The actress talks about taking on this very different role, working with Woody Harrelson, Thor and more
Kat Dennings is surely an actress that you should keep an eye or two on, if you haven't already. After her debut on an episode of Sex and the City, followed by her turn in the series Raising Dad, the actress' breakout hit was in Judd Apatow's feature directorial debut The 40 Year Old Virgin, playing Catherine Keener's daughter Marla in wonderful fashion. That lead to roles in such films as the tremendous/underrated Charlie Bartlett, The House Bunny and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Dennings latest film, Defendor, hits the shelves on DVD on April 13 and features the actress in perhaps her most challenging role to date. I had the chance to speak with Dennings over the phone and here's what she had to say.
I read that you really went after this role after you read the script by Peter Stebbings. Can you talk a bit about how this project came to you and how you reacted to the script?
Kat Dennings: It came along in the basic way. My agent sent it to me, I read it and cried a lot. I was really moved by it and that doesn't happen very often. I just was like, 'I have to do this. I really love it. I really want to do it.' I actually met Peter in Toronto. I was there at the film festival for another film and I was dressed up and didn't look much like a prostitute. Well, maybe I looked a little bit like a prostitute (Laughs). He just said, 'Are you sure you can do this?' I said, 'I have no idea, but I think so.' I actually read for it and went through the process and it worked out.
Was Woody Harrelson attached at the time, when you first read it?
Kat Dennings: No, he was not attached.
What was it like then to see this whole cast come together? There are some amazing people you get to work with like Woody, Elias Koteas, Sandra Oh, Michael Kelly. What was it like to see it all come together?
Kat Dennings: Yeah, really satisfying. They're all so excellent. I can't see anyone else playing any of the other roles. They were just perfect and that was really nice to watch.
This really is unlike a character you've ever played before and I can imagine that's part of the appeal of the role as well. Did you find the role more challenging than even you expected?
Kat Dennings: Yeah, absolutely. I did a lot of research that Peter gave to me. He brought in girls who are or were in the position that my character is in and I talked to them a lot and asked them a lot of questions and they had a lot of insights that I obviously would not have had if I had not met them. I paid particular attention to not glamorizing the way she looks, like really making her accurate. That was more for me and Peter than people watching it, but I didn't want her to look good. I didn't her to look like a movie hooker. I wanted her to look like a real girl in this real position. I tried to make it as real as I could.
Peter is an actor-turned-director and most of the time those guys are really great "actor's directors" as well. What was it like working with Peter and how do his experiences as an actor tie into his directing?
Kat Dennings: It's always very helpful when your director is also an actor because they know how to talk to you. They know what they responded to and they include that in their direction. It was really great. He did an awesome job. You would never know it was his first project just by watching it.
The film received a pretty small theatrical release earlier this year and this really does seem like it has all the makings of a cult classic when it hits DVD. Still, would you have liked to get a big theatrical release for this film?
Kat Dennings: I mean, I'm always the wrong person to ask because I still don't understand how that kind of thing works. Obviously, when you work on a film and you love it, you wish more people could see it, but things happen for a reason and, for whatever reason, it came out in limited release and hopefully more people will watch it on DVD. It's a really special film and, actually, the commentary we did is pretty amazing, I think, in retrospect. There's a lot of information on there (Laughs). I would check it out just for that, but watch the film first and then watch it with the commentary.
There's a gag reel on this DVD and I was wondering if there was maybe a favorite crack-up moment of yours on the set?
Kat Dennings: Not for me because I was pretty invested in the character, pretty serious the whole time. I wasn't really myself and I wasn't in a place where I could really let go like that. I can't even remember one time where I cracked up in a scene. I do remember one thing. Woody and I were in this, I don't know what it is, this crazy cherry-picker machine that he drives. We were rolling down the street and obviously people were yelling at us. We're on the rig with the camera and Woody Harrelson is sitting there. It was really late, it was really cold and I think I just yelled at the top of my lungs, 'Shut the f&^k up!' (Laughs). It was so ridiculous. At the time, it made sense and I don't know if it's on the reel or not, but I think it would be pretty funny (Laughs).
I read that you had some karate training when you were younger. I was wondering if that was anything that you followed up on and if you would like to take on an ass-kicking role in the near future?
Kat Dennings: Oh, God. I would love that. I have a lot of fury in me, man. I actually was pretty good in my little martial arts class and it was something that I wish I continued, but when you're an actor, you just can't possibly have a schedule like that, something that you have to make certain times of the week, you just can't do it. It would have to be for a role. That's something I've always wanted to do, have an excuse to kick some ass.
I read that you were starting work on Thor towards the end of the shoot. Are you currently working on that now?
Kat Dennings: Yeah. I'm actually in New Mexico right now. I've been here for about three weeks and I'll be here for another three weeks.
I know there were rumors out there that were debunked earlier about tension on the set.
Kat Dennings: Oh, absolutely 1,000 percent false. I don't know who would make up a story like that. It's almost comical.
Yeah. It didn't seem to make too much sense that Anthony Hopkins would be so upset.
Kat Dennings: No, it makes no sense, none whatsoever. It's ridiculous. It's sad too. I never understand this part of the industry, why people actually invent things to hurt other people. It doesn't make sense.
Can you tell us then what the experience on the set has really been like then?
Kat Dennings: I mean, I can't say too much, but I will say that it's probably been one of the most wonderful experiences I've ever had in my life. Kenneth Branagh is just incredible and so inspiring. Chris Hemsworth is incredible. My jaw just dropped watching him.
Do you think everybody will be sold on Chris as Thor when we finally get to see some footage of the film?
You also have another film called Daydream Nation that you filmed earlier this year. It sounds like a very cool film and character for you. What was it like to get into this character of Caroline Wexler, juggling these two different guys?
Kat Dennings: Yeah. That was a really special experience also. I went through a pretty big transformation on screen, and all that type of stuff for that movie. I haven't seen a cut of it yet, but making it was very intense, very emotional and very funny, but also very dream-like - obviously, from the title - but also seeing what's going through this girl's mind, going after two men and being in this weird little town where there are murders going on. It's really cool. It's one of the things I'm most excited about.
Have you heard anything about release plans for the film yet? Do you think it might come out later this year or maybe 2011?
Kat Dennings: I don't. They have a print, I think, ready and when I come home I'll see it. I'm not sure, but I hope that actually gets a bigger release. It's really important.
I also read awhile about a film that was on hold, Liars (A-E). Is that still on hold?
Kat Dennings: Yeah. I don't know what the deal is. It is on hold. Hopefully that will happen. One of my closest friends wrote that film and it's genius. Her name is Emma Forrest and she's an amazing, amazing writer. I really want that to happen. That would be such a dream. We'll see, we'll see.
I also read about a film - I haven't really heard much about it - that you wanted to make called End Zone as well.
Kat Dennings: That, I think, is probably not happening. That also is an amazing character and it's based on a book. I don't really understand why, but I think it was just a hard sell. It's a great leading cast with Josh Hartnett and Sam Rockwell. I think that was just a hard sell because on the surface, it was a football movie but it's not about football, you know, war and frustration. That's another thing I really want to work out. That was another great role too.
Is there anything that you're looking to sign on for after you finish with Thor? Anything you're close to signing on to?
Kat Dennings: Not really. There is always stuff, you know, always stuff in the pipe. Actually, I don't know if I should say, but I'm looking into directing some stuff.
Kat Dennings: Yeah. I probably shouldn't talk about it because, as you know, some things work out or don't work out, but that's something that exists.
Finally, what would you like to say to all the comic book or superhero fanboys out there about why they should pick up Defendor on DVD?
Kat Dennings: Oh, Christ. You know, you're a dude who brings out the cursing. I don't know why (Laughs). I'm sorry, it's really not very ladylike.
(Laughs) That's fine.
Kat Dennings: It's a great film. It's funny, it's weird, it's really, really moving. The performances are amazing. Woody Harrelson is... it might be one of the best things I've seen him do. He's incredible. If you love superhero movies and comic books, you will laugh your ass off.
Excellent. Well, that's all I have for you, Kat. I know you're really busy, so thanks so much for your time and best of luck with all your new projects
Kat Dennings: Thanks very much.
You can watch Kat Dennings in Defendor when it arrives on DVD shelves everywhere on April 13.