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

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

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. 

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

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.

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?

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?”

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

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

Weren’t you led astray a little bit?

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

one?! Who do you want?!”

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

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.

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.

He’s done period films before.

million! A million costume dramas, so he is that world. And Bret is not
really an actor-actor, he’s a musician and comedian and so that’s not
really what he does. We would have to do these kissing scenes, and
Jerusha kept making so much fun of him because he would go in to kiss and he
wouldn’t use his hands. He’s just be like (holds her arms straight down). And
Jerusha would be like, “It’s weird! You have to touch her! Are you allergic to touching people?” And we would tease him like (holds her arms
straight down again). So they each had their own good things, and so fun and
for the most part a really easy shoot. Fun people, beautiful scenery.

How long was the shoot?

My memory was that it was pretty short. Maybe I would say like two months? But
I really can’t remember, it was two years ago and I was pregnant.

Right, how did that work out?

It was okay because of those dresses!

Yeah those dresses are so floofy

and they’re right here [at the top of the waist] and it’s perfect. So that baby
was growing in that expandable corset underneath. And that’s how we went.

Well I guess if you’re going to
do a costume drama while you’re pregnant it’s best with the Empire waist.

And boobs! It was a win-win for all parties involved.

What was it like to work with
Jane Seymour?

amazing. She’s larger than life, so beautiful and such a hard worker still and
always has been. And hilarious! She goes for it in this and it really

Yeah that first opening bit…

dead lambs. Hilarious.

So the whole marketing plan
behind this film is very female-centric. Sony Pictures Classics has basically said that they’re
specifically courting women to come see the film.

only thing I can say is, it does have Jennifer Coolidge and her boobs in it. I
mean, that’s not just for the ladies. And
Jennifer Coolidge’s humor to me is so guy-centric, you know what I mean? It’s
not tame. And it’s hilarious. And Bret feels like such a dude to me too — “Flight of the Concords”. It is fluffy dresses
and talking about a romance novelist and that world, but I think it’s pretty wacky
and fun too. I say girls can bring dates and what the dates get out of it is a
make out at the end.

It is also a big deal in that
it’s written by women, produced by women, and directed by women. I tend to
embrace projects where women are on the creative end. How do you feel about how
women are developing in the industry?

there are still more guys in those positions. But that being said I’ve worked
with a lot of female directors these days, a lot. So it’s definitely getting
better. Maybe I should think about it more but I don’t tend to choose a project
because of that, because there’s a woman director or producer. But Jerusha was
the reason I took this. Not because she’s a woman but because I thought she was
cool and was familiar with her work before and thought it would be fun. I
wanted to support her in her first [solo] directorial venture.

So what was it like shooting
this very girly, dress up movie and then going into kicking ass and taking
names on “The Americans”?

[laughs] They’re so similar, these characters. Not! That’s the fun thing about this job.
You get to wear these fancy clothes and be this innocent vulnerable hopeful
girl running in the English countryside.

Cut to “The Americans” and
it’s all cat eyeliner and blown out hair and leather tough Russian spy. And
that’s what’s so cool about this job to me right now is just the variety of it
and getting to step into different worlds.

What’s up next for you?

Rest! I
don’t start “The Americans” again until October. So other than a six-year-old starting a new school, just that.

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