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October 4, 2009.
has one kicky concept behind his directorial debut,
The Invention of
On an alternate earth, humanity lacks the capacity for lying so
truth-telling is just telling. People may speak the truth, but
have no sense of humor and no idea of fiction. As a result, they do
reveal it all – including how inflated their views of themselves can be.
As Mark Bellison (Gervais)
struggles to survive at a mediocre television company, the pug-nosed,
pudgy writer endures a rivalry with the better looking, more successful
and far more arrogant Brad Kessler (Rob
suffers through miserable dates his mother encourages him to go on. When
he meets tall, gorgeous Anna McDoogles (Jennifer
one of those dates, he falls for her and she tells him that despite the
fact they get along, and that he's a nice guy, she can't continue to see
him – let alone marry him – because she's way too far out of his league;
she'll never have his children. Since he's just not up to her in looks
or physique, their relationship has to remain platonic.
Whether you think the
creator of the English, original version of
The Office –
and star of
Ghost Town –
is or isn't in her league,
he's so frustrated by her refusal and other factors that when his mother
is on her death bed he has a brainstorm and tells her one big lie – the
first – that death is not the end of things. She will go to a nice place
where everything is wonderful. Unfortunately, his comment is overheard
by the nurses and doctors and his words are spread everywhere – that he
knows things no one else in the world knows.
Soon Bellison becomes an
international phenomenon, making proclamations on the afterlife and just
about everything else. He lies up a storm to help friends; lies to get
money from the bank; cheats at the casino; and eventually, to win the
affection of Anna. People start camping out on his lawn to learn more,
so he develops a strangely familiar story about the “Man in the Sky,”
who does all these mystical things, and is kind and wonderful. When he
pastes a set of rules on two pizza boxes and reads out his Commandments,
we get the message.
The Invention of Lying
falls flat in places by the time it ends, this fascinating idea show how
Gervais is leading the charge to create comedy that requires more than
an endurance for bodily function jokes and absurd R-rated sight gags.
The 38 year old Garner –
wife of Ben Affleck, former star of the spy series
and who was much drubbed when she played anti-heroine Elektra –
did a great job as the ingenuous Anna. The almost 5' 9" actress further
enlightened me about Gervais, the film and the art of lying in the
following exclusive one-on-one interview.
it feel to you as if this movie was an episode of
I think that's what they
were going for. So, yeah, it did feel like that, except that it was the
funniest episode of The
that was ever invented.
you got this script, did you think of it as a science fiction idea or
more of a parody?
I liked the questions that
it brought up. I liked the conversations that I felt would start. I
thought that it was funny. Really, when I first read it, I just laughed
out loud, and that's the most important thing. I loved the way my
character was introduced. I loved the challenge of looking at a scene
and thinking, I have to play this with no subtext, no irony, no sarcasm
and just be as straightforward as I could possibly be. I think that's a
really interesting acting challenge. It wasn't until I read it again and
then thought about it a little more that I thought that. As soon as you
read it or see it, you can't help but think about the world and think
about all these advertisements that I see, one way or another, are lies.
We're sold lies all the time and it's so much a part of our society. But
we edit out [a lot] of what we can say. I like that the film is
provocative in that way.
you think this film has a British point of view or a British tone to it?
I feel like it has Ricky's
sensibility, but no, I feel it's pretty universal. Matt Robinson
co-wrote and co-directed the script and the movie with Ricky. I think
that they didn't really seem to have, “Oh, that's too British” or
“You're trying to pull it to the American.” There were a couple of
references or words that of course you have to switch, but no, it does
not seem British to me.
got a great cast.
There is some of the
greatest comic talent alive and a lot of them are in this film, from
Tina Fey to Louis C.K. to Christopher Guest...
You could go on and on and
on. I signed on before all of those people. So I had the benefit of
being on the film and hearing more and more about how great the cast was
every day and how it was growing and growing. I felt like, “Wow, I
signed onto this tiny independent movie, and now it's turned into this
whole thing.” It's just a lucky coincidence for me.
when they saw your name on it, did they jump onto it because you were
[laughs] Yeah. I
don't flatter myself to think that I was the draw there. I think that
Ricky Gervais definitely has quite a following and is very, very
Ricky asked you to be in the film, did you ask why he wasn't putting you
into the British episodes of
I do ask Ricky all the time
why I haven't been invited to be on
or The Office
or anything else. I bug him about it all the time and I'm still waiting.
They're both done. They're speedy over there.
You've done a lot of rom-com. What do you think of Gervais and his
universe of humor? It's not the obvious humor, it's more realistic. Is
there a trend towards this sort of comedy?
I think there are a couple
of different trends in humor. One is the Judd Apatow kind of humor of
embarrassment [that's] humor of gross-out. Then there's the humor of
embarrassment with reality, using real relationships and situations.
That's what Ricky does. I think part of what he does so well is that his
humor is never mean spirited. It's very honest. He's very interested in
what's honest, and he finds the truth to be the funniest. I loved
working with him because he's so clear about what would make something
funny, and he's always right. He's so funny and so incredibly good at
what he does.
Do you think Bellison
deserved to get what he got in the ending?
I think he had earned it by
then, certainly, because he's the kinder one. The interesting thing
about Anna in the film is that she's the first woman to make a choice
romantically. In a world where women are driven by evolution and by the
quest for the best genetics for their offspring, she's the first woman
in this world who knows that something is different here. She's the
first woman to say, “No. I love this man. That's a good enough reason to
be with him and have kids with him.”
you and Ben [Affleck] have been leaning towards humor after you both
started out in more serious roles. Do you find that you started to trade
quips at home, reading each other the funny lines from your projects?
Yeah, we'll tell each other
the funny scenes or whatever. But as far as trading quips, I don't know
if we actually are living the life of
His Girl Friday
or something like that. It's probably much more boring and banal than
Right, but I just assume that he beats you out with the laughs. He's a
smart and funny guy.
Are you saying that you
think he's funnier than I am? Are you challenging me, saying that you
think that my husband would come up with the funnier quips than I would?
Because I will tell you that is certainly not the case.
Are you picking projects now that mix it up for you; are you trying to
show different aspects of yourself? Where do you think you're going in
The whole point of being an
actor is that you don't do the same thing every day. So I'm just
interested always in finding something that feels like, “Oh, wait. I've
never done this before. This is different. This will be a real
challenge.” Luckily, all different kinds of things have come my way and
so I've been able to pick and choose.
you had your ideal choice, what would be the thing that you'd like to do
next, the most contrasting thing to follow this up?
I just want to do something
that's good. Nothing has to come next. I would love to do a musical, but
if that happens five years from now, I'm fine with that. I don't feel
like, “I have to accomplish this right now.” It's much more that I just
love whatever it is that I do. I don't just say yes to everything. What
I'd love to see happen next is a film that my production company has
been working on for a long time called
It's this little movie that takes place in the world of butter carving
at the Iowa State Fair. So if that could happen next I would be
you ever think that Ben should direct one of your projects or even cast
you in one of his, or do you guys try to stay as far from that as
possible because of the scheduling issues?
Of course, I wish that he
could direct everything. There's no one better. Scheduling is definitely
a big factor for us. If we were both on the same set at the same time
all day – our kids are too young for that, so it's something that
doesn't come up right now. But who knows, maybe we'll revisit it in a
you find now with kids that your outlook on what you want to do in film
has changed, either wanting to do family-friendly projects or going in
the opposite direction?
I don't really feel like
I'm driven away from doing family stuff or towards it. I look at the
scripts that come my way. I look at the script that we're developing in
my production company. It's much more about finding something that I
like to do than it is about some overall thing like, “I better stay away
from family movies” or “I'd really like to do a family movie.” I mean,
if a family movie came along and it was great, then I wouldn't care if I
had no family or a family of ten kids, I'd still want to do it.
you're not inviting superhero costume films?
Sure. If one came along,
and it was great, I would suit right up.
hero would you have in mind? Do you have a favorite?
I don't know who she would
be. It would have to surprise me. I don't have a particular favorite.
you good at lying?
I'm a horrible liar. I can
exaggerate. I can definitely make a good story better, but as far as
just telling a lie, not very good.
you would've been good for a world where no one lied?
No, because I do think
there's real value in a white lie to save someone's feelings.
there some people that you'd like to tell the truth to, since it's
perhaps a world in which you can't lie?
Yeah, there are one or two
that I'd like to get ahold of.
would you tell them?
Wouldn't you love to know?
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