Video/Q&A: Elizabeth Banks of 'People Like Us'

(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
June 25, 2012|Matt Pais | RedEye movie critic

Even in small roles, Elizabeth Banks often has a major impact on her movies. Consider her memorable, unbridled scene in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” in which she teaches Steve Carell’s character about the, uh, talents of a handheld showerhead, or the fact that the romantic trajectory of “Wet Hot American Summer” results largely from Banks’ character tasting like a burger.

“It’s true,” the 38-year-old actress says with a laugh. “I think that Paul [Rudd]’s character just wanted a little side strange.”

Now, of course, Banks takes up far more screen time, showcasing killer comedy skills (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “30 Rock”) and increasingly evolving dramatic flair (“The Next Three Days,” “The Hunger Games”).

In “People Like Us,” opening Friday, Banks delivers one of the year’s best performances so far as Frankie, a single mom who appreciates the help offered when Sam (Chris Pine) comes into her life. One problem: Frankie doesn’t know that Sam is her half-brother, and he’s arrived to deliver money left behind by their recently deceased father.

At the Peninsula Hotel, Banks talked about finding out you have a sibling, her fixation on Channing Tatum’s abs and the rumored “Wet Hot” prequel.

It seems like you’re very excited for “Magic Mike,” which I love because so many people would be like, “It’s opening on the same day as my movie; I can’t say anything about it.”
[Laughs.] I’m just excited for Channing Tatum’s abs. I’m always excited for his abs. I think he’s funny as heck. I think he’s a really fun actor. I’ve been loving watching his evolution as a leading man.

I asked readers what I should ask you today, and @ItsJustJill55 wanted to know what your husband thought of “the hot and heavy on stage” with the “Magic Mike” cast during your MTV Movie Awards acceptance speech.
[Laughs.] The hot and heavy? I love that they think we got so hot and heavy. He’s used to my shenanigans, A. B. It was all in good fun. And C. He was much more concerned that when they panned away to the shot of him, it was not him. It was actually my agent. So he never got on television, which I think was a relief to him in a big way.

Tell me about the challenge of your “People Like Us” role. Frankie has so much going on internally, and you’re playing someone who gradually grows attracted to her brother, who she doesn’t know is her brother.
[Laughs.] Yes, we walk that fine line, don’t we? We really do. It’s an emotional roller-coaster, this movie. I knew when I read it that there would be some really tough days. What I loved about the movie, what really drew me into this film, other than that I really recognized Frankie—I play a struggling single mom in this film who really just has the weight of the world on her shoulders and is just trying to figure it out. And I think that’s really relatable to a lot of people. I definitely related to it. But also that at the end of the day everybody wants to know that their daddy loved them. This is a movie about the damage that gets inflicted on all of us when we’re kids. And how your past does not have to determine your future. If you forgive, if you recognize that people do that best that they can in the circumstances they are given, you can have relief. You can move on.

It was spun off of writer-director Alex Kurtzman’s story of meeting a sibling he didn’t know he had. I asked Alex and Chris Pine if they had heard of any real situations of people who had met someone they didn’t know was their sibling, or started dating someone and found out, “Oh no, we’re fifth cousins,” and they hadn’t. Have you?
[Laughs.] I have a friend who was adopted and it turns out, this is completely random, she had another sister that was also adopted, same parents, but they never knew each other. They were a couple years apart, obviously. They went to high school together their entire lives and knew each other and did not know they were sisters, until one of them when she was 19 went and found her biological mom and the biological mom said, “You have other siblings and they were also adopted by these families.” And she was like, “I know this one.”

So what happened?
They met the mom and they were friends for a really long time actually.

Better than finding out your boyfriend is your brother.
Yes. That’s a much better story. It’s a much easier thing to swallow.

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