Cobie Smulders first came to global prominence in How I Met Your Mother, the hit sitcom that ran for nine years (2005-2014). She’s clocked up a host of interesting credits (Safe Haven, Delivery Man. The Lego Movie) and also played Maria Hill in the Marvel Universe, starring in both Avengers movies Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Her latest release is the quirky comedy Results, a film based around the fitness scene in Austin, Texas (read a review). Movies In Focus recently spoke with Smulders to discuss the Andrew Bujalski directed film which also stars Guy Pearce.
How did you become attached to Results?
Andrew Bujalski – he wrote the script – and I don’t think it’s something that he’s ever done before. Usually, in the past he worked with friends or people he just met, who weren’t actors and a lot of it was improv based. With ours he actually had a script and I think I just happened upon it through my agent. I did a Skype call with Andrew to see if we were both nice people – which it turned out we were. A lot of times when you start a project, the first meeting is just ‘Are you a jerk?’, ‘No, are you?’ – ‘No, fantastic – this is going to be fine for us to work together’. So, we did that and he came to LA and we just ran through some scenes and he recorded it on a little Flipcam… and I got the job. It was great because i’ve always been a fan of his and when I heard that Guy Pearce was attached I was really excited about it.
This is Andrew’s first time working with professional actors. Did he bring a different energy to the film?
Andrew was very laid back about it. What was very interesting was at times we would just do scenes, we would run through it in a master, a very wide shot and we would do that a couple of times and he’s shake his head and go, ‘Yep – what do you think? What that good?’ Then we wouldn’t go for coverage or anything. He was very laid back but specific on what he wanted. We shot this film in 18 days and we had to get through so much each day, so it worked in our favour that he knew what he wanted in master-land and not go for too much coverage.
Your character in the film is probably the most complex. How did you approach the role?
I did a lot of rehearsal and a lot came from working out – a lot. I worked out a lot. I did a lot of training with different personal trainers and I had done a lot of training before as well, so I’ve had this personal experience. What attracted me to the character was was remembering what it was like to be in the service industry. I was a waitress for a long time and it became a really infuriating job to be in the service industry and to be at the beck and call of somebody else. To think in terms of the character of Kat, that’s what makes her eventually quit – working with these people who are paying her all this money, but they’re not committed to changing their bodies and lives and taking it seriously. The frustration of ‘why are we here, what are we doing?’. She’s very controlling, she’s always working towards being her best self and when she’s surrounded by people who are phoning it in she can get very frustrated. She has a bit of an anger problem, which was fun for me to play. Thinking about those different things and someone who is at the mercy of other people and also mixing in her anger and how quick she is to flip – that’s something that I’ve never played but I’ve seen them, where all of a sudden something happens and they snap and it’s like, wow, where did that come from?
Ego is at the centre of the film. Was it difficult to play the darker moments as well as the lighter ones?
I really did like that. I really like what you’re saying about ego. There is a lot of ego involved. I think that plays out a lot between Guy Pearce’s character and mine – with his character trying to rid himself of that and the way she’s constantly poking at what she thinks are Trevor’s flaws – trying to get a rise out of him. It was a really fun dynamic. There was a lot of ego involved in that relationship.
Was there any discussion to make the film softer and more like a traditional romantic comedy?
No, I don’t think so. I think that might have been from me – if anyone. I think when you’re playing a character that can be unlikeable, you’ll be like ‘let’s give her a moment or two where she seems like a nice person’. I think this movie is being put in the category of Romantic comedy – I don’t know if if Andrew is asking for that. This movie was like, ‘let’s shoot it and see what happens’. There’s obviously a love story, but it’s about human growth, human relationships, about human flaws.
I’m obsessed with Kevin Corrigan’s character – I think he’s so fascinating and intriguing. You’re really rooting for this guy throughout the whole movie. It’s more a dark comedy – but because there’s a strong romantic relationship it’s being put in that category. I don’t know if Andrew truly set out to do that. He was experimenting with the idea than really trying to make one.
Did shooting in Austin, Texas bring a different energy as well?
Andrew’s from there, his family live there. I don’t know if it was out of necessity because his wife gave birth on the day we wrapped but the idea of the movie came out of the fitness culture in Austin. There’s a lot of gyms, a lot of personal trainers. I think Andrew wanted to investigate that and explore those trends and the people who follow them. There’s always something new coming out in terms of dieting or fitness or supplemental vitamins and vitamins. There’s something interesting in the people who get slightly addicted to that – especially in Austin. There’s a huge movement and a core group of people that Andrew was really intrigued by.
How do you think people will react to the movie?
Hopefully well. The people in Austin will react well because we used a lot of them in the movie. We used a lot of gyms, a lot of the trainers – a lot of the extras we used were trainers – which was unfortunate for me, because I don’t look like that – ‘I’m supposed to look that that? Oh, shoot’. I don’t think we’re making fun of anyone. I think it’s an honest portrayal of people who could be in the industry. I think Kat is a heightened version of what’s out there – but maybe there are a few trainers who are like that. I’ve met some trainers who are quite intense. Hopefully they’re amused by it.
Results has come out the same summer as The Avengers. Do you have a preference to the type of film you like to make?
I wouldn’t choose one or the other. I like them both for different reasons. Stepping into the world of Marvel is always really fun. It’s a completely different world, a world that has such a history and a following. It’s really cool to interact with all the fans and hear fan reactions and hear how excited they are about different things.
Doing a film like Results, it’s small, it’s intimate in terms of budget and scheduling, so you all have to band together to make it work and there’s an energy that comes out of that. I like them for different reasons – it’s exciting to be able to do both. I’m very grateful for that.
What’s up next for you?
I don’t have anything I can kind of talk about. There are things that are still up in the air – nothing I can really report on. Some films that are coming up. Mostly films.