Anneliese van der Pol comes clean about Vampires Suck
As the immensely successful spoof Vampires Suck heads into its third weekend of release, many people have started to wonder if this directorial team even exists. Or if they are pseudonyms not unlike Alan Smithee, used by the studio as decoys to cover up the fact that no one is actually directing these lucrative, yet artistically questionable endevors.
Sure, there are a couple photos floating around of these two men hard at work on set, but its just two photos! Couldn't they be hired actors pretending to be Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer? This dubious duo never grants interviews. They're never seen in public. No one really knows about their creative process. And they're hardly ever mentioned as Hollywood power players, especially by the folks who have worked with them in the past. Yet their films consistently open at the top of the box office charts.
Looking at their resume, you will find a slate of parody flicks that are as successful as they are critically derided by most critics and adults. Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie, along with their writing credits on Spy Hard andScary Movies 1-4 have netted the pair hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. They are a modern day success story, yet we know next to nothing about them.
Despite being leaked on the Internet months before its theatrical release, Vampires Suck opened number two at the box office, second only to the success of Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables. This happened despite Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer's refusal to do the usual press rounds demanded of most films today. Some credit the success of Vampires Suck to the fact that its riding the Twilight Saga's powerful coattails. But that answer is too easy. The truth of the matter is: Kids and teenagers love Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer spoof movies. And they're going to keep on loving them for a long time.
Its hard to get anyone to open up about the career work of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. But Vampires Suck's breakout star Anneliese van der Pol, who rose to fame playing best friend to Raven-Symoné on Disney's That's So Raven, and now portrays best friend and Anna Kendrick doppelganger Jennifer in their latest hit, has come forward to talk about the film's success and the two directors who made it happen.
Here is our conversation with the lovely Anneliese van der Pol:
As Vampires Suck continues to enjoy success, quite a few people have begun to question the actual existence of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, as they notoriously don't do interviews or appear anywhere in the press. Can you confirm that they actually exist?
Anneliese van der Pol: I am here to confirm that they do exist. And that they are fabulous. That is so funny, though. They aren't big on publicity. Which sucks for actors. But it's probably great for them. I think a lot of it has to do with them not wanting to spoil anything. If jokes come out too soon, obviously they wont be funny in the theater. They want to make sure everything is fresh and new. They are two guys in their late thirties who are still frat boys. They met in college. And they are best friends. They are wonderful, talented guys who write really funny scripts. I think they are very weary of their jokes getting out too soon. They don't want people talking about the movie before it even comes out.
It's interesting that you mention that, because a lot of people knew Vampires Suck had been leaked to the Internet torrent sites a couple of months before its official theatrical release. Yet it still came out and did really well, and it was still fresh...
Anneliese van der Pol: Yeah, we got really lucky. We did really well our first weekend, and Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer would have probably been really excited about our success...I mean...They probably are really excited about our success...That really sucks when that happens. The internet, and Google, and everything that goes along with that is awesome for some things, but not so awesome for other things. Because everything gets leaked nowadays.
You guys obviously knew that it was out there floating around. Was there ever a worry about how it might do when it actually opened? The people that make these films such big hits when they are in the theater are the same crowd that like nothing better to do than bootleg a movie months before its release.
Anneliese van der Pol: Absolutely. That stuff is out of your control, but you do worry. I was talking to Mike Mayhall and Jun Hee Lee, my two co-stars whom I share most of my scenes with. We'd heard rumors that the entire movie was on-line. Which, we of course found out later, that it wasn't. Yeah, we worry. Its good to have buzz. But you worry that no one is going to go see it. This was my first experience with that, too be honest.
What is the working relationship like between these two guys on set? Do they direct individual scenes, are they constantly collaborating, and do they ever argue over how a particular joke may play out?
Anneliese van der Pol: That is a good question. To be honest, there were no outbursts. They really do work well together. They are both very...Shy is probably not the right word. But they are both very introverted, and quiet and serious. They write such funny stuff, but they are pretty serious about their filmmaking. I would say that Aaron Seltzer is more on set with the actors. Jason Friedberg is behind the cameras making sure the shots look good. Aaron is directing Jason to make sure the actors look good. They work really well together. It's important on a comedy to have a fun loving set. They are really nice, and good to each other. They have been friends for a long, long time. You can really tell. They are both hands on, but if one was more hands on, it would probably be Aaron.
How much freedom as an actress do you have on one of their sets? Are you able to bring your own jokes into the film? Or do they have a set script that you are to abide by at all times?
Anneliese van der Pol: Its mostly about following the script. Which I am really used to, because that's the way it worked on That's So Raven. It was on the Disney Channel. You really can't veer from the script. That was the same with this movie. They have set jokes that they have to have in there. If there was any adlibbing? For me, it was just the changing of curse words, to be perfectly honest. I think I used every curse word in the book. Which was exciting for me. If anybody is a master at improvisation, it would be Ken Jeong. He is hilarious. He would just go off on tangents forever. He would go off and do his own writing. They let him do his own thing. But Aaron and Jason are pretty serious. If you veer once, they will let you veer once. But you must get right back on script. And yeah, they want their dialogue in pretty exact. Which I think they are right and smart about. They ended up with a pretty solid movie.
Tell me more about working with Ken Jeong. He seems to be in everything at the moment, and he has a pretty dry sense of humor. You can never quite tell if he's joking or not when you interact with him on a personal level.
Anneliese van der Pol: That's funny, because I feel like I'm that way too. I am pretty sarcastic, and pretty dry. If anyone would be able to get that, luckily, I think it would be me. Because I'm that way with my sisters a lot. To be honest, Ken Jeong is the nicest man. And off set, he's just not jokey like that. He's really not. He's really interested in other people, and other people's lives, and what they have to say. I unfortunately didn't get to have any scenes with him in the movie. But I do know what you're talking about. I saw him act like that on many occasions. With other people. He would joke, and there would be an awkward moment of silence until the other person realized he was spoofing them.
It has to be kind of hard when you have that same dry sense of humor. Maybe you guys cancel each other out.
Anneliese van der Pol: That's funny. I think it does cancel each other out. What are you going to do? Sometimes, I wish I had scenes with Ken Jeong. I could have experienced that with him. But we didn't. (Laughs)
If I'm not mistaken, you are spoofing Oscar-nominated actress Anna Kendrick in Vampires Suck. Was it important for you to study her for this role? Or did you think that wasn't important in terms of what this movie had set out to do?
Anneliese van der Pol: The more I thought about it, the more I realized how unimportant that actually was. When I went in to audition for it, I auditioned for the role of Bella. She's Becca in our movie. Then later, they asked me to come back and audition for the Anna Kendrick role. At this point, this was all within a twenty-four hour time period. So I didn't get a chance to see Twilight. So, instead of imitating her, I was imitating all of the girls in all the movies that played the bitchy best friend. The friend that pretends to be her friend, but isn't. Because she has a secret motive. I think that is just imitating a lot of these types of characters, rather than just the character in the Twilight movies. I was imitating the sidekick. The bitchy sidekick. The high school girl who is jealous of the main girl, basically. If anything, I imitated...Anna Kendrick has an interesting speech pattern when she talks. I think I imitated that a little bit. But I had quite a few scenes that weren't in the original Twilight movies, so I didn't even have anything to go off of.
You hadn't seen the movie, so you obviously weren't a huge fan of the Twilight books. Was that fun for you to come into this world and spoof it, and poke fun at it, even though you were kind of looking at it from the outside in?
Anneliese van der Pol: Absolutely. To be honest, I had not seen any of the films before shooting. Then when I did finally see them, I was so glad that I was in our movie. I just...I hate to say it...I am not into this vampire craze at all. I can't wait until it disappears. Every girl loves a good love story and a good chick flick. But I don't know. I need something a little bit more. I am not that type of girly-girl. Honestly, though, I have a lot of friends that are. They watch these movies, and they have read the books. I haven't read the books. Maybe I would change my mind. And change my tune. But I had a blast making this movie. I can't believe no one had this idea sooner. It is so meant to be made fun of. Even the cinematography in these Twilight movies. The acting. The characters. Everything is just so funny to me.
Twilight has so many fans, its mind blowing. But these spoof movies of Jason and Aaron's have so many fans as well. Its hard to judge who actually showed up for this thing. Is it weird now, whether you like it or not, to actually be a part of this Twilight world by default? Because so many Twilight fans did go see this on opening weekend, because it was about something they absolutely love. Now you are a part of that.
Anneliese van der Pol: I love that. I love being a part of their world. I am really intrigued by their interests. Its more younger people, though I do have some friends that are fans. I do know some fans who are younger, who grew up with me. And I think its great. I think my fans are the same fans that love Twilight. I think it's exciting for them to see me in something else that they like and appreciate. I just appreciate the fact that they've taken their time to go see this. I love to entertain. I love being able to make people laugh. If they like it or hate it? I am glad to be a part of this whole thing. That is a good question, because I am definitely glad to be a part of this whole big world.
Now, I don't want to misquote you, or be wrong about this, but I think when you were doing press for Bratz, you said that you weren't too into the Bratz dolls either...
Anneliese van der Pol: That would definitely be correct, yeah. (Laughs)
I actually talked to all of you girls for that movie. It strikes me as funny that you weren't into Twilight. You weren't into Bratz. Is it more helpful to you as an actress when you don't know, and you don't really care about the interests of the fans, in creating a character that you want to be fresh and new? That you have a completely fresh take on this particular world.
Anneliese van der Pol: Yes. It's exactly what you said. It's an outside perspective. It's not super dear to my heart. I am not taking it super seriously. My whole idea when it comes to doing these movies is to not take it too seriously. I love being on set, and being around other actors who are not taking everything crazy-seriously. Sometimes that can get very frustrating. It was fun when it came to the Bratz dolls. When I was doing that movie, I think I was much too old to be interested in those dolls. I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I was a bit too old.
Yeah, that would be a bit disturbing to have a twenty-two year old girl who was obsessed with Bratz dolls.
Anneliese van der Pol: Yeah. (Laughs) To be honest, I didn't know anything about them. It's interesting. I find that when I am auditioning, and I care too much, or I am close to something, I put too much stress and pressure on myself. I don't book the part. But stuff like this? Its easy going. You are just having fun. Casting directors and directors can really read that. They don't see it as a sign of desperation. They can see that you are just having fun. And that you are having a good time. You book the gig.
Vampires Suck doesn't just focus its energy on Twilight. It tackles quite a few different topics. Are you quite well versed in today's popular culture? Or did you find certain references going over your head while on set?
Anneliese van der Pol: They had a bunch of revisions in the script. There would be notes. We would read those, and of course, then we knew what was going on. We did make fun of quite a few movies and TV shows, and pop culture. There are a lot of references to True Blood and Lady Gaga. I had a running joke that got cut, because it was too much of a running joke. We had quite a lot of this Dear John spoof. They did keep some of this in the movie, but I would constantly be reading letters from John. That is another movie I am not a big fan of. A chick flick like that. I hadn't seen it, but I had to see it for the movie to make fun of it. We made fun of the letters that he wrote. This love crossed relationship that Amanda Seyfried had with Channing Tatum. We did make fun of quite a few things.
These Nicholas Sparks movies have almost become their own genre. They always end the same way. You could make a whole spoof movie just about them.
It could just be called Nicholas Sparks Movie. The guy always dies at the end of the movie!
Anneliese van der Pol: Oh, I know! I seriously hate all of those movies. I know that is a terrible thing to say. Sure, I would love to star in them. But...Yeah! I just can't stand that type of movie. I need more substance.
It was the Richard Gere/Diane Lane one that really got me. I was buying it for a minute, then he dies in a mudslide. Which is so ridiculous. Its like they killed him off just to kill him off.
Anneliese van der Pol: Yeah. You are an hour in, and then you realize that nothing has happened. You ask yourself, "Why am I watching this? Nothing has happened!"
Exactly. Now, I want to go back to these spoof movies, and the team of Aaron and Jason. They do resonate so deeply with the youth of today. Young kids and early teens devour their movies. But the adults? They just don't get it. It's obtrusive. They don't like them. They don't think they're funny at all. They don't want to watch them. Do you believe that makes it the new Punk rock of the Millennial generation?
Anneliese van der Pol: Yes. Speaking as an adult, to be perfectly honest, when I read the script, I found some of it funny. But most of it, I said, "My God, this doesn't seem funny! Is this really going to work? How is this going to play on screen? And what sort of actor do they have to get to do that?" I understand that adult-kids thing. This is a genre and a taste. It really is a spoof movie. They are not just making fun of things. You have to have that sense of humor. I can understand not getting it at first. My parents weren't fans, and they hadn't seen any of the Twilight movies. I made them watch it, just so they would understand my movie. They saw Vampires Suck, and they were excited that I was in it. But they just didn't get it. It's definitely for a younger audience. Even younger than me.
When you were on set, if you or any of the other actors didn't find something funny, did it ever matter? Or were you forced to push through certain jokes that weren't exactly to your taste in service of what you were trying to accomplish with Vampire's Suck?
Anneliese van der Pol: Oh, yeah. There was a lot of, "Is this funny?" There was a lot of insecurity amongst the actors that would go on. We would do it a couple of ways. Sometimes you would have to stop and ask, "Is this funny? Am I doing it funny? Is there another way I could do this?" With Ken Jeong? Everything he does is funny. But sometimes you are stuck, wondering if you are saying the line funny, or if its just not funny, and its not your fault. Sometimes, its not supposed to be 'laugh out loud' funny. It's just a comment or an aside. They are very complimentary, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. They are also very encouraging. Which is refreshing. You are constantly smiling on set. That is about all you can ask for.
What else do you have on the horizon? There has been long-time talk about a big screen That's So Raven film. Is that never going to happen at this point?
Anneliese van der Pol: I don't think that is going to happen, its been so long now. At the time they were talking about that, Raven was super busy doing concerts. She was on tour when we wrapped doing all five seasons of That's So Raven. We had done over one hundred episodes. They had written the movie. But she was so busy for a good solid year. I think it just fell by the wayside. I think it would have been great. The storyline saw us going to France. She was going to start a fashion line in France. Eddie and I were going to fly out and meet her. Of course, something tragic happens. We have to rescue the situation. But no! It's not ever happening. If I hear something, I will be the first to sign on. I am actually about to do an independent movie called Daning on Jupiter. It's more of a serious role, which is nice and refreshing for me. I am always doing theater gigs, and I am always auditioning for theater. And I am traveling a lot. I am going to London with my sister pretty soon. I just came back from Jessica Biel's cabin in Colorado. Her mom lent it to me for a week. That was a lot of fun. I did a lot of fishing. And a lot of auditioning. I am off after this to go do an audition for that show Friends with Benefits. For a guest spot on that. I am really enjoying life, and going to a lot of cool, fun parties where they serve delicious food and delicious drinks. I am really enjoying Los Angeles in the summer.
How much did you enjoy fishing? I hadn't gone since I was a little kid, and I got to do some of that this summer, and it is so relaxing.
Anneliese van der Pol: It was my first time fishing, and I actually caught a fish. Which is so lucky. I went with a really nice boy. And he was really patient with me. It was my first time. I always wanted to, and I never did. It was really exciting, especially when you first feel that tug of the fish. It is the most exciting thing. Altogether, I think my family and friends caught eleven. We let most of them go, and we cooked up four of them. They were so delicious. It was exciting to be able to hunt and prey on your meal.