Elizabeth Banks has a breakout role in TheNextThreeDays.
ELIZABETH Banks’ dazzling smile, cheery good looks and self-deprecating sense of humour have been lighting up TV chat shows and movie screens for several years now.
The 36-year-old Massachusetts native is best known for her comedic chops (currently, she plays Avery, the pregnant girlfriend of Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock), but she has also proven her dramatic skills in films like W, Seabiscuit and Invincible.
In her latest, The Next Three Days, opening in Malaysian cinemas tomorrow, Banks takes on one of her heaviest roles yet, playing a woman jailed for murder whose husband (Russell Crowe) tries to break her out of prison.
Lewis Beale interviewed the actress via phone while she was driving through Los Angeles. A lot of people probably think of you more as a comedic actress, thanks to films like FredClaus, The40-Year-OldVirgin and Zach AndMiriMakeAPorno. So why’d you choose this heavy part?
I am a classically-trained actress, and I thought it was a meaty role, and I thought that working with (director Paul) Haggis and Crowe would be an intense challenge, and it was. I knew we wouldn’t walk around the set making fart jokes, it would be intense work. What made you want to be an actress?
The cynical answer is that I started acting and kept at it because people were paying me to do it. But I loved acting as an extracurricular activity.
I was very into sports growing up, then I broke my leg sliding into third base, and once I did that, I needed something else to do after school, and I started singing and dancing in school plays.
I sang in my school choir, and I got a couple of solos, and I knew I liked that feeling of being onstage. Then, I watched Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and I had such an intense feeling of jealousy that I was not involved with the movie, I had a desire to do it. What’s the best advice you got about the business when you were starting out?
I was encouraged by a lot of great casting directors who would say you’re not getting this job, and the reason is, you’re too young, or not famous enough, but don’t take it personally, you’re good, and I’m gonna bring you back. I knew I had some value, and if I stuck with it I would be OK. How about the worst?
I remember when I first met an agent here, I knew he felt I was too skinny, and my boobs were too small. I felt like he was encouraging me to sex it up a little bit, and that’s not my vibe. You married your college sweetheart (Max Handelman), who is Jewish, and then converted to Judaism.
I always liked Jewish boys. My favourite star in high school was Rob Morrow in Northern Exposure. And I’m a huge fan of comedy, and if you are a fan of comedy in America, you’re a fan of the Jewish people. You and your husband have been together for 16 years. You even formed a production company that you run together. What’s the secret to your relationship?
A good sense of humour and a short memory. You can’t hold onto anything in a long relationship; the little things don’t matter. It’s so not worth the energy. We literally don’t fight over very much. Why would we expend energy over those mundane household issues? And the secret to working together?
We are really good yin and yang on a lot of levels – I bring artistic passion, he brings business savvy. I don’t recommend everyone work together; you have to figure if you want to spend all that time with your mate. But we find a good balance, and we have a deep respect for each other. You’re a few years away from that dreaded 40, the age a lot of actresses start to worry about the kinds of roles they’ll be offered. Where do you see yourself in four or five years?
I feel lucky because I don’t think I’m considered a 36-year-old. I look very young. There are a bunch of rom-com things I want to do; I love that genre. I’m hoping things will happen toward that end. – Newsday/McClatchyTribune Information Services
Rewarding: ‘I started acting and kept at it because people were paying me to do it,’ says Elizabeth Banks.