Nobody has ever accused Anna Faris of being the "hot chick" onscreen, but that's been her own choice. While Faris' spacey roles -- from her career-making turn as Cindy Campbell in the Scary Movie franchise to parts in Just Friends and Waiting -- have made her the butt of jokes, she is a comedienne first and foremost, not the eye candy she finally plays in her latest, The House Bunny.
"I feel in my movie experience, I've definitely give up a sense of vanity," she says, laughing. "It was kind of nice actually to play, like, the pretty girl, (even if) I definitely still feel incredibly awkward."
Shelley Darlington is just your average girl next door, if by "girl next door" you mean one of Hugh Hefner's treasure trove of bottle-blonde girlfriends. No doubt inspired in part by the success of Hefner's reality television series, The House Bunny imagines Faris as a fourth member of the famous trio of hotties.
"I was thinking three years ago about what happens when it's time for the next phase of life for some of these girls who have lived in the Playboy Mansion, and how do you sort of reenter the real world?" she explains.
Tired of not being offered meaty comedic roles, Faris, now 31, pitched the idea to Legally Blonde scribes Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith.
"Without (them), I would still be twiddling my thumbs thinking, 'Where would that Playboy bunny go?' " she says.
Smug critical types might find it hard to believe that an intelligent, successful woman would actually conceive of and then pitch a movie in which she spends most of it either dressed in very little or hamming it up as a Playmate-like stereotype, but Faris in not most actresses.
Lucille Ball, Judy Holiday, Goldie Hawn, Bettie White -- Faris references these hilarious women as if they were ancient goddesses she could only dream of being compared to.
Moreover, The House Bunny has heart. A lot of it. Shelley Darlington is more than a stereotype; she's a confused orphan in search of a family. When Darlington is kicked out of the Playboy Mansion and loses her illusionary family, she finds the real thing as the housemother of a sorority made up of outsiders in search of their inner-beauty.
"I have to admit, I did very little to emotionally prepare to play Shelley Darlington," Faris says, grinning. "I guess she's always been in there somewhere."
Makeup, however, took considerably longer. Three hours, in fact, which the actress is still laughing about. "Shelley, you know, she's got a lot of hair," Faris says. "She likes a lot of makeup. We had to do a lot of body makeup and makeup to make my cleavage look bigger."
Faris, as you might have noticed, is not exactly what we've come to expect from a Playmate. But, to be fair, her character has never made it into Playboy's hallowed pages; she's just a beautiful girl with a good push-up bra and dreams of one day baring it all. Research in and around the Playboy Mansion, thanks to Hef's universal support (he plays himself in the movie), consequently left Faris feeling intimidated. But she could act her way through that insecurity: To land the role Faris had to convince studio execs she had the, um, assets to play Shelley. Given Hollywood's notoriously limited imagination, she showed up in character dressed in a Playboy costume and wiggling her hips, and landed herself the gig and an executive producer credit.
Even her mother was shocked by the notion of her playing Shelley.
"When I floated the idea past my mom, who is pretty conservative, she was like, 'You're doing what?' And now, of course, she's like, 'I'm so proud of you!' "
Faris is still marveling at the experience she had making The House Bunny.
"Very inspiring and empowering," she calls it. "And also eye-opening because I had no idea how difficult it was to make a movie and to put all the pieces together. But, you know, I've got to say I wasn't getting a chance to play the roles that I really wanted to, and so this felt like, 'Oh, so maybe I can do this and maybe I can continue to do this,' which would be amazing." McCullah and Lutz say Faris isn't kidding -- they say the actress turned producer is regularly pitching them ideas. But don't expect Faris to trade in her comedic roles for more dramatic turns anytime soon.
"You know, I think (smiling a lot) is just one of the many joys I get out of what I do being in comedy," she says. "I feel really fortunate that I get to work in an environment where we are laughing all the time."
Check out theaters and show times, see the film's trailer and find nearby bars and restaurants here.