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Austenland interview with Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge and JJ Feilds

nd I’m back with more from my press day in NYC for Austenland. Besides chatting with director Jerusha Hess & Stephenie Meyer (Our round-table interview is here. Plus I have 1 on 1 interviews I’ll share tomorrow!) we talked with the cast that was in NYC for press-day: Keri Russell (really wish I hadn’t called her Felicity*), Jennifer Coolidge and JJ Feilds (Who, despite all the auto-correct attempts in the world, actually spells his name Feilds and not Fields)

Question: Keri, did you ever have this experience where you had expectations of something that all your dreams were pinned on & got there and saw all the cracks in it & that it didn’t live up to it?

JJ: Life?

Keri: What do you mean!? That’s called life! That’s called existence

Question: Did this feel familiar to you?

Keri: The thing that feels familiar to me or the thing that I found on my way in was more this idea of this person who was stuck emotionally because life is hard for everyone. It’s emotional and it’s hard that you sort of escape into this fantasy.

No maybe I’m not making out with Mr. Darcy dolls on my bed, but we all have our little dabbling into fantasy to help get us through the day. Mine might be endless hours on home interiors online (laughs) or whatever vacation places- which I call hotel porn “Oh my gosh that place looks so good! that I’ll never go to…” And that idea of how much time we’re spending in that fantasy and you need to hardness & turn it around.. What is existing right now? What’s my world right now? This is a funny silly version of that. That was my into the story.

JJ: I think the key is what you’ve said about expectation. I’m terrible at projecting expectation on just about everything from a meal, to a job, to my son, to everybody. The thing I have to work on the most is not having any expectation so I can just enjoy whatever that is at any moment.

The destruction of expectation is depression- depressing. The thing that was the most fun- too big for me to have an expectation was.. an acting career. I always wanted to and i never imagined it would be what it is so every day is an absolute dream. I don’t think I ever sat and dreamed about it. I just knew it was what I was going to do. So that’s been better than any expectations I could have put upon it.

Question: Why do you feel that Americans are so fascinated with British culture?

Keri: I don’t know, I think it’s sort of “other than.” It’s all fancier than anything here. i don’t know! I think it’s just so other than our world. There are all these rules and everyone has to behave a certain way. I sorta still feel that way today when I go visit. There’s a code that even if it’s not spoken about, you sort of live by. It’s different here. You are allowed to say “That’s not right” or “That’s not true! That’s not what I did.” Versus there you go “Oh well, okay. That’s your impression of what you did.” I don’t know it’s a romanticized version.

Jennifer: [we are fascinated with British culture because…] It’s way cooler than us. It just is. I don’t know- it has this thing where it just seems like everyone is so in control. And it’s so appealing. Especially like, English men feel so much more in-attainable than American men. You feel you just can’t ever have one. Even if you have one you don’t have one. Even if you’re sleeping with one you don’t really have him. Because they are kinda horrified by Americans.

JJ: I feel awful. You’re making me feel terrible!

Jennifer: If i could come back & be one I probably would!

JJ: An English male?

Jennifer: Anything! I was having lunch with a guy yesterday who said “I give so much more money to the English homeless men because they’re like (uses cockney accent)

“You got uh, you got uh, sixpence what what!?”” He said it’s so charming!

(laughter) The American guys don’t ask for it that way

Keri: the use of vocabulary is not as full, that is true.

JJ: I want to go to the england you know!

Jennifer: well some of the food- we went to some amazing restaurants in London but you have to admit- there’s lots of meat that shows up that….

JJ: That’s film catering. London has the highest Michelin stars of anywhere in the world! I defend our cooking

Jennifer: But the proteins on set….

JJ: but set cooking is not human food. We crated cool cooking from the Jamie Olivers- that cooking chef who can whip up something quick for the misses. All the american men I know cannot cook. It’s embarrassing. English men think it’s cool to cook!

Keri: JJ can really cook, obviously

JJ: All my friends can cook in England and all my male friends in America can’t understand the concept of cooking. They think it’s not something they should even understand which I think is shameful

Question: JJ: I was struck by the last line you said, “did you ever consider that you could be my fantasy?” It’s struck me but it wasn’t a super original line. You get it in almost every romantic movie. Why do you think that woman constantly doubt – well we know that men have fantasies- but they doubt that men have romantic fantasies similar to what theirs might be?

JJ: Because a lot of men haven’t evolved from the Neanderthal age to show their emotions. I think that men’s romantic fantasies might be simpler in that women probably think about it a lot more.They have thought of every option that fantasy could live out. And a man goes “This is the fantasy I want” and he’ll go in a straight line to get that. So if that doesn’t fall into what fits the woman’s fantasy then it doesn’t exist. We’re maybe a little simpler romantically but when you get a group of men who are slightly inebriated and they are being honest about how they feel, there is nothing equally as soft as gushy as a group of men together lamenting their girlfriends!

If you really want to see when men find their romance is when they just split up with a woman. They are pathetic. they are useless. And they want them back every fucking time. And as someone described it to me once when i was licking my wounds- tell me if I’m wrong- a woman told me this. We had split up and she moved on and I was still slashing my wrists. Men find romance through pain. Women spend the end of a relationship imaging every scenario possible and they’ve lived through it in their imagination and when it’s happened they can move on & are prepared. But men are so ignorant that it’s broken up and they’re like “What? It hurts? I’m broken up? What do I do now?” And they spend years in agony. It’s a shame that they don’t get in touch with their feelings before they’ve have them burned.

Jennifer: I’ve never seen any of my exes in agony ever! You’re one in a billion (to JJ)

JJ: When I first moved to LA- about 10 years ago- and there were 4 men who had all come out of relationships over 5 years. And we got this massive home in Los Feliz, thinking it would be bachelor chaos. and it was a lot of “boo hoo hoo hoo.” (makes crying noise) Just lamenting these women constantly and trying not to google them- “What have they done?!” Tt went on for years. And it was embarrassing. But we aren’t gonna show you that!

Question: Were you all British?

JJ: There was a British, a Spanish man- there was a guy from san Fransisco, and an Indian guy- a spectrum.

Jennifer: thats when it would have been great to be that 5th girl roommate!

“well boys, let me make you something. I don’t know where my bra is. but I made dinner!”

JJ: and all 4 could cook amazing food. We were all obsessed with Benicio del Toro- it was the time when 21 grahams came out- we were all actors

Jennifer: Was he cooking? Was he one of the guys? (in the house)

JJ: no! Sadly not. but no one was taking us seriously as actors so we said “We’re gonna grow big pot bellies and be taken seriously” So we cooked and ate like sumo wrestlers for two years, and we all got really fat and not one of us worked!

Jennifer: good advice

Question: Keri, there’s a moment at the end – before you come back JJ- where I think “Okay this isn’t going to be your traditional romance movie. She’s going to be this woman who finds herself & she’s going to end up alone & it’s going to be great!” But then of course- Nobley comes back & it’s great – it’s what everyone wants. Did you ever think “No, she’s not going to have either guy!”

Keri: Did I want that for the story? I think this is a really sweet hopeful fable about hope. It’s poppy & fun and fantasy. It’s totally okay that she got the guy in this. I don’t think it’s anything to choose your life by, this one. I think it’s fun and no one dies. And people are wearing fancy clothes and all the boys have fake tans and fake stuff in their pants. It’s meant to be fun.

JJ: I didn’t get either- that’s unfair!

Question: Ms. Charming doesn’t know much about Jane Austen going in- she just seems to like the look of this world. What did you know about Jane Austen or Pride & Prejudice going in & what did you take away from it?

Jennifer: Growing up my parents had a lock on the TV and we were just allowed to watch like PBS. So I did get a very big dose of the Jane Austen thing. You know, i would have to say that …. I always start off thinking “I’ll be the know-it-all in the movie and know everything.” I could have had that choice in this movie. but I always sorta feel like the funniness is that– especially in LA. some people have these big jobs but maybe.. don’t always know too much- so i think it’s a funnier choice. Some people want that incredible experience- but they don’t really know anything. They don’t know the particulars.

A lot of people in America have the money do this kind of thing even though they don’t care about it- they just want to do it. Like (someone says) “We went to the Galapagos (islands)” And you’re like, “What did you see!?”

“All kinds of things- things with fins. They had like, things that came out.”

“What kind of species?”

“Reptiles and like, amphibians, and some fish..”

but they don’t ever get specific. I thought that was a better choice. But some day I’m going to have to play someone smart in a movie and I’ll have to actually know what’s going on.

JJ: Don’t get fooled by Jennifer. She may play the person who is not supposed to be smart but she’s the sharpest & one of the most intelligent actresses i’ve ever worked with! You’ve gotta be really really sharp & clever to play not clever realistically

Keri: and she’s a great improviser too

Question: I understand that you were staying close to script, Keri, but everyone else was improvising. Was it difficult to play off of that with everyone throwing other things in & I imagine on set everyone had their owns emotions and past..

Jennifer: they all improvised!

Keri: no luckily, I got to be the straight man (and stick to script)

JJ: The only line I threw in was to Bret (McKenzie) saying “Couldn’t you get a job in The Hobbit?” Which no one found funny on the day at all and I’ve never done a pure comedy & I thought “Oh god I’m sinking here” and no one found anything i did funny and that lines got a laugh. I feel like I’ve won an award. I’ve joined the comedy gang.

Question: Mr Nobley is a wonderful counter to the fantasy of Austenland, and he seems to have this serious nature to him, yet he’s the only one at the pool who keeps the same outfit on as in the fantasy. Can you talk about that?

JJ: Why I didn’t pull out my 6 pack at the swimming pool? Well no one is going to upstage Ricky Whittle’s zero body fat, so i think it would be foolish to try to attempt to!

Um… we’d be okay with seeing that..

Go see Austenland in a city near you. No really, we think you’ll like it!

*I didn’t call her Felicity. But I wanted to!