Judy Greer – Interview Magazine

Judy Greer

Like beard and battered baseball caps, she’s been the hipster director’s secret weapon of choice. But she’s ready to shine on her own.

As a mousy wallflower who blossoms into a queen bee in the 1999 high-school comedy Jawbreaker, Judy Greer displayed the sort of grace, poise, and impeccable comic timing that most actors take years to perfect. So it’s no wonder that ever since, the 30-year-old Michigan-born actress has quietly become the go-to girl for some of Hollywood’s most hipster-friendly directors, from David O. Russell, who placed her in the most compromising of positions with George Clooney in Three Kings (1999), and Spike Jonze, who rendered her a thinking-man’s fantasy girl in Adaptation (2002), to M. Night Shyamalan, who sent her on the run from mythical creatures with a pack of Amish in The Village. Now, it seems that Greer’s own time to blossom has finally arrived. In Cameron Crowe’s new film Elizabethtown, she stars opposite Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, and Susan Sarandon as the sister of a deposed shoe company executive (Bloom) who returns to his father’s hometown in Kentucky after his father dies and becomes involved with a flight attendant (Dunst) he meets on his way home.

CAMERON CROWE: How different was your experience on Elizabethtown from the other movies you’ve done?

JUDY GREER: The movies that I’ve done most recently have been more like, “Okay, you’re the funny girl. You’re here to make the big star look funny.” So, as long as everyone’s laughing when the director says cut, and I think I’ve done something funny but kept it real, then I’m usually happy. Comedy just seems to come so much easier to me. I haven’t really had a job where I got to do all of the things that I get to do in Elizabethtown.

CC: You’ve also had this recurring role on Arrested Development. Did you sense immediately that Arrested Development was going to be important to you?

JG: My agent called me after pilot season saying, “Remember that pilot I sent you? They wrote this funny role, and they offered it to you. It’s like a day of work.” And so I did it, and then I just thought that was the end of it. But then they just kept calling and calling. And every time I went to work there was a crazier thing I had to do. There’s something so freeing about not having to worry about how I look, because I’m not your typical pretty girl, so I can have crazy hair, and my makeup doesn’t have to be perfect, and my outfit’s weird. I love Arrested Development fans and the show, and I hope I get to go back.

CC: Okay, in the spirit of old-school Interview magazine, I want to ask some short questions. How would you describe your Levi’s?

JG: Like faded black jeans.

CC: You’ve got a really cool green sweater.

JG: A blue sweater and a green shirt.

CC: Oh, it’s a blue sweater? Sorry.

JG: I think it might be greenish blue, actually.

CC: Give me three words to describe the “you” that you regard.

JG: Happy. And the first word I thought of was fickle. And crabby.

CC: When you’ve had a long day, and you need to talk to somebody, whom do you call?

JG: My friend Sarah in Chicago. She doesn’t judge anything.

CC: Do you keep a journal?

JG: My journals are like lists of things that piss me off or places I had wanted to go before I turned 25 or whatever. Sometimes I’m just dicking around for a couple months, like, “Today I walked to the park with my dog.”

CC: So, if I could write a part for you that would make you go, “Damn! That’s it. That’s a culmination for me, being able to play that character,” what would it be?

JG: She wouldn’t be married or have children and would be so sad she couldn’t stop laughing. I don’t know if that makes sense.

CC: That makes a lot of sense. Does she have a love life in this story?

JG: I don’t really see her having that yet. But it’s not a story about her trying to find love; it’s about her trying to find herself.

CC: Okay, last question. They say that most creative people have an event in their life that defined them early on, and in their work they revisit it either privately or openly for the rest of their creative lives. Was there an event like that in your life?

JG: I was in this thing called Children’s Ballet Theater in Detroit, studying classical Russian ballet, and I was just not very good at it, so I decided that I should probably quit. But I wasn’t that honest with myself about it. So, I remember having this really dramatic moment in my bedroom with the door shut, just sobbing, “I have to quit.” And then suddenly, [snaps] I was like, “I feel so much better now.” I hated dancing. I hated every rehearsal and class. But I did it for years, so that moment I realized that I’d been doing something for so long that brought me no happiness. I don’t know if that fuels my acting, but I do think about it a lot. It doesn’t have to be so hard. When it’s not fun it sucks, but so many actors work so hard to act when they don’t even seem to be enjoying it or having any fun.

CC: Well, your joy in doing what you do is completely infectious. And so I invite anybody out there to watch any of your movies. Let your eye drift over to Judy. [Greer laughs] And watch the Judy movie that’s within the movie. It’s a true joy as well.

JG: Oh, Cameron.

CC: Thank you for joining us today.

Cameron Crowe’s latest film, Elizabethtown, is out now.

Courtesy of Interview Magazine –¬†Cameron Crowe ¬†– November, 2005