It’s no surprise that Alison Brie, the actress who played Annie Edison from CommunityTrudy Campbell from Mad Menand Ruth Wilder of GLOW, is as adept at writing such brilliant characters as he is at portraying them. In fact, it was her acting skills that informed the largely improvised page-to-screen process in her first feature script, horse girl– a deep psychological dive of a horror indie that also had audiences asking, “Oh fuck, is Alison Brie okay?”
spin me arounda wild and dark side Eat Pray Love which marks Brie’s follow-up collaboration with writer-director Jeff Baena, retains that inner nuance while reclaiming the loose comedy she and co-stars Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen and Aubrey Plaza are best known for. Playing the role of a restaurant chain manager whose all-expenses-paid corporate retirement in Italy goes more than a little awry – particularly under the auspices of company founder Nick (played by Alessandro Nivola) – Brie distinguishes between plausibility and outright absurdity. As the writer-star tells The audiovisual clubhis design of Nick was inspired by real-life manipulators of male persuasion.
The audiovisual club: Asking what a movie is about can be oversimplified, but spin me around does and says so many things and covers so many genres that I have to ask: what, Alison Brie, would you say your film is about?
Alison Brie: I like to do the same thing, I like to reduce a story to its most basic elements! spin me around is about a woman who goes on a trip. She thinks she’s going to have the trip of a lifetime and fall in love… and things go off the rails. Things don’t go as planned. That’s all I have to say about it.
AVC: There are so many absurd but realistic scenarios in this film. How much improvisation was there in the writing versus the acting? horse girl and your other collaborations with Jeff Baena were more improvised, right?
A B: Yeah, unlike all the other projects I’ve done with Jeff, we actually wrote the full script for this one and wrote all the dialogue and all that stuff. But with such a talented cast, there were definitely some riffs on set, especially with Molly Shannon. His character is so fun and talks about going off the rails. She had a lot of different things to play with, so we really let her do her thing, which was really great.
AVC: Did you write with these actors in mind?
A B: Molly, of course, and Aubrey, who are sort of “Jeff Baena players.” Molly, Aubrey and I all starred in four of Jeff’s five films, and Fred Armisen is also a repeat offender. The rest of the cast, no, we kind of dove into the characters and once we secured the cast, we came back and then kind of tailored the roles more to the actors we had chosen.
AVC: So there wasn’t as much use of improvisation during filming?
A B: It’s true. We were, like a lot of independent films, a bit short on time. So it was easier to stick to the script most of the time. But there’s a great scene with Zach Woods and Ben Sinclair getting into a bit of a kerfuffle where there was definitely some improvisation involved. It’s always nice to let the material breathe. When you have such a talented cast – and these actors are all really good at improvisation and comedy and drama – coming in from all directions, letting them play a little fast and loose, I think, delivers so much. We recover so much. [Each take was] quite different.
AVC: How often do you break character laughing at all those hilarious co-stars?
A B: Me never. I must say that I am one of those people, I almost never break. And I think in this project, I found it particularly important not to break because my character is the one who kind of witnesses all this wacky behavior and absorbs it. Not that she is the audience; I think the audience has a different perspective from her and can see things a little more clearly than her. She is a bit naive. But I found, as the co-writer of the project, that playing it right was going to keep everything grounded as we witnessed all of these characters that are sort of out there.
AVC: In terms of your own cinematic inspirations, do you have a favorite film? Or how about a dream collaborator you would like to work with?
A B: My favourite film is The American President, directed by Rob Reiner, starring Annette Bening and Michael Douglas. It’s just my favorite movie of all time. I mean, I would love to work with Annette Bening. But a collaborator, a director… there are too many to enclose one. I mean, I could say [Quentin] Tarantino. Wouldn’t it be fun, in your lifetime, to work with him? But that looks like a long shot. [Laughs]
AVC: You, Tarantino and Bening!
A B: Yeah, me, Tarantino and Annette Bening! It’s like Tarantino’s dream cast. It seems obvious. [Laughs]