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Keri Russell Talks 'Austenland,' Women in Hollywood, Costume Dramas and Boobs

Photo of Casey Cipriani By Casey Cipriani | Indiewire August 15, 2013 at 2:26PM

Keri Russell won the admiration of many an adolescent girl during her four-season run as the star of "Felicity," a teen drama focused on an awkward young girl's adjustment to college life.
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Keri Russell in 'Austenland'
Sony Pictures Classics Keri Russell in 'Austenland'

Keri Russell won the admiration of many an adolescent girl during her four-season run as the star of "Felicity," a teen drama focused on an awkward young girl's adjustment to college life. Now those teen girls have grown up, are in their 30s, and get to see Russell embrace an adult fantasy reminiscent of the wistful ones many of us had years ago. Russell stars as Jane, a Jane Austen obsessive who blows an exorbitant amount of money to immerse herself in a Jane Austen reenactment resort in England.

The hilarious cast of supporting players includes Jennifer Coolidge, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, James Callis, Georgia King and Jane Seymour. Adapted from the novel by Shannon Hale and directed by Jerusha Hess, who previously brought us "Napolean Dynamite," the film premiered at Sundance and opens tomorrow, August 16 in New York and Los Angeles with plans to expand. Russell sat down with Indiewire this week to talk about costume dramas, the state of women in Hollywood, and the multitudinous boobs. Spoiler alert: No one dies. 

"I love the idea of this place. It's so embarrassing and good."

So this film is kind of adorable.

It's adorable, right? It's cute. It's a fun, summer poppy, feel good, no one dies or gets tortured.

So were you an Austen fan before this?

Not as much as this character obviously. But I saw all of those movies. I definitely saw the BBC one years ago, of "Pride and Prejudice," and was aware of all of her books. But something Jerusha and I kept talking about was that it was a movie less about being exactly true to Jane Austen and more about what's so funny about someone being so obsessed with something like this. How would that manifest and play out? 

Is there anything that you're such a huge fan of that you would go to an interactive place like this?

No, but I sort of love the idea of this place. It's so embarrassing and good. And I absolutely think ladies would pay for this.

What was it like to get into period costume everyday and still be shooting a modern film?

We would get fully, fully dressed, where you have to have a dresser to come do up your corset, petticoats, tights and lace up all these vintage period boots. Two layers of dresses, braids, buns -- it was insane, and yes, all for this jokey, crazy movie. But that's part of the fun. I don't think I've ever done a full-fledged costume drama. So in a way we all secretly thought we were making a costume drama. At those dinner tables, I was there, I was in it! I knew it was a joke but I wasn't in on the joke. I was living that big fancy dress and handsome stiff-backed boys. And it was fun, and I was with a bunch of comedians -- they were hilarious to be around.

Austenland 2

I saw a few interviews where Jennifer Coolidge was said to have not memorized her lines at all and was just improvising.

That's what she does. She's done all these Christopher Guest movies and she's amazing at that. So she was just riffing. Pretty much everything you see in the movie, that's her just going for it, on a tangent. And you just watch her and you're like, "Where is she going with this? Just hang on, do not mess this up. Don't fuck up her moment." And it's impossible because she's doing crazy shit. But she's amazing, she's so good. To me she is the movie. When she comes on you think oh good, this is going to be funny, I feel safe, I know I'm going to laugh.

How did you develop your character's transition over the course of the film from a total romantic to becoming a little more skeptical?

She goes there fully invested in the fantasy of it all, but obviously she has some awareness that it's crazy. I think it was helpful that the people surrounding her are so over the top that as fun as it all is, she knows she's not that. She knows she doesn't want to live in that reality. I think she does come to the place where she wants something real and it's probably helpful that all of the characters are so big around her.

Do you think that she goes there invested in realizing that fantasy of finding a husband or finding the one to be with and then thought, "what the heck am I doing here?"

I guess it is that thing -- be careful what you wish for. She's there and had everything laid out in front of her and she gets it and she's like, maybe this isn't exactly what I want. I do think that she has the seed of awareness though before she goes. She's understanding that it's not manageable, this fantasy life she's created. She's stuck in her life and she knows she's not going to grow if she stays where she is. So I think this is one last hurrah to live it up and maybe she knows deep inside that the person that she meets, which we won't say who, that there's something there and there's something real.

Austenland 3

Yeah there were definitely times when I couldn't tell who was faking it and who was the real deal.

Good! Weren't you led astray a little bit?

You're led astray and then you're led another way and another way.

"Which one?! Who do you want?!"

But I had a hunch who she would end up with.

Cause it's a movie. And then at the end, he's so gross.

That was such a flip too. I was like where did this smarmy guy come from?

I know! They put a tramp stamp tattoo on his back. We were like, do something really gross. Do that, do that! We did this whole shot where he lifted up his shirt so you could see it.

Tell me about working with the two love interests, JJ Feild and Bret McKenzie.

Hilarious. And they each have their own personality and feeling. JJ is a really great actor and I thought that he came off really well. He's so good and he sort of is that world, he's so dignified and knows a lot about everything.

This article is related to: Interviews, Keri Russell, Austenland, The Americans






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