Last June I was invited by Universal Studios, along with a few other online journalists, to visit the set of their “Land of the Lost” movie while it was still in production. As I wrote in my set report, I was able to see the soundstage they were working on that day, as well as interview almost everyone involved in the production. The interview you’re about to read is with Anna Friel and she plays a research assistant in the movie.
For fans of “Pushing Daisies”, know this interview was recorded literally right before she was about to start on season two, so when she talks about the show, it’s from awhile ago.
Anyway, during the interview she talks about who she play’s in the movie, what filming has been like, what the improv process has been like for her, and a lot more.
For those that aren’t familiar with “Land of the Lost”, here’s the synopsis and trailer to get you ready for the interview.
The film is based on the original classic television series created by Sid & Marty Krofft. The remake stars Will Ferrell as Dr. Rick Marshall, Danny McBride as a redneck survivalist, Anna Friel as a crack-smart research assistant, and Jorma Taccone as Chaka! Here’s the synopsis and trailer in case you missed it:
Will Ferrell stars as has-been scientist Dr. Rick Marshall, sucked into one and spat back through time. Way back. Now, Marshall has no weapons, few skills and questionable smarts to survive in an alternate universe full of marauding dinosaurs and fantastic creatures from beyond our world—a place of spectacular sights and super-scaled comedy known as the Land of the Lost.
Sucked alongside him for the adventure are crack-smart research assistant Holly (Anna Friel) and a redneck survivalist (Danny McBride) named Will. Chased by T. rex and stalked by painfully slow reptiles known as Sleestaks, Marshall, Will and Holly must rely on their only ally—a primate called Chaka (Jorma Taccone)—to navigate out of the hybrid dimension. Escape from this routine expedition gone awry and they’re heroes. Get stuck, and they’ll be permanent refugees in the Land of the Lost.
Finally, here are links to some other “Land of the Lost” set visit interviews: Danny McBride, Will Ferrell, and Sid and Marty Krofft – the producers and creators of the show. And if you’d like to listen to this interview,
Question: You’re OCD about the recorders?
AF: I’ve owned probably about 10 of these because I like to do it to learn my lines and everything. Now we should all be using the iPod one. Have you not seen the microphone on the iPod. I think they look better, good.
You’re judging the quality of the reporting by it?
AF: Yeah, absolutely. I’m like that just won’t do. I think I’ve probably owned each and every single one of them.
What’s the story behind the crystal?
AF: Oh, that’s a massive key. If I tell you about that, that’s the key to the movie. It’s actually given as a gift to Holly from Marshall and she thinks, “Oh, that’s really lovely” because he could only get in the cave if he bought something and hands it to her very flippantly. But it ends up, if you watch the original series, the crystals in Land of the Lost become quite relevant. It’s something to do with the pylon and they hold the key to getting us home.
Your Holly is different from the show.
Who is she?
AF: If you’re going to turn a TV series into a movie, you’ve got to make sure it has all those elements and they’re going to keep it interesting. I think they wanted to have some kind of a love story involved and incest wouldn’t go down quite well in a PG-13. So no, she’s 14, I’m 31. She’s American, I’m English. I wear braids and we do have the plaid shirt and the cords. We have the old cords which are exactly the same in the beginning but as the movie goes, the cords disappear and the legs start to show because she’s 31 now, so I think she’s allowed to do it.
How does it feel to wear day in day out?
AF: I was thinking that I’d get pretty bored of it but to be honest, first of all I feel quite naked, when you’re with two other men and all of a sudden okay, I have nothing to hide behind, nothing to cover, no accent to disguise. So it’s quite vulnerable making but then the idea of not having to go and put all the big fluffy dresses on is kind of nice. It doesn’t set you aside from the men. I can kind of be one of the boys and not have to be fussing with lashes and hair all the time. Same with costume.
When did you first come to the project?
AF: I’m on a show called Pushing Daisies and I’m the only person I think that I know of where the strike actually helped me, because it gave me the ability and the chance to be able to do this. They talked about me for a while but said, “Obviously we can’t have Anna.” And I knew Avy Kaufman, the casting director, and they said, “No, don’t be silly. She’s on the TV show.” Then when the strike happened, Brad said, “Actually, can we get Anna? Maybe we can do it.” It was really difficult because none of us could work and none of us were being paid. Brad said, “Well, just come and meet me” and I did. He said, “Have you heard about Land of the Lost?” I was like no. I didn’t think we had it in England but then I found out that on Saturday mornings we did at some stage but I never got to see it. It didn’t become a big hit as it did here. And he said, “I’m going to give you the script” and I said, “Well, should I go and watch the TV show?” He said, “No, no, no, because it’s different. You’ll go away thinking you have to go and dye your hair blonde and be 14 when you’re not. It’s changing a lot.” So we talked about things and I went away with my script. I’d gone skiing over Christmas and they called saying Will wants to audition with you. So I came back and went to Brad’s offices and auditioned with Will. One of the scenes that I’m actually going to do this afternoon is one of the ones I had to audition.
AF: Well, it’s three. One was shouting at the dinosaur at the end, Grumpy. Another one was, Holly’s a great translator and speaks fluent Pecune? Language so she’s the only one who can actually understand Jacko. She’s like, “Right, what he’s saying is that he really loves to rape apples, basically.” She gets it wrong but gets better as she’s going. I’m kind of playing everything really straight. I’m not playing for the comedy because when you’re working with Will and Danny who are just brilliant and go off on all these improvisations, I’m trying to give them as much of just a straight Holly who’s been to Cambridge and thinks Marshall’s absolutely brilliant even though he makes the wrong decision and he’s a big of an idiot sometimes. She thinks, well, he did get us back to Land of the Lost so I think there’s a lurking genius somewhere hidden and it’s just all his eccentricities that make him behave so strangely.
How hard is it to stay straight?
AF: It is quite hard but then the thing is, you realize how serious because they manage to stay straight faced most of the time. If Will goes, then you just forget about it. We were all just like, there was this one scene where he has to do this dance through hatching dinosaur eggs along to the chorus line. He literally sets off, we hadn’t seen it before, because he’d been doing all his coverage and we’d come back and it was on Danny and me and Jorma. He just did this silly dance. We all just went mmmm. Yoga breathing helps I find. I pull in certain private female muscles quite a lot. I bite the inside of my cheek. Just kind of various things because if you then crack up, everyone goes around going… “Anna….” So you don’t but there’s a lot of times I really, really wanted to laugh. He hit me in the eye with a stone the other day and they all couldn’t stop laughing at that. Thankfully, it was a sponge one. It was made out of sponge but it still got in my eye and we had to keep going. They found that hilarious.
Any similarity to Daisies, playing the fantasy straight?
AF: Well there is for my daughter. She came in yesterday. She comes in all the time because she comes to the land of Daisies and I kind of measure what I’m doing from her reactions because it must be like us going onto the set of Wizard of Oz or something. A guy in the park had asked our nanny, “Where’s your mom? What’s she doing?” She goes, “Well, mommy’s in a cage and she’s getting dinosaur eggs and the Sleestak’s trying to hug her.” The man was like, “Oh, okay. Child’s a little bit mental.” I’m like, it is. On Monday I start back on Daisies so I had my first American accent lesson again because I stay in my accent all the time and they all threatened to come and see me and I just wouldn’t be able to. I think they’d think I’m such a wanker if I was like, [American] “Hi Will, hi Danny, good?” So I start doing both on Monday. I think the two characters couldn’t be more different. Chuck’s like this and Holly’s much tougher. She doesn’t take any bullshit. She’s not as forgiving and sweet as Chuck.
Do you have any fight scenes?
AF: Yeah, loads of fight scenes. So that’s really important and then this here, this belt becomes incredibly crucial to the part as well. I had to become quite a good master with the belts so I did lots of use it like a whip and kill lots of Sleestaks. That’s a Sleestak scar. Holly always gets beaten up. I had to learn a double head butt to knock the Sleestaks out and a bit of kickboxing. But the most major thing is with the belt.
So you’re not the whiny please save me?
AF: No, no, they’ve all gone away and she’s like okay, what are we going to do about it? Which I think makes it a bit more interesting. They realized a lot, they had obviously so many discussions with people who are very, very loyal to the show and don’t want to see it change so Brad has kept, you’ve seen, have you been on the set yet? You’ve seen the Sleestak? They do look very true to the story like a puppet and you can see the zips on the Sleestak costumes. And there’s elements like with Will, because now Will is no longer my brother, Will, the character played by Danny. We still kind of tit for tat and it’s always a bit arguing and always just make constant British jokes which is incredibly insulting. “One more brown eye.” All right, another British joke, and takes the piss out of me quite a lot of the time. So we have that relationship.
Are you enjoying playing one character on Daisies?
AF: That’s very understandable for you to say. Here, I get in between each setup, I’ve got about two hours, so you’ve got downtime. So right now every time I go into my trailer, I’m learning all my lines because the biggest thing is if you’ve seen the show, the dialogue is so rich and dense. It’s so thick and wordy that you’ve not got an awful lot of time to learn it. So I’d say that takes a thing. The other thing is 17 hours a day. I went back and they’ve added all these new sets. There’s a big convent and I think, because we made those nine, it’s going to be a touch more smoother this time. It’s always sad. You become a real tight family and I’ve never heard so many crew members on this movie all saying that they’re really going to be sad for this to finish because there’s been no drama, there’s been no tears. It’s just been a really wonderfully happy set to be on and I think they’ve captured that. We do just laugh all the time whereas with Daisies, I’ve got my other family which is completely and utterly different. And I stay in my accent all day so that’s kind of hard work but yesterday I put my big Chuck lashes on, I had a big costume fitting and all my beautiful dresses and I felt really good and I go, “Oh, there she is. It’s fine.” I’ve got three weeks now with not a single day off so I’m going to be a little bit tired.
You’re doing both the movie and the show?
AF: Yeah, in order so I could do this job, there was a big massive negotiations that went on with Warner Brothers and Universal of who owned me. They were going, “Well, you can’t have her ‘til June” because they didn’t know when they’re going to be starting back. So we had a two week crossover period, so my last day on this is the 26th but I start work Saturday on this. Actually, I lied. I’ve got Sunday off, then Monday, Tuesday Daisies, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday this, Monday, Tuesday Daisies, Wednesday Thursday this, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Daisies.
Are you working hard.
AF: Particularly, if it was a 12 hour day like a regular normal job, it’s fine but when it gets to 17 hours and particularly when you’ve got all the earnest is up, you’ve got to still look pretty. You show me any girl, you can be as healthy as you want, you’re coming in with your bags and your puffy eyes, can we make that light just a little bit brighter? Pull it towards me please. But there’s nothing I can do about it, so I can either just knuckle down and get it done and think everything passes and comes to an end as will this. My next break’s Christmas so it’s a little bit sick that they’re all going planning their lovely vacations and where they’re going.
Have you seen the show since getting the part?
AF: Of course Marty Krofft is here every single day, every day. He made sure I had the box set and made sure that Gracie had the box set and we have it in my trailer so she now looks and she will actually ask for it. She says, “I want to watch Land of the Lost.” And what was the other one, Pufnstuf? I really like that and Banana Splits. We had Banana Splits in England so that took me back to childhood.
What’s it like being the only woman on set?
AF: F*cking fantastic. No, it’s nice because the main thing is not just being the only girl, but because it’s only a cast of three and obviously Checker so it means we’re all in every scene together every day so I’ve just made brilliant, brilliant friends. I don’t know about being the only girl. I think I’ve just had to make myself a little bit more boysy because you get into those jokes. I didn’t know I was the first to fart. The boys’ll probably tell you. It was like that ketchup, I’ve never been so red in all my life. That’s a nice note to end on.