James Marsden stars in Walk of Shame as the man whose apartment Elizabeth Banks is leaving when her world turns completely upside down. As teased in the Walk of Shame trailer, Banks is a local LA news anchor who does everything she’s supposed to, and yet can’t get ahead in her job or in her personal life. Then, her friends encourage her to go out and let loose and that’s where she meets Marsden.
We caught up with Marsden for an exclusive chat where he talked about the comic brilliance of Banks and what sets her apart. Marsden also tells us what he thinks it is about the world of news anchors that is so ripe for humor. With his experience on Walk of Shame and his role as an anchor in Anchorman 2, his take is priceless.
Movie Fanatic: What was it about Walk of Shame that had you?
James Marsden: It was less the story than I knew Elizabeth for a long time and I knew Steven Brill, the writer-director for a long time. When I did the read-through for Anchorman 2, Adam McKay had all his writer and director friends there and Steve was in the audience. When I caught up with him, he said he thought I’d be great for the role in Walk of Shame. I read the script and Elizabeth called me and said that I had to do it. And I wanted to work with her for years. It was like getting together with your family and making a movie. I’ve always been a huge fan of Elizabeth’s comedic talent. I think she is one of our best. She’s one of these actresses that could get roles based solely on her looks, but she’s clearly so talented as a dramatic and comedic actress. We’d talk about finding something fun to do over the years and this came together.
Movie Fanatic: I think Elizabeth is a great dramatic actress, which is seen in the Hunger Games movies (watch Catching Fire online). But she is so funny. Just watch her in 30 Rock or any of her movie comedies and that’s present. What did you see working with her firsthand that struck you about her comedic abilities?
James Marsden: She’s got confidence enough to make fun of herself. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s not afraid of having her hair look messed up for a laugh. She is great at making huge comedic observations about humanity. She’s one of these comediennes trapped in a beautiful person’s body. That’s it. It comes from a real intelligence. She gets what’s funny about being human. She’s great at looking utterly shabby and not looking like a superstar -- and in the process, she looks like a superstar. That’s why she’s great.
Movie Fanatic: That scene of you two getting together, it’s kind of a montage of various things that are utterly hilarious. There had to be a ton of improv in that. Was that a free-for-all? Was it scripted? How did it work?
James Marsden: I’ve known Steve for a long time and he wrote the script as well. And he was like, “I’m not going to waste my time writing specifics on paper for that scene.” [Laughs] It somehow worked! Hiring Elizabeth and me, he thought we’d find the funny stuff. He allotted plenty of time to do it. We filmed it over a day and a half. It was a playground. I have not seen the movie yet, so I don’t know what made it in it. I know I was in a dress at one point. I know I was playing guitar. I know she had a knife at some point.
Movie Fanatic: Those all made it in! As did kissing with pizza!
James Marsden: Oh yeah [laughs], that was all part of running around that apartment for a day and a half! That’s what's great about having a past history with Elizabeth. You can get there with people you don’t know because you’re acting. But, it’s always nice to do that with someone you know well and that you know your sensibilities are aligned. It makes it more fun and easier and makes it fun for the audience.
Movie Fanatic: I’m curious to get your take on something. With Anchorman 2 and now Walk of Shame, you’ve been a part of two movies that make comedy out of news anchors. What is it about that field and that world that is so ripe for comedy?
James Marsden: I wonder if it’s because they have to act to a certain code. They have parameters that are kind of narrow. They are delivering the news and have to have a certain personality, but they have to be serious at the same time. It can come off as somewhat artificial. The way they come back from a clip and have to chuckle about it [laughs]. There’s something that is so transparent about them that you can tell when they put on a fake face. It makes it an easy target.
Check out Marsden at work as an anchor and watch Anchorman 2 online.