Amanda Peet is really dying to do a romantic comedy with John Cusack. She's made three movies with him, starting with 2003's Identity and now 2012, but they always seem to be trying to avoid getting killed, whether it's from a mysterious murderer or the world completely falling apart.
In 2012, Peet and Cusack play a divorced couple who wind up on the run together when the world, quite, literally, begins to end. Along with her new husband (Tom McCarthy) and their two kids, Peet and Cusack go from California to the Himalayas to try to survive, and also rekindle a little bit of romance in the process. Maybe this is all a prequel for their inevitable romantic comedy after all.
Read below for our roundtable interview with Peet, talking about being an actor from a family of doctors, whether or not she believes in the 2012 prophecies, and how, sometimes, the director is smarter than the actor. 2012 opens this Friday.
Prior to doing this film, were you familiar with the Mayan calendar on the 2012 date?
No. I had heard of it, but I wasn’t really familiar with it. It was just kind of a concept over there.
Do you give any credence to that?
I feel like there’s enough to worry about.
Does it have anything to do with you believing in facts rather than something that’s way out there? Is that your personal makeup or something?
Science was more the thing in my family. I’m sure that my sister and brother-in-law would think that I was crazy if I started talking about my fear of 2012.
John Cusack seems to be a favorite person for you to work with? Do you get cast as a pair?
So you figure the rapport is finally working now?
Well, obviously my dream would be to do a romantic comedy with him because I would just love that. But I’m just fine with what we’ve done so far. Hopefully, there’ll be another one soon.
Did you get to do any stunts that we didn't see?
I did lean out of a moving airplane in a harness to reach for John’s hand while Roland [Emmerich] was in a helicopter filming me. I did have that moment where I said to myself, “You’ve come a long way from your Skittles commercial.”
Do you see any more action movies in your future? Was it a joy to do this?
I liked it a lot. I fear that Roland has ruined me because he’s so gentle and lovely. It’s really weird. How does he stay like that? I don’t understand. Like I don’t understand how someone’s not a tyrant who’s the boss of so many people and so much production. So I probably would be really scared to do something really big with somebody else because I’d be really scared they’d be like, “Lose some weight! And run faster!”
What is Roland like when he's working with you and also managing all the explosions in the background?
Just so gentle and intimate and the same as if I’m working on some small character driven independent movie. Just comes crouches in and says, “You’re not there yet.” I mean, it’s just bizarre. If I were him, I’d just do it through a bullhorn, like, “You suck. Let’s go again.”
Does he allow you to input, collaborate?
Yeah, yeah. He’s not super strict about the dialogue. He is really a master in terms of how to calibrate this kind of story and how much to bring to light whether something is fully logical or not. I mean, he’s aware of everything. So we’ll say, “We’re watching California go into the ocean then we’re making a joke seven pages later. We shouldn’t do that. It’s not logical.” And he’d say, “I know, but this kind of movie, this is how you do this. And this is the time where you give the audience like a really scary side moment that’s still and this is the time where you just keep going and don’t let the audience focus.
The dialogue in this film is better than some of the previous ones. Have you seen him growing or getting more from actors?
To some extent. But most of it was on the page. I think he’s very into the character portion of the story because I think he thinks that no matter how big he gets, it’s not gonna work. It’s not gonna be awesome unless you’re with the tiny civilian family and their dynamic. It’s gonna be hollow.
What was it like filming the water scene? Because I know in some places they make it freezing cold.
No, it was kind of like lukewarm. So when you first got in, it kind of felt warm. And in the beginning, I was like, “I don’t need a wet suit” because I was just like, "Oh that’s going to be annoying to have a wet suit on. I don’t want that on my skin." And then within a half an hour, I was like, “Can someone get that wet suit?” I was freezing for some reason after a little while.
But that’s a perfect example of Roland. Sometimes I would be a crazy person about scheduling and when I was going home and trying to talk to the first AD, “How long is this day going to be” and blah, blah. And I saw the schedule and it said that we were going to be in the tanks and the next day, we were going to do something else. And then we were coming back to the tanks two days later. So I marched up to Roland and the first AD and I was like, “I don’t understand. Why are in the tanks and all the production’s here and the trucks and everything and we’re gonna go somewhere else and then come all the way back here? It doesn’t make any sense.” Then Roland just looked at me and said, “Do you want to be in the tanks for two days straight?” And I was like, “No.” And he was like, “That’s why.” So he’s just very considerate about things that I just don’t believe that other directors on this scale would think [of].
You grew up in a family of doctors and scientist people. Were you..
Yeah, I’m like a weirdo.
What’s it like when you said, “I’m going to go off and be an actor”?
It’s like I’m a freak.
How long did it take for you to prove that this wasn’t going to end with you in a ditch somewhere?
AP: A long time. A long time. Or that I wasn’t just going to be a drug addict person cavorting around in parties in a very short dress or something.
Was there a role in particular that convinced your family that you finally made it?
I mean, my mom is like, “Who’s Bruce Willis?” I remember when I got Seinfeld, I got Seinfeld before Jack & Jill and The Whole Nine Yards, which I consider to be my break, and she literally didn’t know who Seinfeld was. It was kind of like, “Guys! I’m getting famous!” My sister is a little more with it, so she would be more excited. But yeah, there were no people in showbiz in my family in this generation or the next generation. So yeah, I’m a little bit of a freak show.
You haven’t played that many doctors though.
No, but I do call them every now and then. Even at the end of Studio 60, when Sorkin was writing about the birth of the baby and stuff, I always called them. I think we were even dealing with the tourniquet in 2012, I called them all the time and they were just like, “Jesus Christ, please.”
Because if you got it wrong, they would be upset?
Yeah, right. My personal shame in terms of getting it right. But they’re really sweet. They usually answer my calls even though I’m sure it’s incredibly annoying.
Are you going to do the stage again?
I hope so, if they’ll have me. I have terrible stage fright. Do you guys know Sarah Paulson? She’s like my best friend who was on Studio 60. Whenever one of us does a play, for the first, all through previews and then probably for about two weeks after opening night, we just call each other and we’re like, “Why the fuck did you let me do this? Why? I’m serious!” It’s just not fun at all. It’s torture, just torture. When you wake up in the morning, your stomach already hurts. It’s like you don’t even have a moment where you don’t have butterflies. It’s like constant terror.
What do you want to do next? What’s on your schedule that you’re really excited about?
Well, I worked with Nicole Holofcener, so that was a dream of mine. Now I can leave the business because I worked with Catherine Keener. So that movie is coming out in the spring and it’s called Please Give.