Banking on more than beauty

Denise Wright

Elizabeth Banks explains why she’s not just another pretty face

Courtesy of Kimberly French

Credit: DKS Editors

Elizabeth Banks is caught in an identity crisis and just wants to clear the air.

This may have led the blonde bombshell, often mistaken for similar Hollywood counterparts, to post a video on her MySpace video channel last month explaining who she’s not.

If you’re looking for the star of “The Notebook,” it’s not her. Did you love the boobs in “Road Trip”? Well, those weren’t hers. Sorry.

But if you loved the sassy dark-haired secretary Betty Brant in “Spiderman” or Beth, the book store clerk with sexual prowess, in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” you have the right woman.

But after the year Banks has put in, she’ll probably find she may no longer be confused for Rachel McAdams or Amy Smart.

Among the six (yes, you read six) Banks films released this year, her most notable roles include that of Laura Bush in Oliver Stone’s “W.” and playing the lovable loser Miri alongside Seth Rogan in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”

“I feel like a gypsy,” Banks said of her film-filled year. “I feel like I belong in the circus. I’ve just been living out of bags.”


Starring Elizabeth Banks, Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel

Directed by Charles & Thomas Guard

Distributed by DreamWorks

Rated PG-13 Runtime 87 minutes

Release date: Friday, Jan. 30th

But working hard is a concept that doesn’t seem so foreign to Banks.

“Work begets work,” she said. “In other words, you actually have to do the work, whether that means getting involved in plays or getting involved in small movies, whatever you can get your hands on.”

Banks has managed to get her hands on a wide range of projects over the years, taking on both serious roles like Laura Bush and raunchy roles like Beth. Banks even tapped into horror with 2006’s “Slither.” She revisits the genre as Rachael, an unwanted stepmother in this month’s “The Uninvited.”

“I’m really happy that all the roles are really different,” Banks said. “I hope it’s fun for audiences to see different sides of myself.”

While Banks said she enjoys exploring different roles, there’s a certain genre, and even crew, that remains close to her heart.

“It’s always fun to laugh, and although we laughed quite a bit on the set of ‘The Uninvited,’ it was our jobs to laugh on the sets of comedies. It’s always fun to work with friends, too. So of course, I love working with David (Wain) and Paul (Rudd) and Seth Rogen, people like that. We just have a great rapport with each other on set,” she said. “I don’t know. It just depends on the day. But for the most part, comedies are more fun to make.”

Yet, with the common misconception that pretty girls can’t be funny, one has to wonder if Banks finds it difficult to be known as an attractive female in comedy.

“I wasn’t always this good-looking. I’m definitely getting better with age,” she said with a laugh before elaborating on why the theory doesn’t apply to her.

“There are a lot of pretty girls who don’t have to develop their funny bone because they’re beautiful, you know.” she said. “I developed my funny bone in order to get attention and to make it through my shitty life in high school. It comes a lot from my family and just having to sit around the dining room table and, you know, defend myself against attack.”

It was these awkward teenage years and familiar family attacks that ultimately helped shape the woman whose on-screen charisma is being compared to that of classic beauty Audrey Hepburn.

“Well, (a comparison to) Audrey Hepburn is pretty good,” she says with a laugh. “I’m also a big fan of Madeline Kahn, and I’m also a huge Mae West fan. I think, you know, those are the ladies who used physical comedy and their wit. I just think they were ahead of their time, truly kind of amazing. I also like a lot of the television ones too, like Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett.”

While the aforementioned woman are some Banks draws on for her career as a whole, she said she studied Glenn Close from “Fatal Attraction,” Rebecca De Mornay in “Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” and Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct” for her role as the villain in “The Uninvited.”

Banks said the idea of playing a villain for a psychological thriller fully appealed to her.

“I really consider (‘The Uninvited’) a psychological thriller much in the way that a Hitchcock movie is a psychological thriller. It blends that genre, you know, the ‘Fatal Attractions,’ ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.’ It blends that genre with like big scare movies. There are still things that jump out at you, and there are still, you know, big noises and good music, but at the same time, it really is about what’s going on in someone’s mind.”

In the past, Banks has said she’s pleased Hollywood hasn’t figured out a way pigeonhole her yet, and with psychological thrillers being added to her range of films, it really is difficult to label the nearly 35-year-old beauty with personality to spare.

“I didn’t particularly plan (being in a range of films),” Banks said. “It’s very hard to plan anything in this business. But I will say that I think the movies, if anything, have proven that, you know, I’m into comedies, and I’m into drama, and I’m into thriller. And, you know, it’s really fun. Basically, at this point, I have my choice; I can do a bunch of different things. More than anything, I feel like I have a lot of choices.”

Contact all editor Denise Wright at [email protected].