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November 19, 2012

Mann on Fire

Hollywood's most reliable funny girl, Leslie Mann, finally takes the spotlight in This is 40, an uproarious send-up of marriage and motherhood. (Guess whose life it's based on?)


Photo Credit: James White

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When she started her career nearly 20 years ago, Mann didn't necessarily envision herself as a comic actress or muse. "I didn't think, I want to do dramas or I want to do comedies — I wasn't clear in that way," she says. "I remember going out on more dramatic auditions, and people were laughing at me. And over the course of a year and a bunch of auditions, I kind of wound up here." in her first significant role, Mann was cast as Matthew Broderick's girlfriend in the big-budget Jim Carrey vehicle The Cable Guy, produced by Apatow. The pair met on set — Apatow has described it as love at first sight — and married two years later. After The Cable Guy, Mann enrolled at The Groundlings, the L.A.-based comedy school and theater that has turned out the likes of Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, and Maya Rudolph. It didn't go so well. "I did the first class and I passed. I did the second class and I was held back. I did the second class again. And I didn't like the teacher. She was a woman — and she was such a bitch. That is the perfect example of a woman not helping another woman," says Mann, who adds that for years she didn't really have any actress friends. "Maybe because you are just so busy working, and it is very competitive . . . I mean, now it seems that there is a new movement where girls are kind of willing to help one another."

She left The Groundlings but continued to rack up film credits, including George of the Jungle, Ed Burns' She's the One, and Adam Sandler's Big Daddy, but most of the scripts she was getting lacked strong female characters. "Back then the parts for younger women were just not good at all. As you get older, maybe they get a little bit better, but it's slim pickings out there, and Judd saw how awful the female parts were and how I struggled," Mann says. It wasn't until she took on the role of Debbie, the hilarious older sister in Knocked Up, that the critics started to take real notice. "It's so nice to be able to have a say in things and Judd being open to collaborating because I'm very helpful in that area. And that's why working with him is so great, because I get to have a say in things where normally I wouldn't."

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