This year, the studios are hoping women can bring in the raunchy R-rated laughs their male counterparts already can. While Warner Bros. will take another bite of the bankable apple with “The Hangover Part II,” their competitors are rolling their dice with female driven laffers with Universal‘s “Bridesmaids,” Sony‘s “Bad Teacher” and Fox‘s “What’s Your Number” all in the pipeline. Female driven comedies — that aren’t rom-coms — are already a hard sell and it’s no surprise that execs are fine tuning the films up until the last minute. You can bet that the SXSW, “work-in-progess” screening of “Bridesmaids” was as much about gauging early audience reaction as it was about building hype for the film and in the case of the Anna Faris led “What’s Your Number,” there continues to be refinements as the film works through post-production.
In an extensive profile on Faris in the April 11th issue of the New Yorker, it reveals the various ways the film has been tweaked — both by the studio and by the filmmakers — during the filming and in the editing as Fox gets prepared to release the film this fall. To that end, Aziz Ansari has come aboard for a very quick voice cameo that will play a crucial part in the later stages of the film. And while it might seem odd to bring a rising talent at Ansari to the film even though you won’t see his face, it’s his ability to sell a lewd bit of dialogue that found him in demand. But even the wording of what he would say changed as “finger-banged” has now been replaced with “shitty hand job” in a bid to not derail a key moment in the film that balances raunch with romance.
And even that bit of dialogue tweaking is just a small indication of how concerned studios in general are of making beautiful women appear less than likeable on screen. “What’s Your Number” revolves around Ally, a single 30-something who reads in a magazine that a woman who sleeps with more twenty men will never get married. Realizing that she has bedded exactly that number, she then revisits her conquests to see if any of them are the marrying kind all while holding a flame for Colin who lives in her building. In the beginning Faris and director Mark Mylod wanted Ally to be a “wayward bohemian” dressed in jeans, vintage t-shirts in addition to being “noticeably heavier than a fashion model.” But of course, the studio wasn’t thrilled by that direction and instead insisted a much more bodacious Faris in the role, but the actress still isn’t convinced of the compromise. “I felt they might have pulled the movie if we fought any further,” she told the New Yorker. “But it still bothers me: why would Ally be unemployed and wearing Prada shoes?”
But even the concept itself — with a premise centering around a woman with more than her fair share of bedroom experience — caused some pause as there were debates as to whether or not to bring down the number of partners. “I voted for a lower number, like one,” said Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman half jokingly to the magazine, but ceding, “there’s an innocent quality to Anna’s sexuality, and an inherent kindness to her, that makes it possible to make a movie about sex and have it feel like she’s still a sweetheart.” And New Regency honcho Hutch Parker acknowledges the higher number was integral to the story. “But if you take the number down — and we thought about fifteen, or even twelve — it makes the film less bold. And the number needed to be high enough to be a sufficient source of concern for Ally.”
But alas, studio folks couldn’t resist getting in some requisite full frontal nudity into the film. As Faris told New Yorker reporter Tad Friend, “some studio exec basically said, ‘Get some tits in the movie.’ So we did a reshoot where I go in to save Colin from this naked woman the morning after [Ally is pretending to be Colin’s angry girlfriend] and it was so obvious it was a tit shot that when she got up in my face I said ‘Tits!’ just to make it clear what we were doing”
But don’t get it twisted — this kind of pruning, shaping and managing of “What’s Your Number” is pretty much par for the course on most Hollywood films and at the end of the day, Faris is still toplining an R-rated, foul mouthed comedy geared right for women which is a minor feat in itself. Featuring an ensemble cast including Chris Evans, Zachary Quinto, Ari Graynor, Chris Pratt, Joel McHale and Andy Samberg we’ll see if the marketability driven balance of rude, crude romance delivers when it opens on September 30th.