Elizabeth Banks: More Than Meets the Eye

Photographed by Nino Munez for ToroMagazine (2006)
Photographed by Nino Munez for ToroMagazine (2006)

In what movie is Elizabeth Banks not acting?  Not only act, she directs and produces too!

If you’ve seen The Lego Movie, The Hunger Games quadrilogy, Love & Mercy, Comedy Central’s Moonbeam City; the Pitch Perfect movies, suffice it you too have been seeing a lot of Banks lately too.

Elizabeth Banks’ most important contribution has been shattering the celluloid ceiling in the movie industry.

An ongoing study that tracks female directed movies found in 2015 an uptick in the percentage of female directors of top box office movies in 2015.

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Banks is one of the featured directrices in a New York Times article on the uptick. Why? A look at Elizabeth Banks’ IMDb reflects a woman other women can relate to (a.k.a started from the bottom and worked her way to the top slowly). We can see that she’s become the go-to for projects big and small.

If anyone can save a Entertainment project, it’s Elizabeth Banks.

Just last week Banks announced on social media that she will be playing Rita Repulsa in the Power Rangers reboot movie.

Her career started to pick up steam in 2008, which is also when I happened to get an assignment to interview her for this scary movie she was promoting. The thing that stood out to me at the time was how behind the “pin-up” persona the studios were building her up to project, she was more Katherine Hepburn; more wit, snap, crackle, and pop.

This was originally published in the Chicago Flame.

Elizabeth Banks’ invite to “The Uninvited”

Stephanie Jevtic

January 19, 2009

You’re invited to a highly anticipated horror film in theaters January 30th.  Elizabeth Banks had 4 films released in 2008, “Definitely, Maybe,” “Zack and Miri make a Porno,” “Role Models,” and the Oliver Stone biopic “W.” The in-demand actress invited interviewers to get to know her and her 2009 flick “The Uninvited,” where she plays the ominous new mom to Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel. The two sisters sense that Banks’ character had something to do with their mother’s death, while at the family lake house.

What’s more fun, fighting the villain or playing the villain?

Oooh, there’s good in both scenarios but I have to say I relished being bad, playing the villain in “The Uninvited.”

Being your second horror film, how was making “The Uninvited”?

Yes my first horror movie was called “Slither”, a horror action comedy. There were the same stakes in “The Uninvited,” but it’s a psychological thriller like a Hitchcock film. Things jump out at you with great music, but at the same time it’s about what’s going on in someone’s mind.

“The Uninvited” is one of many American remakes of popular Asian horror films. What do you think is so popular and appealing to Western audiences about them?

There’s a whole sense of spirituality in Asian horror films that’s not endemic in our Judeo-Christian culture of only 200 something year old history. The Asian movies get to draw from this crazy bazaar mythology of the warrior culture and thousands of years of spiritual questioning. They have a very different take on things like suicide and the afterlife. They put ideas in their films, and it’s fun taking an audience on a rollercoaster ride of thought and terror.

What are your religious beliefs?

I was brought up Catholic.

Did any paranormal thing happen on the set of “The Uninvited”?

I didn’t witness any, but I’m also not very in tune with the paranormal so that might be why. The house was kind of scary; very big, empty, and we had to close a lot of windows. It really becomes a spooky character in the movie.

What does the film address about families and dealing with divorce?

There are really relatable concepts, a parent remarrying and the loss of a parent, even divorce. When a new person comes into your life you’re not looking for a parental figure or someone to replace your parent, the other way to see this person is as a “friend” but if you’re not willing to look up to them as either a parental figure or a friend, then what are you left with? And how do you live with this person under one roof? I think this movie has a lot to do with control and power in the household.

Were there any films you used to base a your character off of?

Yes, three of my favorite actress: Glenn Close from “Fatal Attraction,” Rebecca De Mornay “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and a little bit of Sharon Stone from “Basic Instinct.”

What did you use to get prepared for the role?

I thought about how families blend and what I thought of older women when I was Arielle and Emily’ age. The two were very sisterly to each other throughout the making of the movie; they got along great and went out every night. They live in a world I no longer live in. I’m like an old lady compared to them and we were not interested in the same things. There was natural division by our ages, making the movie very natural.

Did you grow up in a big family?

I am the oldest of four children, three girls and a boy. And I have many many, many male cousins near. You had to fight for attention at the dinner table. Our dad did a lot to bring out our masculine tough side, we were very into sports; went to hockey games and baseball games, we tried to keep up with our male cousins as much as we could.

How did it feel doing so many movies in one year?

I feel like a gypsy, I feel like I belong in the circus. I’ve just unpacked and I’ve been living out of bags, going from place to place, to place. It’s slightly embarrassing frankly to not know which house you’re at, but it’s fun as well. I’m really happy all the roles were different. I felt that was really fun for me and I hope fun for audiences to see so many different sides of myself.

In what order did you make the films and how did you switch between them all?

I actually filmed these movies in the exact opposite order that they came out. I made “The Uninvited” first, but it’s the last that’s been released. Jumping from one role to another, every once in a while I can bring a piece of a character with me going forward, but I’m very disciplined at leaving them behind.

Is there a particular genre you sway to, or do you go where the wind blows you?

A little bit of both, it’s a supply and demand kind of deal. It depends on where the business is at and what scripts gets presented to me.

Not to be pigeon-held by Hollywood, did you plan out to do so many diverse movies this last year?

I didn’t particularly plan it. It’s very hard to plan anything in this business. I think these movies have proven that I can do a bunch of different things: drama, comedy, thriller. More than anything, I feel like I have a lot of choices.

How does it feel and how do you hold your own on a largely male film set, and how do you bring that confidence out in your character?

I never think about gender, I’ve never felt like I was unwanted on set or that I was hired and couldn’t do the job. I take that confidence and let it pull me through.

Do you enjoy doing the horror movies more or the David Wayne movies?

It’s always fun to laugh, and there was a great deal on the set of “The Uninvited,” but when it’s your job to laugh and you’re working with your friends like David, Paul Rudd, and Seth Rogan on “Role Models” it’s definitely more fun to make a comedy day to day.

Do you see similarities between horror movies and comedies?

Viscerally as an audience you go through similar reactions, like being on a roller coaster ride. You laugh or scream through horror because of fear and in comedies it’s because of the humor. It’s a very fine line.

Which was your favorite movie you made?

“Zach and Miri…Make a Porno.” The character of Mary was the most fun and well rounded, in terms of having a really great arc. She turns into a lovable loser and finds love in the movie, it was one of the funnier female characters I read or played in a really long time. She actually had something to do which I thought was really special.

Do you find it hard to be taken seriously for comedies because you are attractive?

Definitely, but some girls don’t need to develop a funny bone because they are so gorgeous. However I think I developed mine to get attention because I didn’t always feel this attractive in high school. It came from my family, sitting around the dinner table; a way to cheer up and defend myself.

Which actress icon would you most want to be compared to?

Audrey Hepburn sounds pretty good. I’m a big fan of Madeline Kahn and Mae West, women who were strong using their wit; I think they were ahead of their time. I’m also a fan of TV icons like Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett.

What advice would you want to give, for making it in show business?

Work begets work; get involved in anything around you, like a small local play or an amateur movie. You never know who you’ll meet and be remembered by. You have to get your hands on things to do. You have to move to New York and LA too, where the work is.

What made you decide to start producing movies?

As a producer I get to be involved at the very beginning of the film process. It’s a different way of being a storyteller; I can do what I’m interested in and option it, that’s what I love about being a producer.

Who would you like to work with in the future?

A lot of people. I think Casey Affleck has a lot going on with what he’s capable of. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. I’d love to work with Brad Pitt, but Will Smith is probably my top choice.

How was it working with Oliver Stone in “W”?

Oliver Stone and I got along like gangbusters, I really adore him. I’m in awe of his intelligence. He’s a very aggressive director, but he is a visionary. You can trust he will get a great performance out of everyone. I really liked working with him a lot.

What kinds of movies do you like watching?

I’m a total cinephile. Anything that takes me on a ride and is well made; I enjoy all kinds of things.

Further Reading

Elizabeth Banks on Directing: ‘I’m Not Interested in Representing My Entire Gender’

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