Getting creamed again
Some painful memories just won’t go away.
You never know when your tormentor in high school will come back to haunt you, as is the case in You Again.
IT WAS a busy week for the stars in Hollywood as they took in the endless rounds of media interviews to promote their movies.
We, the group of international press in Los Angeles for the You Again screening, were among the victims of a scheduling clash over the Emmy Awards weekend. As a result, our roundtable interview with the movie’s cast and director was bumped back by two hours.
But celebrities being celebrities, they swept into the room looking fresh and as upbeat as if we were the first and only people they’d spoken to, diplomatically concealing any hint that they might be tired of repeating some of the answers.
The most memorable entrance was made by Jamie Lee Curtis, with the help of two dolls ... er ... action figures!
“So Sigourney Weaver was in the most successful movie of all time, but look here, my action figure is bigger than hers. Size does matter. Her action figure was on sale at half-off and I bought mine at a premium price on eBay,” Curtis quipped, holding up a doll – ahem, action figure – of her Kit Foster character from the movie Virus and another of Ellen Ripley, Weaver’s iconic role from the Alien franchise.
That icebreaker helped the interview segue right into the theme of You Again, which is about bitter high school rivalries, the people who tormented you as a teenager and the hurt and memories that stick with you through adulthood.
The film stars Kristen Bell as Marni, a successful public relations executive who flies home for her brother’s wedding, and discovers that her future sister-in-law – Joanna (Odette Yustman) – is the same girl who made her high school years miserable.
Curtis plays Marni’s mother, Gail who shares a history with Weaver’s character, Ramona (Joanna’s aunt). The two had been high school rivals 30 years before.
“High school is difficult because people get betrayed. I experienced betrayal in high school, but no I didn’t have a Joanna,” said Curtis, dressed in a dark blue one-shoulder top and jeans.
The rivalry in high school may be tough, but there’s no denying the rivalry and competition in Hollywood is tougher still.
And the subject of extensive plastic surgery among celebrities inevi- tably came up. The 51-year-old mother of two and noted children’s book author, has strong feelings about it.
“It’s obscene what people are doing to themselves. I try to be realistic about who I am. If a woman thinks her body is her commodity, she’s screwed.”
Although residing in Los Angeles, Curtis – the daughter of film legend Tony Curtis, who passed away on Sept 29 aged 85 – has pretty much stayed away from the drama that is Hollywood by choosing family over her movie career.
She had once been quoted in a press interview as saying: “It’s not that I’m retired, it’s just that I no longer accept acting work.” So then, what made her take up the role of Gail in You Again?
“I took this job because it was filming in LA, shot over six months last summer. And because I get to work with nice people, and the movie is funny.”
It is also the film that brings together the two veteran actresses for the first time, thanks to director Andy Fickman’s inspired casting.
“Jamie was cast first. I needed someone who was equally strong,” he explained, adding cheekily that Weaver was a woman he fancied.
When the director was approached for the Disney film, he was prepped for a chick flick. Luckily for many of us, he saw it more on a personal level.
“I called my mum and asked if there was someone who gave her a hard time when she was in high school, and she named one person ... from 1959.
“My mother, who cannot remember what she ate yesterday, remembers this one person from her school days.
“So did Sigourney, Jamie and everyone else I asked. So this is a very universal story.”
Universal indeed. Weaver admitted that there was a girl who was mean to her in high school and she remained baffled till today as to the reason why.
“But the longer one lives, the more we think that these things don’t matter,” she philosophised.
The prolific actress is certainly ageing well. She looks good even under the late afternoon sunlight streaming in from the room’s wide windows.
How does Weaver resist resorting to artificial aid to help her keep her youth?
“I cut out from magazines pictures of older women who have lived so much and know so much. They inspire me. I don’t understand why anyone would want to look like they’ve not lived, to be frozen in time.”
Looks like she and Curtis are on the same page here. Does that mean
we’re not gonna find juicy tales of rivalry between them?
“Jamie is a force. A big part of this movie’s appeal for me was being able to work with her,” Weaver said.
So, no rivalry between these two. What about between the other actresses in the cast?
The makers of a Funnyordie.com clip featuring the 30-year-old Bell (last seen in the rom-com When In
Rome), Weaver, Yustman (most identified as Aubrey in the TV series
October Road), Betty White (needs no introduction) and Fickman will try to convince you there is. But, as those familiar to the site will know, it’s all done to entertain.
However, the clip could have been inspired by the fact that the ensemble cast was dripping with big names and many of them women.
“I was initially intimidated because Sigourney and Jamie are icons. Then I worried about so many personalities on set and all that oestrogen. And I clicked into high school mode,” Bell recalled.
“But then I realised the reason that they’ve been working for decades is because they are so nice.
“They welcomed me with open arms and considered me a peer; that is the biggest compliment to me,” she said, adding that it was awesome playing Marni because pretty girls weren’t as interesting.
Bell described her teenaged self as between the extremes of Joanna and Marni.
“I was a pleaser in high school, and a pushover because I don’t like confrontations. I think everyone has a mean girl in their lives, even the mean girl herself,” she said, pointing out that adults also strive to win over the people they admire.
“The message of the show is ‘don’t let the stereotype of who you are in school define you for the rest of your life’,” she offered.
Casual observers cannot help noting the stark physical contrast between Bell and Yustman, the way their film characters are on opposite sides of the pole.
One a petite, pretty blonde that is nothing but a picture of summer in a sleeveless Diane von Furstenberg floral frock, the other a leggy darkhaired beauty clad in jeans and a simple top.
Looking at Yustman – who, by the way, is of Italian, French and Cuban parentage and is fluent in Spanish – one would not expect her to have been an introvert and bullied in school but that she was.
“I was really skinny back then. There was this girl in school who said mean things to me in front of the boy that I liked,” she recounted.
The happy ending is that as she grew up, her confidence developed alongside. Proof of that is her landing this gig.
Now 25 years old, she made the decision at 19 to abandon business studies and pursue an acting career instead. Her real break on the big screen was in Cloverfield, as Beth McIntyre.
“The competition in LA is tough. I have to be confident and believe that I can bring something to the table.”
She had feared doing comedies before You Again, although ironically she actually got her first acting job as a child in the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starrer comedy film Kindergarten Cop.
“I wanted this role (Joanna) so bad because it hit close to home, and I love that the character could redeem herself.
“The physical part of this movie was not so challenging. The tough part was playing the multi-layered character; I wanted to make Joanna vulnerable.”
She, like Bell, was intimidated by the thought of working with Curtis and Weaver. “They turned out to be really nice people, and so generous with advice.”
If the set of You Again was a high school, Curtis and Weaver would be the teachers guiding Yustman and Bell. The latter two would be inseparable.
“If Kristen ruled the world, it would be a better world!” declared Yustman. Certainly no rivalry to be found here.
YouAgain opens in Malaysian cinemas on Oct 21.
(from left) Betty White, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman and Kristen Bell.
Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis, left) and Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) turn up at the wedding of Joanna and Will in the same dress.
Betty White having fun swinging from the ceiling in a scene from YouAgain.
Andy Fickman calling the shots on the set of YouAgain.
The marrying couple Will (James Wolk) and Joanna (Odette Yustman).