Elizabeth Banks On 'The Hunger Games,' Kim Jong Il & More
Fame is fleeting, but it is safe to say that you've made it in Hollywood when, immediately following the death of a brutal dictator, the Internet begins to show deep concern about the fate of a fictional character you once played on a sitcom. But for Elizabeth Banks, that's just the beginning.
Banks, whose character Avery Jessup ended up the hostage bride of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il on the NBC comedy "30 Rock," has become one of Hollywood's go-to actresses. And, after starring over the past few years in "Our Idiot Brother," "W," "Zack and Miri Make A Porno" and "Scrubs," she's got a slate in 2012 that should launch her to new heights. Banks co-stars with Sam Worthington in the upcoming police thriller "Man On a Ledge," and in March she'll play a major role in the rabidly-anticipated adaptation of the YA novel "The Hunger Games." She'll also feature in the big screen adaptation of "What To Expect When You're Expecting," and make her presence known on the other side of the camera as well.
She spoke with The Huffington Post over the weekend about her big plans, both on-screen and off.
The night Kim Jong Il died, you tweeted about it. Was it surprising that so many people thought about Avery Jessup right after the news broke?
It was surprising that so many Americans thought about that. I tweeted that in response to so many people tweeting me about it. I'm hoping North Korea of course becomes a more tolerant society, that [it] stops nuclear proliferation, opens itself up to trade with the rest of the world, and of course that Avery Jessup gets set free and comes out of there as the assassin.
As dystopian and fantastic as "The Hunger Games" is, it also seems fitting for our volatile world right now. Still, how do you make a movie for kids about kids killing kids?
"The Hunger Games" is so timely because it's about the overthrow of a totalitarian society and I'm pretty sure that's what's happening worldwide right now. To me the message of "The Hunger Games" is that revolution can come from one person, an act of kindness by one person. I think it's really important to tell kids that they matter, that individuals matter, and that everyone counts, and that to me is the message of "The Hunger Games." That's what I hope kids take away from it.
You transformed yourself completely to play Laura Bush in 2008's "W," and now you're doing that again for Effie.
A fun part of being an actor and a chameleon is taking on those looks. Effie has a really theatrical, over-the-top, completely not me look to her. I'm very excited for people to see my portrayal. I have no idea if people are going to be into it. I hope they are. I know the filmmakers are and [the book's author] Suzanne Collins blessed everything we did. It was a really fun collaboration between myself and Academy Award-nominated hair and makeup and costume people.
I'm excited to see your interaction with Woody Harrelson as Haymitch.
I'm excited for people to see that too. Because we worked really hard -- there was not a lot in the script interaction-wise and we made a lot out of that relationship. Our characters really don't like each other. But we also have to work together, so it's that push-pull. It's like any great sort of love affair -- there's a lot of love-hate between us.
So many fans are so excited about it; do you feel pressure?
I really don't. You just can't. I really don't want people to be disappointed -- I'm a fan of the books myself, so of course I just want to be faithful and do right by her. But I loved Effie. I loved playing it, I loved how it came out, I'm really proud of it, so any of the haters, I'm just going to ignore.
What's your dream role for the next couple of years?
My dream role is to play Tinker Bell in a live-action movie for Disney. I'm trying to make that a reality. I'm producing that movie right now and we are at the script stage. We have an amazing writer and we're just waiting for the script to come in and hoping that Disney stays on board and is as excited about it as we are.
What, exactly, would it be about?
It would be a live-action Tinker Bell, sort of in the vein of "Elf." Instead of an elf, a fairy. It would be a comedy -- a rom-com. Peter Pan does not really make an appearance in the movie. It's really Tinker Bell's story. It's the story about what would happen if she got thrown out of Never Never Land. Where would she go, what would she do, who would she meet? Her personality is based on the Tinker Bell you know and love, so she's very feisty and mischievous.
You're also producing another movie, "Pitch Perfect."
We just got back from Baton Rogue where we finished principal photography. It's a movie for Universal -- a comedy set in the world of competitive collegiate a capella singing. It stars an amazing group of hilarious young people.
Were you involved in a capella when you were in school?
I went to the University of Pennsylvania, and the Ivy League and the Northeast is sort of ground zero for a capella, so I knew a lot of people in a capella. I never did it myself. I'm horrible at harmonizing, so I'd probably be terrible at a capella. But I love comedies about subcultures. Any of these comedies that look at a slice of the population that normally doesn't get paid attention to. These guys are truly dorks at a certain level, but then they get up and sing and dance and they're rock stars, and I think it's so aspirational and it's something that so many young people think about and right now we're at a really accepting time for the arts in the world. It's not always like that; the jocks used to rule, and I feel like the arts are making a comeback now.
Was that your experience -- an arts dork in a jock's world?
I sort of had one foot in both camps. I was a theater geek but I dated the captain of the hockey team. And we were state champions, so draw your own conclusions. It was pretty awesome.
You're also directing. You did a segment on "Movie 43" for the Farrelly Brothers.
I got to direct Chloe Grace Moretz, who is one of my favorite up-and-coming actresses and she's going to be a giant star. My short is about what happens on an after-school middle-school date. So the things that go wrong when two 12-year-olds start making out on a couch after school. It was a lot of fun.