Lucy Punch has recently come onto the Hollywood scene with her outstanding comedic performances in Dinner for Schmucks and now she’s back as another young, sexy, obsessed and hysterical character — only this time she’s paired with Anthony Hopkins and being directed by none other than Woody Allen in his latest film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Originally cast in the role was Nicole Kidman, and though Lucy may not seem like an obvious replacement, once you’ve seen the film you won’t be able to imagine it any other way… especially with Kidman.
Not long ago we sat at a round-table interview with Lucy and talked to her about the amazing experience of shooting an Allen film with Hopkins. Check it out below…
Stepping into the Role:
Where you intimidated at all to go in and audition?
Lucy Punch: Yes, yes. That’s an understatement. I was beyond. I didn’t actually audition, I just went on tape. I auditioned a lot for the part. I spoke to him on the phone and he gave me some notes which was a surreal experience as I was in my scruffy messy little kitchen in West Hollywood and I’m on the phone with Woody Allen going, “Um.” He really, I still got them, I kept them all, I read them like sexy about 400-times. I went to the audition pretty much dressed as the character, as skirt barely covering my ass and the whole sha-bang. More than sexy, she’s a very sexual character, very confident as you would hope from a hooker. So yes, very comfortable in myself.
Is there something special about the way Woody Allen writes these types of women?
LP: He really didn’t want her to be unlikable or too annoying. So I think he was looking, in the writing and in my performance, to find some sweetness and some likability. When I knew I got the part, I was like Mighty Aphrodite.
When did you meet him in person?
LP: I didn’t meet him until I got the role and I was on set in my costume fitting. That was the first time. We didn’t talk about the role. He just said — I really had auditioned most of the scenes from the film, so he just said, “it’s great.” And I had a couple of questions and, so presumptuous of me going, “I don’t know how this works.” He was like, “Okay, okay, change it, say whatever you want.” So I did. He let me say — and also because she’s a very London girl. There’s a very specific way of talking. Grammatical things and the words, terms, phrases, so I was able to throw all that in so It was great.
Wasn’t Nicole Kidman suppose to play the character?
LP: Yes. That also added to the crazy intimidation and nausea before we started shooting. I don’t know what to say about that. I was replacing this fabulous Oscar-winning actress and then he went with me. I’m a little trashier. She’s probably too pale. I don’t know about that.
What about working with Anthony Hopkins, did you always know he had the part?
LP: I knew he was who I would be working with so that added to the desperation for the part. I couldn’t begin to imagine working with him.
What did you expect and what was he like?
LP: I didn’t know what to expect. I kind of had a sense working with Woody Allen, I have a few friends who’ve worked with him before. I knew his process was very different and that you really have to be pretty prepared. I had no idea what Anthony was going to be like. I was nervous. Fortunately, he’s charming and sweet and kind and very low key, which is very nice anyway, but the dynamic that we have — he’s more passive and reserved and my character had to be very confident. If I had been intimidated too much it wouldn’t have worked.
Building The Character:
How do you find your way into understanding and possibly even liking your character?
LP: I don’t know about liking her. I did want to make sure that it wasn’t this sort of caricature, this gold-digger, and wasn’t so manipulative and devious, so I always thought that she just wants to have fun. She’s very sensual and she wants to drink and to eat and have sex and just as very much in the moment. And rather than the lies that she’s telling is more kind of child-like when a child says, “no I didn’t, I didn’t do that, I wasn’t there.” And it’s just sort of reinventing her truth and reinventing herself as she goes along. I took that angle, which I thought was more interesting and sympathetic and less of the caricature of the archetypal money-grubbing gold-digger.
Do you think the physical comedy of the character, did that help making her more daring?
LP: I wasn’t planning to be physically funny. It sort of just comes out. I don’t really know. That wasn’t a conscious thing. Certainly I was, I thought about her, the fact that she’s very free with her body and very unselfconscious and really let’s it all hang out, even in these tiny outfits that completely uninhibited and if she’s showing part of her left buttock then who cares. That was a challenge, I’m the opposite. I pull everything down. I had to be free and let it hang out so I did.
How fun were the costume fittings and can you talk about how it added to the comedy of that first scene when we see you?
LP: Woody wasn’t happy for long time with the costumes and I had many, many fittings and camera tests. The problem he had was he wanted it trashier. I’d gone shopping and found some stuff which I thought was pretty tacky. He wanted it shorter and lower and tighter. At the time I thought “is this too much?” Now I see, that first scene when you see us both together, he really wants that — she’s this tacky, garish, I don’t know what, monstrosity. The look adds a lot to the comedy. The camera is not on my face. I’ll take the compliment. I’ll claim that it was me being funny, but it was actually those crazy coats.
We’ve heard that Woody Allen doesn’t say much on set – what was that time?
LP: It’s a little unnerving. You don’t get so much feed back so it’s hard to tell if he’s happy or not. I did have a very strong idea of who she was and how I wanted to play her. He just let me do it. He just let me improvise and I love to improvise.
It’s nice. I still did have a strong idea, he just let me do it, you know, some jokes and things I came up with. Those stayed in the movie. For me, it was a wonderful experience. It was very creative. It also gave me a lot of confidence. Of course, if I wouldn’t have been happy with the way it turned out it would’ve been a different story — how difficult, no wonder.
Was Anthony good at improvising?
LP: He was. Yeah, he likes to change stuff up. It’s putting stuff in your own words or keeping it loose. Woody allowed me. I felt rather bad. We did a press conference and he said, “I mean working with Lucy, she was directing me.” I was like, “Oh god, how awful.” I was so lucky to be in this movie. He was very, very kind. He gave me a lot of freedom.
What is your approach towards acting? Was it different from Hopkins?
LP: I’ll be honest, I’ve never taken an acting class, I didn’t go to drama school. I didn’t. I’m not trained. I have my own modeled approach to character, to how I approach a character, to how I create a character. There’s definitely stuff to learn, but it hasn’t gone badly for me so far, so I just think I’ll stick to my crazy modeled-freaking-out-of-my-bed-room, I can’t do it, I can’t do it approach.
What do you think the message of love and relationships is when you walk out of the theater?
LP: It’s pretty cynical, I think, and pretty dark. But I also think honest. I’m not an idealist or a complete romantic, but I think it’s pretty honest view of love and relationships.
I think it’s more romantic and hopeful than most of his other movies.
LP: It is. It’s sort of been pretty dark, and then that final scene isn’t. There is some hope and there is a sweetness and those two characters are very innocent in the park bench at the end and it’s nice that the two older characters found each other.
How do you think you’re character’s story ended up?
LP: I think she’s a character who always land on her feet. She’s a survivor. I think she’s always going to be fine. She’ll have the baby whose ever it is and she’ll just be okay. I think she gets her way, I think she gets her way, yeah.
What’s Up Next for Lucy…
What are you doing next?
LP: I’ve got a couple movies coming out. I’ve got job I’m starting in a month. I’ve got Earthbound which I did with Kate Hudson. I’ve got Bad Teacher which I did with Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake. I’m about to start a Nick Cassavetes film called Yellow, which is — I’m a huge fan of his, but it’s good because I’ve just been doing lots of comic roles, but this is dark dramatic piece. My part is very far from comedic. I’ve just been let out of an insane asylum. Constantly cutting myself, talking in tongues. So it’s very different character, I’ll look completely different in that, as well.
Why did you want to do that one?
LP: Because it’s so different. I really like playing characters and just changing it up. I find it challenging, but also easier than playing a version of myself, for some reason. I find it easier to try and look and sound and move and be totally different.
Are you worried about being affected by the character at all?
LP: Well fortunately I wasn’t affected by this character (laughs). I haven’t done a part like this before so we’ll wait and see.
Your characters name in Bad Teacher is Amy Squirrel, does that describe her well?
LP: Amy Squirrel is a very irritating, sweet, mid-western elementary school teacher. She’s the good teacher. I’ve got red hair and a hundred-thousand berets in my hair and clocks and frumpy clothes. It was really fun. It was totally different part. [I have an] American accent, my attempt at an American accent.
What do you play in Earthbound?
LP: Earthbound it’s a sort of romantic comedy, but it’s about cancer. I’m the quirky best friend. You know, clumsy, quirky, odd ball. Which is not too far from myself.
Check out Lucy Punch in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger this Friday, September 24th in select theaters!