An ideal working partner for Alison Brie? Of course, Quentin Tarantino
The new movie Spin Me Round’s creator and actor also has their perfect co-star in mind.
The fact that Alison Brie, the actor most known for her roles as Annie Edison in Community, Trudy Campbell in Mad Men, and Ruth Wilder in GLOW, is equally skilled at writing such brilliant characters as she is at portraying them, shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, the highly improvised page-to-screen approach in her feature script debut, Horse Girl—a psychologically intense independent horror film that also had moviegoers wondering, “Oh, dammit, is Alison Brie okay?”—was influenced by her acting abilities. The sequel to Brie and writer-director Jeff Baena’s Eat, Pray, Love, Spin Me Round, maintains that inner nuance while rediscovering the freewheeling comedy for which she and co-stars Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, and Aubrey Plaza are best known. Brie straddles the line between realism and plain insanity as a restaurant chain manager whose all-expenses-paid business retreat to Italy goes more than a little awry—particularly under the guidance of company founder Nick (played by Alessandro Nivola). According to the writer-star, real-life male persuaders served as inspiration for her Nick character.
The A.V. Club: While asking what a movie is “about” might be oversimplified, because Spin Me Round crosses so many genres and does so much, I have to ask Alison Brie: What would you say your movie is about?
Alicia Brie I enjoy stripping a tale down to its bare essentials in the same way! In the movie Spin Me Round, a woman travels. She anticipates having the trip of a lifetime and finding love, but things quickly spiral out of control. Not everything goes as planned. All I have to say about it is that.
AVC: This movie contains a lot of absurd-yet-realistic scenarios. In comparison to acting, how much spontaneity was there in the writing? It’s correct to say that Horse Girl and your earlier projects with Jeff Baena were more impromptu.
Yes, unlike all the other projects I’ve worked on with Jeff, we really authored the entire script for this one, including all the dialogue. But there was undoubtedly some improvising on set with a group this talented, especially with Molly Shannon. Her persona is really entertaining, and talk about going off the rails. We just let her do her thing because she had so many different things to play with, which was fantastic.
AVC: Did you have these actors in mind when you wrote?
AB: Molly and Aubrey, who are sort of “Jeff Baena players,” without a doubt. Four out of Jeff’s five films have featured Molly, Aubrey, and me, and Fred Armisen also frequently appears in Jeff’s productions. The remainder of the cast, however, was something else entirely. After casting the majority of the performers, we went back and more closely matched the roles to the actors we had chosen.
AVC: So throughout filming, improv wasn’t used as much?
AB: You’re right. We were a little pressed for time, as with many independent films. Therefore, it was generally simpler to follow the script. However, there’s a terrific sequence where Zach Woods and Ben Sinclair get into a bit of a scuffle in which some improv was undoubtedly used. Just letting the content breathe is always a great thing to do. When you have such a brilliant cast—and these performers are all incredibly skilled in improv, comedy, and drama—letting them approach it from all angles and let free a little bit delivers so much, in my opinion. We receive a lot back. Each take was rather distinctive.
AVC: How often do you laugh out of character while watching your entertaining co-stars?
AB: Never me. I must admit that I am one of those people who rarely breaks. And I believe that with this production it was especially crucial for me to maintain my composure since my character is the one who is sort of taking in all of this bizarre behaviour while kind of observing it. Not that she is the audience, but I believe that they perceive things a little more clearly than she does and from a different perspective. She is somewhat naive. But as a co-writer on the project, I discovered that keeping it real would keep things grounded as we observed all of these very eccentric folks.
AVC: Do you have a favourite movie that served as an influence for your own cinematic work? What about a perfect partner who you would adore working with?
The American President, which was directed by Rob Reiner and starred Annette Bening and Michael Douglas, is my favourite film. Simply put, it’s my all-time favourite movie. I mean, working with Annette Bening would be amazing. However, it would be impossible to settle on just one director or collaborator. For example, I might mention [Quentin] Tarantino. In your lifetime, wouldn’t it be enjoyable to collaborate with him? But that seems far-fetched. [Laughs]