Once in awhile you’ll come across an actor who you’ve seen in several films but haven’t quite gotten their chance to shine in the lead role spotlight. They’ve got all the potential to be a dynamic leading man/lady but are just one step away from that breakout role. That was the case with Ari Graynor, a talented actress who’s figuratively been the bridesmaid but never the bride when it comes to film. Now she’s grabbed the opportunity to wow audiences with her role in Focus Features’ “For A Good Time, Call…” and does so with ease.
In the new Jamie Travis-directed feature, “For A Good Time, Call…” centers on two young women (Ari Graynor, Lauren Miller) who reluctantly put aside their differences and share their apartment. When faced with unemployment and the possibility of eviction, the girls start up their own phone sex hotline. While talking to actress Ari Graynor, she spoke about working with a delightful cast, being in a main role and how much fun the whole experience was even through a tight sixteen day shoot.
First off, I find it to be highly appropriate that this interview is being conducted via phone.
Ari Graynor: Oh I know. You better watch out or else I’ll start talking dirty to you! [laughs]
So how exactly do you prepare for a role like this on the whole phone sex spectrum? I hope you didn’t try calling into one of those places.
Ari Graynor: Lauren [Miller] and I started our own hotline while we were shooting and only tried to talk dirty to each other for the entirety of the shoot. [laughs] No, I’m just kidding. There was a really fun answer for it but the truth is we wanted all the phone sex stuff to be funny and not overly titilating and sexual. I kind of wanted to make sure my mind didn’t go to too much of a real place with it. You had to walk this really fine line of keeping it just grounded enough so that it works in the film, but that it was always funny first. It didn’t really feel like calling a line and having real phone sex would be overly helpful. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a bad actor but I thought I would be serving the movie better to keep my mind out of the real life gutter.
No no, that doesn’t make you sound like a bad actor at all. Now comedies tend to give way to a certain amount of freedom for improvisation so I assume this was the case with this movie?
Ari Graynor: Yes and no. We shot this movie in sixteen days which is a very, very short amount of time. Usually if this was made in the studio world this would probably have been like forty or forty five days. Lauren, Katie [Anne Naylon], Jamie [Travis] and I had about a month sitting at Lauren’s dining room table everyday together rewriting the script, reading it over with a fine toothed comb and getting production together. We worked a lot of that script stuff out sitting around that table, rewriting things, improvising, figuring out the right schtick so when we got there on the day we could really know what we were doing. Especially with the phone sex calls, our stuff was pretty much scripted. We would shoot our coverage first and then we’d do a lot of general phone sex vamping to sort of leave room for whatever our callers would say. A lot of “Oh yeah!”, that kind of stuff. When we shot the guys end with Kevin Smith, Seth Rogen and Ken Marino, they completely improvised everything. For the rest of the movie… Justin Long is such a comedic genius. A lot of his stuff was done in the moment. There were moments here and there, but we stayed surprisingly on script for a lot of it.
“For A Good Time, Call…” is a great film and it looks spectacular. I have to say that one of the many things I found hilarious about it was the cameos.
Ari Graynor: Yeah, we lucked out. We really, really lucked out with those incredible actors and comedians coming on. It couldn’t have been any better.
I think everybody in my theater lost it with the Kevin Smith cameo.
Ari Graynor: Oh good! He’s so genius. It was so funny because when we were shooting his coverage I was laying in the back of the cab. It was one of those things where I met him for the first time then it was like all right, now I’ll be getting in the back of the cab talking dirty to you. Quite a day at work!
It’s such a naughty story but in the end it’s a story about friendship. What was it like working with Lauren Miller? She’s also one of the writers of this so in a way this project is her baby.
Ari Graynor: Yeah, it was great. Lauren and Katie wrote the script because they wanted to tell a story of friendship. When they sent it to me that’s what appealed to me about it too. Obviously the phone sex piece was really fun and as you say, kind of naughty and silly, but it really was so exciting to have a movie really just be focused on the love story and the friendship which is so rare to see. Because I came on so early and we all became this collaborative unit, this really became such a labor of love for all of us. I was so inspired and continue to be inspired and by Laurie and Katie of them to be taking a chance on themselves and saying we’re going to make this on our own. And then they took a chance on me.
I’ve been around for a long time but I’ve been waiting to be giving the chance to be a lead in a movie. In the studio world that wasn’t happening so then they brought me in and then suddenly here I was, so much sort of at stake and invested as well. Then Jamie Travis came on board. He’s such an incredible director and this is his first feature film. I think we all felt like we had so much at stake for ourselves, this experience and I think what brought us together. It’s what has continued to push along our passion and our not taking no for an answer, our perseverance in this whole process. Lauren is so smart, so funny and such an incredible producer as well. I feel like it was so exciting to see her blossom in front of the cameras because this is the first time she really has been able to sink her teeth into something. We had such great chemistry and I just adore her. I think she’s so talented and it was just a very fun dynamic.
Agreed! Between you, Lauren and Jamie, each one of you shined in your own ways throughout the film and it really shows. But it’s really nice to hear when a director like Jamie is super collaborative from start to finish.
Ari Graynor: Totally. And his short films are very different tonally. It was truly the kind of thing of where I watched thirty seconds of “The Saddest Boy in the World” when I emailed our entire team and said we can’t make this without him. This has to be our director. Because in somebody else’s hands this could have been over sexualized or it could have been over sentimentalized or it could have … if it didn’t have such a specific look to it I think it could’ve cheapened the story. His sensitivity and adoration for women and his really incredible visual sense just heightened this entire film.
And I do like how this comedy is hilarious for everyone. Men, women were just howling with laughter in the theaters.
Ari Graynor: Awww, so sweet! Thank you. It is such a wonderful surprise to see how many men love this movie. It’s pretty remarkable. I love it. It makes me very, very happy.
Yeah and I just love that it’s not too raunchy too at the same time because you know how some of the male-oriented sex comedies can lean a little too much on that end.
Ari Graynor: Well I think that’s what we hope that people take away from it. I think we feel confident that they’ll take it away from it but go in hoping that not to be sort of scared off by girls talking dirty. That it’s actually a very kind of sweet film in a way.
“For A Good Time, Call…” is out in theaters this Friday, August 31st.