Who says all is fair in love and Rome? Kristen Bell stars in director Mark Steven Johnson’s new romcom, When in Rome, as an ambitious young New Yorker disillusioned with romance. On a whirlwind trip to Rome to attend her sister’s wedding and after one too many glasses of champagne, she ends up wading through a fountain of love, gathering coins left there by people who wished for love.
Funny men Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Dax Shepard and Danny Devito play a street magician, an adoring painter, a narcissistic model, and a sausage magnate who chase after her heart when their passion is inexplicably ignited by her gesture. But when a charming reporter (Josh Duhamel) shows up to compete for her romantic attention, she starts to wonder if his love might just be the real thing.
We sat down with Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel to talk about their new movie, When in Rome. After the jump you can read what they had to tell us about their characters, the perils of physical comedy, and how they went about capturing the right rhythm for a romantic relationship. Kristen also updated us on the status of Veronica Mars:
Q: Kristen, I’m wondering if you’re as much of a workaholic as your character? If you met a guy, would he have to be as important to you as your job as an actress?
Kristen Bell: I think your significant other should be way more important than your work. Personally, I love working. I don’t know that I’d say I’m a workaholic because I also love maxing and relaxing. (Laughs) So, I don’t think I’m a workaholic, but currently I feel I’m at a really lovely place and I’m grateful to be where I am so I like working too.
Q: Your character doesn’t believe in magic or superstitions. What about yourself?
KB: I’m not very superstitious at all. I never have been. No, not at all. I’ll walk under ladders. Who cares?
Josh Duhamel: One of her hobbies is breaking mirrors, in fact.
KB: In fact. Absolutely. I like to smash mirrors any chance I get. No, I’m not superstitious at all.
Q: Kristen, when you were promoting Astro Boy a few months ago you seemed very grateful for the opportunity to be able to carry this particular film. How was the experience for you of kind of being the comedic trip person to all the other characters?
KB: Well, I mean, first of all, being surrounded by these guys is so flattering because they all have a style of comedy that I – just plug your ears — really envy and laugh out loud often at them. I think, I don’t know, I was grateful for the opportunity. I’m glad that they had the faith in me to be able to pull it off and I just tried to do the best I could.
Q: Josh, you had the opportunity in this to exercise the physical comedy muscle that we haven’t often seen you do with the pratfalls and walking into things and whatever. How about getting the opportunity to do that? Is that fun or do you worry about hurting yourself?
JD: Mark worried about me hurting myself more than I did.
KB: We took out a huge policy on his face before we started this movie. A huge policy.
JD: Mark and I, if we had any arguments in this film, it was for that. Let me just explain the situation. There was a scene where I was supposed to run and run into this car. But the stunt coordinator had it set up where the car was going to sweep out my leg and I was going to roll under the front of the hood and roll up onto the windshield and look in and see that it was my friend, Puck. It wasn’t the most well conceived stunt ever performed but it took us a few times. I’m running at this car and the first two times we did it, I literally went right over the top of the car and one time fell on my shoulder, on my neck. Remember? And then another time I fell some other way over the other edge of the car. They almost pulled the plug on the stunt but I talked him into letting me do it one more time because I’d figured it out, and when we did it right, we literally took out the windshield on the front of the car. But to answer your question, no, this was more in line with the way I am anyway. I’m more of a klutz than I am anything so I just had a lot of fun coming up with as much stuff as we could in this movie.
Q: Kristen and Josh, can you talk about playing romantic comedies and how you build that sort of relationship slowly enough that it pays off in the end for the audience? Could you just talk about that rhythm of romantic comedy?
KB: It’s definitely a difficult thing to capture and I mean, I’ve seen a ton of movies where I’ve believed the couple and I’ve seen a ton of movies where I have not believed them at all. Unfortunately, as an audience member, you check out if you don’t believe them. So we knew it was really important and I think that’s something you trust your director to bring as well and just sort of capture those moments. But Josh and I got along so well right from the very beginning that I think it was just natural that it read as romantic chemistry because we got along very well in real life and I think that, I don’t know, it’s kind of a crap shoot. You just have to hope for the best because you really don’t know until you’re in the editing booth and he figures out whether or not we captured it. What I liked about this is that it’s not the girl chasing the guy which you so often see, like the sad, downtrodden girl who is just chasing after the guy all the time and sort of revolving around his world. This was sort of the opposite. I mean, who wouldn’t want all of these guys chasing after them so I was like, okay, I’ll do it.
JD: For this, it was…I think for Kristen and I, because we had to start out so quick and fall in love so quick in order in a way to propel the movie through. We had to really make those first couple scenes work – at the wedding and the stuff afterwards, you know, when we get back to New York. Otherwise, it would have felt like there was nothing there to begin with so what’s she really chasing after? So we really focused on that wedding scene and trying to establish as much of a love at first sight thing as we could so that when she got back to New York and all these guys were chasing after her, it would make some sense.
KB: And the other thing I will say is that, and I don’t know if this was strategic on Mark’s part, but we shot that wedding scene very, very late in the game. And so we had already established a friendship and so it was much easier to connect immediately and we knew each other’s rhythms and we knew how we were going to play it and so our first meeting was actually the end of the movie. I think the way in which you shoot it is really beneficial to your actors sometimes, so we lucked out there.
Q: What was the atmosphere like on the set?
JD: Very serious.
KB: Loud, I’m going to say loud.
JD: Picture the set of The Wire and multiply it.
KB: Malarkey here and there.
Q: Could you talk about any on set bloopers?
JD: There will be something coming out on the internet in a couple days that was…
KB: (Laughs) Well I’m trying to think of specific bloopers. But yeah, that little clippie will come out. Just watch for it. Who cares? Were there bloopers? Did we make mistakes? I don’t think I did.
JD: There were no mistakes in this movie.
KB: There was a lot of laughing off camera. There was a lot of ruining other people’s shots because we were laughing.
Q: Were they any specifically funny moments?
KB: I’m trying to think.
JD: I mean, any blooper you see was pretty much left…
KB: …in the movie.
JD: …in the movie. (Laughs)
Q: Kristen, is it true there’s going to be a Veronica Mars movie?
KB: Not as of yet. I’ve answered this question a lot and the way it stands right now, from the information that I have, is that Rob Thomas wrote the script or the treatment or the synopsis or whatever, and we brought it to Warner Bros. and Joel Silver and Warner Bros. had said there’s no enthusiasm to make a Veronica Mars movie at this point, which means they don’t think they can sell tickets. I think that the Veronica Mars fans would say otherwise but…
JD: I’d be there.
KB: Thanks, Josh.
JD: It’s all a matter of convincing them that people would see it, which I know some of the online groups that are still so dedicated are trying to do, which is awesome, but at this point we have no control because… One day Rob and I will just shoot it in his backyard. I’m positive of that.
Q: Kristen, there are a lot of fun and games on the set obviously, but do you subscribe to the adage that you’ve got to play the character with the utmost seriousness when you’re doing the comic scene?
KB: Yes and no. You have to be the character but lucky for me the character was written fairly klutzy. I mean, people embarrass themselves on a daily basis. I know I do. And this character did a lot which I think is what makes her likeable and also leaves room for a lot of funnies. That vase breaking scene allowed me to get really physical, which sometimes when you see people getting physical, it’s just very funny. I’m very klutzy in real life to begin with and we just captured that on film. Basically there wasn’t much training or stunt coordinating going on. I would just trip. Mark would happen to be rolling the camera and we would put it in the movie.
Q: Would you say you constantly fall over things in real life?
KB: There’s a fair amount of that, yes. I also bruise like a peach. So yeah, I knock into things and I’m not the most coordinated person in the world.
Q: How was your experience in Italy?
JD: I loved it. I mean, the only thing was it was just so hot. We were in the middle of a heat wave when we were shooting the stuff in Rome.
KB: And Italy has not discovered air conditioning. Yeah, that was different for us because we were so spoiled with every room being air conditioned.
JD: But, for myself, I got to study a lot of art history in school, in college, and it was always a dream of mine to go to Rome and see some of the things there. So that, to me, was the best part of it. I had a day off when we were there. I remember I rented a Vespa and just went out and didn’t know where I was going and got to see a bunch of the sights in Rome. I still can’t believe that I had the balls to do it because there’s nine million Vespas running around and cars and not knowing where I was going. So it was a great day.
Q: Kristen, in the movie you picked Josh, the good-looking ex-jock, but in real life, out of all these characters, which one would you have picked?
KB: I’d still pick Josh. (Laughs)
Q: But character-wise, would it be the funny guy or the artist or the magician…?
KB: Oh gosh. I’d still pick the funny guy.
Q: Which one’s that?
When in Rome opens in theaters on January 29th.