Lizzy Caplan is cool. She's so cool, in fact, that we named her as one of the 25 Coolest People in Movies a few weeks ago, mostly based on her exceptionally well-chosen projects (and a little bit on some extra je ne sais quoi). By our counter-culture standards, her "Mean Girls" character Janis Ian was the best of the cast, and the rest of Caplan's resume — including parts in "Freaks and Geeks," "Party Down," "Cloverfield," "New Girl," "127 Hours" and cult favorite web series "Wainy Days" — reads like an application to the Cool Hall of Fame (an imaginary institution we've just made up now, essentially guaranteeing we'll never be inducted, ourselves).
Now with a starring role in the cutthroat indie comedy "3, 2, 1... Frankie Go Boom," Caplan sheds some clothing and ponders the nature of humiliation: her own, her co-stars' and that of random dudes getting hit in the goolies with gardening tools.
"Frankie Go Boom" revolves around the humiliation of all of its characters — everyone's dignity takes a beating. It's an embarrassment movie, basically, like "There's Something About Mary," "Meet the Parents," "Along Came Polly." Apparently, Ben Stiller's a fan of the genre. Are you?
Absolutely. I find humiliation, humiliation movies, humiliation television shows and just people humiliating themselves in real life completely hilarious. "America's Funniest Home Videos"? I don't mind watching a guy step on a rake and get hit in the balls. Let's laugh at that.
There's some life-imitating-art in this. On set, you were wearing a mismatched, candy-covered bikini. Ron Perlman was in full makeup and a dress. Chris Noth was in a very, very revealing jockstrap. That had to be a little embarrassing for everyone.
Oh God, the jockstrap. I think we were sort of split down the middle. From Ron, I got zero vibe that he was having anything less than a ball all gussied up like that. Chris relished playing that part. People think of him as his more buttoned-up "Good Wife" and "Sex and the City" characters, but I'm not so sure that those are the more accurate portrayals of who he actually is. I mean, he was digging it, like, "I really like showing everyone my ass on that treadmill."
And then, I think that Charlie [Hunnam] and I were the same level of humiliated about being completely naked and freezing for that long in this gross shed that we shot [a sex] scene in all day. Whitney [Cummings] and I had to really pump each other up and give each other major pep talks. We both had to don the candy bra.
Really? She seems like the kind of girl who will do whatever, whenever for comedy.
She totally is. She's a good friend of mine, love that girl, and she is totally totally ballsy, but you show me the ballsiest girl in the world, she is not thrilled about having to run around in her underwear in front of a bunch of strangers all day.
The sex scene is so hilariously awful — was any of that improvised?
All of that was pretty much on the page. A lot of that stuff was really choreographed. There is something particularly wonderful about being told to give a handjob off-screen while crying. It's like one thing after another in that scene. We were like down that rabbit hole, nothing seemed embarrassing anymore, there was nothing that could have been suggested that was like, "That's too far" — it was like, "All right, what's next?"
I think the character is so hammered in that moment. I don't see her as a girl who's been sexually forward ever, and so in her mind, this is how sexy girls do it, like the real pros, and it's just humiliating because she's doing it wrong and then blaming him for it.
Speaking of [writer/director] Jordan Roberts' input, how is this movie possible? He's the "March of the Penguins" guy! "Frankie" seems so unexpected.
I feel like he felt sort of trapped in the world of drama ... he wanted to make a movie that was a humorous take on addiction, and I really think he succeeded in telling that story. It's a true comedy, so you don't get into any of the dark stuff, but the Bruce character (Chris O'Dowd) is just this raging drug addict who is like a wave of destruction everywhere he goes. I think that subject matter, if done correctly, can be the most hilarious, humiliating, heartbreaking kind of comedy, and I think that was the story he wanted to tell.
I was jealous of Chris that he ... plays a true sociopath. Those people are the most fascinating to me, that you don't often see in a movie. But I became very obsessed with reading about psychopaths and sociopaths — I mean, they are actually the same. They're interchangeable words. And I don't want to fight about it. Because everybody fights me on that.
I wasn't about to challenge you. You sound well-informed.
Okay, good. To me, they are the most fascinating. I want to make like ten psychopath movies. And not the violent ones, but just like the the mental manipulation ones.
Did this script inspire your love for psychopaths?
No. It started off with that Jon Ronson book, "The Psychopath Test." And I had just seen him on "The Daily Show," and he was so engaging and so smart and awesome. And then I devoured this book. And then became obsessed.
Can we discuss Ron Perlman in a dress? The movie portrays him as terrifying in his cross-dressing, but honestly, he looked a little like someone's sweet bubbe.
He did look like a bubbe. I think it is that you just notice that he has a very masculine, large head. And that really shows up when it's fully made up. He looks menacing. Like really tough. Like a very masculine man. Most of the time. But then you put makeup on him and you're like, "Wow, that head, it's just big."
I didn't get to work with him at all. It sucks. It was like a total carrot being dangled in front of me. To have Ron Perlman, who is so awesome, and dress him up like a woman. And I still can't work with him in a scene. It was awful.
IMDB fibs from time to time. It currently lists the "Party Down" movie as "pre-production." Can that be true?
No. But it's pre-production in our hearts. We don't have any start date. I mean, people are busy. But we want it to happen. The will is so strong that I just can't imagine it not happening. I just have no details for you whatsoever. Unfortunately. Adam Scott [and I] were doing some interview together the other week. Somebody asked a similar question, and he said fifty-fifty. I'm much more optimistic than that. And I'm going to say eighty-twenty.
Those odd aren't bad. Have you heard any possible ideas for the script?
No, only because the four creators and Adam, who became a producer second season, they have kicked around a story that hasn't trickled down to us yet. It's going to be written by John Enbom, who wrote basically all of the scripts [for the TV show], like 90 percent of the scripts by himself, alone in a room. So the voice will be the voice that everybody really digs. And I know that it will happen. And I know that it will be a wonderful, beautiful occasion.