Kristen Bell stars in the hilarious comedy You Again, about the horrors of high school bullies and what happens when they come back to haunt you—often years later. She plays Marni, a lovely and accomplished young woman who would rather forget about her teen years, when she felt insecure and unpopular and was terrorized by a beautiful popular girl in high school. So she is horrified to discover that her brother is about to marry her nemesis. Check out our interview with the starlet below!
What was it like playing the unattractive unpopular girl? (at least the teenage version of your character).
Kristen Bell: It was awesome because pretty girls aren’t funny. They’re not, it’s just a fact. And they are usually not very interesting. Sorry, pretty girls.
What made the role particularly interesting?
Kristen Bell: Playing Marni was fun for me because the part involved wearing prosthetics, which I like. I had to look unattractive with acne, which I enjoyed as a character actress. I actually wanted to go much further playing this high school acne-prone adolescent and I was pulled back (laughs). I wanted whiteheads on all the centers of my zits because I thought that would look realistic. I had very bad skin as a young teenager, everybody did, you don’t know what to do and you’re applying hot compresses. It’s real and it’s funny. But they definitely pulled me back for Marni. They said ‘no, I think that’s enough acne.’ I also wanted her to look hunched, because when you’re timid and paranoid about being bullied, your body kind of freezes, and so a lot of kids go through high school really slumped over.
Can you talk about the story and Marni’s journey?
Kristen Bell: You meet her when she’s in high school, and she is a typical nerdy girl without a lot of friends. None of the popular girls wanted to be friends with her. She was tormented by one girl in particular. Now she has a job in PR and loves what she’s doing. She comes home for her brother’s wedding and meets his bride, only to find out it’s the mean girl from high school. So the rest of the movie is her trying to break up the wedding. You find out that Joanna’s aunt (Sigourney Weaver) and Marni’s mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) have a similar relationship with a lot of animosity. Everyone is holding onto secret resentments.
What were you like at school?
Kristen Bell: I was somewhere in between Joanna and Marni in high school. I wasn’t sitting alone in my basement all day. I had a lot of friends, I was always very outgoing. But I was definitely a people-pleaser. I wanted everybody to like me, and that sometimes made me a little bit of a pushover, because I was always concerned about not having confrontations. I wanted to be very outgoing, but I was timid and wanted so badly to be accepted. I didn’t want anybody angry at me—ever. I was scared of being rejected, so that’s how my insecurities manifested themselves.
But you are so pretty, it is hard to imagine you feeling unattractive?
Kristen Bell: Well, I mean that’s all relative you know? If Gisele Bundchen was sitting right here, I would not look so great. I haven’t always felt pretty. I’m sure not every supermodel in the world wakes up and goes, ‘I’m so beautiful.’ I mean we’re women. We are masochists by nature. That is what we do, it is in our DNA. I had my make-up and hair done this morning so right now, I feel great. Snap my picture, go ahead. But that’s not a consistent or realistic feeling and anyone who tells you that it is, is crazy.
What was it like working with Sigourney and Jaime Lee Curtis?
Kristen Bell: They’re both hilarious and brilliant. Initially, I was intimidated because they’re such icons, and then I got worried that there were going to be too many personalities on the set and a lot of estrogen. And then I clicked into high school mode really quickly trying to please everyone and I thought: ‘Okay, I need to make everybody like me. I will bring the coffee.’ But very shortly I realized they have worked for decades because they’re amazing and really cool women. They’re nice to work with and they bring lots of ideas to the set, and they’re very collaborative. I was excited to see how each woman worked, because every actor has a different process. They welcomed me with open arms as a peer, which was the ultimate flattery I think.
How challenging was the physical comedy in the film?
Kristen Bell: It was great and hard work too. I didn’t really get injured until the scene where Odette and I go crazy with each other in a big cat-fight, and I was running in high heels on the dance floor. It was really slippery, and I had to do two different takes and land on my tailbone. It was so painful, I fully thought I had broken my back, and they captured the take on camera. I had quite a few bumps and bruises on my knees because of the fast run that I was trying to do to get away from Odette (Yustman), but we just worked through it. There was a little bit of pain, but nothing was broken. Odette is very game and she is stronger than she looks, so we had a lot of fun hurling different pieces of furniture and plates at each other.”
Did the director tell you to go for it and improvise a little, or was it really carefully orchestrated?
Kristen Bell: The only things that were carefully orchestrated were the breakables we were working with, because we actually had to throw some things at each other that had to shatter. The glasses and plates we smashed were breakaway plates that they use on films, and they are not hard enough to cut you. They almost crumble a little bit which is a safety precaution. They are the type of plates that stunt people use. So those sequences were orchestrated, but a lot wasn’t, for example when we chased each other around the room a couple of times and then they filmed it.
There is a lot of running and action – are you very fit, do you run in real life?
Kristen Bell: Actually I just started running about two weeks ago, and I hate it. I think it’s the worst activity you could possibly do (laughs). Anyone who tells you they love running is lying. I started doing it because it’s good for me. I don’t want to eat celery but I do because it is healthy. Running is healthy for the body, and cardio is very important I think, and so is staying active. If you are active, you’re able to have more energy throughout the day, and those endorphins are great. Running is a really easy way to accomplish all of that as opposed to just sitting at home doing bicep curls.
Do you run in a gym or outdoors?
Kristen Bell: I run outside. There are so many good hiking trails here in Los Angeles. I’ve done it three times now, and each time was horrible. But I pushed through and afterwards I felt like Superman. It was awesome.
Are you pretty disciplined with fitness and diet?
Kristen Bell: Yes and no. Yes, I’m very disciplined, but I also allow myself to cheat. I do everything in moderation. I would never say that I am never going to have sugar again. I will eat healthily throughout most of the week and then allow myself to cheat, because allowing myself to cheat is what allows me to have willpower the rest of the time.
Have you still got friends that you stay in touch with from high school?
Kristen Bell: I think I had more guy friends up until maybe my mid 20s, so my friends from high school are mostly guys, but I do have one best girlfriend I have had since I was nine. I saw her two days ago. But I have a lot of really good girlfriends in Los Angeles. For the most part I think it is the girls who remain close.
How authentic do you think You Again is, given that it’s a comedy?
Kristen Bell: I think it’s pretty authentic. The comedy is broad, but I think we tried to ground the emotional parts in reality. The reality of the message is that everybody has come across a mean girl, even the mean girl. What is relatable about it is that everyone in high school beats themselves up and feels insecure, no matter how you slice it or dice it. You could be idolizing someone in high school and yet deep down she will have the same kind of insecurities as you do, and it isn’t until ten years later that you will realize that. What is funny to me is that when you are planning to attend your ten-year high school reunion, you immediately need to lose 10 pounds. You’re convinced you have to do it, but a week before, when you didn’t know your high school reunion was happening, you didn’t need to lose 10 pounds. So in a funny way, we’re still striving to impress the people that we wanted to impress when we were sixteen. It’s all about how everybody just wants to be loved.
What is everyone’s reaction when you have a reunion, now that you are so successful and well known?
Kristen Bell: I have kept in touch with my friends, and their reaction has always been great and supportive. Nobody was going around high school predicting: ‘Oh, that person will fail. That person will succeed.’ You hope for the best for everybody. There were certain people that I didn’t expect to come out of their shell. You can’t let any stereotype in high school dictate who you are for the rest of your life, and that’s the message of this film I guess. When you are at high school it feels like you will stay the same forever. You’ll always be a jock, or you’ll always be a nerd, and that’s just not the case. You can be anyone you want to be and have dynamic relationships throughout your entire life, but those emotions you remember will always tug at you, the way you were labeled in high school. That is why the film is so relevant and fun.
The wedding scene in the film is raucous and completely crazy. Do you think your own wedding day will measure up to this one? (She is engaged to actor Dax Shepard.)
Kristen Bell: I can’t even conceptualize that. I don’t want any sort of a massive day like the wedding in this film. No. No, no, no. I get enough attention as it is on a daily basis from being in this business. I don’t think I’m craving that idea of being a princess on my wedding day. But I am very excited about getting married. I don’t know when. I’m not nervous, and that’s a little bit strange I guess, but we’re very good friends. My relationship hasn’t changed being engaged, and I don’t think it’s going to change when I’m married.
You Again on DVD and Blu-ray February 8th!