Anna Faris lies on an interesting area of the spectrum of leading ladies in Hollywood: never the center of attention, yet still playing characters of such naïve goodness that each inevitably etch themselves comically and pleasantly into one’s mind.
“The Dictator,” her newest feature, is a perfect example of this subtlety. Sacha Baron Cohen attracts so much attention that it seems likely theater-goers will find themselves happily surprised when Faris walks onto the screen without her noticeable blonde locks, but maintaining her familiar goofy smile.
In a recent conference call, Faris was as delightful as many of her portrayals — charming, humorously self-deprecating and quick to laugh. A common topic was her upcoming movie and its controversial nature, something that didn’t worry Faris too much.
“I feel like I’ve been a part of so many offensive comedies, that I’m a little numb to it,” Faris said. “Myself, I don’t think I ever really get offended, but I always, every time I take a role, I start worrying about my mom and what she’s going to think because she’s pretty conservative. And she always wants me to play like Amelia Earhart or something … And I’m like, ‘oh, is this the kind of thing that I have to tell her to avoid or not?’ ”
While the film is offensive, it is timely as well. Kim Jong-il and Muammar Gaddafi are dead, and the Arab Spring has directed the world’s eyes toward dictatorships in the Middle East — for this film, the moment couldn’t be more perfect.
“I think for our writers, it was all very exciting,” Faris said. “We all knew it was timely to begin with, but then, with (Arab) Spring, it just made everything seem so appropriate.
“They all worked really hard at making everything very timely. We adjusted a lot of our jokes as the events were sort of unfolding. It’ll be very interesting to see how America responds, and then, sort of how the international community responds to the movie.”
She also talked of a scary risk that came from working with Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen told her that some terrorists had made threats on him for his previous films, “Borat” and “Bruno.”
“It occurred to me, like, oh, wait a minute, this could potentially be a kind of a dangerous project to be a part of. But anyway, so far, I’m still here,” she said.
Thankfully, Faris’s main difficulty during shooting wasn’t the looming fear of terrorist attacks: her true challenge came from parodying a liberal, extreme feminist in the truest way, which meant growing out her armpit hair. While it would’ve been possible to glue some hair on, in classic form, she decided to grow it herself.
“I was like, no, no, no, I’ll totally do it. I don’t care … thinking that maybe it would grow in kind of thin and wispy and maybe even kind of cute,” Faris said. “That was not the case. It was dark and thick. And it defined my whole summer. I was like no tanktops, no swimsuits, couldn’t hail a cab. I would be at a party, I would always, if I’d had a drink or two, I would lift my shirt and show off my armpit hair. And it made people gag. It was amazing.”
After “The Dictator,” Faris will be working on a romantic comedy with Rose Byrne titled, “I Give It a Year.” Then, like most of us, she is “hoping for a margarita and pool-filled life.”
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article misstated the context of the interview with Anna Faris.