CHRISTINA APPLEGATE REINFORCES HER COMEDY CHOPS IN NEW FAMILY FLICK VACATION
Kelly Bundy in Married With Children. Ron Burgundy’s coanchor Veronica Corningstone in Anchorman. Those cameos as Rachel’s horrid sister on Friends. Ask anyone: Christina Applegate is comedy.
However, rewind to early 1987, when Applegate was just 15 and comedy seemed a very unlikely career path.
“I was not good at it,” recalls Applegate. “In fact, my mum was shocked that I got Married With Children. She even went up to Ed O’Neill the first week I was there and said, ‘Look, I don’t know if Christina’s going to be able to do this. Can you help her? She just got off 13 weeks on a cop drama and she’s a dark little girl ...’”
Applegate laughs at the memory.
“So it really wasn’t my forte. But I guess I got my training on the set of Married With Children.”
Back in the present, now 43 and married (to musician Martyn LeNoble) with a child of her own (daughter Sadie, going on five), Applegate is a permanent fixture on Hollywood’s go-to shortlist of funny ladies: up there with her mate Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne. But if Hollywood expects Applegate’s version of funny to be just tut-tutting her screen husband’s wacky antics, Applegate is determined to make Hollywood think again.
She did just that with her latest role, as wife to Ed Helms’s all-grown-up Rusty Griswold in Vacation, a 30years-later reboot of the National Lampoon’s road trip comedy franchise.
“They were on the right track with the first script,” Applegate says of Vacation’s writer-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, “but then I sat down with them and was like, ‘Come on, I don’t want to sit there in the car, I want to have some fun. I like having fun! Let’s give her a life. Let’s make her like the mums that I know, who grew up in the ’70s, partied in the ’80s and ’90s, then started meditating in the 2000s to get their s--- together. Those are the real mums that are 40 years old right now, so let’s represent’.
“Their answer was to have me throw up and break down,” she laughs. “They gave me ‘Debbie Do Anything’. It was perfect.”
On their cross-country road-trip, Rusty and the couple’s two boys learn their mother has a wild past – nicknamed “Debbie Do Anything” in college, she got up to way more mischief than her husband ever did. And that kind of thing, says Applegate, is what’s needed “to get me out of the house”. She’s not going to go to work for just any old “wife” or “mum” role.
“I’ve been doing this way too long, I don’t want to be bored,” she says. “It’s almost soul-sucking for me if I find myself stuck in that (wife/mum role).”
From Veronica Corningstone to two seasons as Samantha Newly on Samantha Who? (“One of my favourite jobs ever”) and the indie dramedy Youth In Oregon she just wrapped filming with Billy Crudup and Frank Langella, Applegate reckons she’s had plenty of worthwhile characters to get out of the house for in the last decade.
That she’s been able to grasp these chances (as well as fighting off a cancer scare in 2008, undergoing a double mastectomy to avoid future risk), comes down to the professionalism she’s prided herself on from day one.
“Showing up at work at the time you were supposed to be there … was top priority for me and it still is to this day,” she says. That remained true ever during her own “do anything” phase as a very famous teenager partying in the “dark dregs of New York City”.
“We were just in New York, staying near where I used to go to after-hours clubs. Now there’s families and people walking their kids. Back then, you’d come out at 6 o’clock in the morning and it was just the scariest place on the planet to be for a 16-year-old ... I did all that. It was just there were no paparazzi so no one knew about it,” she laughs.
No paparazzi? Wow, Applegate has been doing this a long time. Still, there are no signs of cynicism. For instance, she happily admits she “nerded out” when the original Griswolds, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, turned up on the Vacation set.
“I think it’s OK to tell people they’re amazing because we’re all insecure.”
Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Christina Applegate and Ed Helms in a scene from