Actress Cindy Busby discusses The Big Year, working alongside Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson, director David Frankel, and more.
Canadian actress Cindy Busby is well-known to audiences in her home country from playing Ashley Stanton in the TV series Heartland. The blonde beauty is poised for success in America with her role in The Big Year, which hits theaters on October 14 and stars Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. I recently had a chance to speak with Cindy Busby over the phone to discuss her role in The Big Year. Here's what she had to say.
I'm not sure if there's ever been a movie before about bird watching. What ran through your head when you first heard about this project?
Cindy Busby: Well, I obviously felt the same way as you did. I had never really seen a movie about that, and I have never been a huge bird person myself. But, growing up, I did have a really good friend of mine whose dad always had binoculars on the edge of the window in the kitchen. I've been exposed to people who are huge birders and have those books around about all the different kinds. I particularly was never into it, but I was interested and intrigued about why people would be so fascinated about it. I suppose it's just like anything else that makes you happy.
Was everyone signed on when you were approached for this?
Cindy Busby: Yeah, all of the bigger names were signed on, but, originally when I auditioned for it, they didn't really give me the details of who was working on it. I just went in and auditioned for it, going, 'No big deal, just another audition' (Laughs). I obviously knew it was going to be a big movie, but I didn't know who was going to be in it. When I found out I got it, and all the details were told to me, I was obviously ecstatic and couldn't believe this was happening to me. I was really excited and these people in the movie are people I've looked up to and my parents have looked up to. It was really an amazing experience.
Do you think it was beneficial that you didn't know who had signed on, going into the audition?
Cindy Busby: It may have, I don't know. It may have put a little more pressure on me to do a good job. Also, I remember when I did have the audition, I was really sick that day. I had a really bad cold and I was stuffed up, my throat was hurting. I remember almost not even going to the audition, because I felt so awful (Laughs). I remember thinking, 'You know what, you never know. You might as well.' I've developed that habit, because, if I'm working on set, sick or not, you have to show up, and that's how you have to treat your auditions as well. So, I went to it, and it basically changed my life. It's one of those things where you just have to do it, rain or shine.
When you got the part, did you go to the book at all to pick up more about Susie, or did you just stick to the script?
Cindy Busby: I have done a few things that were based on books, and I usually just go online and look up the basics. I went and looked up bird watching and the whole Big Year phenomenon. I did that kind of studying, but I prefer to just create my own version of what the character is, and respect that, if the director hired me, he saw something they wanted. That's kind of how I went about it.
Can you talk about what an average day on the set was like with such wonderful actors like Jack Black, Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Joel McHale, Anjelica Huston. What's a day on the set being surrounded by so many actors of that caliber?
Cindy Busby: Oh yeah. Honestly, I felt like every day I had to pinch myself. You're having a conversation with Steve Martin and he's playing his banjo, just chilling on set while they're setting up. My family has always loved movies, but they're not really huge on the Hollywood scene. I'm half French as well, and the French side of my family doesn't know those people as well. When I told my grandmother that I'm going to work with Steve Martin, she actually knew who she is. That was exciting for me, that I could talk to her about someone that I know she knows. An average day was just really overwhelming, but I learned to just soak it in and really observe the veterans I was working with. I was really in awe because they're so respected, and I respected them so much, and they're so professional and really nice people. That's the thing that I left with, knowing these people are so big, and they also come from a different generation than I do, when the paparazzi and all these blogs didn't really exist when they came around. They're more removed from that scene and it's just a job. At the end of the day, they go home and have their own life. I really looked up to that, and it's refreshing to be exposed to that kind of behavior.
When you look back on this movie, is there one thing that will stand out more than the rest? Maybe a scene you shot or a piece of advice you received from the cast members?
Cindy Busby: I guess the most interesting experience was the first day that I actually worked with Steve, the first scene I had was that his character and I were on a chair lift together, observing the bird activity. That was literally the first time I met him. We went onto a chair lift, he and I, after meeting for just five minutes, and it was nice because he was very friendly and asking me questions about my life. I was asking questions about his life, without being too invasive, obviously, and it was just really nice to have had that sort of intimate moment with him, but it was also kind of awkward because I had just met him. The walls came down right away.
Can you talk about working with director David Frankel, and what his style really brought to a movie like this?
Cindy Busby: He's a great guy as well. He's just really composed and comes in ready and confident. He's also very confident in the actors he works with. He's very hands-on, if need be, but he trusts his actors, and it's really great to work with a director like that. Sometimes you work with a director who doesn't feel as confident, and therefore, doesn't really feel confident with his actors. That can be a bit confusing sometimes. He was hands-on if need be, but, otherwise, he just stood back. He was just really great and really laid-back.
After doing a movie like this, did it increase your appreciation for birding?
Cindy Busby: Yeah, definitely. I don't know that I would have the courage or the willpower to go through a whole year of doing that, but I definitely appreciate and respect those who do, because it must be an unbelievable experience. Obviously, the movie is a bigger version of that, but I think it's just important to have passion in life. That's the biggest thing I walked out of it with, respecting and appreciating the passion that people have for birding. I think it's really great to have that passion, and I think the actors depict that in the movie. I think that's what people are going to like about it, the adventure and the passion that the characters bring through. I've always enjoyed birds and animals. I've always been a huge animal lover, so definitely when I see birds, it reminds me of my experience. But I haven't gone all out and memorized all the birds since then, that's for sure (Laughs).
How do you think people like your old neighbor, the birding community in general, will respond to this? Did you have birding consultants on the set, or was there a strive for accuracy within this world of birding?
Cindy Busby: I didn't experience that personally, but I'm sure Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson probably did. They probably talked to people in there, especially when they went to the more remote areas of where they were shooting. We had some animal trainers, because we did have some real birds who were trained to come back to their wranglers, so that was pretty cool.
Is there anything that you're looking to join or that you have signed on for that you can talk about?
Cindy Busby: I have done a few guest starring spots on some TV shows, but I'm not supposed to talk about them right now. In the meantime, I've just been reading some scripts. It's kind of slowing down now, towards the end of the year. I have a couple of Syfy movies which will be coming out next year.
Those just look like a lot of fun to work on. Can you talk about your experiences on those movies, and who you play?
Cindy Busby: Yeah. Obviously, the Syfy movies are a blast. They're very freeing and they're a great opportunity to work with a lot of really great people and local actors in Vancouver. It's a lot of adventure and a lot of action, and that's what I like about them, because I feel like I'm given an opportunity to show my action side, I guess (Laughs). I like that and you get to do a lot of stunts. The monsters are obviously never there, so you get to use your imagination a lot, which I love. On Ghost Storm, I got to work with some awesome people like Carlos Bernard, who played my dad. That was really fun and he was a really great guy. I just love those movies because they're really action-packed. They are really intense hours, but they're really worth it at the end of the day.
Finally, what would you like to say to anyone who's curious about The Big Year, about why they should check it out in theaters October 14?
Cindy Busby: Well, if the actors don't bring you to the theater, I don't know what will (Laughs). It's a really great, passionate, funny, warm-hearted movie, which you could bring your kids to or take a date on. No matter what, I think you'll love it because the actors are amazing and it takes place over a year and the characters are really great. Yeah, go see it. You won't be disappointed.
Great. That's all I have for you, Cindy. Thanks so much. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Cindy Busby: Thank you so much. Take care.