While this summer has seen a barrage of trends — from superheroes to aliens to raunchy comedies — perhaps prompting the most discussion around the season’s cineplexes is the larger role women are beginning to play in those big, R-rated comedies. Kicking off the summer was the box office smash “Bridesmaids,” a quality raunch-fest but, in a rare twist for Hollywood, led by a cast of comediennes. And this Friday, “The Change-Up” delivers another big adult laffer with female characters that do more than just add to the scenery.
Starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, the story follows two friends who find themselves accidentally switching bodies after simultaneously peeing into a magic fountain. But the decidedly silly premise finds laughs not only from the leading men but in their female counterparts as well, Leslie Mann and Olivia Wilde. Not performers to sit back and let the boys have all the fun, both Wilde and Mann worked with the writers and director David Dobkin to develop and give a little more meat to the female characters in the film, and we got a chance to chat with them about their experience on the film.
“Until recently — I guess it’s ‘Bridesmaids’ — absolutely nobody looked to score points in the area of what women were doing in the movie, and since expectations were so low it’s so easy to score in those areas, people were always surprised,” said Dobkin of the oft underdeveloped female roles in big comedies. But according to the helmer, creating interesting female characters shouldn’t be such an insurmountable challenge, “Just treat them like real characters and you’ll get there…every character is an opportunity to create a fully rounded three dimensional [person] that can carry emotional weight. Jamie [Mann] carries the entire emotional weight of the movie. For Olivia’s Sabrina, that would have been a very easy role — all you really needed was a hot girl, but it’s not interesting that way. So I always look for strong women to play strong women, who are strong actresses that can carry the dramatic weight and have a sense of comedic timing.”
And it isn’t the first time Dobkin has helped to develop some interesting roles for comediennes, he also directed “The Wedding Crashers” which saw a pair of great performances from Rachel McAdams and Isla Fisher. In fact it was seeing ‘Crashers’ that sealed the deal for Wilde to work with the director. “He respected and encouraged funny women, they’re not just there to hold up the walls,” she said about the film, and how it inspired her to do the same with Sabrina in “The Change-Up.”
“I think it was a little ambiguous [in the script] what her role was in the office, and I kept saying ‘She’s not the secretary!’” laughs Wilde, who wanted to create a character more dynamic than Dave [Bateman]’s desk jockey. “Sabrina was clearly smart and interesting, but she didn’t necessarily start out as wild as she ended up being. We kept pushing it further and further in pre-production stages: can we make this a little funnier? Can we make this a little more intense? And I really liked the idea of her really shocking the audience in a certain way. We all really worked together to make her scenes at the office a little bit more of a misdirect.”
Mann also brought her comedic, as well as dramatic chops to the table. In a funny, but emotionally chaotic scene with the family’s babysitter, Jamie unloads her confusion and worries about her husbands behaviour onto the teen, who really just wants to go home. “It was something I worked out myself, it was really fun to play,” said Mann. “I think it was written well to begin with but it’s always helpful to have more input and we all as a team worked on it and made things better.”
“This script was just too good to miss,” said Wilde, “and it kept getting better, because we started this awesome collaborative process of fleshing out these characters… I learned a lot and ended up creating a character I’m really proud of.”
You can see Olivia Wilde and Leslie Mann in the “The Change-Up” starting this Friday, August 5th.