The first thing that strikes you about Keri Russell when you meet her is that, although her birth cert might say March 23 1976, the woman looks about 18. The fact that she — along with hubby, carpenter Sean Deary — is the proud mum of one-and-a-half-year-old River Russell Deary is hard to believe.
Keri Russell looks like the au pair. And, as she settles into her Dorchester hotel room chair, I tell her so.
“Aah, that’s very nice of you to say,” she smiles.
Having broken through with the 1998 sitcom Felicity, California girl Keri Russell took the surprising step when that show ended in 2002 of enjoying a two-year sabbatical from all things Hollywood by moving to New York to “lead a normal life”.
She made her comeback in The Upside Of Anger (2005), went pure Hollywood for Mission: Impossible III, and last year Russell let everyone know she could really act when she took on the lead role in Waitress, and got all sentimental and cuddly in Kirsten Sheridan’s August Rush alongside the creepy Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
And now Russell steps into the family film blockbuster arena with Disney’s Bedtime Stories, led by cinema’s favourite blue-collar, below-deck diamond geezer, Adam Sandler.
PAUL BYRNE: So, what grabbed you here, Keri? Disney, Sandler, the idea of your first out-and-out comedy?
KERI RUSSELL: Well, Adam called me, and I was very pregnant at the time, and he said, “I have a kid, and you’re about to have a kid, and I want to make a movie that our kids can watch, so, I think you should come do this movie with me. It would be fun.” And I said, “Okay.” It was literally that easy. The previous two jobs that I had done were quite serious. And I live in New York, it was winter, and I thought, “California? Babies barefoot on the grass? Yes, I think that sounds like a good job.”
That’s how Michael Caine spent much of his career — choosing films purely based on the location. . .
Me too [laughs].
This is your first all-out, belly-laughs comedy. They say comedy is the toughest genre of all for an actor — is that true?
It is. I just kinda tried to keep my head above water with Sandler, and tried not to mess up his scenes by laughing too hard. He’s so good at what he does, and I think that is what’s so great about this film. It’s everything that Disney does so well, but then there’s the Sandler element added to it. So, it makes for, I feel, a more modern version of what Disney does. I just saw the film a couple of nights ago with an audience full of kids, and it was so fun. I have to say that I’m so pleased with it. It’s hard, sometimes, to watch a film that you’re in, but, I just think, this turned out so well. Better than I thought it could have.
Sandler’s approach is to let the cameras roll as they improvise — that’s got to be tough, not being the one who laughs out loud and ruins a spontaneous gag?
It’s so difficult to not laugh. And then you throw Russell Brand in the mix — the two of them together, and, gosh, it was great.
Taking that two-year break from Hollywood when Felicity ended must have been important for you. . .
Yeah. For me, it was just survival. Doing 84 episodes of a series is such a grind, and I just needed a break, I needed to be a kid. And it did, it saved me. I’m so glad I did it. I just needed to care about what I was doing again. I took the time out, went out dancing with my girlfriends, and read books all day, and did kid stuff.
You shot Mad About Mambo in Ireland back in 1999 — I’m guessing you haven’t made it back, have you, given how busy you’ve been of late?
I’ve been back many times.
I knew it. Any favourite spots?
I really love Dingle, is it? I love the Wicklow Mountains. I’ve been back so many times.
Like me, you’re an incredibly attractive person. . .
Does the media side of this life ever infringe upon your everyday life?
I don’t look at them. You’d drive yourself crazy. I think it’s better to avoid, avoid, and not read. Besides, I’m a mum now, and, as you know, we’re not supposed to be sexy. . .
Bedtime Stories opens on December 26