Interview: Kathryn Hahn On Acting While Pregnant In How Do You Know

I requested a one-on-one interview with Kathryn Hahn before I saw How Do You Know, and knowing she played a supporting role in the film but not much more about it, I had no idea how much we'd have to discuss. But having seen Hahn in Step Brothers and laughed hysterically at her sexually aggressive sister-in-law character, then being floored by her dramatic turn in Revolutionary Road that same year, I figured she'd at least be an interesting person to talk to about her varied career, and especially being a funny lady in a comedy world dominated by men.

Then I saw How Do You Know and witnessed her steal every single scene out from under the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson and even Rudd, whom she's now acted in four movies with. When we sat down to talk she was exactly the fun conversation I expected her to be-- we spent the first few minutes chatting about the delicious food in the hospitality suite upstairs and various Brooklyn neighborhoods-- and she let me in on the process of making a James L. Brooks movie, playing a pregnant character while actually seven months pregnant herself. She's the centerpiece of one climactic scene that takes place when her character delivers a baby, and as it turns out part of it was shot while she was still pregnant, and part of it two months after she gave birth.

We also talked a lot about Rudd, who stars alongside Hahn in the upcoming comedies My Idiot Brother and Wanderlust, and how much she loves her place being "under the radar" in the comedy world. Check out our interview below, and see How Do You Know this weekend if for nothing else to than to see an actual pregnant woman reveal her belly on camera-- something you never, ever see in Hollywood comedies, and something Hahn does with aplomb and an impressive lack of vanity. The movie opens wide this weekend.

We should talk about Paul Rudd, because clearly you guys have a thing going on where you come as a package deal.

I know, it's crazy. I feel like he should write me into his contract from now on, or let me go, because this is getting embarrassing.

But it's working for you guys clearly.

I love him so badly, he's a dear dear pal. it's just kind of worked out luck-wise. I'm sure he has a say in it, because he's such a supportive and sweet, unbelievable guy. But when we did this we'd only done Anchorman together believe, and we hadn't seen each other in a long time. To step back into these parts together-- because I'm so excited for him, I think he's so extraordinary in this movie, and he's such an amazing anchor through the whole thing. We have such a sibling friendship anyway, then to be able to put all that energy on him in a movie. She's so fiercely loyal to him, and because she's so pregnant and he's going through such trouble, she sees him as being a motherless little duckling. She definitely channels all that crazy hormonal nesting impulse toward him, especially because her private life has been kind of up in the air.

You can't tell if she's in love with him or not in the beginning of the film, and I wasn't quite sure where that was going to go. Is that something you guys talked about specifically?

It was very important to Jim that it didn't take that turn. Of course, because any time you see a man and a woman with any sort of intense love like that, you immediately assume it's going in a certain direction. But it was very important for us to walk that line carefully, because we didn't want it to seem like she was being left at the altar. It's supposed to be open at the beginning. He's just the best boss in the world, she loves him so much.

And Paul Rudd is really good at playing that dream guy.

He can't help himself, his decency is so on the surface. He's just a good egg. I have never worked with anybody as supportive as him toward other actors. He's been doing a lot of comedies, and he's so good at playing the straight man, which is hard. But when it's his ball, like in the drunk scene, he'll take it-- he's hilarious. There's nothing that gives him more pleasure than other actors and watching other actors soar and make interesting choices.

That hospital scene near the end of the movie feels like theater in a way, all those characters in the same room, and it's really long too. Did it have that theater vibe?

It did. And it was rehearsed like a play. And it's such a classic Brooks scene, because the trick of it was that you had to really believe in the reality of the proposal, and you had to be moved enough by it so the switch, when he sucker punches you with a joke midway through, it's a release to the audience. It was a trick to find that, but I feel like we did.

And you have some of the heaviest emotions in the entire movie, all that overwhelmed post-birth stuff.

Ad you know I was pregnant at the time, really. In the scene, my own daughter, who was in my belly at the time, was very jealous of the baby I was holding. As that scene was going on, she kept kicking me more and more, like "Get that kid off of my mommy." That was another track that was going on underneath it, my own baby. It was really a profound experience.

You never see people who are actually pregnant in movies.

Well there's a scene where I reveal my belly. Jim kept saying, "Everyone's going to think it's a prosthetic!"

But there's something about the way the skin moves that looks more real. And to do that movie while you're so far into your pregnancy, that must take a real lack of vanity on your part. People don't even let themselves be photographed when they're pregnant.

It's a blessing and a curse of mine, but I just don't care. I don't want to think about those things. It's more important to be invested in who this person is, and what this person wants. I couldn't believe when I read this script, because I was obsessed with Joan Cusack in Broadcast News, I love that script so much. I feel like I'm carrying that torch in this part. The fact that it was able to work out was a dream. It was three weeks of work, easier than being a mommy to a toddler. And it was quite a profound experience, because you know my baby came early while we were shooting.

Yeah, how did you work that out?

We had the baby in Philly. It was a really sweet little time for my family, because we couldn't travel, so we stayed in Philly for two months. Right before they wrapped in Philly, I had a day left [to shoot]. We hadn't finished [the hospital scene]. Because two months had passed, they were very worried I would have lost all that baby weight. They were going to do camera tests, prosthetic cheeks, all this stuff, then I showed up and they said "Oh you look exactly the same." But it was awesome. It felt like Groundhog Day to go back into that scene.

Will it be fun to show this movie to your baby in 20 years?

My husband and I were laughing, this is a very well-edited, well-produced home movie. When I saw it it was very emotional for me. He doesn't make many movies, James Brooks, so to be in one, he just is so deft. He's such an amazing writer, and what was so fun for me about it, so different-- I've played the best friend in a lot of romantic comedies. There was something so different in that he doesn't explain behavior. He trusts the audiences to fill in blanks. I love how much faith he has in the audience.

Can you talk about the comedic tone of Wanderlust and My Idiot Brother, and how they compare to this?

Because I'm still under the radar in a great way, and I hope it always stays this way, I've been able to play big and real. It's great, because I've been able to do that spectrum, and a lot of people can't. Jennifer Coolidge is a genius-- I wonder how many opportunities she gets to play rooted. It's fun to go between those different genres. My Idiot Brother is not as improvised, because the writing-- that was not that kind of a world. There's some improvising, but it was not as loose as a McKay world. But Paul's going to be amazing in it, and very funny, and a different Paul-- it goes back to his Anchorman sensibility, where he was allowed to be that kind of part. It's a little bit of Chauncey Gardener in Being There. He just finds himself in hilarious situations.

And then Wanderlust, Ken Marino and David Wain wrote the funniest-- they're amazing. That was one of my most favorite creative experiences, we're all up at that commune, a small group of people. Everyone was funnier than the next. It was an amazing ensemble feeling. Everyone gave and took in the best way. It was a lot of improvising, so who knows what it will look like. And Jennifer Aniston could not have been more game and awesome. She was really fantastic and so sport.

Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend