Rough and ready

Jil­lian Bell has been pro­moted from side­kick to star, writes Neala John­son

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

Jil­lian Bell has just taken the big­gest step in her movie ca­reer to date: Rough Night, in which she and Scar­lett Jo­hans­son lead a group of old friends whose hens night goes hi­lar­i­ously off the rails when their strip­per ac­ci­den­tally dies.

Now, freshly back in LA af­ter the flick’s pre­miere in New York, Bell is work­ing to­wards an­other huge chal­lenge: ca­vort­ing with mer­man Chan­ning Ta­tum in the gen­der-flip­ping re­make of ’80s favourite Splash.

Bell will play the Tom Hanks role — the hu­man who falls for the hand­some crea­ture from the sea.

“It’ll be the most prepa­ra­tion I’ll ever have to do, as far as fall­ing in love with Chan­ning Ta­tum,” Bell says, in as se­ri­ous a man­ner as she can muster. “I’ll have to pre­pare for months and months; a lot of train­ing of my face try­ing to look at him like he’s dreamy. Yeah, that’ll be tough.”

Bell has just seen the first draft of the Splash script and is hop­ing pro­duc­tion on the Dis­ney film will get un­der way next year.

The re­make was ac­tu­ally her idea. Af­ter go­ing toe-to­toe with Jonah Hill as the sur­prise bad­die in 22 Jump Street, Ta­tum in­vited Bell to come pitch ideas to his pro­duc­tion com­pany. Splash was the one “we couldn’t stop think­ing about”, she says.

Af­ter get­ting the bless­ing of the orig­i­nal writer/di­rec­tor combo Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Dis­ney snapped up the Bell/Ta­tum con­cept.

“It was shock­ing ... and it’s still shock­ing that we’re go­ing to do it,” says Bell. “I feel so ex­cited and happy.”

It’s fair to say com­edy has been 33-year-old Bell’s life.

Grow­ing up in Las Ve­gas she started out try­ing to make her fam­ily and friends laugh and was do­ing im­prov classes by age eight. She con­sol­i­dated her skills as part of the Groundlings troupe in LA (which has also pro­duced com­edy stars Kris­ten Wiig, Will Fer­rell and Melissa McCarthy), then in 2009 wrote for Satur­day Night Live.

Af­ter be­ing nabbed for TV com­edy Worka­holics, she has had count­less scene-steal­ing weird side­kick roles in films such as kids’ scare-fest Goose­bumps, last year’s Fist Fight and Seth Ro­gen’s The Night Be­fore. But Rough Night is the first time she’s re­ally stepped cen­tre stage.

Bell plays sex-starved Alice, who hasn’t re­ally pro­gressed from her col­lege days, still cling­ing to her best friend­ship with Jess (Jo­hans­son) even though Jess has moved on.

Re­u­nited for Jess’s hens night, the group — com­pleted by Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz and SNL and Ghost­busters star Kate McKin­non — goes through dis­as­ter af­ter dis­as­ter, un­til the girls fi­nally let their true feel­ings fly.

“It did feel dif­fer­ent,” Bell says of the size of the role. “I’ve never played a char­ac­ter that had so much vul­ner­a­bil­ity to it; a lot of lay­ers to this one.

“It’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing to go from play­ing these roles that are one lin­ers here, one lin­ers there, to hav­ing an emo­tional arc. It was some­thing I en­joyed.”

Not so en­joy­able was the day she and Jo­hans­son had to spend “scream­ing at each other”.

“You think some­thing like that wouldn’t af­fect you, but it starts to wear on you af­ter a while — some­one scream­ing at you and ba­si­cally calling you pa­thetic,” she says.

Luck­ily, Jo­hans­son is “re­ally down to earth and su­per sup­port­ive”, she says.

On a set full of ladies crack­ing each other up, McKin­non prob­a­bly came out the win­ner on points.

“She’s a liv­ing, breath­ing, walk­ing lit­tle clown,” says Bell.

“I’ve never laughed so hard around any­one. But we can also re­ally re­late to each other, so it was hard do­ing some of the scenes where I had to hate her, be­cause I gen­uinely wanted to laugh along with every­one else.”

There’s a mo­ment in Rough Night where Alice, feel­ing unloved, screams “I’m a f...ing princess!” That one line could be used to sum up Bell’s comic style: she can be sweet then filthy, sun­shiny then psy­cho.

“I like mak­ing peo­ple laugh and mak­ing peo­ple happy, so I am that per­son. But I also have a dirty sailor mouth,” Bell says with a laugh.

“I don’t know where that comes from. I feel like I started curs­ing at a re­ally young age and my mum, I was the sec­ond child, and she didn’t re­ally know what to do about it so she just kind of said, ‘Don’t use it a lot ...’ She re­alised who I was.

“I’m ex­cited to do Splash, ac­tu­ally, be­cause it’s the first time, be­sides Goose­bumps, I’ll be in a movie where I’ll re­ally have to watch my mouth. It’ll stretch me to not curse too much.”

ROUGH NIGHT IS NOW SHOW­ING

“I like mak­ing peo­ple laugh, so I am that per­son. But I also have a dirty sailor mouth

Jil­lian Bell (cen­tre) with her Rough Night co -stars Zoe Kravitz and Scar­lett Jo­hans­son.

Kate McKin­non and Bell in a scene from Rough Night.

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