The lovely and talented Lake Bell has been a mainstay of film and television for over a decade, stealing scenes in films like "No Strings Attached" and on television series such as "Childrens Hospital" and "How to Make it in America." This week she's an average girl out for a weekend of fun who finds herself in a battle for survival in the indie thriller "Black Rock."
We had an exclusive 1-on-1 with Bell to discuss shooting a film without bathrooms, girl talk during life or death situations, her directorial debut "In a World ... " and her continuing quest to one day play Wonder Woman.
Was the shoot for "Black Rock" as isolated as it looks? Were you guys confined to this island location?
We shot in Milbridge, Maine, which is an incredibly tiny town. Not only is it really tiny but we were sequestered to the girl's cabin and then the boys were in the boy's cabin. We lived in really tight quarters, there were no trailers. There were no bathrooms, for that matter. There were not sets, we were just using the woods as backdrop for everything we did, and the little coastal beaches. It was the antithesis of any project I've ever done. It was very bare-bones, everybody had to be really game. It was just suit up, shut up and have a good time.
Did that confinement effect the psychology of the performances at all?
Naturally, yes. We shot chronologically, which is very rare, you never get to do that. That was a huge benefit for us because we could emotionally psyche ourselves up for these challenging milestones in the movie.
It's such a major tonal shift, hard to imagine doing a scene from the relatively placid first 30-minutes and then later that day shooting something intense from the last act.
There have been a lot of rape-revenge films like this dating back to the '70s with movies like "I Spit on Your Grave" or "Mother's Day." What did director/star Katie Aselton and screenwriter Mark Duplass do to put a new spin on an old tune?
You take Mark and Katie, who do a very specific thing. They're very relevant and they're very current, the thing that they do which is utterly theirs, and a lot of people bite off what they try to do. Taking the energy and tone of their kinds of movies and injecting the thriller genre to them makes it hugely unique from any film of this ilk. It's sort of a trick on the audience, because it starts from a Duplass type of place and energy, then the spirit of the movie takes a big shift, obviously. When the stakes go from emotional stakes between girls figuring out relationship issues to the very literal stakes of who wants to live more. [Laughs]
You and Katie have this exchange when you're being hunted which I called the "girl talk" moment where you're apologizing for sleeping with her boyfriend and all that. If you, Lake Bell, were in that same situation would you maybe save those conversations for later?
Look, what's eerily realistic about that scene … and we're not used to seeing it in films because usually once the action starts we want to continue with the action. What ruptures that is this hiatus in the movie's action moment to snuff out an emotional beat in the story. It is very Katie and Mark of them to do that. In real life if there's a hostage situation or your house is broken into there are moments where it's still two people who have the relationships they have. There's sometimes levity, there's sometimes comedy. There's sometimes moments of pause. Sometimes people have to pee! They never show just moments of other life happening while the stakes are still f**kin' high. I think it’s a very bold choice to have that scene. It makes some people potentially uncomfortable because you're thinking, "Well the movie should be a train forward now!" What makes it difficult to watch is its building tension from your concern for their well-being.
More than any of the three girls, your character Lou goes from being very impish and whimsical to this determined warrior. You've made this clear in the past, but just want to reiterate that should "Justice League" ever get off its ass at Warner Bros. you'd be a fantastic Wonder Woman.
Thank you, that's awesome! That is a secret dream of mine.
Not that secret! You made that proclamation a few years ago.
I said it so randomly at Comic-Con then it was definitely a thing for a second. It's so funny because you say those things in passing, stupidly … 'cause I was there for comedy, I wasn't there for anything else, but it was at Comic-Con so people were like, "Oh, wait a second, Lake Bell's making a play for something." But yeah, it's totally a fantasy to be a superhero and to kick some f**kin' ass.
What is it specifically about Diana and her star-spangled underwear that appeals to you?
I mean, I think growing up I thought she was the most remarkable person ever, so it's more nostalgia than anything else. To play a superhero in your core you have to have a little bit of a sense of humor because you have to suspend disbelief and lean into something that's an icon. It was initially a drawing to embody a concept, and you have to have some playful spark in you.
Jon Hamm is obviously an amazing actor, and he'd said he wouldn't do a lead role in a movie unless the right thing came along. You're in "Million Dollar Arm" with him — what makes that "the right thing" for him and for you?
Jon is a friend of mine so I'm so jazzed to be in another situation where I'm making a movie with pals. At the end of the day making a movie should be fun! It is a cool job to have, and we shouldn't take it too seriously, especially if you're making a movie that's supposed to have that levity and camaraderie, and "Million Dollar Arm" is a feel-good movie. It's based on a true story, and I think it's a super-cool move for Jon to take on this role. The character is going through his own emotional journey that happened in real life. He starts off as someone who doesn't value certain things in life and then learns to take hints and cues from people who are unlikely candidates for wisdom.
Your feature directorial debut "In a World ..." got great notices and the Waldo Salt Award at Sundance. The people who've seen it think it could really take off if it's handled right distribution-wise. Do you have a good plan of attack to get that out there?
First of all, thank you. I'm sitting here doing these interviews talking about "In a World ..." and can only be filled with pride and respect for the people that helped me make it. It's a little movie I feel people are really enjoying. That gives me that overwhelming feeling of being happy to be here. Winning an award or selling the movie were massive bonuses, but just being at Sundance alone was the prize.
Now you have to get it out there, get some butts in the seats.
Amen, brother! Let's do this! It's coming out August 9 and we do have a really cool plan of attack, but I hope that it will roll out the way it's supposed to roll out. Certainly all my friends who were in it who were kind enough to lend their talents to be in the movie are excited to promote it.
Would you pull a Zach Braff and utilize Kickstarter to get your next directorial project off the ground?
Kickstarter was actually responsible for post-production on my little short film that I did when I was first starting out. I self-financed the whole thing then just needed help with post-production because I literally tapped out my pocketbook, but it was worth every penny because it has become my loving calling card for me as a director and got me to Sundance in the first place.