfriends.


Tell me about (INAUDIBLE) Ray.

Becky had a serious boyfriend -- this psychotic cop who cheated on her a lot. She got rid of him. I imagine that Becky was like Karen and very driven towards getting married. Then, all of a sudden, she found her future husband in bed with two other girls and decided forget all that. She had an epiphany and decided to live her life and have fun and not get too hung up on it.

But unbeknownst to her, he is stalking her...

Right. He's a little crazy, but she knows Wushu so she's okay. She can defend herself.

And I love when her family asks about the boyfriend and Aunt Budge understands, because she's been there.

Yeah. Well Becky's not bitter about it at all. You know? She's movin' on. She doesn't care. She's not gonna get hung up; she's an independent woman.

We've talked about how this set seems very friendly, very easy -- with a very light atmosphere. You have two producers on the set who, to me, are completely different from what you think of as a producer. David Ladd and David Nicksay -- can you talk a little about what they're bringing to set?

They're bringing money, basically. No, actually Ladd and Nicksay are funny, nice and they do their jobs well. They aren't as maniacal as a stereotypical producer. They listen. They keep things going, moving it along and they have a very good creative sense.

What's the guy thing that makes you crazy? The thing that makes you ask, "Where are they from?"

There's something about men when they get hungry, like this severe drop in blood sugar. My dad does it. My grandfather did it. My boyfriend does it. Every boyfriend I've ever had does it. You could be talking and having a good time and all of a sudden they're like, "I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry. I need food, I need food. Make me a sandwich, make me a sandwich." Or they get into this tunnel vision thing and they have to find food. They need to relax -- learn to be more like girls and starve themselves. I don't know. I think it's funny because all of a sudden they become children. Mom, mama, I need food. Make me food.

Feed me.


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