Woman of the ‘house’


Woman of the ‘house’

EVEN AN apparently effortless comedy like the new film The House Bunny doesn’t come about overnight.

By (New York Times)

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Published: Tue 19 Aug 2008, 10:06 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:50 PM

In this case, it all began when Anna Faris, the gravelvoiced beauty whose credits include Scary Movie and The Hot Chick, decided to grab her own career by the tail.

“I don’t know why, but I started thinking about those girls who live in the Playboy mansion,” says Faris, whose first name is pronounced “AH-na.” “Then I wondered what happens to them when it’s time for the next phase of their lives.”

In other words, what happens to a bunny when she’s on the verge of old age - pushing 25 - and Hef needs the space for the newest Miss November?

“Can you even imagine living at the Playboy mansion for years,” Faris says, “and then being forced to enter the real world?”

It was that idea which led to The House Bunny, opening August 22 and starring Faris as ditzy-but-sweet Shelley, a gorgeous airhead whose life of parties in the grotto and dinners on Hef’s knee is suddenly upended when she’s dumped out of the mansion for daring to enter her late 20s.

Suddenly homeless, Shelley finds herself on a college campus where she becomes the sorority house mother for a group of unattractive, unpopular girls - in other words, the smart girls on campus - played as clueless dorks by singer-turnedactress Katharine McPhee, Emma Stone and Rumer Willis.

It was a long way from the original idea to the finished film, of course, but to Faris it seemed quick.

“I actually pitched these characters to Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, who wrote Legally Blonde,” the actress says. “The next thing I knew, we were actually shooting at the Playboy mansion.”

Bubbly and giggly as she sits for an interview at a Beverly Hills hotel, Faris - who is also the film’s executive producer - doesn’t look much like a bunny. Sporting thick bangs that fall into her eyes and miles of long, straight, blonde hair, she wears a black-silk blouse with puffy sleeves and a dark skirt with heels. She looks like a model turned Hollywood agent.

Fitting into the part

“I guess it was a major transformation to turn me into a Playboy bunny,” she says. “I did very little to emotionally prepare. It was more about doing a lot of working out, getting the hair extensions and wearing a lot of padded bras. We did full-body makeup to make my cleavage look bigger. Getting into wardrobe took a good 20 minutes. I had to strap into that tight bra.”

And then there’s that voice - strange, super-deep and sometimes verging on demonic.

“I have to credit our director (Fred Wolf), who asked me to slip into some crazy voices,” Faris says. “He would say to me, ‘Say the name “Natalie” with a gravel voice.’ I thought, ‘There is no way this will work. It’s so out of left field. Shelley is suddenly demonic.’ “But now people say that it’s their favourite part of the film, and I’ve been doing that voice all day to the point where I might not be able to speak anymore.”

That awkward feeling

Beyond the gags and the sex jokes, Faris says, her film has an actual message.

“It’s about feeling incredibly awkward and out-ofplace,” she says. “Shelley fits in this Playboy world, but when she’s kicked out and suddenly on a college campus, she feels as if she can never belong.”

She understands that feeling, the actress adds.

“I still feel incredibly awkward doing interviews,” she says. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this publicity stuff. I also feel awkward in general.

“I’ve definitely had to give up a sense of vanity in some of my movies,” Faris continues, “so it was nice to play the pretty girl for once in this movie. But I love that she’s more than a pretty girl with curves and big hair.

She really just wants to find a family and knows that she doesn’t belong in this bunny world anymore.”

And, yes, they filmed at the actual Playboy mansion.

“It was really intimidating,” Faris says. “I thought, ‘I don’t really belong in this crowd. All of these girls are really hot and confident.’ I felt extra self-conscious for sure. I even thought the studio would see these rushes and think, ‘Obviously, Anna is not a bunny.’”

Her castmates also had to go the extra mile to make “The House Bunny.”

“I do commend all of the women who play the students at my sorority,” Faris says. “Rumer wears a back brace and Emma is in these funky clothes and weird glasses. Kat is pregnant throughout the film, with a huge belly. But all of them approached it with enthusiasm.

I didn’t have to say, ‘Come on, just do it for the movie. You can be hot later on!”’ Yes, her castmates include Hugh Hefner himself, who has a cameo. “We showed the film to Hugh a few days ago,” Faris says, “and he loves it. He has been incredibly supportive.

I saw him yesterday, and he told me that he especially loves that many of his girls are in the movie. “It’s thrilling for me to see this icon like Hef act in this movie I conceived.”

Born producer

A native of Baltimore, Faris began acting as a child and even produced her own neighbourhood plays. At 9 she began to work at the Seattle Repertory Company and, after graduating from the University of Washington in Seattle with a degree in English literature, she went to London with plans to write and act.

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