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Kristen Bell Discusses Her Sexy, Smile-Free Performance In 'The Lifeguard' (and the End of 'Gossip Girl')

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire August 26, 2013 at 10:33AM

Generally regarded as a master of snark, Kristen Bell made it very clear she's capable of much beyond that at the Sundance Film Festival this year, portraying a crumbling, depressive 29-year-old in Liz W. Garcia's affecting "The Lifeguard."
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"The Lifeguard"
"The Lifeguard"

How old is he in real life?

He was 19 at the time, thank god. That was actually one of my questions when we first started because when I read it and Liz had written it as a 16-year-old, I was like "Are we really gonna get a kid who is under 18?" That would make me very nervous because you just never know what they're doing for the first time. And there's a reality behind everything in film. I'd love to be the actor that tells you "Oh, you abandon your humanity and you're just the character!" But that is not the truth. I'm thinking about whether my boobs are showing. I'm thinking about whether this is comfortable for the other person. Or do I need a mint? That's the reality of filmmaking. You don't abandon you who are as a human being. Your insecurities don't dissipate. But David is so interested in telling stories and so interested in being an actor in a lovely way. He did such a spectacular job. He was so present as his character on set and so professional. He was game for us to get as intimate as possible during those scenes. And luckily he's such a sweetheart that we felt immediately comfortable with each other.

It also must have helped that he's pretty dreamy. His eyes just melt you.

Oh god, for sure. He has a very intense face. He has these big pouty lips and those beautiful eyes and it just sweeps you away.

Your film is part of a trend at this year's Sundance. A lot of films have featured older women with younger partners: "Two Mothers," "A Teacher," "Concussion"... And like your film, all of these are directed by women.

I've heard  a couple times here that there are similarly themed movies to this one, which I think is just balancing the scales a bit. I know one thing Liz has said in her interviews is that she wanted to be very careful with how often she used Leigh's POV of Little Jason so that it never did come across as predatory. Because often in filmmaking as the director and the DP you have to think about the shots and what they're showing the audience and how that's making them feel. Whose POV you're in will tell them where they're coming from as an audience. She didn't want to use a ton of my character's POV looking at Little Jason so that it didn't feel predatory.

How many times have you come to Sundance?

I've come twice with other films, but I've been here five or six times just to like to ski and support other people. Dax [Shepard, her husband] had a movie here last year. So I've been a few times.

What's it like this time compared to others? Other than the fact you're very pregnant.

Actually, it's not so dissimilar. I don't get to ski, which is the bummer. But I feel particularly proud of this project because we genuinely did it for nothing. We didn't have trailers or anything. We had one van we'd rented from an AVIS or something to get us all around. We all shared a house and I dyed my hair in the sink every couple weeks. It was very much a passion project and I feel very proud that it's here and being showcased. It's always nice to be around a bunch of people that really like film.

What are you working on now?

I'm currently shooting the second season of "House of Lies." We have like three weeks left, I think.

Are you doing lots of shots where they can't see your belly?

I'm always sitting at my desk. They don't show it. But they also have this post-production master on set that is able to take it out. He advises us as to the wide shots to do so he can flatten out my stomach and I don't look so porky.

This might be annoying, but what did you think of the last episode of "Gossip Girl"? I mean, how is Dan "Gossip Girl" if he has your voice?

Exactly. I see the episodes six weeks in advance. So I did have quite a bit of collateral to hold over my girlfriends heads that did watch it.  I was like, "I know who 'Gossip Girl' is, you guys." But I have involvement only in post-production, so I'm not involved in that actual conceptualization of the episodes.  I fully trusted whatever way they wanted to take it. They had much deeper issues and had to settle the score on a thousand different characters and if I did not recieve the title of "Gossip Girl" in the end it would be okay and I would be at peace with it.

Well, it must have been a fun job for those five years.

It was the greatest.

How long would it take?

I was there for about two hours every two weeks. It was nothing. It was very easy and it was nice to see the episodes in advance. Every part about it was fun.

This article is related to: Kristen Bell, Kristen Bell, The Lifeguard, The Lifeguard, Interviews, Sundance Film Festival





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