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April 11, 2013

Elizabeth Banks: A Player Is Born

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Photo Credit: Jenny Gage and Tom Betterton

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Maintaining control has been a pervasive theme throughout Banks' career. Early on, she passed on opportunities that might have paid short-term dividends but weren't appealing in the long run. "I was offered a two-year contract on a soap opera right after I graduated," she tells me. "It would have paid off all of my student loans, and it was in New York where I wanted to live. I didn't even have an agent at the time, but I signed with a guy who said to me, 'You got a soap opera on your first day, let's see what else you can get.'"

She landed a number of small roles in impressive films like Spider-ManCatch Me if You Can, and Seabiscuit. But Banks is, undoubtedly, best known for her comedy. She was hilarious as the kinky bookstore clerk in Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin and matched wits with Seth Rogen in Kevin Smith's raunchy Zack and Miri Make a Porno. "I try not to repeat myself too often," she says with characteristic frankness of her film choices. "But it's a gamble. Fred Claus had three Oscar winners in it. No business—it was a bad movie. So people ask, 'How do you plan it?' Nobody is planning anything. People make decisions on where they are right then. Sometimes you make a decision because the character just speaks to you in a way. Sometimes you make a decision because you're like, 'I'd like to buy a ski house,' you know?"

Over the course of lunch, Banks discreetly checks her watch at least three times. She's expected at a TV development meeting later, and it's obvious she's itching to get going. The next day, she's scheduled to shoot a scene for Walk of Shame and agrees to let me tag along. It's unusually chilly when she arrives at 5:30 a.m. for hair and makeup. Afterward, she'll spend 90 minutes running the same 240-foot stretch of Forman Avenue in a barely-there yellow dress and heels, trying to perfect a shot that will run maybe 10 seconds in the movie. But Banks doesn't complain. She's nothing if not a pro. Intent on getting her character's frantic and disheveled gait right, she spends a good part of that morning hunkered down in front of the monitor, watching replays of previous cuts and powwowing with the director. Once it's done and the director yells, 'It's a wrap!' Banks hurries off set, a woman with no time to spare and somewhere to be.


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