Last October, I went to the set of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s new Vacation. The movie follows Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) rounding up his reluctant wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and their two kids (Steele Stebbins and Skyler Gisondo) to take them on a trip to Walley World. Like in the original vacation, the hapless family runs into a series of comic misadventures, although they’ll be unique to this latest chapter in the Vacation series.
During my set visit, a couple other journalists and I got to interview Christina Applegate about the movie. We talked about her character, why someone would marry into the Griswolds, Debbie’s relationship with in-laws Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), alternate takes, and more.
Check out the full interview below. Vacation opens July 31st, and also stars Leslie Mann, Charlie Day, and Chris Hemsworth.
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: There are some things I can’t say about the movie, but we know that Debbie is not who we think she is at the beginning, and she married him for stability and kindness and goodness and all the things to save her from a whole other life. I wanted to make sure the Debbie, as written she’s kind of a “movie mom” and she’s there, but I’m a modern mom in 2014 so I pulled a lot from all the moms that I’m around all the time in attitude, behavior, outlook on life, and a myriad of other things. So she’s a bit tougher than most movie moms.
We know that Rusty has some of Clarke’s DNA in him, so I was wondering how your character compares to Beverly D’Angelo’s character.
APPLEGATE: Very different, in fact I didn’t even go and watch the movie again before we started because I didn’t want to try and emulate anything form that in any way, shape, or form, because we’re not doing that movie. That movie stands on its own, and this one should stand on its own as well, and this is the 2014 kind of attitudes and behaviors and generation, so I didn’t want to be influenced in any way or subconsciously take anything from Beverly’s wonderful portrayal of Ellen Griswold.
This being a Vacation movie of course there are going to be trials and tribulations along the way, how does she deal with this stuff when these situations come up?
APPLEGATE: She packs a lot of it in, packs it all down until she can’t pack it anymore. She’s sort of resigned to the fact that this is what this vacation is about and she’s pretty good at keeping it together, especially when you have kids you don’t want to be part of the peanut gallery. You want to encourage everyone to ‘Alright let’s dust ourselves off, pull up our bootstraps and move on,’ but finally it gets to the point where there’s just been so many horrible things that have happened to them that she kind of loses it too and says ‘We can’t deal with this, nothing is okay anymore.’
Because this is an R-rated film…
APPLEGATE: Very much.
…and since it’s clear you guys are doing a lot of alternates, do you feel like you have more creative freedom in what to do with your character in the comedy?
APPLEGATE: Yeah, I have a couple of scenes that I get to play around, most of it is we get to support Ed in his journey or Rusty in his journey. That’s kind of what we’re doing, I get to be supportive, but I do have a couple of scenes that we got to play around in.
And you’re no stranger to acting that way in comedy films, with the Anchorman movies, and filming the sequel down here as well, is that something that you’re less playing into with this movie?
APPLEGATE: With improv and what not? I’m a big believer that you shouldn’t improv everything, I think that structure of script is really important. I think when you find those moments, you can have them, but I find that for me I like to keep it until it’s appropriate, and we’ve had a couple of appropriate moments where we’ve been able to do that. They alt a lot of with Ed and write for his journey, because he’s on a journey.
We’ve heard the kids have an interesting dynamic here as far as the bully and who is the bullied.
APPLEGATE: The bully is the eleven-year-old.
Talk about that and what the parents make of these kids.
APPLEGATE: Y’know, this has been going on for a long time, you never want to play like surprise to if your kids have been doing this in the movie reality spectrum. They’ve been dealing with this for a long time now. I think it’s almost by rote that they say ‘Kevin stop doing that, Kevin stop doing that.’ and they know he’s not going to stop doing that, and they’ve resigned to the fact that they don’t know what to do with it anymore. The beauty of it is that by releasing that hold on trying to change their kids, the kids end up changing themselves over the journey of this vacation.
What is your character’s relationship like with Clark and Ellen as sort-of the outsider to this family? Do they accept you or what’s that like?
APPLEGATE: They’re very accepting. I believe that Debbie and Ellen are very close and have had some wine conversation, but she’s a bit intimidated by Clark and is a little afraid of him. Not because he’s mean or anything, but she just doesn’t know where she fits in in that world. (Laughs) The dynamic just set itself up when we got there, it just felt that way, like Ellen and Debbie were really comrades and really loved each other, and then there is Clark who lives in his own planet and we orbit that.